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Tag Archive | "Mackinac Center for Public Policy"

Mackinac Center applauds Gov. Snyder’s “outside the box” reforms


 

Reforms make it easier for those with criminal records to gain employment 

 MIDLAND — Gov. Rick Snyder issued an executive order September 7 making it easier for people with criminal backgrounds to earn a second chance at gainful employment. Applicants for state employment and people seeking an occupational license will no longer be disqualified just because they have a criminal record. Also, people enrolled in job training programs while incarcerated will know upfront if their background prevents them from obtaining certain employment, and the state will help them get licensed if they need to.

Removing barriers to employment for people with criminal records—which is a large and growing demographic—benefits the public in multiple ways. Research has shown that employment is a key factor influencing someone’s probability to reoffend. Employed ex-offenders are much less likely to commit new crimes, improving public safety. Further, removing these barriers for ex-offenders may help Michigan employers find the talent they need.

More than 20 percent of Michigan jobs now require a state license, which mandates fees, training, exams and more. The vast majority of these licenses, prior to Gov. Snyder’s executive order, restricted people with criminal backgrounds from working legally in these fields. This disproportionately impacts blue-collar workers and those with trade skills, including roofers, painters, cosmetologists, barbers, security guards and many other jobs in high-demand fields.

“A past mistake should not prevent someone from being able to shampoo hair or put up gutters for a living. But that was the reality,” said Jarrett Skorup, director of marketing and communications at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. “This is a great move by Gov. Snyder that will help ex-offenders, job creators and the rest of society.”

As a result of these orders, the Michigan Department of Corrections will ensure that prisoners meet the licensing requirements prior to enrolling in job-training programs, like Vocational Village. As part of this reform, additional trades will be taught at Vocational Village.

Kahryn Riley, director of the Mackinac Center’s criminal justice initiative, sees these changes as transformational for former offenders, and a significant step forward for Michigan in the national effort to get smart on crime.

“Michigan’s government has done a great thing by banning the box for state employment—and it has set a great example.” Riley said. “Our state courts hand out nearly 50,000 felony convictions every year, so it’s incredibly important to ensure that people who have made mistakes can still find work and become contributing members of society. This could also be a game-changer for trades facing labor shortages.”

About the Mackinac Center for Public Policy

The Mackinac Center for Public Policy is a nonpartisan, free-market think tank dedicated to improving the quality of life for all Michigan residents. Its policy experts develop solutions to state and local economic policy challenges based on fundamental principles of free markets, individual liberty, limited government and the rule of law. Headquartered in Midland, Mich., the Mackinac Center has grown into one of the nation’s largest state-based think tanks since its founding in 1987. For more information, visit www.mackinac.org.

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Michigan legislators missed fewer votes in 2017


 

Michigan’s 38 senators and 110 representatives missed 1,153 roll call votes in 2017 according to the Missed Votes Report compiled by Jack McHugh, editor of MichiganVotes.org.

Six senators and two representatives each missed 50 or more votes in 2017, led by Coleman Young II in the Senate and LaTanya Garrett in the House, who failed to vote 144 times and 95 times, respectively. There were 15 senators and 85 representatives who missed no votes this year, including Rep. Rob Verheulen and Sen. Peter MacGregor, the Representative and Senator for the Cedar Springs area.

The 1,153 missed votes in 2017 is down from 1,228 in 2016, but is up in percentage terms because fewer roll call votes were taken.

Excluding purely procedural votes, the Senate voted 570 times in 2017 and the House 511 times, for a total of 1,081 roll call votes by the entire Legislature. In 2016 there were 1,614 roll call votes taken by both bodies.

The number of missed votes has fallen dramatically since the 2001-2002 Legislature, which was the first session covered by MichiganVotes.org. Over that two-year period, individual Michigan lawmakers failed to cast a roll call vote 21,162 times.

“Legislators’ habits changed almost immediately when MichiganVotes.org began making this information easily accessible to voters,” McHugh said.

The full Missed Votes report can be viewed at www.michiganvotes.org/missedvotes.aspx and can be sorted by name or by the number of missed votes. By clicking on a legislator’s name, users can see a brief, plain-English description of the actual votes he or she missed. Missed vote totals for previous sessions can be viewed by entering a different date range.

McHugh noted that in most cases, missed votes occur when other demands within the legislative process call a lawmaker off the floor for a few minutes or when serious family or personal issues require an absence of an entire day or longer.

“Legislators are people, too,” McHugh said. “No one should jump to conclusions or assume bad faith, but voters have a right to ask why a lawmaker missed a large number of votes.”

While the missed votes report is a popular year-end feature, McHugh notes it is just a small piece of MichiganVotes.org’s capabilities.

