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Articles Posted by MichCapCon

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  • What is 'Electricity Choice'? 11,000 Customers Are Waiting For It

    10/21/2016 8:02:57 AM PDT · by MichCapCon · 16 replies
    Michigan Capitol Confidential ^ | 10/17/2016 | Jason Hayes
    A recent email sums up the public’s concept of the electricity choice debate quite well. I have never understood anything about the “choice” question on electricity. What choice? I have lived in Michigan since 1996 and paid my electricity bill every month for the past 20 years. I’ve never had “choice.” I get a bill and it’s always Consumers Energy. I get that other people get Detroit Edison. But you don’t get a “choice.” That is real life for the vast majority of people and businesses in Michigan. A monthly electric bill arrives from one of the two big utilities...
  • Building Bikes in the Motor City

    10/21/2016 6:11:19 AM PDT · by MichCapCon · 12 replies
    Michigan Capitol Confidential ^ | 10/17/2016 | Anne Schieber
    Detroit Bikes is a new company charting a challenging course. “The bike industry is very competitive. There are some really big companies that are very dominant. They have a lot of control,” says company founder, Zak Pashak. Not that he’s intimidated. Pashak had run successful ventures in the Canadian cities of Vancouver, British Columbia and Calgary, Alberta. But then, he was creating music festivals and concert venues. So what would compel him to make a product in a competitive industry, 1,900 miles away from Calgary, in Detroit, a city emerging from bankruptcy? “Starting a business obviously has a ton of...
  • EPA Expands Power by Calling Plowed Farm Fields 'Mini Mountain Ranges'

    10/20/2016 12:36:29 PM PDT · by MichCapCon · 31 replies
    Michigan Capitol Confidential ^ | 10/15/2016 | Tom Gantert
    When farmers plow their land, it produces grooves called "furrows," bordered by small ridges of dirt. But in pursuit of new regulatory powers, federal agencies refer to the little dirt mounds by another term: “mini mountain ranges.” That seemingly absurd distinction is being used to impose more federal control over private land use decisions made by U.S. farmers. That was the claim described in a U.S. Senate committee report released Sept. 20. The committee reviewed the powers held by the nation’s two largest environmental regulation agencies, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Environmental Protection Agency, and a proposed...
  • Putting Too Many People in Prison Puts Michigan at Risk

    10/20/2016 10:33:42 AM PDT · by MichCapCon · 11 replies
    Michigan Capitol Confidential ^ | 10/13/2016 | Kahryn Riley
    Michigan’s major cities — which have been among the most violent in the nation in recent years — saw a major drop in crime last year. Generally speaking, it is the safest time in decades to live in Michigan. The FBI recently released the 2015 edition of its annual report, “Crime in the United States.” The report is a compilation of data that law enforcement agencies around the country voluntarily submit to FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program (UCR). According to the UCR website, 18,000 city, university, county, state, tribal and federal law enforcement agencies participate in the program, which has...
  • Rights and Responsibilities Collide: Student Free Speech Bill Struggles

    10/20/2016 7:08:26 AM PDT · by MichCapCon · 3 replies
    Michigan Capitol Confidential ^ | 10/16/2016 | Derek Draplin
    A bipartisan bill that would expand the First Amendment rights of student journalists in public high schools and universities has been met with opposition from school administrators who say they must maintain editorial control over school-sponsored media. The legislation's prospects are questionable this late in the legislative season, even though the bill was advanced to the Senate floor and has support from civil liberties organizations and student journalist groups. Senate Bill 848, the "Student free press and civics readiness act," was introduced in March by Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge. The bill would prohibit school administrators from censoring school-sponsored publications...
  • Here's Why You Deserve a State Income Tax Cut

    10/20/2016 5:12:15 AM PDT · by MichCapCon · 2 replies
    Michigan Capitol Confidential ^ | 10/14/2016 | James Hohman
    Recent Michigan legislatures have taken more from regular people with new tax hikes while giving more to politically well-connected interests through municipal bailouts and corporate giveaways. It’s the people’s turn for something positive, and this is the right time and environment for a substantial state income tax cut. Legislators are sympathetic, and want you to know it: In every recent legislative session, bills have been introduced to lower the income tax rate. But they never move. The excuse is always the same: “Budget pressures are growing; we might have to cut spending if citizens get to keep more.” The excuse...
  • The Lose-Lose Situation in Pension Funding

