The MC: The Mackinac Center Blog

Andrew Kaluza, RIP

Former Center intern, 27, passes away

The staff of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy mourns the loss of Andrew Kaluza, a 2011 summer intern, who passed away after a car accident over the weekend. Kaluza, an engineering major at the University of Texas-San Antonio, founded that school’s Young Americans for Liberty chapter and was a member of the executive board of Students for Liberty.

You can read more about the impact he had on others and the freedom movement here.

What Do Teachers Want to Support?

RTW allows them to skip union's political bent

The economic effects of state right-to-work laws are important, but these laws are significant for other reasons, too, namely the fact that employees cannot be forced to contribute money to a union they disagree with as a condition of their employment.

This is especially significant because many labor unions, particularly in forced unionism states, are political organizations that spend money on issues that most people would consider partisan and contentious.

Allysia Finley of The Wall Street Journal recently covered the National Education Association’s annual convention and explains how that union chose to spend its membership dues. The Michigan Education Association, this state’s largest teachers’ union, is an affiliate of the NEA. MEA members pay the NEA about $180 annually.

Finley reports that the union passed resolutions taking an “anti-fracking” position and encouraging members to boycott the office-supply store Staples, because the U.S. Postal Service has contracted out nonunionized work to them.

Finley adds, “Delegates debated whether the union's president should write a letter to Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder denouncing the NFL team name's ‘institutional racism.’ They also discussed a resolution supporting reparations for ‘the lingering impact of slavery’ and ‘subtle Jim Crow policies and thinking’ including ‘unconscious bias.’ These items were referred to a private committee for further discussion.”

Many people would find such endeavors are worthwhile. But is it in the wheelhouse of a teachers’ union? Thanks to the state’s right-to-work law, Michigan educators can now decide for themselves.

While the Legislature is adjourned for a primary election campaign break, the Roll Call Report is reviewing key votes of the 2013-2014 session.

Senate Bill 257, Expand “Business Improvement Zone” tax-and-spend entities: Passed 35 to 2 in the Senate on April 11, 2013.

To expand the items that a “Business Improvement Zone” can spend money on, revise voting rules in a way that (potentially) reduces the proportion of property owners needed to impose a zone's tax-and-spending powers, increase the proportion of owners needed to dissolve one, reduce notice and public meeting requirements required to establish one, increase penalties for not paying the "special assessments" these entities impose, and more. These zones have the power to impose levies to pay for the debt they incur to pay for projects that are supposed to benefit the property owners.

Who Voted "Yes" and Who Voted "No"

Senate Bill 38, Authorize wage garnishment for nonpayment of “administrative hearing bureau” fines: Passed 35 to 1 in the Senate on April 18, 2013

To allow a local government to garnish the wages of a property owner who has failed to pay fines imposed by “administrative hearing bureaus” that most cities are allowed to create for enforcing "blight violations" under a 2003 law.

Who Voted "Yes" and Who Voted "No"

Senate Bill 39, Authorize foreclosure for nonpayment of “administrative hearing bureau” fines: Passed 35 to 1 in the Senate on April 18, 2013

To allow a local government to foreclose on property owned by a person who has failed to pay fines imposed by “administrative hearing bureaus” that most cities are allowed to create for enforcing "blight violations" under a 2003 law.

Who Voted "Yes" and Who Voted "No"

Senate Bill 218, Expand borrow-and-spend "water resource improvement authorities": Passed 32 to 5 in the Senate on March 14, 2013

To eliminate the sunset on local governments creating new "water resource improvement authorities," which use extra property tax levies and “tax increment financing” schemes to divert other taxing units' property tax revenue to cover debt service payments on debt they incur for various recreation and development projects. The bill would also expand the scope of activities and geographic limits of these entities, letting them borrow and spend for dredging among other things.

Who Voted "Yes" and Who Voted "No"

Senate Bill 288, Give NRC duty of designating huntable game species: Passed 25 to 11 in the Senate on April 25, 2013

To give the state Natural Resources Commission (in addition to the Legislature) the power to designate a species as a huntable game species. This was widely regarded as an effort to preempt a ballot initiative to prohibit creating a wolf-hunting season.

