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Michigan has the unwanted distinction of being a national leader in school bullying, which is one key reason thousands of parents are taking their kids out of traditional districts. But huge obstacles to school choice remain, leaving many in a bad situation.

When I was running for state representative for Birmingham, I knocked on a lot of doors. Some clear top issues emerged: roads, roads and roads. Everyone I talked to agreed that Michigan, the state that built the first concrete paved road in the nation, should be able to maintain its roads to an acceptable standard. Unfortunately, to date, this has not been the case.

The recent elections in Michigan provide an apt opportunity to revisit the Mackinac Center’s 2018 corporate handout scorecard. The scorecard is a tally of business subsidies approved by state lawmakers back to 2001. Each lawmaker is assigned a dollar value of the subsidies he or she voted to approve. It was released last May and will be updated periodically to reflect any new votes by lawmakers in favor of or against corporate welfare subsidies in the Great Lake State.

Supporters of the new paid leave act do not like that legislators are considering repealing the mandate after having voted for it in September. And they may consider it an affront to the thousands of people that signed a petition to put the question on the ballot. Yet the rules of our constitutional democratic system were designed to encourage the Legislature to adopt initiatives so they can amend or repeal them.

Residents of 10 towns in Minnesota will see property tax hikes to cover a shortfall in subscriber revenues to a government-led broadband project. This should serve as a warning to municipalities in Michigan implementing or pursuing their own plans.

Michigan lawmakers are expected to hear testimony soon on an important bill designed to ensure that no more innocent Michiganders are wrongfully convicted and imprisoned on the basis of bad forensic evidence. This bill would be a solid step providing oversight, protecting people who may be innocent from bad science and helping taxpayers who are on the hook when prosecutions go badly. 

After supporters of hiking the minimum wage collected enough signatures to put their issue before voters, state legislators approved the increase. It is generally illegal to pay workers less than $9.25 per hour right now, and this threshold will be raised to $12 per hour over the next four years and adjusted for inflation annually after that.

This edition of the Roll Call Report highlights bills related to issues that may arise in the coming lame duck legislative session.

Senate Bill 1175: Remove employer guilt presumption from employee leave mandate
Introduced by Sen. Mike Shirkey (R), to remove an employer liability provision of the 2018 initiated law that imposed a mandate on employers to grant employees one hour of paid leave for every 30 hours worked, up to a total of 40 hours annually for small businesses, and 72 hours annually for larger employers. The targeted provisions impose extensive record keeping requirements on employers, and potentially create a legal presumption that missing records means an employer has violated the law. The initiated law was enacted by the legislature in September of 2018 and is now Public Act 338 of 2018. The bill does not affect the actual sick leave mandate the initiative imposed on employers.

Business subsidies took a punch after people decried taxpayer support for Amazon’s second headquarters and Foxconn announced that it was scaling back its Wisconsin plant. Both projects were hyped by local politicians, who thumped their chests about bringing jobs to their state.

Both the hard data and the opinions of parents highlight the benefits for Michigan students who exercise educational choice. But critics often say that when families leave a district, the result, especially in urban districts serving a predominantly minority population, is financial harm that adversely affects others. That harm, they say, is a reason to rein in choice and change how schools are funded. A closer look at the numbers, however, strongly suggests that the fears about the fiscal impacts of choice are overblown.

The surprise outcome of the last presidential election threw considerable uncertainty upon yesterday’s midterm elections. But, both in Michigan and across the nation, state criminal justice reform advocates remain confident that next year will bring progress regardless of the party in power.

United Auto Worker officials have been accused of using dues money to personally enrich themselves with condos, vacations, conferences and personal luxuries. A UAW account has also been funding the building of a retirement home for recent president Dennis Williams.

Whichever candidate wins the governorship will preside over a growing state budget. Michigan’s budget has grown by $10.8 billion over the past eight years, a 9 percent gain when adjusted for inflation. State revenue — not including federal transfers or the small amounts of local and private dollars in the state budget — increased $6.8 billion, an 11 percent boost when adjusted for inflation.

With the Legislature holding intermittent sessions during the general election campaign season, the Roll Call Report completes its review of key votes from the 2017-2018 session.