“MichiganVotes.org was excited this year to add a new ‘golden button’ feature that gives users one-click access (plus entering their zip code) to a list of how the lawmakers who represent their community voted on the most meaningful measures of the current legislature,” McHugh said. “This is something users always said they wanted, and now it’s here.” McHugh added that the site produces a free weekly roll call report for reporters showing how their own local state legislators voted on key bills (also posted on Mackinac.org every week). Power-users can subscribe to free emails every session day showing actions taken on issue areas they indicate.”

MichiganVotes.org is searchable and sortable by legislator, category, keyword and more. It contains descriptions of more than 30,000 bills introduced since 2001 and more than 25,000 record roll call votes. The service was started to give citizens more information to help make democracy work better, and its main benefit has been increased transparency and accountability. The site’s database now contains 17 years’ worth of legislators’ votes—complete records of the full legislative careers of many lawmakers.

See the full report with each legislators’ missed votes totals at: http://www.michiganvotes.org/MissedVotes.aspx

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 www.MichiganVotes.org.

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Give Michigan drivers relief from high auto insurance premiums


 

Michigan drivers pay above-average prices for auto insurance.

Michigan drivers pay above-average prices for auto insurance.

By Michael Van Beek and Matt Coffey, Mackinac Center for Public Policy

A new legislative session kicked off in January, and once again, there’s talk in Lansing about reforming auto insurance in Michigan. This is a perennial issue: Since 2001, legislators have introduced 340 bills about auto insurance regulations, according to MichiganVotes.org. But like drivers in the Indy 500, lawmakers keep going around in circles without getting anywhere. This pattern needs to stop and policymakers should fix the problem.

The interest in reforming auto insurance stems from a well-known fact: Michiganders have the regrettable privilege of paying some of the highest premiums in the country. According to research from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, the average annual premium in Michigan was $1,351 in 2014, second only to New Jersey and Louisiana and 37 percent more than the national average.

Bad drivers aren’t to blame for Michigan’s abnormally high auto insurance premiums. After all, Michiganders can navigate the most miserable conditions, thanks to our winter wonderland. When a snowflake falls in Atlanta, on the other hand, there are ditches full of cars and highways are backed up for miles.

What is to blame, however, are Michigan’s unique auto insurance laws. The state’s no-fault approach is similar to that of just 11 other states, and no other state forces all drivers to buy unlimited personal injury protection.

Michigan’s current auto insurance system was created in 1973, and a solid case can be made that it has been, by and large, a failed experiment. For instance, the no-fault system—which gives insurance benefits to anyone injured in an auto accident regardless of who was to blame—was meant to reduce litigation. Since the law guarantees insurance benefits for all accident victims, the theory goes, there should be fewer lawsuits, reducing costs for both insurance companies and the courts.

That’s not what’s happened in practice. Michigan still allows an accident victim to sue an at-fault driver if a certain threshold for injuries is met. The Michigan Supreme Court has interpreted the law in a way that lowers this threshold—effectively undoing what no-fault set out to achieve. The result is that Michigan drivers pay a hefty premium for no-fault protection but don’t really benefit from it. Not surprisingly, Michigan ranks as one of the most litigious states in the nation, according to the Pacific Research Institute.

The failed no-fault system is only half the problem. Requiring insurers to provide unlimited PIP is even more problematic. It’s easy to figure out how this approach contributes to astronomical insurance premiums, why it’s rife with abuse and why no other state uses it.

With no limit on what insurers must cover, anyone injured in an auto accident can seek and “afford” the most expensive treatment possible. What’s worse: While private insurance, Medicare and Medicaid have fee schedules that limit what medical providers can charge, there are no schedules for what they can charge for services they provide to accident victims. That’s why it’s common for hospitals to charge auto insurers significantly more than they charge medical insurers or Medicaid and Medicare for exactly the same service.

The generous benefits available through Michigan’s unlimited PIP system, as might be expected, attract those who see an opportunity for profit. For instance, unlimited PIP covers paying a caregiver to serve accident victims in their own homes. There are very few limitations on who can provide this care and, again, there is no fee schedule. As a result, family members of accident victims can and do bill auto insurers for 24 hours of care each day at hourly rates as high as $30. That works out to be a nice six-figure salary. While it is unlikely that this is the norm for those providing home-based care, the opportunity for abuse is clear.

