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Ending the Skimming of Union Dues from Federal Child Care Funds

This report, jointly published by the Freedom Foundation and the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, outlines how the federal government can put an end to the inappropriate use of funding for two federal programs: the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and the Child Care and Development Fund. Despite Supreme Court rulings against the practice, several states still allow unions to siphon off dues payments from these funds intended to support home care and child care services for low-income families and the disabled.

A Primer on Michigan's Criminal Justice System

This report describes the basics of how Michigan’s criminal justice system works: explaining some essential features of criminal law, the various layers of law enforcement, adjudication processes, prison policy and more. Unlike most policy papers, however, this report is meant to be strictly descriptive. That is, it does not attempt to judge the effectiveness of Michigan’s current criminal justice system or provide policy recommendations. It is hoped that the information contained here will contribute to more informed debate about how to best improve Michigan’s criminal justice system.

Questions for Appropriators

This questionnaire was developed to guide lawmakers as they scrutinize agency budget requests. In both good times and bad, the sum of these requests will always exceed available revenues. Government agencies’ and program budgets should never operate on auto-pilot. By following this template and obtaining basic information about each program’s origin, purpose, performance, legal authority, funding history and federal connections, policymakers can then hone in on specific changes to consider for the programs — including funding or staffing levels, performance measures and legislative reforms.

The conversation this information will spark can help forge agreement about how to efficiently and effectively meet the needs of Michigan residents and how to use the final state budget to best serve the needs of the public. Careful consideration of spending priorities such as this can boost public confidence in state government and elected officials.

From Prohibited to Permitted: A Legal History of Corporate Handouts in Michigan

Elected officials today regularly try to woo large companies into locating to their state or city by offering them special tax treatment or subsidizing them in some way. States and cities compete with each other in this regard — Michigan is no exception — and this competition makes national headlines when well-known companies choose to relocate or expand. With this in mind, one might reasonably assume that publicly funded economic development is a long-standing, firmly established practice. But that’s not the case in Michigan.

This report chronicles the history of Michigan Supreme Court decisions on this issue. It is not a formal legal review of the case law, but rather a historical account of the most important cases, spanning from Michigan’s earliest days as a new state to the ratification of the current constitution in 1963. The narrative that unfolds will surprise those not familiar with Michigan’s unique experience with taxpayer-funded corporate handouts.

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.

Michigan School Privatization Survey 2018

This is the 16th 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 70.5 percent of school districts contract out for at least one of these services.

How Bail Works in Michigan and Recommendations for Reform

Bail is the process by which criminal defendants secure their release while awaiting trial. It allows people who have been charged with a crime to be released from police custody. In recent years, the criminal justice system has drawn criticism from across the political spectrum because cash bail has come to be imposed on so many criminal defendants. Data increasingly indicate that releasing a defendant pretrial has a significant impact on his long-term prospects. It affects the defendant’s ability to retain his housing, employment, and child custody, the probability that he will go on to commit another crime and even the likelihood of a favorable legal outcome in his case.

Research has also revealed that the majority of jail inmates are legally innocent but are being detained because they cannot afford to bail out before and during their trial. This imposes large costs on local governments but provides no clear public safety benefit. Finally and most importantly, states with misguided pretrial release policies may infringe on defendants’ liberty interests, opening themselves up to litigation and the risk of an injustice. For these reasons, stakeholders and practitioners in Michigan should work to understand the purpose of bail and implement the best pretrial practices for respecting individual rights and public resources.

This report explains in detail how the bail process works and provides recommendations for reforming it in a way that benefits criminal defendants, the court system and taxpayers.

Proposal 2 of 2018: An Explainer and Key Arguments

This policy brief describes the history of redistricting and how it is currently practiced in Michigan and in other states. It also explains Proposal 2 and how redistricting would work if it is passed. Finally, it presents an equal number of arguments for and against the proposal.

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.

Choices Voices: A Survey of Michigan Charter School Parents

Choices & Voices

This report highlights the results of a survey of nearly 1,500 parents of charter school students in Michigan. Charter schools are state-funded, tuition-free schools of choice, authorized by public agencies such as universities and community colleges.

The survey asks parents questions concerning their satisfaction with charter schools, why they chose to leave their district-run school, difficulties they may have faced enrolling in a charter school and ideas for improvements, among others. The goal of this survey is to better inform policymakers about the on-the-ground experience parents have with charter schools, so that they might pursue policies that improve Michigan's charter schools.

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What's Wrong With Michigan's No-Fault Automobile Insurance

A PDF copy of this study is available.

On Oct. 1, 1973, Michigan joined a growing number of states in adopting a “no-fault” automobile insurance law, which has remained in tack ever since. This policy brief outlines the variety of problems plaguing Michigan's auto insurance laws and explains why these issues are leading to the most expensive car insurance premiums in the nation.

The brief also describes several reform ideas for how to fix Michigan's no-fault insurance system. These reforms would maintain the no-fault approach to car insurance, but would put downward pressure on premiums, a benefit that would be enjoyed by all Michigan drivers.

A Survey of Michigan Parents Who Use School Choice

This report highlights the results of a survey conducted of Michigan parents who exercise some form of public school choice for their children. Among the diverse group of 837 parents from across the state who were interviewed, substantial majorities gave high marks to their chosen schools, said the experience boosted their expectations of their children’s future success and would likely recommend choice options to other parents. Respondents also said that information they receive from other parents influences their school choice decisions, in addition to published school performance data and in-person visits. Survey results further revealed that most parents highly value academics in making their decision, though safety and discipline are leading considerations as well.