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Assessing the Costs of the U.P. Energy Task Force Committee Recommendations

In response to the findings of the Statewide Energy Assessment and under a further directive by Gov. Whitmer, the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy released the “Upper Peninsula Energy Task Force Committee Recommendations Part I – Propane Supply” in April 2020. This task force was created by Gov. Whitmer in June 2019 and directed to “consider all available information and make recommendations that ensure the U.P.’s energy needs are met in a manner that is reliable, affordable, and environmentally sound.” Their report on propane supply offered 14 recommendations “to better track and anticipate supply and demand, minimize disruption impact, and provide a more cohesive plan for those who are disproportionally impacted by high energy costs in the U.P.”

We analyze the potential impacts and feasibility of these recommendations in this report. We also explore the use of alternative fuels to propane such as natural gas and electricity to provide for winter heating needs in the Upper Peninsula.

Private Conservation Working Group Meeting and Public Panel

Summary and Proceedings

The Mackinac Center for Public Policy invited a variety of conservation experts to participate in a policy workshop. During the one-day meeting, workshop participants were each given a block of time to present their views on private conservation in the state of Michigan. Each described the strengths, opportunities, aspirations, and results they saw from their personal and sector perspective.

In the meeting, participants were encouraged to leverage individual decision-making, private property rights and voluntary trade to improve conservation in the state. Further discussion and interaction helped to clarify and prioritize incentives involved with conserving natural areas.

This report summarizes the policy recommendations discussed at this workshop.

A History of Michigan's Controversial 1945 Emergency Powers Law

The Emergency Powers of Governor Act is the law Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is using to unilaterally control the state's response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This report explains how this law was used by previous governors. Until 2020, it was used 11 times in response to five emergency situations: labor unrest in Hillsdale in 1964, urban riots in 1967, more riots in 1968, high mercury levels in waters near St. Clair in 1970 and for a riot in Ypsilanti in 1970.

Economic Development? State Handouts and Jobs

A New Look at the Evidence

This study analyzing the impact of several major economic development programs run by the state of Michigan dating back to 1983. The authors use the National Establishment Time Series database to track the performance of firms that were offered some form of fiscal incentive from the state. It compares those firms' job growth to those of similar firms that were not offered incentives.

This analysis finds that only three of the nine programs studied had a statistically significant positive impact on job growth for firms that were offered incentives, but this job growth came at a significant cost: on average, the state offered nearly $600,000 worth of incentives for every job created.

The 2020 Midland County Dam Failure

Over 2,500 homes and buildings were damaged by flooding in mid-Michigan on May 19, 2020, when an aging dam failed on the Tittabawassee River, causing the cascading failure of a second dam immediately downstream. Initial reports indicated that as many as 150 homes and businesses were damaged beyond repair. Approximately 11,000 residents were hurriedly evacuated ahead of the flooding that caused as much as $200 million in damages.

This report examines the circumstances that contributed to the failure of these dams. 

How to Analyze Occupational Licensing Laws

A Model Review Process

This report makes the case for regularly reviewing occupational licensing laws. These laws can create needless barriers to jobs and raise prices for consumers. To determine which licenses are helpful and which ones are not, it explains how to analyze occupational licensing laws and provides four examples of reviewed licenses.

Michigan's Regulatory Crimes: Bureaucrats' Hidden Criminal Law

This report explains why assigning criminal penalties to administrative rules and regulations should worry anyone concerned about the rule of law and the potential for abuse in the administration of criminal justice. It describes several reasons why allowing administrative agencies determine what is criminal behavior is problematic, using examples from Michigan’s administrative rules. It also outlines some basic principles that should help guide efforts to reform Michigan’s regulatory code and practice.

Student Mobility Scholarships: Helping Families Access the Best Schools

Michigan could support low-income families’ efforts to transport their children to better schools and boost these children’s chances for upward socioeconomic mobility by creating Student Mobility Scholarships. A transportation scholarship plan is rooted in the idea of providing a more level playing field for Michigan's most economically disadvantaged families. The idea is for the state to assist qualifying families in paying some of the costs incurred from transporting a student to a school of their choice.

Protecting the Secret Ballot: The Dangers of Union Card Check

A secret ballot election is one where individuals get to make a private choice based on their own personal decision, and this is how most unions certification elections work. However, unions can also become certified to be the exclusive bargaining representative of a workplace through a process known as "card check." Under this method, unions can "win" an election when a majority of the workers sign authorization cards. The significant downside to elections via card check is that workers can easily be pressured, intimidated and even coerced into signing cards because they are not afforded the privacy of a voting booth.

Unions have repeatedly lobbied to make it easier for them to use card check elections, and a new bill in Congress would do just that: the Protecting the Right to Organize Act, or PRO Act. This report explains why certain provisions of the PRO Act are problematic, and why it is important to protect the right of workers to use the secret ballot for union certification elections.

Michigan School Privatization Survey 2019

This is the 17th edition of the Mackinac Center's annual school privatization survey. We ask every school district in the state if they outsource one of the three main noninstructional services — custodial, transportation and food services. The results from this year's survey show that 69.7% of school districts contract out for at least one of these services.

The Wayfair Decision: How Michigan Policymakers Should Respond

The U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in South Dakota v. Wayfair last June overturned decades of precedent governing which businesses states could subject to collection and remittance requirements for sales taxes. This report offers guidance on how Michigan should modify its tax laws to implement these new taxation standards. It raises important questions that lawmakers should consider before subjecting new businesses and entrepreneurs to new tax collection requirements.

Workforce Development in Michigan

This report provides a survey of existing workforce development efforts in Michigan, both public and private. It includes a review of career and technical education provided by K-12 school districts, occupational training programs provided through community colleges, as well as job training offered by for-profit entities, unions, industry associations and private, nonprofit organizations. After reviewing these current programs, the report offers general skepticism about the ability of the state to provide the type of workforce development that many politicians claim is needed.

Multilateral Disarmament: A State Compact to End Corporate Welfare

This study provides a plan for how states can end the harmful competition that the practice of corporate welfare encourages. It describes why corporate welfare is damaging to local and state economies and a zero-sum game from a national perspective. It also ranks the states based on how many handouts they make to favored businesses.

In addition, it offers an entirely new strategy to end policies that economists agree are wasteful. By entering into a state compact, as they are authorized to do under the U.S. Constitution, states could agree not to offer preferential tax treatment or other subsidies in an attempt to lure businesses into their borders. Instead, states will compete as they were designed to under the U.S. Constitution, based on regulatory burdens, business culture and broad-based tax policy.