The MC: The Mackinac Center Blog

Petty Restrictions on Tobacco Endanger Respect for Law

Creating unnecessary crimes weakens force of important laws

Herbert Hoover said, “The worst evil of disregard for some law is that it destroys respect for all law.”

This point of view goes to the heart of the Mackinac Center’s work on over-criminalization. Center analysts have examined Michigan’s vast, disorganized criminal code, discovering at least 3,102 crimes. Many of these crimes are duplicative (prohibiting the display of material containing the name of an elected official at a polling place) or unnecessary (specifying the lettering type and color for contact information displayed on a barge). Still others are of dubious constitutionality (prohibiting the cohabitation of divorced parties).

Some of these laws are obviously ignored, but letting them stay on the books creates problems for Michiganders. It diverts attention and resources away from serious personal and property crimes. It puts well-meaning people in legal jeopardy by setting up an arbitrary system. And, as Hoover pointed out, it destroys respect for the law in general by creating the impression that laws are irrelevant, impossible to understand, and arbitrarily enforced.

Michigan State University and the city of Ann Arbor have recently enacted ordinances that compound the problem. MSU has banned the use of tobacco and e-cigarettes on and near its property while Ann Arbor has raised the minimum age for purchasing tobacco products from 18 to 21 years old. The ordinances create isolated zones where otherwise legal behavior is subject to punishment, raising serious questions about how to enforce them.

For example, MSU’s tobacco ban applies not only to university property but also to personal vehicles using public roads throughout the campus. If the campus police decide to enforce the ordinance, it will increase the number of needless traffic stops in an age when some such interactions have tragically spiraled out of control. If they don’t enforce it, as the school has signaled, the ban will only amount to another disregarded line in the Michigan Compiled Laws.

As for Ann Arbor, the city has already decided not to punish underage smokers for using or even attempting to purchase tobacco. Instead, it will penalize the businesses that sell it to them. Under this scheme, 18- to 20-year-olds will be able to drive to a neighboring city, buy tobacco products, and then return to an Ann Arbor tobacconist’s smoking lounge to use them. It is not yet clear how the city would enforce the age limit in this instance, especially since the ordinance probably conflicts with existing state law. Officials openly admit that they knew passing the ordinance meant that they will probably end up in court and passed it anyway.

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These two new ordinances encourage Michiganders to disrespect the law. A coherent, effective system of laws is critical to a healthy society and economy where personal and property rights are protected. The best path is to have a clear legal system applicable to everyone equally while ensuring that governments only penalize people who are truly blameworthy or dangerous.

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Related Articles:

Ann Arbor Council Defies State Law, Bans Cigarette Sales to Adults Age 18 to 20

Recycling Pop Cans Shouldn’t Make You a Felon

Overcriminalization Study in The Detroit News

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Federal Government Mirrors Michigan Overcriminalization Efforts

Government Held to Different Standard in Environmental Matters

Hayes discusses Kalamazoo River spill on WWMT

If a private company were responsible for the mistake that led to the discharge of over 570,000 gallons of wastewater into the Kalamazoo River this week, there would likely be public outrage, but because the government is responsible, most seem to turn a blind eye.

Mackinac Center’s Director of Environmental Policy Jason Hayes explained to WWMT/News Channel 3 that there’s a “clear double standard” when an environmental disaster is caused by government rather than a private company.

“Enbridge, because of a pipeline leak, had spilled oil into that same river, gets a $177 million judgement against it,” Hayes said, referring to a recent consent decree following the 2010 pipeline rupture. “What happens when government does this sort of thing is people just sort of shrug their shoulders and say, ‘What are you going to do?’”

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The partially treated wastewater spilled after an alarm failed to alert workers at a reclamation plant that water levels were rising. According to Wood TV, the alarm did not go off because a sensor was set improperly. Though the spill forced a no-contact order in and around the river, there has been little-to-no backlash for the contamination.

Hayes said government agencies and localities should face repercussions and be held responsible when they contaminate and pollute the environment.

