Commentary: A Modicum of Justice in Michigan for a COVID-Exploiting Teachers’ Union

Group of young students at table, reading and wearing masks

America’s teachers’ unions exploited the COVID-19 pandemic to maximum effect, leveraging school lockdowns for which they lobbied to pursue political demands stretching far beyond their salaries and benefits – and helping drive a $190 billion windfall in taxpayer dollars to K-12 schools.

The public bore that cost, in children’s learning loss and mental health struggles; in the burdens the closures placed on parents already struggling to make ends meet in an economy crippled by government decree; and on the literal costs that the teachers’ unions passed on to taxpayers.

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Michigan City Sued over Landlord, Voting Information Ordinance

An East Lansing ordinance compelling landlords to promote their tenants to vote has prompted a lawsuit from the Thomas More Society.

On Thursday, attorneys from the conservative Roman Catholic public-interest law firm filed litigation in federal court against East Lansing in response to the city’s ordinance requiring landlords provide voter application forms and voter-registration information to new tenants. Refusal to comply with the law would result in the landlord being charged with a civil infraction.

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Michigan Senate OKs Bill to Ban Employer Retaliation for Abortions

The Michigan Senate voted along party lines to prohibit some employers from firing an employee for having an abortion.

The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Erika Geiss, D-Taylor, said Senate Bill 147 aims to close a “loophole” in the Elliot Larson Civil Rights Act.

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Teacher Courses Promoting Critical Race Theory Were Funded by Michigan Pandemic Relief

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer used federal pandemic relief funds to create virtual courses for teachers about anti-racism and social justice, which encouraged teachers to engage with sources espousing critical race theory.

The CARES Act in 2020 included funds for governors to award to education-related entities via the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) Fund. Whitmer and state officials allotted $1.4 million to Michigan State University College of Education, the University of Michigan’s School of Education and Michigan Virtual to create professional learning modules for K-12 teachers.

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Michigan Schools to Launch Statewide Infrastructure Study

A coalition of 12 Michigan intermediate school districts announced plans to launch a comprehensive statewide school infrastructure study.

The review will explain to lawmakers, school administrators, and parents the long-term costs associated with building upkeep as well as necessary health and safety upgrades.

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Whitmer: COVID Restrictions in Hindsight ‘Don’t Make a Lot of Sense’

Three years after COVID struck Michigan, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer now admits that many of her early lockdown rules, in retrospect, “don’t make a lot of sense.”

“We had to make some decisions, that in retrospect, don’t make a lot of sense,” Whitmer said in a CNN interview clip posted by the Twitter account @Breaking911.

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General Motors to Offer Buyouts of U.S. Employees

General Motors announced Thursday it’s offering voluntary buyouts to some salaried U.S. employees.

The automaker is looking to cut $2 billion in fixed costs by 2024 as the company transitions its manufacturing operations to produce electric vehicles.

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Battery Supplier Asserts: Michigan Taxpayer Subsidies Imperative for North American Supply Chain

Electric vehicle battery supplier Our Next Energy says taxpayer subsidies are key to “accelerating” the buildout of a North American battery supply chain, stabilizing Michigan’s grid, and declaring energy independence from China.

Deeana Ahmed, Our Next Energy’s vice president of strategy and sustainability, testified Wednesday in front of the House Appropriations Committee.

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Taxpayers Foot $44,117 for Whitmer’s Davos Trip

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer spent at least $44,117 of taxpayer money on her European trip to Davos to speak at the World Economic Forum, according to documents obtained by The Center Square in response to its Freedom of Information Act request.

That includes $26,222 for hotels, $13,779 for travel, $4,000 in miscellaneous expenses, and $116.15 in meals, says a document from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. A separate FOIA request for the governor’s security costs is still pending. 

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Michigan’s Largest Teachers Union Must Reimburse Taxpayers for Wrongfully Taking COVID Relief Aid

Michigan’s largest teachers union and its health insurance affiliate must repay the U.S. government more than $200,000 after taking $12.5 million in federal loans for which they were ineligible.

Lawmakers intended Paycheck Protection Program loans to help small businesses afford to pay their employees during the initial COVID-19 shutdowns.

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Michigan Legislators Weigh In on Gov. Whitmer’s Proposed Online Charter School Cuts

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s proposed 2024 budget cuts for online public charter schools are receiving some pushback from school choice advocates and legislators.

On Friday, a group of eight lawmakers led by Rep. Luke Meerman, R-Coopersville, sent the governor a letter seeking to convince her to change course from her proposed 20% per-pupil cut for online charter schools, whereas online public school students did not receive a per-pupil funding cut.