Considering these problems with Michigan’s auto insurance system, one might wonder why nothing has changed. After all, each lawmaker has thousands of constituents who are harmed by these steep premiums. The answer to this riddle is what economists call “concentrated benefits and diffuse costs.” The status quo provides concentrated benefits to medical providers, attorneys and accident victims, and they will spend significant resources lobbying the Legislature to protect these benefits. The costs, meanwhile, are diffuse, paid by drivers all across the state. Diverse and unorganized, drivers’ voices are easily drowned out by the loud, coordinated and well-funded voices of those who defend the status quo.

It’s time to admit that our no-fault auto insurance system has largely failed. As a result of court rulings, it has strayed from its original purpose and its promised benefits have not materialized. For the sake of Michigan drivers, policymakers need to overhaul it and make our state competitive again.

The Mackinac Center for Public Policy is a nonpartisan research and educational institute dedicated to improving the quality of life for all Michigan citizens by promoting sound solutions to state and local policy questions. The Mackinac Center assists policy makers, scholars, business people, the media and the public by providing objective analysis of Michigan issues. Visit them online at www.mackinac.org.

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Michigan should end civil asset forfeiture


 

Require a criminal conviction before taking people’s property

By Jarrett Skorup, Mackinac Center for Public Policy

Lansing began 2017 on the right foot by enacting a law to make it easier for people to try to recover property seized through civil asset forfeiture, but the state should end the practice altogether.

Last week, the Mackinac Center for Public Policy and the ACLU of Michigan issued a joint press release applauding the Michigan Legislature and Gov. Rick Snyder for passing and signing into law House Bill 4629. The new law removes the requirement that a person pay a bond equivalent to 10 percent of the value of their property seized through civil asset forfeiture if they want to try to get it back.

“This new law will further protect the constitutional rights of citizens,” said Jarrett Skorup, a policy analyst at the Mackinac Center. “But Michigan needs to do more. Twelve states require law enforcement to get a criminal conviction before forfeiting property and two – New Mexico and Nebraska – have banned civil forfeiture altogether.”

Skorup spoke with ABC 12 this week about the case of a Genesee County man whose property was seized by a Saginaw County detective in 2014.

“All we know is the police never pressed charges against him, never convicted him, yet they ended up with over $20,000 in cash and some of his property, and that should raise a lot of eyebrows for people,” Skorup said.

Now, a Saginaw County deputy is suing over the matter, saying the sheriff’s department retaliated against him after reporting the seized money was used for confidential informant drug buys.

Since 2015, the State of Michigan has passed several reforms to limit how police may seize property. The standard of evidence required to take property is now higher, and the process is more transparent.

“Previously, if they wanted to forfeit someone’s stuff, it was based on a very low standard of evidence, and they’ve raised that a little bit higher,” Skorup told WSJM. “However, they still aren’t requiring that someone be convicted of a crime in order to take their stuff and forfeit it over to the state.”

Skorup added that a number of incoming legislators are interested in further reforming Michigan’s civil forfeiture laws.

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New study: No correlation between school spending and student outcomes


Study finds spending more on Michigan schools doesn’t increase achievement

MIDLAND—There is no statistically significant correlation between how much money Michigan’s public schools spend and how well students perform academically, according to a new empirical study by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy and an assistant professor of economics at the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs.

The study’s findings align with the bulk of academic research on the subject, but does so with a unique and detailed data set of Michigan’s public school spending and academic achievement. The data comes from more than 4,000 individual public schools in Michigan and covers seven years’ worth of detailed expenditures and test scores for elementary, middle and high school students. The test scores were from the years 2007 through 2013. Using school-level data, as opposed to district-level data, enabled a more precise examination of the relationship between spending and performance.

“Of the 28 measurements of academic achievement studied, we find only one category showed a statistically significant correlation between spending and achievement, and the gains were nominal at best,” said Mackinac Center Education Policy Director Ben DeGrow, who authored the study along with Edward C. Hoang, a professor of economics at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. “Spending may matter in some cases, but given the way public schools currently spend their resources, it is highly unlikely that merely increasing funding will generate any meaningful boost to student achievement.”

The study comes as the state awaits the completion of a now-overdue school funding “adequacy” study it paid a Denver-based firm $399,000 to complete by March 31, 2016; that study is now due by May 13, 2016. School funding adequacy studies are common across the country and nearly all of them (38 of the 39 performed between 2003 and 2014) recommend funding increases.

“The state’s school spending adequacy study is sure to conclude additional tax dollars are necessary to improve student performance to adequate levels, but lawmakers, parents and the Michigan Department of Education owe it to students to examine how education dollars are spent, rather than simply throwing more money to areas that do not directly impact the classroom,” DeGrow said. “As our findings suggest, it could be that public schools generally fail to spend additional resources effectively.”

The only area that showed a statistically significant correlation between additional spending and student achievement was seventh-grade math, and the impact was small: a school would need to spend on average 10 percent more to improve the average state test score by just .0574 points.