Watch the full interview with WWMT here.

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Key Part of Civil Asset Forfeiture Law Ruled Unconstitutional

Bond requirement challenged at Court of Appeals

It is a basic principle of American law that the government may not deprive citizens of their property without due process. But, according to the Michigan Court of Appeals, at least one Michigan statute lets the state do exactly that.

When Shantrese Kinnon and her husband were arrested on drug charges in Kent County, the police searched her home and seized some property, including a GMC Denali, a Chevrolet El Camino, a motorcycle, a tablet, a laptop, and nearly $400 in cash from her purse.

Even though the couple have not been convicted of a crime, a scheme known as civil asset forfeiture allows law enforcement to keep the property with the burden of proof on the Kinnons to get it back. Shantrese tried to challenge the forfeitures of the seized items and get her property back but found she couldn’t afford to. The state requires her to post a bond equal to 10 percent of the value of the property – over $2,000 – before it proceeds.

But Kinnon was only able to come up with a little over $1,000, meaning that she was only able to challenge the forfeiture of the items that she could afford to post bond for. She would automatically lose her ownership rights to the others, even if she were innocent of the charges.

When her case went to trial, Kinnon argued that her rights to due process and equal protection had been violated. The bond requirement, she said, causes poor people to lose their property when they are not financially able to contest the forfeiture. By contrast, she continued, people with better resources can afford to pay the bond and make a case to get their property back.

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The Court of Appeals agreed. It held the bond requirement unconstitutional, ruling that “Because of her indigency and inability to pay the required bond, [Kinnon] was excluded ‘from the only forum effectively empowered to settle [her] dispute.’ … Ultimately, Michigan’s civil asset forfeiture scheme operated to deprive [Kinnon] of a significant property interest without according her the opportunity for a hearing, contrary to the requirements of the Due Process Clause.”

State Rep. Peter Lucido, R-Shelby Township, hopes the ruling will generate support for a bill that would remove the bond requirement. The Mackinac Center testified in support of the bill and has repeatedly called for other reforms to civil asset forfeiture, including a condition that a criminal conviction must be secured before property can be seized.

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August 19, 2016 MichiganVotes Weekly Roll Call Report

Cut-off welfare truant scofflaws, ease stair-lift restrictions, cap government investor guarantees, raise license fees

While the Legislature is on a summer break with no voting, the Roll Call Report continues its review of key votes from the 2015-2016 session.

House Bill 4163, Relax licensure restrictions on residential lift installers: Passed 62 to 47 in the House on March 11, 2015

To permit a licensed residential homebuilder to install residential stairway lifts without imposing the onerous licensure provisions that apply to elevator contractors. This applies to one-story stair-climbing machines for elderly or handicapped individuals.

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Who Voted “Yes” and Who Voted “No”


House Bill 4163, Relax licensure restrictions on residential lift installers: Passed 27 to 10 in the Senate on May 13, 2015

The Senate vote on the bill described above.

Who Voted “Yes” and Who Voted “No”


House Bill 4195, Cap government “venture capital investment” program: Passed 107 to 3 in the House on April 15, 2015

To prohibit the state from pledging any more future tax revenue to guarantee investor returns under an “early stage venture capital investment” scheme authorized by a 2003 law.

Who Voted “Yes” and Who Voted “No”


House Bill 4195, Cap government “venture capital investment” program: Passed 36 to 0 in the Senate on October 29, 2015

The Senate vote on the bill described above.

Who Voted “Yes” and Who Voted “No”


House Bill 4328, Authorize withholding state money from overspending school districts: Passed 58 to 51 in the House on April 23, 2015

To give the Department of Treasury the authority to withhold state school aid payments from an overspending school district that fails to submit an acceptable “deficit elimination plan,” or that then falls more deeply into financial trouble.

Who Voted “Yes” and Who Voted “No”


House Bill 4328, Authorize withholding state money from overspending school districts: Passed 25 to 12 in the Senate on June 18, 2015

The Senate vote on the bill described above.