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Michigan Starts $34 Million Electric Vehicle Campaign; 25,181 Registered Statewide

Michigan kicked off a $34 million marketing and retention campaign to attract people to fill 3,000 electric vehicle jobs.

Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist II called it the “nation’s largest-ever campaign” to promote electric vehicle careers.

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Michigan State Senate OKs Tax Relief Without $180 Checks

The Michigan Senate approved a tax bill to boost the earned income tax credit and reduce retirement taxes, but doesn’t include the $180 inflation relief checks touted by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. 

Republicans withheld the needed votes to issue $800 million worth of $180 inflation relief checks. In a Feb. 16 vote, Republicans again refused to give immediate effect to House Bill 4001 because they preferred permanent tax relief over a one-time check.

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Chinese Company Pauses Michigan Battery Plant After Locals Ask Questions

A planned electric vehicle battery plant has been paused after locals asked questions about Chinese ownership of the company. 

The Big Rapids Township board voted for a federal review of national security risks with the Chinese company Gotion Inc., a subsidiary of China-based Gotion High-Tech Co., Ltd., a global manufacturer of electric vehicle batteries.

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Michigan Democrat Rep. Elissa Slotkin Announces 2024 Bid for Senate Seat of Retiring Stabenow

Michigan Democrat Rep. Elissa Slotkin on Monday announced her 2024 Senate for the seat of retiring fellow Democrat Sen. Debbie Stabenow.

The race for the open seat will likely intensify Michigan’s status as a battleground state, with Democrat Joe Biden having won it in 2020 and Republican Donald Trump having won it 2016.

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Economists: Railroad Derailments Highlight Necessity of Line 5

As two train derailments – one in Ohio and one in Michigan – remain national news, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Attorney General Dana Nessel continue their crusade to shut down the Line 5 pipeline.

If successful in their efforts, moving the petroleum products would transition from pipelines to tanker truck and rail transportation, according to experts interviewed by The Center Square. This transition would likely drive up prices for consumers, increase carbon emissions, and prove less safe, they say.

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Detroit City Council President: Reparations ‘Long Overdue’

The Detroit City Council on Friday announced the members of the city’s new Reparations Task Force.

The Task Force was established after 80% of Detroit voters approved a 2021 ballot proposal to explore the feasibility of a reparation initiative. According to the Detroit News, the proposal from the Michigan Democratic Party Black Caucus came in part from the national response to the 2021 death of George Floyd.

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Texas and Michigan to Receive Toxic Wastewater and Contaminated Soil from East Palestine Ohio

According to a county official in Texas, toxic wastewater used to put out a fire after a train derailed in East Palestine, Ohio was carried to a suburb of Houston for disposal. According to the Ohio Emergency Management Agency, most of the contaminated soil is going to Michigan.

The wastewater is being delivered to Texas Molecular, a company that disposes of hazardous material by injecting it into the ground.

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Poll Finds Overwhelming Support for Michigan Taxpayer-Funded Business Subsidies

A significant majority of the state’s voters support using taxpayer dollars to subsidize private businesses.

According to a statewide poll conducted by the Glengariff Group, Inc., and commissioned by the Business Leaders for Michigan, 76% of respondents favor government grants to businesses seeking to relocate or expand their footprint in the state.

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Surprise $750 Million Ask for Ford Site Prep Confounds Michigan Lawmakers

When Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced Ford’s new $3.5 billion electric vehicle battery plant last week, her office’s news release said it would cost taxpayers $1 billion.

Nine days later, state officials asked for $750 million more to prep the Marshall site – bringing the possible total cost, if approved by lawmakers, to $1.75 billion.

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Michigan Gov. Whitmer 2024 Budget: $10 Million for State Fleet’s Electric Vehicle Transition

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s proposed $79 billion budget aims to allocate $10 million to transition the state’s automotive fleet to electric vehicles.

The governor budgeted $318 million on EV incentives: $150 million to help school districts buy 500 electric school buses; $65 million for EV charging stations; $48 million over two years for an EV sales and use tax exemption; and $45 million for local governments and businesses to transition their fleets to EVs.

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Michigan Democrats Strip Two Republicans of Committee Assignments

After Michigan Republican senators blocked their Democrat counterparts’ plan to send state taxpayers $180 inflation-relief checks, Democrats stripped two lawmakers of their committee assignments.