“This study suggests that simply spending more of Michigan taxpayers’ dollars on the public school system alone is not enough to improve student achievement,” said Hoang.

Read the full study on “School Spending and Student Achievement in Michigan: What’s the Relationship?” at www.mackinac.org.

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Don’t forget to VOTE on road funding May 5


 

A special statewide election will be held on Tuesday, May 5, to decide whether to increase taxes for road maintenance and its outcome will affect every household in Michigan. Some school districts also have proposals on the ballot, but here in Cedar Springs and the surrounding area, we will only be voting on Proposal 1. The Post is rerunning an article we published recently by The Mackinac Center for Public Policy, which breaks down the proposal, and there is a link at the end for further information.

New study analyzes impact of Proposal 1 on taxpayers

The Mackinac Center for Public Policy published a new analysis of Proposal 1, which voters will be asked to approve or reject on May 5. The proposal increases taxes by $2 billion and aims to dedicate most of that revenue for future road construction and maintenance. In addition to reviewing the proposed constitutional and legislative changes, this new study estimates how Proposal 1 would impact the typical Michigan household.

James Hohman, author of the study and assistant director of fiscal policy at the Mackinac Center, used data from the U.S. Census Bureau, U.S. Department of Transportation and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics to estimate that Proposal 1 would increase the tax burden of the typical Michigan household by about $500 in 2016.

“These estimates rely on assumptions about the average price of gasoline and other factors, but they’re about as close as one can get to figuring out about how much taxpayers would pay if voters approve of this plan to increase funding for roads,” Hohman said.

Proposal 1 would make four changes to the Michigan Constitution: increasing the allowable sales tax rate to 7 percent, exempting fuel purchases from sales and use taxes, prohibiting public universities from receiving revenue from the School Aid Fund and earmarking a portion of use tax revenue for the School Aid Fund.

These changes are “tie-barred” with eight legislative bills that will go into effect if voters approve of Proposal 1. These laws would hike the sales and use tax to 7 percent, create a new wholesale fuel tax of 41.7 cents per gallon and earmark this revenue for roads, increase the state’s earned income tax credit, boost spending on one public school program and create new rules pertaining to road construction projects for the Michigan Department of Transportation.

Regarding the proposed wholesale tax on fuel, it is likely that prices at the pump for gasoline consumers will be higher if Proposal 1 passes. Based on data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the average national gasoline price in 2015 will be $2.39. At this rate, consumers would pay about 10 cents more per gallon in taxes at the pump.

“The difference between the proposed gas tax and the current one depends a lot on the price of gasoline. But only when gasoline prices exceed $4.20 per gallon will consumers start to pay less at the pump under Proposal 1,” Hohman added.

The analysis found that the proposed new wholesale fuel tax will increase at a rate that will outpace inflation. The mechanics of the formula prescribed in the law to adjust the tax rate based on inflation ensures that the rate will grow faster than inflation.

“The way the fuel tax formula is designed, taxpayers can expect to see fuel taxation rates rise faster than inflation,” Hohman said.

Even though the earned income tax credit would be increased under Proposal 1 (from 6 percent of the federal EITC amount to 20 percent), low-income households in Michigan may not experience much of a tax benefit overall.

“The average EITC recipient’s tax burden will likely be reduced slightly if Proposal 1 passes, but there will be EITC recipients whose overall tax burden will still rise,” said Hohman.

The full study can be found online here: www.mackinac.org/21128

The Mackinac Center for Public Policy is a nonpartisan research and educational institute dedicated to improving the quality of life for all Michigan citizens by promoting sound solutions to state and local policy questions. The Mackinac Center assists policy makers, scholars, business people, the media and the public by providing objective analysis of Michigan issues.

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New study analyzes impact of Proposal 1 on taxpayers


 

The Mackinac Center for Public Policy published a new analysis of Proposal 1, which voters will be asked to approve or reject on May 5. The proposal increases taxes by $2 billion and aims to dedicate most of that revenue for future road construction and maintenance. In addition to reviewing the proposed constitutional and legislative changes, this new study estimates how Proposal 1 would impact the typical Michigan household.

James Hohman, author of the study and assistant director of fiscal policy at the Mackinac Center, used data from the U.S. Census Bureau, U.S. Department of Transportation and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics to estimate that Proposal 1 would increase the tax burden of the typical Michigan household by about $500 in 2016.

“These estimates rely on assumptions about the average price of gasoline and other factors, but they’re about as close as one can get to figuring out about how much taxpayers would pay if voters approve of this plan to increase funding for roads,” Hohman said.