Who Voted “Yes” and Who Voted “No”


House Bill 4364, Increase plumbers license fees: Passed 96 to 14 in the House on April 29, 2015

To extend for another four years certain “temporary” increases in plumbers' license fees. This and several other fee increases enacted in 2015 were proposed by Gov. Rick Snyder as part of his annual budget recommendation.

Who Voted “Yes” and Who Voted “No”


House Bill 4364, Increase plumbers license fees: Passed 23 to 15 in the Senate on May 26, 2015

The Senate vote on the bill described above.

Who Voted “Yes” and Who Voted “No”


House Bill 4052, Preempt local employer wage, benefit or labor law mandates: Passed 57 to 52 in the House

To preempt local governments, public schools, state colleges and universities, and other governmental authorities from imposing wage, benefit or leave time mandates on employers that exceed state or federal law.

Who Voted “Yes” and Who Voted “No”


House Bill 4052, Preempt local employer wage, benefit or labor law mandates: Passed 22 to 16 in the Senate on June 17, 2015

The Senate vote on the bill described above.

Who Voted “Yes” and Who Voted “No”


House Bill 4041, Ban welfare for persistent truancy: Passed 74 to 36 in the House on March 26, 2015

To withhold welfare benefits from a household with children who are persistently truant from school. A truant child age 16 and above could be removed from the household for this.

Who Voted “Yes” and Who Voted “No”


House Bill 4041, Ban welfare for persistent truancy: Passed 26 to 12 in the Senate on May 26, 2015

The Senate vote on the bill described above.

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.

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Putting School Funding Inequity in Perspective

Proposal A has not been a dismal failure

For years, and especially in the wake of the state’s school funding “adequacy study,” people have called for more “equity” in how Michigan funds its public schools. Unfortunately, many of the appeals for more funding equity fail to consider the progress that has been made over the years. Instead, they treat each and every funding disparity as evidence of an entirely rigged, broken funding system.

For example, the Traverse City Record-Eagle recently declared that the distribution of funds to different school districts is “as off-kilter as it was when Proposal A passed in 1994,” asserting Michigan’s 22-year-old systemic change was a “dismal failure.”

That bold assertion falls apart under close scrutiny.

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The northern Michigan newspaper’s editors build their case on a shaky foundation, selectively comparing the financing of their largest local school district, Traverse City Area Public Schools, with one of the highest-funded districts in the state: Oakland County’s Birmingham Public Schools. The $4,400 gap in foundation allowances between the two districts should be considered in context.

The foundation allowance represents the state’s minimum per-pupil funding guarantee for both conventional districts and charter schools. On average, it represents about two-thirds of the total revenues districts receive. Even so, a large gap among districts within the primary funding formula can drive a significant disparity in overall funding levels.

In 1994, four out of every five school operating dollars came from local property taxes. Wealthy suburbs and upscale tourist towns thrived under the system. Districts with lower assessed business and residential properties lagged far behind. Proposal A capped local millage rates and mixed these limited local revenues with state revenues to create a minimum per-pupil allotment for each district.

So, districts are still funded by local property taxes — on “nonhomestead property” — but the state uses its own resources to ensure that every district gets at least a certain level of funding per pupil. This amount is a district’s foundation allowance.

As part of the deal made to advance Proposal A, lawmakers agreed that the higher funded districts at the time would not have their funding cut — the state would hold them harmless. The plan instead was to increase funding for relatively lower funded districts at a faster rate, so these districts would eventually (but very slowly) catch up to their higher funded counterparts.

At the time, the gap between the richest and poorest districts was $7,532 per pupil. That chasm has been closed by almost $3,000. And the share of conventional districts and charter schools funded at the minimum foundation allowance rate (currently $7,511 per pupil) has grown from less than half to 84 percent. The graph below from the Senate Fiscal Agency displays these changes over time, through the 2014-15 school year.