Who Voted "Yes" and Who Voted "No"

Senate Bill 347, Expand MSHDA developer subsidies: Passed 36 to 2 in the Senate on May 16, 2013

To empower the Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA) to “invest” (buy ownership interest) in companies or nonprofits whose “primary purpose is to acquire ownership interests in multifamily housing projects” (and not necessarily build new ones).

Who Voted "Yes" and Who Voted "No"

Senate Bill 345, Authorize more state government housing subsidy debt: Passed 34 to 4 in the Senate on May 16, 2013

To repeal a requirement that the Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA) must scale back its debt from a “temporary” maximum of $4.2 billion authorized in 2012, to $3.4 billion after Nov. 1, 2014, subject to some exceptions. The borrowed money is used to provide taxpayer-backed mortgage loan guarantees, subsidies and more. The House has not taken up this bill.

Who Voted "Yes" and Who Voted "No"

Senate Bill 163, Limit DEQ wetland use restrictions: Passed 25 to 12 in the Senate on May 22, 2013

To expand certain exemptions to a state wetland permit mandate, require permit denials to document their rationale and authority, slightly increase the state's burden to justify restrictions on an owner's use of his or her property, prohibit the Department of Environmental Quality from imposing regulations that are beyond the scope those required by federal law, and make other changes to these land use restrictions.

Who Voted "Yes" and Who Voted "No"

Senate Bill 173, Ban local mandates that private employers must grant leave: Passed 25 to 13 in the Senate on June 5, 2013

To preempt local governments from adopting ordinances or policies that require private sector employers to provide paid or unpaid employee leave that is not required under state or federal law. This is related to a nationwide campaign promoted by unions to lobby for such local mandates. The House has not taken up this bill.

Who Voted "Yes" and Who Voted "No"

Senate Bill 257, Expand “Business Improvement Zone” tax-and-spend entities: Passed 77 to 31 in the House on September 12, 2013

The House vote on the bill described above. This was signed into law on Oct. 8, 2013

Who Voted "Yes" and Who Voted "No"

Senate Bill 175, Undo National Guard pension reform: Passed 37 to 0 in the Senate on May 22, 2013

To reverse a 2010 reform that eliminated "defined benefit" pensions for future Michigan National Guard commanders and their assistants, and instead provided 401k benefits. The 2010 reform was adopted following reports of these "Adjutant Generals" being granted generous state pensions based on limited state service ($78,000 to $133,000 for 1.5 years to 13 years service).

Who Voted "Yes" and Who Voted "No"

Senate Bill 38, Authorize wage garnishment for nonpayment of “administrative hearing bureau” fines: Passed 95 to 15 in the House on November 14, 2013

The House vote on the bill described above. This was signed into law on Dec. 17, 2013.

Who Voted "Yes" and Who Voted "No"

Senate Bill 39, Authorize foreclosure for nonpayment of “administrative hearing bureau” fines: Passed 103 to 7 in the House on November 14, 2013

The House vote on the bill described above. This was signed into law on Dec. 17, 2013.

Who Voted "Yes" and Who Voted "No"

Senate Bill 218, Expand borrow-and-spend "water resource improvement authorities": Passed 92 to 16 in the House on April 18, 2013

The House vote on the bill described above. This was signed into law on May 9, 2013.

Who Voted "Yes" and Who Voted "No"

Senate Bill 288, Give NRC duty of designating huntable game species: Passed 72 to 38 in the House on May 2, 2013

The House vote on the bill described above. This was signed into law on May 8, 2013.

Who Voted "Yes" and Who Voted "No"

Senate Bill 347, Expand MSHDA developer subsidies: Passed 88 to 20 in the House on September 12, 2013

The House vote on the bill described above. This was signed into law on September 24, 2013.

