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Editor's Note: This article first appeared in The Detroit News on April 30, 2020. 

Senate Bill 858: Accelerate lifting of epidemic lockdowns: Passed 22 to 16 in the Senate

To amend a 1976 “Emergency Management Act,” one of two state laws that grant extraordinary emergency powers to a governor. This law limits these powers to 28 days unless extended by the legislature, which on the same day as this vote the legislature declined to do. This make makes Gov. Whitmer’s exercise of emergency powers more reliant on a 1945 “Emergency Powers of Governor” law, which does not limit how long a governor may retain these powers and does not require legislative approval.
The bill does two things. It essentially “writes into” this law (“incorporates by reference”) the current coronavirus epidemic executive orders that have been imposed under its authority, but with different termination dates for many than in the governor’s order. In general, orders that are more restrictive of business reopening get earlier end-dates, and ones easing state regulations (including those on medical care providers and facilities) are extended for a longer time. Bars and restaurants could reopen with social distancing protocols on May 16 under the bill.
Second, it adds to this law “social distancing” protocols for businesses and public accommodations that are somewhat more general and flexible than those in the current orders.

Editor's Note: This article first appeared in The Hill on April 7, 2020.

We will get through this. The COVID-19 public health emergency will end, and eventually the economy will come back. As a nation, we will come out stronger — as we do after every crisis.

Planet of the Humans,” a new documentary by the progressive filmmaking duo of Jeff Gibbs and Michael Moore, stands and falls on two key themes. On the one hand, the director and narrator, Gibbs handily debunks the misguided notion that renewable energy is a morally and environmentally superior, low-cost and reliable means of greening our electricity supply. On the other hand, Gibbs undercuts that service by miring his narrative in an anti-human muddle that claims only a “major die-off” or having “our ability to consume reined in” will keep humans from destroying the planet.

The earlier goodwill between lawmakers in their response to the COVID-19 pandemic is over. Trust has been severed and there seems to be no hurry to gain it back. This may mean that people will have to decide for themselves how to best keep safe in this pandemic rather than to rely on orders and leadership from Lansing. This may sound like a radical change, but maybe things won’t be different from what they are now.

Editor's Note: This list originally included a higher amount of unrestricted general fund appropriations for the state licensing department. It has been corrected.

The state of Michigan will soon grapple with a significant drop in taxpayer dollars flowing to its treasury. The estimated decline now ranges between $1 billion to $3 billion this year, which would be a 2.9% to 8.6% drop in state revenues. Lawmakers have taken some steps to rein in spending already and deserve to be applauded for doing so, but much more will need to be done.

Last month, Washington lawmakers responded to the educational challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic. They opened up the national treasury with CARES Act payments that primarily support school districts and charter schools. But as schoolhouse doors stay shut, any additional federal response should also include direct relief toward families as they support their children’s learning in the uncertain times ahead.

It’s April once more, which means that spring is struggling its way past the occasional morning freeze, trees are budding out, and the snow has pretty much gone. April also means that Earth Day arrives again, and this time it marks 50 years since it was first held on April 22, 1970. Throughout its relatively brief history, the holiday has had a consistent, urgent theme that is still echoed on the official Earth Day website: “Earth Day was a unified response to an environment in crisis — oil spills, smog, rivers so polluted they literally caught fire.”

Editor's Note: This article first appeared in The Detroit News on April 19, 2020. 

These are unprecedented times. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s declared emergency may be the longest in the state’s history. The coronavirus outbreak and subsequent orders have Michigan residents everywhere stressed and worried for their health and their family and friends. But they’re also increasingly concerned with what this all might mean for the health of the state’s economy. Policymakers need to start planning to reopen Michigan’s economy as soon as possible.

The Environmental Policy Initiative at the Mackinac Center recently joined a coalition of 52 free-market think tanks, small business representatives, and consumer groups in signing a letter supporting the Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient (SAFE) Vehicles Rule. This rule, jointly issued by the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Highway Transportation Administration (an agency within the Department of Transportation), updates the current corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards that were put in place in 2012.