Proposal A’s plan has mostly worked. Foundation allowances are more equitable today than they used to be. Four out of every five school districts and charter schools receive the same sum through Proposal A’s foundation allowance. And 95 percent of school districts get between the minimum of $7,511 and $8,229. This convergence shows what an outlier the highly funded districts are: Only 43 districts, or 5 percent, get more than an $8,229 foundation allowance.

In no way is the funding distribution as off-kilter as it was more than 20 years ago. Whether the gap has been closing quickly enough is a fair point for discussion. But one needs to keep in mind the costs associated with a more dramatic approach to equalizing all foundation allowances.

Using the latest available data from the state, from the 2015-16 school year, we can estimate how much districts and charter schools would gain if funding for the rich districts were reduced to the minimum level. If all the money spent on foundation allowances were divided equally among every district, the minimum per-pupil rate of $7,391 would grow by roughly $300, or about 4 percent. If the state used this method to equalize foundation allowances, there’d be a few dozen school districts much worse off (those whose funding was cut back significantly). Most other districts would be only a little better off financially.

Alternately, the state could equalize funding by bringing all the lower funded districts up to the level of the Birminghams of the world. But this plan is untenable: To fund Traverse City, 400 other conventional districts, and more than 300 charter schools at Birmingham’s foundation allowance of roughly $12,000 would require an additional $6.42 billion in tax dollars. The state would need to double the revenue it receives from the state’s sales tax. A 100 percent sales tax hike isn’t likely to fly with the Legislature or voters.

There are other approaches that lie between these two extremes. For instance, bringing up all districts to the “hold harmless” level of $8,169 per pupil would cost nearly $900 million more and leave only 43 districts funded above the norm. Those 43 districts serve one-ninth of Michigan public school students.

It’s important to remember too that, even by the admission of the recently released education adequacy study, any such funding increases would have at most a small effect on student achievement. Sure, school officials’ jobs would get a little easier; they’d have fewer difficult budgetary decisions to make. But based on their track record, there’s no guarantee that schools would spend this extra cash on things that would boost student learning.

These are the kinds of considerations that have to be made when thinking about altering Michigan’s school funding system. It’s easy to highlight lingering gaps between a select few wealthy outliers and the average school district. It’s a greater challenge to accelerate Proposal A’s equalizing effect with an acceptable approach that will make a meaningful difference.

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Worker’s Choice Popular in Michigan, Nationwide

National Employee Freedom Week poll finds overwhelming support of idea

As groups and individuals across the country work to educate workers about their rights during National Employee Freedom Week, right-to-work states like Michigan should consider another reform that would make workplaces more fair and free.

Mackinac Center Policy Analyst Jarrett Skorup wrote in an op-ed published by The Detroit News this week that even workers who opt-out of union membership can be forced to accept union representation even if they don’t want it. Worker’s Choice would free workers from forced representation and unions would no longer be required to negotiate on behalf of non-members.

But both sides of the political divide should support the concept of “worker’s choice,” championed by my colleague Vinnie Vernuccio. This would fix the “rider” problem, allowing workers who opt out of union membership to represent themselves and free unions from having to provide services to the workers they complain of free riding. This concept is also popular: more than 70 percent of Michigan union members agree with the concept.

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The Washington Examiner wrote about the popularity of Worker’s Choice in an article this week, explaining that nationwide, 67 percent of union members agree with the concept. "These survey results show that many workers believe they're better stewards of their hard-earned wages," Vernuccio told the Examiner.

Politico noted that Worker’s Choice has even, “intrigued a few pro-union commentators” because it solves the “free rider” problem.

The same survey that explored the favorability of Worker’s Choice found that more than one-quarter of union members nationwide would drop membership if they could do so without penalty. Currently, Michigan is one of 26 states that prevents workers from being fired for not belonging to a union.

Though Michigan is right to work, employees still face challenges trying to exercise their freedom, as explained by The Washington Free Beacon. In many cases, workers simply don’t know they are free to drop membership.

Vernuccio said that employee education is key. The 2013 implementation of right to work in his native Michigan was accompanied by union legal challenges and obstruction. Unions only allowed members to withdraw from the organizations during short windows of time and reported former union members to collection agencies in order to maintain the flow of union dues.