    10/19/2016 11:23:06 AM PDT · by MichCapCon · 1 replies
    Michigan Capitol Confidential ^ | 10/16/2016 | James Hohman
    At an event sponsored by the West Michigan Policy Forum, Nick Ciaramitaro of Michigan AFSCME Council 25 criticized defined contribution retirement plans. They are, he argued, more expensive than defined benefit plans for the same benefit, creating a “lose-lose situation.” He is wrong — letting employees control their own retirement accounts would lower costs and give them control over their own retirement. Pension plans in governments are expensive yet are not especially generous. The risk of underfunding adds an expense to them that is not present in defined contribution plans. Most of the money going into pension funds is not...
  • Closest Thing to Immortality? Government Programs

    10/19/2016 9:05:25 AM PDT · by MichCapCon · 3 replies
    Michigan Capitol Confidential ^ | 10/15/2016 | Michael LaFaive
    A number of sources attribute jokes about government programs being the closest thing to immortality to President Ronald Reagan. At least one source traces the humor back to a United States senator in 1933. That is an apt starting point because it was in that year President Franklin Roosevelt took office and worked to create — among other relief programs — the Civilian Conservation Corps. The CCC long ago folded but its Michigan-specific derivative, the Michigan Civilian Conservation Corps, survived. And it continues today as an at-risk youth program despite having been defunded in the past. As the 2016 fiscal...
  • Tuition Up 4 Percent, But University of Michigan Finds $85 Million More For 'Diversity'

    10/19/2016 6:38:47 AM PDT · by MichCapCon · 8 replies
    Michigan Capitol Confidential ^ | 10/15/2016 | Derek Draplin
    Officials at the University of Michigan announced last week that the school will spend an additional $85 million over the next five years to promote diversity and inclusivity on its campuses. According to an online announcement by Jeremy Allen of the university's public affairs office, the university currently spends $40 million each year to promote diversity. According to the 43-page strategic plan, the additional $17 million a year will pay for a three-part campaign that will “create an inclusive and equitable campus.” It will also help “recruit, retain and develop a diverse university community,” and “support innovation and inclusive scholarship...
  • Voters Support School Choice

    10/19/2016 4:54:21 AM PDT · by MichCapCon · 4 replies
    Michigan Capitol Confidential ^ | 10/17/2016 | Ben DeGrow
    The idea of school choice has taken some hits in the media and Michigan Legislature of late. Yet according to a recent statewide survey, popular support for it remains strong, with almost a quarter of voters wanting even more choice. In July, the firm Marketing Research Strategies conducted a survey for the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. The survey, designed like one the firm conducted for the Mackinac Center in 2014, showed that support for parental choice remains strong, and that voters support several versions of choice. Six out of 10 voters believe the state offers about the right amount...
  • Coming to America: Liberian Immigrant Now Detroit Business Owner

    10/18/2016 1:53:42 PM PDT · by MichCapCon · 20 replies
    Michigan Capitol Confidential ^ | 10/15/2016 | Anne Schieber Dykstra
    From the moment she stepped foot in America from Liberia at the age of 11, Tracy Garley knew she wanted to own a business. Now at the age of 27, she finds that her dream has come true. “Coming from Liberia, I came from a country that had nothing, so coming to Detroit, Michigan, I saw so much opportunity,” said Garley. She opened a retail shop on Woodward Avenue in Detroit, which she calls Zarkpa’s Purses and Accessories. The shop features unique, affordable handbags, jewelry and clothing, including items from her native country in West Africa. She has put her...
  • State Policies Created School Pension Pain

    10/18/2016 1:04:09 PM PDT · by MichCapCon · 2 replies
    Michigan Capitol Confidential ^ | 10/13/2016 | James Hohman
    Pension costs are forcing tough choices on Michigan’s school districts. Their problems are caused almost entirely by state policies, so the solution must come from the state. In Michigan, school districts have little to say about the retirement benefits offered to their employees; all the key decisions are set by state policy. The state requires districts to use its retirement system, sets its benefits, and decides what the funding assumptions and policies will be. To pay for pension benefits, the state assesses districts a percentage of their payroll. A district sends 36.31 percent of its payroll to the school pension...
  • Michigan Legislature Can End 2016 Strong by Acting on Key Issues

    10/14/2016 12:52:55 PM PDT · by MichCapCon
    Michigan Capitol Confidential ^ | 10/12/2016 | Jarrett Skorup
    The Michigan Legislature has only a limited number of days to finish up this year’s lawmaking. Time is at a premium since this is an election year for the Michigan House, meaning there will be a lame-duck session after Nov. 8. Legislators are working on several complicated issues that have lots of moving parts, such as energy and auto insurance. Michigan’s energy laws were rewritten in 2008 when the state rolled back electricity choice and mandated that 90 percent of the market be given over to two companies. It also required that 10 percent of energy come from inefficient green...
  • Rumors of Unions' Post-Right-to-Work Death Exaggerated

