House GOP gets priorities right
The state House GOP released a legislative agenda last week that prioritizes Michigan's economy and entrepreneurial business climate. It's a good list from the new batch of lawmakers. If they remain committed to it and can persuade colleagues across the aisle, it could mean real reform in a number of important areas.
Social issues are pleasantly absent from the agenda. That's somewhat surprising, given the number of social conservatives elected in the fall.
Michigan has come a long way since the economic lows of 2008. But more must be done to increase the competitive advantage of the state and its residents — all the more important as economies of other Great Lakes states such as Wisconsin and Ohio are rapidly rebounding.
In terms of real job creation, repealing Michigan's prevailing wage law is a good place to start.
This law, which requires government construction jobs to match union wages and benefits, regardless of contractor, pushes project costs artificially high. Those needless costs waste about $224 million in taxpayer dollars annually, according to a study from the Anderson Economic Group.
The legislators also want to improve Michigan's climate for entrepreneurs, and streamline or remove unnecessary regulatory hurdles for individuals and businesses.
For instance, the state should strip administrative barriers to fully enacting the Michigan Invests Locally Exemption Act, which allows small businesses to obtain financial capital from crowdsourcing and other non-traditional means.
Although the GOP doesn't specifically outline how it will help innovative technology-based businesses like Uber and Lyft, the House GOP is right to note it will strive to remove barriers for the companies and their employees. These services deserve a stable framework in which to operate and provide much-needed transportation options for residents throughout the state.
Deregulating occupational licensure is another good priority. No one should need a license to braid or cut hair, provide landscaping or make interior design recommendations, or any number of other activities for which the state currently requires a license. Removing these barriers should boost job growth.
The GOP also identified several areas for reform in education, including shifting all new teachers to enroll in a 401(k) retirement system. It's currently optional, so most teachers opt for the more traditional pension plan. With the House focused on this, Michigan's largest unfunded liability might get the reform it needs.
The lawmakers also identified reforms in sentencing and corrections policies as key, along with civil asset forfeiture reform. Michigan's criminal justice system is bloated and often unequal in its treatment. Establishing more equitable and efficient guidelines will help.
And on energy, a key priority will be allowing utilities to use out-of-state renewable energy to meet Michigan's renewable mandate. Currently, the companies lose money trying to meet these goals, and reforming this law would be a simple fix.
It's an ambitious list, but Michigan will be better off if these ideas are pursued.