Vernuccio said the NEFW hopes to empower workers in order to combat intimidation tactics.

“Time and again we’ve heard union leaders say that it’s not their job to inform their membership on how to exercise their rights, so we’ve made it our job,” he said.

Read the full op-ed in The Detroit News here.

Read the full Washington Examiner article here.

Read the full Politico article here.

Read the full article in The Washington Free Beacon here.

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Lessons from Muskegon Heights School Overhaul

Detroit can benefit from similar reforms

On July 1, a new Detroit school district was created as part of a major legislative reform package — the old district will remain but serve only as a tax collecting entity. Another new organization will be responsible for educating students. This dual-district model, however, is not a new concept.

Just four years ago, Muskegon Heights Public Schools used a similar method to deal with its financial struggles. Lessons from its experience could provide valuable insight as Detroit starts a similar journey.

Muskegon Heights seems to have successfully reduced its spending and stayed on stable fiscal ground. The old district was spending over $15,000 per pupil in 2010-2011, creating a budget deficit of over $2 million. Under new management, the district receives $11,789.59 per pupil and has so far prevented expenditures from outpacing revenues.

A financially failed school district must get its finances in balance to move on, which Muskegon Heights accomplished while under emergency management. There are certainly lessons here for Detroit.

While the district needed to overcome its financial distress, the ultimate goal of any school should be increasing student achievement. Unfortunately, state data shows that academic performance in Muskegon Heights is declining in areas such as scores on the ACT and the graduation rate. On the other hand, the district's elementary grades are a bright point. In the 2014-15 school year, 3rd and 4th graders' proficiency rates on the state math test broke into double digits — a step up from 0 percent before the change in management.

There is no doubt these test results are affected by the several challenges the district continues to battle. Data collected from MI School Data shows the share of economically disadvantaged students attending Muskegon Heights grew to 86 percent, up from 79 percent in 2010-11. And although enrollment briefly stabilized for a period, overall, the student population is down considerably since the district broke into two separate entities. What’s more, chronic absenteeism is up: MI School Data shows that in 2011-12, 34.25 percent of students were chronically absent, in 2014-15, the rate was 74.46 percent.

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Muskegon Heights has placed an emphasis on parental involvement to tackle these academic problems. In the 2013-14 school year, the district strived to reach 100 percent attendance at parent-teacher conferences. The effort to increased parent involvement is still evident today as the district tries to make it easier for parents to stay involved with newsletters and online surveys. For example, the January 2016 newsletter lays out what families can expect with the new M-STEP testing regime. It also advertises parent-teacher conferences.

The takeaway on academic performance from Muskegon Heights is that increasing achievement will certainly require more effort and a longer horizon than getting the fiscal house in order. It may take some time to adjust to new student demographics, and immediate academic excellence cannot be expected when a district needs to rebuild itself nearly from scratch.

The record of emergency management in Muskegon Heights seems to have gotten lost in Michigan’s discussions about education reform. The lack of information available might be the reason. However, it doesn’t mean that the district’s successes and weaknesses can’t provide lessons. There must be a continued effort to examine Muskegon Heights, and other schools in similar situations, to strive for more sound education policy solutions for other districts in distress.

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Recycling Pop Cans Shouldn’t Make You a Felon

The many faces of overcriminalization

Most Michiganders are familiar with the state’s bottle deposit law, which was enacted in 1976. At 10 cents a bottle or can, Michigan has one of the nation’s highest deposit rates — most of the other states that use these deposits require only five cents. But what may not be as well known is that Michigan also enforces this law with an iron fist. A recent case from Livingston County resulted in felony charges and raises the question of whether this punishment fits the crime. It also highlights Michigan’s tendency to overcriminalize undesirable behavior.

