Blog

On this, Earth Day 2021, we offer the following as a helpful reminder to our readers and supporters.

Humanity’s future is bright. Contrary to what you’re hearing in the media and from environmental groups, there’s no need for fear.

In a group of blog posts last year, we recounted 50 different ways that human ingenuity is cleaning our planet and improving human health and well-being. We discussed how new and more efficient technologies are improving agricultural yields and decreasing hunger, reducing the impacts of wildfires, slowing and stopping wildlife extinctions and improving sanitation. We explained how extreme poverty and hunger levels have been drastically reduced across the planet, how vaccine use is growing and childhood fatalities are dropping. We also noted how, despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, treatments for many other diseases, like HIV and malaria are improving human health and lives.

When asked on April 9 why she was not imposing new COVID-19 restrictions during Michigan’s third wave of the pandemic, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said, “Policy change alone won’t change the tide.” She’s probably right. But one week later, her health department introduced a policy change anyway, modifying its orders to require children between the ages of two and four to wear masks.

As the ongoing conflict over the future of Line 5 enters its latest phase, it is likely that the pipeline will need to continue to operate beyond Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s rapidly approaching May 12 closure deadline. That’s because it’s highly unlikely that the ongoing court battles over the fate of the pipeline will be decided until we are well into or past the summer. Therefore, the governor’s still legally questionable attempts to mandate the pipeline’s closure should be paused to help ensure recently begun mediation efforts can be successful.

Due to the federal coronavirus response, Michigan’s budget last fiscal year was the largest it’s ever been. This year may break that record as lawmakers discuss how to spend recent federal transfers and further proposed spending bills. People ought to be concerned about whether this is going to ratchet up federal spending permanently. It’s happened before.

Federal officials recently upset Michigan’s education chief by turning down a request to skip standardized tests for a second straight year. Students in grades three through eight throughout the state have begun taking the M-STEP and 11th graders are taking the Michigan Merit Examination again after last year’s hiatus, contrary to State Superintendent Michael Rice’s hopes.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer just extended emergency COVID-19 rules that all Michigan employers must follow. Among other things, they require businesses to conduct daily health screenings of employees, require masks to be worn whenever anyone could be within six feet of someone else and isolate employees who have a suspected case of COVID. Unless rescinded, these rules will continue until October. But they could last even longer, because the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration wants to transform these emergency rules into permanent ones.

House Bill 4029: Legalize “stun guns”: Passed 78 to 32 in the House

To repeal a ban on the sale, possession or use of "stun devices" by adults, defined as a “device that is capable of creating an electro-muscular disruption…capable of temporarily incapacitating or immobilizing an individual by the direction or emission of conducted energy." This does not include a launchable device, which means Tasers would still be prohibited.

Technological innovations benefit consumers, but often come at the expense of existing businesses profiting from the status quo. That is, unless those businesses are artificially protected by law. That’s the case now with electric vehicles: EV producers and would-be consumers are running up against legal barriers instituted decades ago for the benefit of car dealers. And no matter your opinion of EVs, this type of crony capitalism should be disconcerting.

Lawmakers and the governor have many different ideas and opinions when it comes to the state budget, including education spending, labor rules and COVID-related policies. But there’s been one important area of agreement between Republicans and Democrats, the business community and the ACLU, the Trump administration and the Obama and Biden administrations, and employers and consumers: occupational licensing reform.

When I first started in policy analysis back in 2002, I assumed there was current, up-to-date, easy-to-use statistical information available on the issues of the day.

Why did I think that? Because it seemed that professional news commentators drew from a wealth of evidence that let them come to definitive conclusions.

The Legislature is on spring break until April 13. Rather than votes, this Roll Call Report describes some newly introduced bills of interest.

Senate Bill 150: Restrict governor’s commitment of National Guard

Introduced by Sen. Tom Barrett (R), to prohibit a governor from ordering a member of the Michigan National Guard to active state service for longer than 28 days, unless a request by the governor for a specific number of days is approved by a resolution passed by the state House and Senate. Referred to committee, no further action at this time.

I want the Overton Window podcast to cover topics that people care about. So, I asked a friend what topics interest her. At her request, we dug into mosquito control policy and its Overton Window with Mark Clifton of the North Shore Mosquito Abatement District, located in northern Illinois.

Michigan local governments will collect $4.4 billion from Congress’s latest spending bill. Many local leaders will ponder hard about how best to use the money to best serve their residents, and they should look to use the funds to increase the long-term financial health of the local government. But they may have to wait for guidance from the federal government first.