Proposal 1 would make four changes to the Michigan Constitution: increasing the allowable sales tax rate to 7 percent, exempting fuel purchases from sales and use taxes, prohibiting public universities from receiving revenue from the School Aid Fund and earmarking a portion of use tax revenue for the School Aid Fund.

These changes are “tie-barred” with eight legislative bills that will go into effect if voters approve of Proposal 1. These laws would hike the sales and use tax to 7 percent, create a new wholesale fuel tax of 41.7 cents per gallon and earmark this revenue for roads, increase the state’s earned income tax credit, boost spending on one public school program and create new rules pertaining to road construction projects for the Michigan Department of Transportation.

Regarding the proposed wholesale tax on fuel, it is likely that prices at the pump for gasoline consumers will be higher if Proposal 1 passes. Based on data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the average national gasoline price in 2015 will be $2.39. At this rate, consumers would pay about 10 cents more per gallon in taxes at the pump.

“The difference between the proposed gas tax and the current one depends a lot on the price of gasoline. But only when gasoline prices exceed $4.20 per gallon will consumers start to pay less at the pump under Proposal 1,” Hohman added.

The analysis found that the proposed new wholesale fuel tax will increase at a rate that will outpace inflation. The mechanics of the formula prescribed in the law to adjust the tax rate based on inflation ensures that the rate will grow faster than inflation.

“The way the fuel tax formula is designed, taxpayers can expect to see fuel taxation rates rise faster than inflation,” Hohman said.

Even though the earned income tax credit would be increased under Proposal 1 (from 6 percent of the federal EITC amount to 20 percent), low-income households in Michigan may not experience much of a tax benefit overall.

“The average EITC recipient’s tax burden will likely be reduced slightly if Proposal 1 passes, but there will be EITC recipients whose overall tax burden will still rise,” said Hohman.

The full study can be found online here: www.mackinac.org/21128

The Mackinac Center for Public Policy is a nonpartisan research and educational institute dedicated to improving the quality of life for all Michigan citizens by promoting sound solutions to state and local policy questions. The Mackinac Center assists policy makers, scholars, business people, the media and the public by providing objective analysis of Michigan issues.

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Mackinac Center gets FOIA charges reduced from$1,550 to $50


 

sw-riconcMichigan Liquor Control Commission waives fees for virtual copies

In celebration of Sunshine Week (March 15-21), the Mackinac Center for Public Policy announces its victory in persuading the Michigan Liquor Control Commission to release public information at a more reasonable cost. After being sued by the Mackinac Center Legal Foundation, the MLCC removed the charges for paper copies that do not exist.

On Nov. 7, 2014, Fiscal Policy Director Michael LaFaive requested data from the government agency in person while conducting research on “post and hold” rules for alcohol prices. Those rules allow wholesale distributors to collude and keep prices artificially high. Empirical research estimates consumers pay 6.4 percent to 30 percent more because of this practice.

An MLCC employee told LaFaive the data could be transferred to a flash drive on the spot. Not having a flash drive at the time, LaFaive offered to return in person with one to obtain the information. LaFaive agreed to submit an official Freedom of Information Act request.

On November 14, MLCC’s FOIA coordinator said a cost estimate and deposit was required for processing. The invoice estimated the cost of to be $50.22 for an hour and a half of labor ($33.48/hour) and $1,500 for copying 6,000 pages, at 25 cents a page.

On Jan. 22, 2015, the Mackinac Center Legal Foundation filed a lawsuit seeking relief from being charged for 6,000 virtual pages that did not exist on paper. Because of the lawsuit, the government agency withdrew its cost for digital files.

“Keeping government transparent and accountable to taxpayers is a primary concern for us,” said Mackinac Center Legal Foundation Senior Attorney Derk Wilcox. “Taxpayers have a right to this public information. They should not be charged exorbitant amounts of money for documents that are rightfully theirs, nor should they be charged for virtual copies of public documents. The MLCC tried to put a roadblock in the way of the public getting information. Our lawsuit changed its mind.”

In 2013, the foundation sued the city of Westland for charging an illegal gatekeeping fee and overcharging for labor and copying costs. As a result of the lawsuit, Westland changed its policies to comply with the law.

“The Mackinac Center uses FOIA to make sure government is serving the public, not the system,” said Executive Vice President Michael J. Reitz, who also serves as a board member of the Michigan Coalition for Open Government. “Government agencies should be willing to comply with the law rather than try to find ways to avoid it.”

“The MLCC FOIA coordinator said it was waiving fees for hypothetical copies ‘in the spirit of cooperation,’” said LaFaive. “We hope that cooperation continues when we request public documents in the future.”

 

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