The constitutional freedoms to speech and assembly are in the news this past week. People across the country have gathered in their communities and state capitals to petition for relief from what they believe are harmful restrictions on personal and economic activity.

When a parent loses hours and pay at work, the family may have to revisit the household budget and ask what spending items can be cut back or done away with altogether. It can be a painful opportunity to reassess priorities.

Michigan’s school funding systems are more complex than a household budget, with many streams of funding and moving parts. But a similar reality is fast approaching for Lansing lawmakers. Less tax money will be available this year and next to fund the state’s public schools. Rather than cutting local agencies across the board, though, officials should look first to scale back the state’s 56 intermediate school districts.

Two troubling provisions were buried in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), which became law last month.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to play out in Michigan and elsewhere, it has deeply affected people’s economic and fiscal well-being and opportunities. It is prudent, then, to remind lawmakers that there is much evidence in favor of the idea that the best economic development tool is a free market, used by a free people to satisfy their wants and needs. This is not a commentary on today’s emergency health-related restrictions, as much as it is a reminder of what made for a sound economic policy before the pandemic and what will serve us well once it is behind us.

Today marks the 25th anniversary of the Michigan Economic Growth Authority, better known by its acronym, MEGA. The MEGA is a selective business subsidy program that started small and grew into a monster corporate handout program. Gov. Rick Snyder wisely decided to stop handing out new deals from this program during his first year in office, but taxpayers are still on the hook for billions in subsidies and with little to show for it.

The legislature was formally in session one day this week, during which the only actions were a few new bill introductions. This Roll Call Report describes a package of bicameral Republican bills to amend the laws that authorize assumption by a governor of extraordinary powers during a declared emergency.

Much of the Michigan economy has been shut down for nearly a month and many are beginning to feel the effects. Though some businesses are temporarily shutting down, many are still finding creative ways to help with the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. Here’s our latest roundup of what businesses across the state are doing.

The COVID-19 pandemic is causing havoc throughout the economy, and that applies to Michigan’s state and local governments and public sector employees, too. One of the areas where its harms will show up is in their pension systems. But it will take a while.

Last week, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issued a new shelter-in-place order, extending the stay-home mandate until April 30. The new order unleashed a wave of criticism. Here are five problems with the development and rollout of the new controversial order.

Michigan schools will soon be able to tap into extra money from Congress to address the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic. As these funds become available, state officials should focus as much as possible on the needs of students without regard to what kind of school they attend.

In the most recent federal spending bill, Congress authorized $150 billion to be paid out to states and some local governments. Michigan’s share of this is estimated at $3.9 billion, which can do a lot to prevent the state from approving emergency tax hikes, debt issuance, or spending reductions. But Congress placed restrictions on the assistance, saying the money could be used only to increase state spending directly related to COVID-19 rather than to provide budget relief from the expected loss of revenue.

Eventually the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic will run its course, and how long that takes will matter to the fiscal challenges Michigan’s state government will face. For example, the personal income tax is Michigan state government’s largest revenue source. Right now, it’s unclear how much the pandemic will cause state income tax collections to decrease as people stay home and lose earned income.

This week we are continuing to highlight ways Michigan businesses and individuals are changing their day-to-day operations to help out during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. Many businesses have reconfigured themselves to make personal protection equipment for health care workers, including gowns, face shields and masks. More distilleries are starting to produce hand sanitizer, while another company is designing copper products that can stop the spread of germs. You can check out the complete roundup below.

Last week Gov. Gretchen Whitmer urged the Legislature not to meet to discuss an extension of the state of emergency declared because of the COVID-19 coronavirus. This would be a mistake, and the governor should continue to embrace close collaboration with the Legislature and should not sideline it in this emergency.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s April 2 executive order to close down public school buildings for the rest of the academic year has set in motion a new education norm. The move to use distance learning in no way represents a popular preference that would be pursued under normal circumstances. Among the foremost concerns are how to help students with disabilities. Widely available digital tools, used in a partnership between schools and parents, offer the most likely path forward.