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Michigan School Privatization Survey 2020

This is the 18th 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 69.9% of school districts contract out for at least one of these services.

Five Options for Addressing ‘Transition Costs’ When Closing the MPSERS Pension Plan

Michigan Public School Employee Retirement Plans
in Need of Reform

This study considers the supposed ‘transition costs’ that would be effected by a state switch from a defined-benefit to defined-contribution retirement system. In it, the “transition costs” are found to be nonbinding and discretionary. In addition, the study offers the state a series of reforms that would diffuse such costs, as well as consideration for the long-term fiscal improvements that would arise from payment of the pension’s unfunded liabilities.

Loar v. Michigan Department of Human Services Brief

This booklet contains the Mackinac Center Legal Foundation’s final legal filing in a nationally known case involving the illegal unionization of Michigan’s home-based day care business owners and providers as government employees. Wright argued the case in the Michigan courts on behalf of Sherry Loar, Michelle Berry and Paulette Silverson, who each own home-based day care businesses.

The Mackinac Center Legal Foundation sued to end the DHS' illegal diversion of so-called "union dues" from state subsidy checks received by home-based day care providers who watch children from low-income families. The "dues" were funneled to a government-employee union that purports to represent more than 40,000 of Michigan's home-based day care providers, who are actually private business owners and independent contractors.

The case was ruled moot by the Michigan Supreme Court after the DHS ceased to collect the dues and the DHS director stated that these home-based day care providers are not public employees.

101 Recommendations to Revitalize Michigan

For policymakers and voters serious about restoring freedom and economic vitality in the Great Lakes State, the Mackinac Center presents the following 101 recommendations.

Proposal 1 of 2020: Use of State and Local Park Funds Amendment

This policy brief describes the changes to Michigan's Constitution and the Natural Resources Trust Fund and State Parks Endowment Fund that Proposal one would make. It explains how these trust funds currently work to help voters better understand the effects of their vote on this ballot question.

Evidence Required: A Critical Review of 'Improving Oversight of Michigan Charter Schools and Their Authorizers'

This paper offers a critical review of a report published in March by the Citizens Research Council of Michigan titled “Improving Oversight of Michigan Charter Schools and Their Authorizers.”

Extinguishing the Wildfire Threat

Lessons from Arizona

In this report, we extend earlier research that described many of the historical, political, and policy reasons our nation’s publicly managed forests are plagued by large, dangerous wildfires. This research, published by the Mackinac Center and the Property and Environment Research Center as "Conflict to Cooperation," explained how the management of federal lands has been stalled by a confusing and complex web of legislative and regulatory constraints as well as a variety of conflicting uses and policy views.

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.

[Author's note: See Update and Corrections for the most recent information.]

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. 

Conflict to Cooperation: Collaborative Management of Federal Lands in Michigan

The actions of federal land managers can often set private landowners and the general public at odds with government agencies. This conflict can take several forms: overly strict rule enforcement, intractability in settling boundary disputes, delays in issuing permits and stringent restrictions on accessing public lands. This paper reviews some of the laws governing federal lands, as well as describes some of the conflicts that have arisen. It then gives examples of collaborative management approaches that have avoided or resolved conflicts in Michigan and around the country. Applying them more frequently in Michigan could help reduce conflicts across the state and lead to improved environmental outcomes, as well as increased public access to Michigan’s national forests.

Roads in Michigan: Quality, Funding and Recommendations

This study examines the funding and condition of Michigan’s roads and bridges and presents policy recommendations regarding them. The first section of this study describes the different types of roads in Michigan, which government entity is responsible for each type and their current estimated condition. The section after that explains how road funding works. The next section then discusses how public goods such as roads should be priced and funded, based on standard economic theory. It also attempts to measure the level to which Michigan’s roads are underpriced and underfunded. The final section concludes with some policy recommendations.

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.

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.