    10/14/2016 11:00:56 AM PDT · by MichCapCon · 4 replies
    Michigan Capitol Confidential ^ | 10/11/2016 | Tom Gantert
    In December 2012, The Atlantic magazine did a story on Michigan passing its right-to-work law with a title that read: “Right to Work Won’t Doom Michigan’s Unions — It Might Even Save Them.” The subhead read: “If battered industrial unions learn to convince skeptical workers of their value, it might help them rebuild.” The article ran against the common sentiment of the pro-union lobby, which argues the law that gives employees the freedom to not associate with a union while still keeping their jobs was designed to undercut and weaken organized labor. But data from a website that tracks union...
  • Here are the Issues Facing Detroit Schools

    10/14/2016 8:29:22 AM PDT · by MichCapCon · 2 replies
    Michigan Capitol Confidential ^ | 10/13/2016 | Ben DeGrow
    Recent debates about whether persistently underperforming Detroit schools should be exempted from state closure laws prompted the Excellent Schools Detroit coalition to share some observations behind their gloomy outlook. People of good will want much better opportunities and outcomes for Detroit students, even as the path to that destination appears steep and foreboding. Most of Excellent Schools’ broad points about the state of education in the Motor City and its future prospects (restated below in bold lettering) hold a great deal of truth and offer good starting points for conversation. The following additional key facts and insights need to be...
  • Saginaw County Sheriff Denies Driving Seized Muscle Car, Won't Explain 56k New Miles

    10/14/2016 5:07:46 AM PDT · by MichCapCon · 30 replies
    Michigan Capitol Confidential ^ | 10/11/2016 | Derek Draplin
    The Saginaw County Sheriff’s Department has yet to explain how 56,000 miles were added to the odometer of a classic muscle car that it seized and held for over a year before selling it. The county also denied a Freedom of Information Act request for more documents regarding the vehicle following a previous article detailing the civil asset forfeiture case. On Sept. 13, it was reported that 56,000 miles had been added to a 1965 Chevy Nova SS, which was owned by Shiawassee County couple Gerald and Royetta Ostipow, while it was in the possession of the department. Information in...
  • Union Survey: Michigan Teachers Want Pension Reform

    10/13/2016 10:58:48 AM PDT · by MichCapCon · 5 replies
    Michigan Capitol Confidential ^ | 10/12/2016 | Jarrett Skorup
    The Michigan Education Association recently released a survey of some of its membership. Much of it isn’t surprising — like other workers, teachers want to make more money and don’t like how they are evaluated. But one key question is about retirement and shows that school employees don’t feel secure with the current teacher pension system. The survey asks: “Do you feel that you’ll be able to comfortably retire?” Only 12.2 percent answered “yes,” while 52.2 percent said “no,” and 35.6 percent were unsure. There is reason to be concerned. The teacher pension system, MPSERS, has nearly $27 billion in...
  • Union Sloppiness Costs Teacher Thousands in Lost Pay, Blames Mythical ‘Funding Cuts’

    10/13/2016 9:14:48 AM PDT · by MichCapCon · 3 replies
    Michigan Capitol Confidential ^ | 10/11/2016 | Tom Gantert
    Michigan’s largest teachers union claimed an Algonac public school teacher's pay was so low he was eligible for charitable housing assistance, even though he had 16 years of experience. But this teacher’s plight appears to be due to the union’s failure to enforce contract language it negotiated, which could have increased his annual salary as much as $15,000. The Michigan Education Association highlighted Algonac teacher Jeff Smith in a story on its website. The union said that Smith had an “untenable financial situation” after 16 years of teaching and still lived in “cramped one-bedroom duplex” with his sons. MEA President...
  • Privatization Remains a Popular Practice with School Districts

    10/13/2016 5:23:45 AM PDT · by MichCapCon
    Michigan Capitol Confidential ^ | 10/9/2016 | James Hohman
    The publication of the state’s adequacy study a few months ago had school districts renewing their call for more money from the state taxpayers. But funding is only one side of the coin, and one that is often outside a district’s direct control. Cost is the other side of the school finance coin, and one way that districts can save on costs is to solicit bids to contract out support services. A new survey finds that more districts than ever are doing this. Privatization in Michigan’s public school districts has increased drastically since the Mackinac Center for Public Policy started...
  • Having More College Grads Around Doesn't Mean Less-Educated Workers Earn More

