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McNeilly: Voters gave a mandate for a freer Michigan

Greg McNeilly

A funny thing happened this November after months of attack ads and tens of millions of dollars spent telling Michigan to turn back the page and undo four years of progress.

Voters embraced reform in a big way. They re-elected Gov. Rick Snyder and sent overwhelming pro-reform majorities to both chambers of the Legislature. Lawmakers who had shown a willingness to take on sacred cows and to get things done, even if it meant a tough vote here or there, were rewarded.

It was a clear message from voters. When it comes to rebuilding Michigan, they want bold leaders, not passive politicians.

So what’s next?

Opportunities to make a real difference in Michigan are everywhere reformers could care to look. And they should.

Call it a platform for progress.

For Michigan to continue its remarkable comeback, it’s going to mean more bold decisions — and it’s going to mean empowering Michigan workers.

Reformers should start by requiring labor unions to earn and re-earn the support of the workers they represent — just as often as lawmakers do.

Every two years, the men and women seeking to represent Michiganians in Lansing and Washington, D.C., have to win an election and a mandate from voters. It is a system that keeps elected officials accountable to those they represent.

Imagine the difference union leaders would be incentivized to make for the workers who fund them, if they faced the same level of accountability.

Elsewhere, simple, common sense reforms in our schools could make an incredible difference for our kids.

To start, lawmakers should put their foot down and demand that taxpayer dollars no longer be used to fund union business.

Whether it’s the use of taxpayer resources like computers and email, or union stewards in our public schools being provided paid class time for union business, Lansing can stick up for our kids and ensure all of those dollars stay in the classroom, not flow into union coffers.

Lawmakers should also reform teacher certification requirements to encourage professionals with know-how and real world experience to enter the classroom.

Michigan has incredible professionals with decades of experiences who would be assets in the classroom, but they are barred from teaching by the current state certification system. It’s time to reform the system to encourage these men and women to share their talents in our schools.

And we could do better by the men and women who dedicate their lives to our kids, as well. Lansing could follow the lead of neighboring states to require the attorney general’s office fight for teachers facing lawsuits because of actions they perform on the job and in good faith.

Additionally, lawmakers could strike a major blow for transparency while saving hundreds of thousands of tax dollars annually by banning state and public entities from spending tax dollars lobbying other government entities. It is an affront to the hardworking men and women of Michigan to have their tax dollars used to grab an ever-increasing share of their money.

Closer to home, in communities from one corner of the state to the next, Michigan residents have the right to raise local property taxes through millage votes, but they don’t have the right to roll millage rates back if services or funding levels are no longer deemed necessary. That should change.

And before they face one more election, lawmakers should strike a blow to encourage voter participation in down-ballot elections (like their own) by eliminating antiquated straight-party ticket voting.

Michigan is one of only 12 states that allow straight-party voting, because other states realize the impact and the added accountability that comes with forcing elected officials to earn every vote they receive.

Voters sent a message this November. They want reform, they want bold action and they want results. Now it’s up to Lansing to deliver.

Greg McNeilly is president of the Michigan Freedom Fund.