On April 1, the Indiana House Committee on Employment, Labor and Pensions heard testimony on legislation endorsed by Workers for Opportunity, Senate Bill 251. Vincent Vernuccio, a senior fellow at the Mackinac Center and representative of its Workers for Opportunity initiative, testified in favor of the bill.

The Michigan House of Representatives recently passed several straightforward reforms that would increase access to health care providers and services across the state and promote price transparency in hospital services.

Traditionally, health professionals treated patients almost exclusively in person. The COVID-19 pandemic changed that. Telehealth use exploded as regulations preventing its full value were suspended. Michiganders embraced the opportunity, which allowed them more convenient access to and choices of health professionals, both in Michigan and from other states.

Editor's Note: This article first appeared in The Detroit News on March 27, 2021. 

Michigan lawmakers are going to collect $5.7 billion from the federal government’s latest spending bill, and they don’t yet know what to do with it. The Mackinac Center for Public Policy has recently worked with some allies to put together some guidance for them.

Editor's Note: This piece first appeared in The Hill on March 13, 2021. 

For years, governments and their citizens have tussled over the information to which the latter should have access. Despite laws that mandate disclosure of public records, governments across the United States have found ways to limit access to important information. These can include explicit carve-outs from Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requirements, foot-dragging, the wide use of redactions and more.

The Legislature is on spring break until April 13. Rather than votes, this Roll Call Report describes some newly introduced bills of interest.

Senate Bill 62: Criminalize race-based false crime report

Introduced by Sen. Erika Geiss (D), to make it a crime to file a false report of a crime based solely upon the alleged perpetrator's race or ethnicity, subject to a $1,000 fine and 50 hours of community service with “a group or nonprofit whose mission is to advance equity and justice for historically marginalized, disenfranchised, and oppressed peoples.” A second offense would be subject to two years in prison. Referred to committee, no further action at this time.

A school customer of the utility monopoly Consumers Energy received a take-it-or-leave-it offer this month in response to a dispute over a surprisingly high energy bill accrued after the state issued a pandemic-related order to close its doors. The Morey Education Center, home to Morey FlexTech High School, is supported by the Morey Foundation, a charitable nonprofit in Mt. Pleasant.

Editor's Note: This article first appeared in The Hill on March 6, 2021.

Americans are good at breaking down seemingly insurmountable barriers. We’ve broken down barriers to travel with airplanes, self-driving cars and space exploration. We’ve eliminated barriers to communication with the smartphone and the internet. Where we struggle is with eliminating bureaucratic barriers — which we create ourselves.

Senate Bill 257: Limit epidemic emergency order intrusions into family gatherings and spectating: Passed 20 to 15 in the Senate

To prohibit the state health department from imposing restrictions on members of a family or household observing another member in a sporting event, dining out together at a single table, or otherwise gathering together. Also, to prohibit orders that bar an individual from traveling to another property he or she owns, or ban high school graduation ceremonies, or ban an individual from buying a product in a store.

There was corruption. There was mismanagement. And legislators passed a law to fix it. It got vetoed because political power doesn’t always care whether something is corrupt and mismanaged, so long as the right people want it. But one group set the expectation that things needed to change and won an important reform.

The Michigan Supreme Court is considering whether to take a case brought by the Mackinac Center Legal Foundation on behalf of St. Clair Shores resident Michael Dorr. This case has the chance to clarify questions about zoning and short-term rentals, an issue that has come up again and again in Michigan in recent years.

Propane supply has been high on the to-do list for Gov. Whitmer’s administration over the past few weeks. The state government recently published its MI Propane Security Plan, and the governor’s Upper Peninsula Energy Task Force wrapped up its meetings with a commitment to release its final report by March 31. But no matter how hard Michigan residents scour the propane security plan or the minutes of task force meetings, they won’t find a recognition that concerns about limited propane supplies in Michigan are entirely self-inflicted and very easily avoidable.

An unprecedented volume of education dollars from Washington is flooding into Michigan schools. While most of the money is set aside to prop up the status quo, Lansing lawmakers should push forward bold strategies to help families directly.

Pushed across the finish line by President Biden and Democrats in Congress, the American Rescue Plan Act adds to the national debt while providing the third, and largest, dose of extra federal aid since the onset of the pandemic. The first two bills, both passed in 2020, brought a combined $2.1 billion to Michigan public schools. This amount represents extra dollars above and beyond those provided to preserve schools’ primary formula funding levels, as their total revenues reached record levels last year.

Earth Day 2021