    10/12/2016 1:01:14 PM PDT · by MichCapCon · 8 replies
    Michigan Capitol Confidential ^ | 10/9/2016 | Tom Gantert
    Researchers from Georgia State University and the University of Michigan have found that having a higher proportion of more highly educated individuals in a metropolitan area is not necessarily associated with higher pay for those without a college degree. Their findings may have implications for the incomes of low-skill workers in Detroit and other cities in Michigan, as well as for public policies that aim to increase college attendance. University of Michigan economist Don Grimes and Georgia State University professors Mary Beth Walker and Penelope Prime wrote the study, titled “Exploring Wage Determination by Education Level.” The study stated: “In...
  • District Bans Homeschooled Girl From Homecoming Dance

    10/12/2016 11:45:47 AM PDT · by MichCapCon · 39 replies
    Michigan Capitol Confidential ^ | 10/9/2016 | Tom Gantert
    Wayne-Westland Community Schools has a policy that states that homeschooled students who want to attend a dance such as Homecoming would have to come from an “accredited” homeschool. That would effectively ban homeschoolers from attending dances held by the district since homeschoolers have no reason to be accredited and the state doesn’t require it. Karen Braun, a nationally recognized homeschooling activist in Michigan, said the school district is putting an unfair and unnecessary burden upon homeschoolers. Braun said parents contacted her and said their daughter, a homeschooling student, was invited to the upcoming Homecoming dance within the Wayne-Westland district. The...
  • Feds Force Michigan Cherries to Rot – In Order To Raise Prices

    10/12/2016 10:24:07 AM PDT · by MichCapCon · 28 replies
    Michigan Capitol Confidential ^ | 10/11/2016 | Derek Draplin
    Over the summer, millions of pounds of Michigan tart cherries were dumped on the ground and left to rot, thanks to a federal board. The dumping means fewer tart cherries in stores which means higher prices for consumers. And while American farmers are forced to keep their cherries off the market, some companies end up having to import cherries from other nations. Photos of some of the dumped cherries went viral. The images troubled many people, who wanted to know why all that fruit was wasted. The short answer is this: It’s complicated and involves government policies. The Cherry Industry...
  • Michigan May Begin Closing Bad Detroit Schools

    09/30/2016 10:40:54 AM PDT · by MichCapCon · 10 replies
    Michigan Capitol Confidential ^ | 9/29/2016 | Tom Gantert
    Attorney General Bill Schuette released an official legal opinion Wednesday that schools operated by the reconstituted Detroit school district may be closed due to poor academic performance. Attorney General spokesperson Andrea Bitely confirmed that the opinion is binding on state agencies. Schuette's opinion rebuffs a contrary legal opinion Gov. Rick Snyder had endorsed. “The law is clear: Michigan parents and their children do not have to be stuck indefinitely in a failing school,” Schuette said in a press release. “Detroit students and parents deserve accountability and high performing schools. If a child can’t spell opportunity, they won’t have opportunity.” Senate...
  • Pension Crisis Means Tax Hikes and Cutting Cops

    09/30/2016 8:20:39 AM PDT · by MichCapCon · 14 replies
    Michigan Capitol Confidential ^ | 9/29/2016 | Anne Schieber
    Michigan should transition all retirement and health care benefits for government employees to 401(k)-style benefits that are common in the private sector. That was the consensus of the West Michigan Policy Forum, which held its fifth conference in Grand Rapids on Monday. “The status quo is unacceptable and unsustainable and we have a stewardship obligation to leave things better off in the future and you can’t do that unless you deal with these issues,” said David Walker, former comptroller general of the United States and former head of the U.S. Government Accountability Office. Walker unveiled a study commissioned by the...
  • An Opening for Michigan Licensing Reform

    09/30/2016 5:39:51 AM PDT · by MichCapCon
    Michigan Capitol Confidential ^ | 9/29/2016 | Jarrett Skorup
    A recent MIRS report, “State Collects 32% More In Fees Than It Cost to Regulate,” notes that the state brings in $147 million in revenue for licenses and permits. But the total cost to regulate Michigan’s variety of industries was much probably much higher. The Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs, or LARA, is in charge of overseeing the occupations state law requires to be licensed. In theory, the fees collected for an occupation should pay the cost of regulating that occupation but that rarely works out in practice. According to MIRS, the state gained $25.5 million in revenue...
  • Students Can Now Choose Their Gender Pronoun at the University of Michigan