Senate Bill 897, Impose work requirement on able-bodied Medicaid recipients: Passed 26 to 11 in the Senate on April 19, 2018

In 2015, Michigan lawmakers passed a package of bills that require local law enforcement agencies to report extensive information related to civil asset forfeiture. Police and prosecutors have broad discretion over how they use forfeiture, and the idea was to see if there were issues across the state.

Students struggling to escape an ineffective education often lack a couple of key tools: credible, useful information and safe, reliable transportation. The new Detroit Schools Guide is helping parents learn about what different schools offer, but large-scale solutions to overcome the other barrier have been hard to come by. A little-discussed state proposal to offer transportation scholarships to low-income families could help tackle the other challenge.

Michigan lawmakers are considering reforms to Michigan’s bail system, and the result could mean bolstered public safety, more effective public spending and better lives for taxpayers and criminal defendants alike. The Mackinac Center just published a paper that proposed some important reforms to the system of cash bail, and many of these proposals are reflected in a bipartisan package of bills introduced in mid-October. The goal of these bills is not to eliminate cash bail, but rather to ensure that judges consider nonfinancial options first when making pretrial detention decisions.

With the Legislature holding intermittent sessions during the general election campaign season, the Roll Call Report continues its review of key votes from the 2017-2018 session.

House Bill 4001, Reduce state income tax rate: Failed 52 to 55 in the House on February 23, 2017

While every state has increased the number of college credits required to become a certified public accountant, the evidence suggests this has not led to better results overall. That’s the findings of a new report from the Cato Institute.

Editors Note: This piece first appeared in The Federalist. You can view the original piece here.

It’s a story often told that bears repeating: the Great Depression and World War II were the international crises that invigorated the statist impulse in the 1930s and 1940s. By the time Harry Truman defeated Thomas Dewey in the 1948 presidential election, the United States’ future was assumed to be one of unfettered liberalism. Until, that is, William F. Buckley launched his new periodical intended to stand athwart history, yelling “Stop!” and Dr. Russell Amos Kirk offered his doctoral thesis to the general public.

In Michigan it's not just the season for falling leaves, chilly winds, and warm cider and doughnuts. It's also a time for bold campaign promises to address significant challenges, including the state's dismal academic record.

Both Gretchen Whitmer and Bill Schuette want to preside over a state government that spends $13 billion a year on K-12 education and is slated to implement a law that could hold back thousands of third-graders who read poorly or not at all. State test results have stayed stubbornly low, prompting questions about the magnitude and the effectiveness of the remedies called for in state law.

There are ongoing squabbles between Detroit and the communities around it. When a business or sports team moves downtown, it’s big news, as it is when a company moves from downtown to elsewhere. But regions don’t grow by reshuffling the work locations between cities and suburbs. (And taxpayers should be skeptical when that shuffling happens with their money.) Instead, the regions that do the best grow together.

Perceptions of how energy can or should be used and generated are changing, and that change is making itself felt in Michigan. While this shift is typically viewed as a move toward clean and efficient energy, it also entails an increasing list of limits on how and when energy will be used. These changes are making the work of the Environmental Policy Initiative at the Mackinac Center ever-more important as a strong voice for balanced energy policy and free-market choices is needed, especially when so many would rather use forced restrictions on energy use and government-mandated efficiency measures.

Big changes are underway in Ottawa County’s criminal justice system. The county is poised to approve a pilot program that will test a new fee structure for jail inmates, and it is also about to launch a public defender office.

Like many counties in Michigan, Ottawa County bills inmates for their jail stays. State law limits these fees to $60 per night. The county charges inmates $25 per night, so inmates serving 90 days end up with a $2,250 bill from the jail – on top of whatever restitution, fines, and administrative fees they may have incurred in court. And like many counties with an inmate housing fee, Ottawa County collects only a tiny fraction of what it charges. In 2017, it billed inmates over $3 million but collected only about $100,000. Offenders are frequently indigent, meaning that attempting to collect revenue from inmates is rarely successful, and many leave jail facing the daunting challenge of paying off thousands of dollars in debt to the county.