Who Voted "Yes" and Who Voted "No"

Senate Bill 163, Limit DEQ wetland use restrictions: Passed 66 to 42 in the House on June 12, 2013

The House vote on the bill described above. This was signed into law on July 2, 2013.

Who Voted "Yes" and Who Voted "No"

Senate Bill 175, Undo National Guard pension reform: Passed 91 to 14 in the House on June 6, 2013

The House vote on a revised version of the bill described above. The House slightly limited eligibility for these benefits compared to the Senate version and the pre-2010 law, but also added some exceptions to the new limits. This was signed into law by Gov. Rick Snyder on July 2, 2013.

Who Voted "Yes" and Who Voted "No"

SOURCE: MichiganVotes.org, a free, non-partisan website created by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, providing concise, non-partisan, plain-English descriptions of every bill and vote in the Michigan House and Senate. Please visit http://www.MichiganVotes.org.

Agricultural Price Controls are the Pits

Michigan cherry farmers, others, affected

Ron French has a great article in Bridge Magazine looking at "the crazy economics of Michigan's favorite pitted fruit." The piece describes some of the federal cherry regulations that are mostly left over from the New Deal of the 1930s:

[T]he tart cherry industry is told by the U.S. government how much of their product they can put on the market. The Cherry Industry Administrative Board (CIAB), operating under the auspices of the Department of Agriculture (USDA), sets restrictions on the percentage of the tart cherry crop that can be sold. Some years the share of the market restricted from market is low, like this year, which has a 10 percent restriction. In 2009, it was a whopping 65 percent.

Michigan tart cherry growers are shackled by those restrictions more than most. There are no restrictions on sweet cherries – the kind you buy in the fresh fruit section of Meijer. The restrictions don’t even apply to all tart cherries – there are no restrictions on tart cherries grown in Oregon or Pennsylvania, or on imported cherries.

While central planners defend these policies as necessary to help manage the tart cherry market, there are few similar restrictions on other fruits and vegetable or other food. The market does a better job of setting prices than government bureaucrats.

The article is a refresher on what violating basic economic principles does to a sector of the economy: causes shortages and waste.

"Canned cherries … have a shelf life of about a year. So in a year with high restrictions … [companies] may have to import cherries for its pie filling, while cherries are rotting on the ground in orchards a few miles away," French wrote. He reported that in 2009, 30 million pounds of tart cherries were forced to be left in the ground.

That is the end result of price controls. The government is trying to force cherry prices to be high by lowering the supply. One farmer talks about people "literally dumping them alongside the road."

Unfortunately, the types of government controls were not unique but a central part of many New Deal programs. As Mackinac Center President Emeritus Larry Reed described in his essay, "Great Myths of the Great Depression":

Roosevelt secured passage of the Agricultural Adjustment Act, which levied a new tax on agricultural processors and used the revenue to supervise the wholesale destruction of valuable crops and cattle. Federal agents oversaw the ugly spectacle of perfectly good fields of cotton, wheat and corn being plowed under (the mules had to be convinced to trample the crops; they had been trained, of course, to walk between the rows).
Healthy cattle, sheep and pigs were slaughtered and buried in mass graves. Secretary of Agriculture Henry Wallace personally gave the order to slaughter 6 million baby pigs before they grew to full size. The administration also paid farmers for the first time for not working at all. Even if the AAA had helped farmers by curtailing supplies and raising prices, it could have done so only by hurting millions of others who had to pay those prices or make do with less to eat.

The bulk of the economic literature shows these policies to be extremely destructive and only politicians (and some Keynesians) could believe that destroying production is good for the economy.

It's unfortunate that some of these programs still live on.

Unions' Bark Worse Than Their Bite

Vernuccio in National Review on Midwest labor reforms

Labor Policy Director F. Vincent Vernuccio writes today at National Review about the failure of unions to overturn worker freedom reforms in the industrial Midwest — long a labor stronghold — and what reform-minded legislators in other states can learn from that lesson.