On April 27, Brian Everidge, a resident of Michigan, was pulled over for speeding while driving a rental truck in Tyrone Township. The police officer discovered that the truck was packed to the brim with empty aluminum cans — over 10,000 in all. After questioning, Everidge admitted that the cans were from Lexington, Kentucky and that he was aiming to return them for a deposit. He did not state whether he was trying to return them for Michigan’s higher deposit rate or that he knew that this was illegal. (If this storyline sounds familiar, that’s probably because it’s the basis of a famous Seinfeld episode).

Everidge was eventually charged with a felony under Michigan’s Beverage Containers Act, which prohibits individuals from returning, or attempting to return, beverage containers that they know (or should know) are from out of state. Trying to deposit more than 10,000 containers is a felony and can lead to five years in jail and a fine of $5,000. (Misdemeanor charges and civil fines are used for smaller quantities of out-of-state returns.) Grocery stores and recycling centers can also be prosecuted under this law, as it forbids any retailer from knowingly providing 10-cent deposits for out-of-state containers.

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Given Michigan’s relatively high deposit rate, it should be no surprise that people might smuggle out-of-state containers into Michigan for recycling. And, sure enough, Michigan has a fair amount of fraudulent redemptions from out-of-state returns. These out-of-state returns are difficult to prevent since most people simply walk into a grocery store, return their bottles, and leave, without any indication of where their returns came from.

While the Beverage Container Act’s criminal provisions are meant to deter out-of-state smugglers, they also demonstrate the drawbacks of using criminal law to punish behavior that most people would not consider morally objectionable and that does not threaten public safety. For example, “mens rea” (Latin for a “guilty mind”) is considered a core component of criminal law. It means that the government needs to prove that an individual at least acted with a culpable state of mind and was generally aware of his or her misconduct. Robust mens rea requirements are especially important for laws like Michigan’s Beverage Container Act, which are what legal theorists call “malum prohibitum” crimes. Such crimes involve conduct that is not inherently wrongful and is only deemed illegal because the government has passed a law saying so. Given that these types of laws do not involve inherently immoral conduct, citizens are more likely to break these laws without even knowing they exist.

Michigan’s bottle return law states that individuals must know that the containers they are attempting to return are from out of state. But the problem is that nothing in the statute explicitly requires that the person returning the containers knows that out-of-state returns are illegal. A better mens rea provision would clarify that the bottle return law’s criminal provisions only apply to those who willfully intend to break the law. In other words, harsh penalties may be appropriate for people who know they are attempting to violate the law, but there should be protections for people who are unaware that returning out-of-state bottles is a crime.

The Michigan Legislature recently passed meaningful mens rea reform. It makes it clear that when a statute is silent on this standard, an individual must at least act with “recklessness” to be found guilty of a crime. While this is a clear step in the right direction, the Beverage Container Act could still benefit from greater clarity. Although courts have not yet construed the law’s mens rea requirements in light of Michigan’s recent reforms, the Legislature could clarify that the bottle return law is only meant to target those individuals who know the law exists and are specifically trying to break it.

It can also be debated whether it’s proper at all for Michigan’s bottle return law to use harsh criminal penalties to deter conduct that most people wouldn’t view as threatening to public safety. For instance, Everidge was probably only going to net a few hundred dollars from his redemption scheme, and punishing him as a felon with jail time and a penalty as high as $5,000 may be overly punitive. One possible reform would be to enforce the bottle return law exclusively through civil penalties, as The Heritage Foundation’s John-Michael Seibler suggests. This would prevent anyone from having to serve jail time for returning out-of-state bottles.

Protecting Michigan’s environment from litter and encouraging recycling are noble goals to which Michigan’s bottle deposit law contributes. One can support these goals, but also acknowledge that criminal enforcement of bottle return laws may need reforming. The Legislature has put some focus on dealing with overcriminalization, and this law might be a good candidate for more reforms to that end.

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Couple Could Lose Their Home Through Civil Forfeiture

Government confiscates thousands of dollars without filing charges

In Traverse City, a couple could lose thousands of dollars in cash as well as their home because of the state’s loose civil forfeiture laws. Their case shows the perspective of both sides of this issue, but the solution is fairly simple – governments should not be able to take ownership of people’s assets unless they are convicted of a crime.