    09/29/2016 12:17:02 PM PDT · by MichCapCon · 41 replies
    Michigan Capitol Confidential ^ | 9/28/2016 | Derek Draplin
    A new initiative by the University of Michigan invites students to report their preferred gender pronouns to the university so faculty and staff can use these when addressing each student. Students can update their gender pronouns on Wolverine Access, a portal for students, faculty, and staff. Directions on the university's website titled “Help: Gender Identity” say: “Wolverine Access enables you to add, modify, or delete your designated pronouns on record with the University. Designated pronouns are only shared with those who have a legitimate education interest in the information.” An email sent to the student body by Provost Martha E....
  • Markets, Not Politicians, Slow State Oil and Gas Production

    09/29/2016 8:23:00 AM PDT · by MichCapCon
    Michigan Capitol Confidential ^ | 9/28/2016 | Jason Hayes
    The Detroit News recently reported that low oil prices have resulted in a decreased number of new oil and natural gas wells around Michigan. As a result of the slowing markets and dropping prices, the industry is seeing losses mount and is laying off hundreds of thousands of employees across the country. The article notes that Michigan is setting record lows in the number of drilling permits, with accompanying job losses. In fact, Energy Information Administration (EIA) numbers indicate that oil production in the state actually reached a 25-year low in 2015. This revelation isn’t terribly surprising, as the hardships...
  • Sierra Club Wants No Gas, No Coal, No Nukes

    09/29/2016 6:15:39 AM PDT · by MichCapCon · 41 replies
    Michigan Capitol Confidential ^ | 9/27/2016 | Tom Gantert
    The Sierra Club has adopted a position that would effectively require all electricity in Michigan to come from renewable sources such as wind and solar. This appears to have caused a rift between the environmentalist organization and Lansing’s public utility over the replacement of a coal-fired power station set to close in 2020. The Sierra Club opposes building a natural-gas powered plant to replace the coal-fired plant, the utility says. “I’ve given up trying to talk to them,” said Dick Peffley, the general manager of Lansing’s Board of Water and Light. The Sierra Club supported a natural-gas plant the utility...
  • Detroit Metro’s Economy No. 14 In U.S., Bigger Than Nation Of Chile

    09/28/2016 12:50:25 PM PDT · by MichCapCon · 16 replies
    Michigan Capitol Confidential ^ | 9/24/2016 | Tom Gantert
    The Detroit metro area has an economy that is roughly the same size as the nation of Chile, according a blog post by a free enterprise think tank. Figures collected by the federal Bureau of Economic Analysis show the Detroit-Warren-Dearborn metro area having the 14th-largest economy among the nation’s metropolitan regions, with a $246 billion gross domestic product (GDP) in 2015. To place this in perspective, the Carpe Diem blog from the Washington, D.C.-based American Enterprise Institute found that the Detroit area's economy is roughly the same size as Chile's economy, which had a GDP of $240 billion in 2015....
  • Michigan House Passes Bills Rolling Back Arbitrary ‘Handyman’ Licensing

    09/28/2016 9:28:29 AM PDT · by MichCapCon · 10 replies
    Michigan Capitol Confidential ^ | 9/25/2016 | Jarrett Skorup
    If you want to earn some cash in Michigan painting a barn, be prepared to take 60 hours of educational courses and pass a state-mandated test. It will set you back hundreds of dollars in total. But to obtain an amateur pilot’s license, the Federal Aviation Authority mandates only a book and flight test with 40 hours of flight instruction. The state of Michigan licenses nearly 200 occupations, including more than dozen “maintenance and alternations” contractors. But a review of who is required to be licensed and who is able to work legally without state permission is seemingly arbitrary. A...
  • EPA Opposes U.P. Road, But Senator Suggests New Mine Its Real Target

    09/28/2016 6:52:34 AM PDT · by MichCapCon · 14 replies
    Michigan Capitol Confidential ^ | 9/23/2016 | Derek Draplin
    A Michigan state senator from the Upper Peninsula says the federal Environmental Protection Agency has done everything in its power to indirectly shut down a mine near Marquette. The issue is back in the news because a limited-government legal foundation announced last month it will represent the Marquette County Road Commission in a federal lawsuit against the EPA. The agency has blocked a plan to build a shortcut road to the Eagle Mine in the western Upper Peninsula. In a phone interview with Michigan Capitol Confidential this week, Sen. Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba, suggested that the EPA’s real target in the...
  • Flashy Projects Generate Taxpayer Losses