Vernuccio, Spalding on WILS in Lansing

Discussed MEA attacks on teachers, charter schools

Two Mackinac Center experts were on “The Tony Conley Show” on WILS-AM1320 in Lansing recently.

Labor Policy Director F. Vincent Vernuccio discussed the MEA’s so-called “August window” and how teachers can opt out of the union, particularly those who the MEA has sent to collections agencies.

Vernuccio also discussed the matter on "The Frank Beckmann Show" on WJR AM760.

Education Policy Director Audrey Spalding discussed charter public school student performance and the college readiness of Michigan high school graduates.

McHugh: Campaign Finance Laws 'Weaponized'

Poses threat to political free speech

Senior Legislative Analyst Jack McHugh writes in this month’s Greater Lansing Business Monthly that political free speech is in jeopardy due to the “weaponization” of campaign finance laws by politicians.

August Opt Out Featured in Detroit News

MEA window "can be extremely confusing"

Labor Policy Director F. Vincent Vernuccio was quoted in a Detroit News commentary by Ingrid Jacques, deputy editorial page editor, about the importance of teachers knowing their worker freedom rights.

“It can be extremely confusing,” he said, referring to the Michigan Education Association’s insistence that its “August window” bylaw trumps state law.

To help inform teachers of their options, the Center has created www.Augustoptout.org, a website that includes testimonials from teachers who have left the MEA and a sample form letter that teachers can use to resign from the union.

Lehman Cited in National Review

Critique of Gov. Snyder's performance

Mackinac Center President Joseph G. Lehman is cited in an article about Gov. Rick Snyder in the upcoming issue of National Review.

The story, which calls Gov. Snyder “The Turnaround Governor,” highlights several of his administration, including eliminating the Michigan Business Tax and signing right-to-work legislation.

It also notes his push for a $1.2 billion gas tax increase as the state showers millions of dollars in corporate welfare on movie makers.

“Ideally, a government this large is plenty big enough to pay for good roads,” Lehman said of the state’s $53 billion budget. “We’re facing gas-tax increases now because lawmakers irresponsibly spent money on other things while the roads crumbled.”

What the 4th of July Means to Me

Counting my blessings

As we watch countless numbers of human beings struggle for freedom and liberty around the globe, it is good to reflect upon the blessings we enjoy in the land that we love — this United States of America.

This is my 67th Fourth of July celebration and my memories of the day are some of those very blessings…family time in many places. All were amazing…captivated by fireworks in small-town America…aboard a small boat on the Mississippi River and also a huge cruise liner in Alaska…on the Palace Green in Williamsburg, Va.…in several baseball parks…attending the Baltimore Symphony at Oregon Ridge…attending the Detroit Symphony at the Henry Ford…and zooming across the night sky on a flight to Europe. My blessings include travel to all 50 states and there is something of interest and beauty to be found in each. The US of A is one of my greatest blessings in life.

Our late Senior Vice President Joseph P. Overton penned the following many years ago to be included in our holiday policy:

All staff are encouraged to celebrate Independence Day with passion and verve, remembering it as the signatory day of a document embodying the most sublime of political ideals, an apogee in mankind's quest for liberty of thought and action, the restoration of which is the vision of our organization.

I remember reading this for the first time and being so grateful I had landed in an organization representing so well my own values! One of my nicknames is "the red, white and blue grandma" and I am delighted that a young child recognized what is important to me. Those colors are seen in my apparel, my jewelry, my home and office décor and in the flag that flies 24 hours a day at my home.

My pride in being an American knows no bounds. I am a proud member of the Daughters of the American Revolution because of a patriot whose service I documented. I am the proud daughter of a father who served his country stateside as a factory worker supplying goods to troops during WWII and the proud daughter-in-law of an Omaha Beach hero. From my patriot great-great-great-great grandfather to my fathers from the greatest generation, my heritage is strong and greatly appreciated.

I will celebrate with passion and verve and count my blessings. As my favorite stanza from "My Country 'Tis of Thee" says, may freedom's holy light be forever bright!