The Traverse City Record-Eagle does a great job laying out the situation. The Traverse Narcotics Team believes Kenneth and Mary Murray profited from what it calls “ill-gotten gains.” The law enforcement agency accuses the couple of violating the state’s medical marijuana law by selling to people who did not have a physician-granted prescription. It also says the couple has made and sold edible medical marijuana, which is illegal. 

While no charges are currently filed against the couple, Kenneth has been charged with drug crimes in the past. He pleaded guilty to two counts of delivering or manufacturing an imitation controlled substance in 2015.

The Traverse Narcotics Team and county prosecutor are accusing the Murrays of using the sale of illegal substances to gain $3,863 in cash as well as a $262,657 home. So, as is legal under current Michigan law, they’ve seized the cash and home and are attempting to forfeit (transfer) the assets to the state. As the Record Eagle reports:

Detective Sgt. Randy Graham argued the couple's home and money are "ill-gotten gains," earned through medical marijuana sales that violated Michigan's medical marijuana law.

"(Criminal forfeiture is used) so that the criminals involved in the drug trade don't benefit from their crimes financially," Graham said.

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The Murray’s attorney argues in a court filing that “there is no evidence that any of the proceeds that were in the bank are the product of any illegal activity.”

While there are many examples of major abuse of civil forfeiture laws (see here for a good list in Michigan), this situation is more typical. Law enforcement suspects someone has gained assets through illegal activity, seizes it, and then places a high burden on the person to get it back. All this can be done before the person is convicted, or, in some cases, even charged with a crime.

But the ideal system would work in the opposite direction: Law enforcement should bring charges against a person for illegal activity, obtain a conviction in court, and prove the assets were gained through proceeds from the crime. Then, and only then, could the state take possession of the property.

Forfeiture is a necessary part of the criminal justice system. People who gain money, cars, homes and other property through illegal activity should not get to keep ill-gotten gains. But law enforcement should have to convict someone of a crime before taking possession of that person’s property. The Michigan Legislature should end civil forfeiture and only allow the state to take ownership of property after going convicting someone in the criminal justice system, just as the states of New Mexico and Nebraska have recently done.

To see specifics on how Michigan can improve its forfeiture system and read our study on this issue, please visit www.mackinac.org/forfeiture.

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Survey: Most Union Members Support Worker’s Choice

Wall Street Journal features Mackinac Center concept

A new survey finds an overwhelming majority of rank-and-file union members across the country believe employees should have the freedom to represent themselves in negotiations with their employer if they choose not to be part of a union.

Mackinac Center for Public Policy’s Director of Labor Policy Vinnie Vernuccio wrote about his idea to make workplaces more fair and free environments in an op-ed published by The Hill. Along with his co-author and Mackinac Center Adjunct Scholar Jeremy Lott, Vernuccio explains that Worker’s Choice benefits individual workers, unions and employers.

Being able to bargain directly with their employer will allow these workers to get out of a one-size-fits-all contract and negotiate for wages and working conditions tailored to their individual needs. The seniority system most union contracts mandate only allows workers to receive a raise by logging another year on the job. But if a worker wants to be rewarded for how hard she works, she could use Worker’s Choice to negotiate for merit pay.

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The National Employee Freedom Week campaign — running this week to inform employees of their rights — polled union members on this concept and found that nearly 70 percent of union members think workers should be able to represent themselves if they opt out of paying union dues. When Vernuccio explained the concept to Mary Kissel on the Wall Street Journal’s Opinion Journal, she called the concept “common sense.”

Read the full op-ed at The Hill here.

Watch the full interview with the Wall Street Journal here.

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Mackinac Research Cited by Wall Street Journal

DeGrow Letter Published in Wall Street Journal

Hohman in Wall Street Journal

Article on Worker's Choice in Forbes

Skorup Film Subsidy Op-Ed Published in Wall Street Journal