    09/27/2016 1:51:54 PM PDT · by MichCapCon · 4 replies
    Michigan Capitol Confidential ^ | 9/24/2016 | Michael LaFaive
    According to MIRS News, Sen. Mike Kowall, R-White Lake, is pushing for driverless vehicle legislation, hoping to land a research center in Willow Run. The intent of the legislation, MIRS said, “is to propel Michigan to the head of the line in the highly competitive autonomous sweepstakes, which involves such states as California, Nevada, Texas and Florida.” According to the news site, Kowall issued a warning: “If we do nothing, that would be irresponsible. We'd lose jobs. We'd lose people moving away wholesale and the universities promoting these studies, everybody would move out of state.” There are often “competitions” between...
  • Before Flint’s Lead Crisis, City Council Raided Money from 'Water Fund'

    09/27/2016 10:53:24 AM PDT · by MichCapCon · 14 replies
    Michigan Capitol Confidential ^ | 9/27/2016 | Tom Gantert
    A few years before Flint’s lead crisis, city officials were taking money from a dedicated municipal water fund to pay for other uses. These fund-raids continued — using water service revenues to pay for unrelated city spending — even as the water fund accumulated a $9 million deficit in 2011.
  • Budget Gimmicks, Debt and Deficit Smokescreens Preceded Flint Lead Crisis

    09/27/2016 9:53:41 AM PDT · by MichCapCon · 4 replies
    Michigan Capitol Confidential ^ | 9/22/2016 | Tom Gantert
    Years before the city had a crisis with lead in its water, the Flint City Council and mayor ran unbalanced budgets by making "fund raids" on budget funds dedicated to specific functions. Among the targets was a fund dedicated to providing uncontaminated drinking water to residents. But there were other budget gimmicks city leaders used to avoid making needed reforms. In addition to the fund raids, Flint officials also relied on state-backed loans, but these came with a requirement that the city develop a plan to climb out of its deepening financial hole. Its 2007 deficit- reduction plan projected a...
  • Should Cities Be Allowed to Ban Pit Bulls?

    09/23/2016 11:14:57 AM PDT · by MichCapCon · 69 replies
    Michigan Capitol Confidential ^ | 9/21/2016 | Jarrett Skorup
    The Legislature is considering a bill that would prohibit local governments from banning people from owning pit bulls. Senate Bill 239, sponsored by Sen. Dave Robertson, R-Grand Blanc Township, has passed the Senate and is being considered in the House. According to the Detroit Free Press, 26 towns have enacted ordinances that restrict pit bulls and 14 outright ban them and other dog breeds. It’s true that pit bulls harm more people than any other type of dog. According to one report, they have killed a total of 233 people since 1982. That makes them about 40 percent more likely...
  • Bill Legalizes March Madness and Fantasy Sports Bets

    09/23/2016 7:23:04 AM PDT · by MichCapCon · 2 replies
    Michigan Capitol Confidential ^ | 9/20/2016 | Derek Draplin
    A Republican member of the Michigan House of Representatives has proposed legislation to make it legal to play online fantasy sports for money and bet on the March Madness basketball tournament, as long as the prize is less than $3,000. Rep. Aaron Miller, R-Sturgis, introduced House Bill 5849 on Sept. 8 to decriminalize these activities. Miller said people from all facets of life are involved in fantasy sports and filling out NCAA basketball tournament brackets. “Winning $100 for winning your league – that shouldn’t be a crime,” Miller said. Miller said he didn’t expect the bill would be acted on...
  • State’s '21st Century Jobs Fund' Spent $100 Million For Just 1,052 Jobs

    09/22/2016 1:23:09 PM PDT · by MichCapCon · 4 replies
    Michigan Capitol Confidential ^ | 9/21/2016 | Derek Draplin
    The state’s 21st Century Investment Fund (CIF) has spent nearly $100 million on various types of subsidies and other forms of involvement in businesses since 2006, yet only 1,052 jobs have been created or retained because of it, according to the fund’s 2015 report. In addition, some investment groups received millions through the fund but created zero jobs and no proceeds. The state describes the fund as a program that “encourages the growth of emerging Michigan companies, diversifies the state’s economy by creating and retaining knowledge-based jobs and grows a community of investors to create a long-term, sustainable capital ecosystem...
  • New Study Calls for More Spending to Provide Nothing

    09/22/2016 11:12:14 AM PDT · by MichCapCon · 3 replies
    Michigan Capitol Confidential ^ | 9/20/2016 | James Hohman
    A study from the Michigan League for Public Policy says that Michigan should spend more taxpayer dollars on state universities. This would do little to lower tuition, though, until the schools stop their spending spree. For universities, tuition and taxpayer support are revenues that pay for their expenses. The League states that cuts in taxpayer funding of universities are the culprit for tuition increases. The biggest driver for tuition increases, however, is not stagnant taxpayer support but university expenses. Say that legislators wanted to use taxpayer money to keep tuition at what it was a decade ago. In that case,...
  • NAACP: Historical 13-Star Flag Associated With 'Racial Supremacy' Groups

    09/22/2016 8:41:48 AM PDT · by MichCapCon · 29 replies
    Michigan Capitol Confidential ^ | 9/20/2016 | Tom Gantert
    The president of the NAACP Greater Grand Rapids Branch said that students who brought a Donald Trump for president banner and a ‘Betsy Ross’ 13-star flag to a local high school football game were involved in “intentional actions of intimidation and rooted in no agenda other than to insult, to injure, and to incite.” Cle J. Jackson, the president of the NAACP Greater Grand Rapids Branch, said the Betsy Ross 13-star flag has been appropriated by “the so-called ‘Patriot Movement’ and other militia groups who are responding to America’s increasing diversity with opposition and racial supremacy.” At a Sept. 9...
  • Union and School Illegally Take Dues from Teachers' Paychecks

    09/22/2016 5:57:53 AM PDT · by MichCapCon · 2 replies
    Michigan Capitol Confidential ^ | 9/20/2016 | Derek Draplin
    The Armada Area Schools teachers union contract allows for automatic union dues deductions, which is a violation of state law. The agreement between the Armada Board of Education and the Armada Education Association, which was agreed upon on March 6, 2013, explains how teachers can pay union dues. “The Service Fee shall not exceed the amount of Association dues collected from Association members,” the agreement says. “The bargaining unit member may authorize payroll deduction for such fee.” The contract appears to be a violation of Public Act 53 of 2012, which states: “A public school employer’s use of public school...
  • Understand the Emergency Manager Law Before Changing It

    09/21/2016 11:12:36 AM PDT · by MichCapCon · 1 replies
    Michigan Capitol Confidential ^ | 9/18/2016 | James Hohman
    A panel assembled by Michigan State University’s Institute for Public Policy and Social Responsibility will discuss reforms to the emergency manager law. Any attempt to change this law ought to first understand its purpose. This law is meant to be used as a last step in a long series of attempts to ensure that Michigan’s local governments can pay their bills. Michigan local governments are creations of the state. The state defines their authority and writes the rules under which they operate. One rule is this: All local governments must be able to pay what they owe. The state has...
  • School Superintendent: 13-Star 'Betsy Ross' Flag Injects 'Hostility' and 'Hate'

    09/21/2016 7:05:32 AM PDT · by MichCapCon · 37 replies
    Michigan Capitol Confidential ^ | 9/19/2016 | Tom Gantert
    A Michigan public school superintendent wrote in a published “letter to the community” that students at a high school football game injected “hate” and “hostility” because they waved a historical Betsy Ross flag that has 13 stars to represent the original 13 colonies. The students waved the flag at a Sept. 9 football game at Houseman Field between Forest Hills Central and Ottawa Hills. The students also brought a Donald Trump for President banner to the event. The superintendent received a complaint from a parent and then published the letter which is dated Sept. 12. “And to wave a historical...
  • Police Seize Car, Drive 54,000 Miles, Sell It Without Charging Owners With a Crime

    09/21/2016 5:09:41 AM PDT · by MichCapCon · 40 replies
    Michigan Capitol Confidential ^ | 9/19/2016 | Derek Draplin
    A year after the Saginaw County Sheriff seized a classic muscle car from a Shiawassee County couple, it sold the car — with another 54,000 miles that had been logged in the interim. Last month, the couple filed a federal lawsuit over the car and other items that had been seized and then sold by the department. The department's actions grew out of a 2008 investigation for possible drug crimes, but the couple was never convicted or even charged with a crime. Gerald and Royetta Ostipow filed the lawsuit on Aug. 24 with the U.S. District Court in Detroit against...
  • Bill Would Ban Ann Arbor's Ban on Young Adult Tobacco Sales

    09/20/2016 12:37:52 PM PDT · by MichCapCon · 10 replies
    Michigan Capitol Confidential ^ | 9/19/2016 | Tom Gantert
    A state senator wants the Legislature to prohibit the city of Ann Arbor or any other local government from upping the legal age to purchase tobacco from 18 to 21. Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, has introduced Senate Bill 1066 to pre-empt local governments from imposing age limits on legal tobacco sales different from the age prescribed by state law (which is 18). “This local law will do absolutely nothing to stop people from smoking; they will simply drive just outside the city and purchase what they want,” said Jones, R-Grand Ledge, in a press release. “However, it will really...
  • Lawmakers Agree Car Insurance Too Expensive — But Not On How To Fix It

    09/20/2016 10:45:26 AM PDT · by MichCapCon · 22 replies
    Michigan Capitol Confidential ^ | 9/20/2016 | Bruce Walker
    Since its enactment in 1973, Michigan’s no-fault automobile insurance law has been blamed for steep increases in premiums paid by drivers. Michigan car insurance premiums are twice the national average. Previous efforts to reform the law failed to gain a consensus, but several legislators are pursuing changes they claim will bring automobile insurance costs more in line with the $1,325 per year national average. The average cost of insurance for Michigan motorists is $2,738 per year. Proponents of these changes argue that more affordable premiums would reduce the number of uninsured drivers in the state. $1,325 national average $2,738 Michigan...
  • Plastic Bag Tax Hurts Consumers, Businesses and Does Little for the Environment

    09/20/2016 8:48:33 AM PDT · by MichCapCon · 16 replies
    Michigan Capitol Confidential ^ | 9/17/2016 | Anne Dykstra
    In June, Washtenaw County became the first local government to approve a tax on disposable carry-out bags at the grocery store. If you forget to bring your own bags, grocers are forced to charge a 10 cent tax on every new bag you receive, paper or plastic. If you double-bag, it will cost you 20 cents. Counties claim that they have the authority to manage solid waste collection but this is a policy that stinks on many levels. Let’s start with the environment. There is little evidence that targeting a particular type of packaging with a tax will have significant...
  • Post a Photo of Your Marked Ballot? You've Broken the Law

    09/20/2016 5:04:26 AM PDT · by MichCapCon · 8 replies
    Michigan Capitol Confidential ^ | 9/18/2016 | Tom Gantert
    Enthusiastic voters may want to post what have been called “ballot selfies” on social media of how they voted in the upcoming elections. But in Michigan, they would be breaking the law. One man is challenging that law in court. Portage resident Joel Crookston filed a lawsuit Friday in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan against the Secretary of State, saying the law infringes upon his right to free speech under the First Amendment. In November 2012, Crookston posted a photo of his ballot that included his vote for a write-in candidate. The lawsuit claims that...
  • Michigan Will Have No Ballot Questions This Year

    09/19/2016 1:50:41 PM PDT · by MichCapCon · 5 replies
    Michigan Capitol Confidential ^ | 9/18/2016 | Derek Draplin
    There will be no statewide questions on Michigan’s ballot when voters head to the polls Nov. 8. An analysis of Michigan history found that 1960 — 56 years ago — was the last presidential election year in which there wasn’t also a public vote on an initiative or referendum. The Bureau of Elections, part of the Michigan Secretary of State, confirmed to Michigan Capitol Confidential that no ballot measures made it to the fall ballot. Ten initiative petitions were filed with the Secretary of State, according to Ballotpedia. Three initiatives that didn’t make the ballot would have legalized recreational marijuana...
  • ‘Worker's Choice’ or ‘Free Riders’? Union Reform Bill Opts for Former

    09/19/2016 12:46:27 PM PDT · by MichCapCon · 1 replies
    Michigan Capitol Confidential ^ | 9/18/2016 | Tom Gantert
    When teacher Stephen Hall leaves his union in 2018, he hopes that House Bill 5829, the “Worker’s Choice” bill, will be law and that he, not his union, can represent himself in work-related issues. “I believe if people are going to leave the union, they need to accept the responsibility of not receiving union services. That’s only fair. If you leave the union, you don’t get that service anymore,” said Hall. Michigan became a right-to-work state in 2013. While that act gave workers the choice not to belong to a union and pay dues, it did not give them freedom...
  • Michigan’s Looming Dentist Shortage

    09/12/2016 10:19:31 AM PDT · by MichCapCon · 4 replies
    Michigan Capitol Confidential ^ | 9/8/2016 | Michael Van Beek
    Michigan appears to be about average in access to dental care. There are about 7,700 dentists in the state and over 10,000 dental hygienists. In 2011, there were 6.2 dentists per 10,000 people, exactly the national average. But there is a concerning trend: Michigan’s dentist population skews older than average and the state may be facing a dentist shortage in the near future. Results from a 2011 survey of Michigan dentists reveals the problem. At that time, 37 percent of dentists were between 55 and 64 and another 15 percent were over 65. This means that over half the dentists...