Democrats relieved Sen. Joe Bellino, R-Monroe, of his leadership position, and removed Bellino and Sen. Dan Lauwers, R-Brockway Township, from their committee assignments for voting against House Bill 4001 and blocking the ability to issue the $180 checks.

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Whitmer Kidnapping Trial Advances in Michigan

More than two years after the alleged plot to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer was foiled, criminal cases against alleged perpetrators are still working their way through the court system.

The Antrim County County Circuit Court has approved two motions from the state in the trial of five alleged co-conspirators charged with providing material support in the plot to kidnap Whitmer. Judge Kevin A. Elsenheimer approved the motions on Wednesday, which asked that the cases be joined for trial and that the court allow the admission of co-conspirator statements.

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Taxpayer Cost Unknown for Detroit’s Commissioning of 200 ‘Blight to Beauty’ Murals

Taxpayers’ potential cost is unknown for Detroit’s commissioning of 200 murals to be painted by local artists.

The commissions are part of Mayor Mike Duggan’s 2022 Blight to Beauty campaign and will be funded by the city’s Public Art Fund as well as potentially by the Ford and Kresge foundations.

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Michigan Secretary of State to Push for Gun Ban at Polling Places

Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson said she is working with state lawmakers to ban firearms at polling places and enact a Voting Rights Act.

“The time for only thoughts and prayers is over,” Benson said in a statement. “The time for taking action to ensure Michiganders are safe – in schools, in grocery stores, in places where we vote and everywhere in between – is now.”

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Study Recommends Michigan Update Telehealth Laws

A new report from the Reason Foundation recommends Michigan update its telehealth laws from temporary pandemic policies to permanent status.

When COVID started, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed Executive Order 2020-86, which expanded telehealth options for Michiganders by authorizing and encouraging health care providers to use these services when appropriate and after getting consent from patients. The order took effect immediately and continued through June 10, 2020.

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After Michigan State University Shooting, Michigan Lawmakers Push Safety, Gun Bills

After a shooter killed three Michigan State students and wounded five others, the Democrat-dominated Michigan Legislature is pushing gun restriction bills while Republicans want a broader package.

Senate Majority Leader Winnie Brinks, D-Grand Rapids, said in a virtual news conference that Democrats “will be taking action soon” on gun legislation although they don’t have specifics yet. 

Brinks said the bills will focus on safe storage, universal background checks, and extreme risk protection orders. 

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Michigan State Shooter Found with Note Threatening Two New Jersey Public Schools, Authorities Say

The Michigan State University (MSU) gunman was found with a note threatening two New Jersey public schools, the district superintendent confirmed Tuesday.

Anthony Dwayne McRae, 43, was found dead off MSU’s campus late Monday night from a self-inflicted gunshot wound after he killed three students and injured five who remain in critical condition, MSU Police and Public Safety reported. McRae was reportedly found with a note threatening two Ewing New Jersey public schools, the police and Ewing Township Public Schools Superintendent David Gentile confirmed.

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Michigan House OKs Dem Tax Plan, Could Block Income Tax Break

Michigan House lawmakers voted 56-53 on House Bill 4001, which aims to provide some tax relief, but also block an automatic, permanent tax break for all Michiganders triggered by an influx of money in state coffers.

The package would increase the earned income tax credit from 6% to 30%, reduce taxes on public and private pensions, and possibly provide a $180 check to Michigan tax filers.

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Critics Express Disagreement with ‘Discriminatory’ School Budget Cut Proposal in Michigan

Michigan’s online charter public schools have a 20% decrease in spending in Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s 2023-24 budget proposal.

The second-term Democrat’s fiscal plan unveiled Wednesday includes a 5% increase for traditional public school online teaching.

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Whitmer’s 2024 Budget Eyes $318 Million in Subsidies for Electric Vehicles

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s proposed $79 billion budget for fiscal year 2024 aims to require taxpayers subsidize electric vehicles and chargers with $318 million.

Whitmer’s mobility budget includes $160 million for capital investments in rail, bus, and marine transit service expansions, $65 million for EV charging stations, and $48 million over two years for an EV sales and use tax exemption.

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Michigan Bill Aims to Ease Substitute Teaching Requirements

A bill introduced in Lansing aims to make it easier for Michigan schools to hire substitute teachers.

State Rep. Brad Paquette, R-Niles, introduced House Bill 4038, which aims to allow a district employee to substitute teach under certain conditions, without having 60 college credits.

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Proposal Would Send Inflation Relief Checks to Michiganders

All Michigan taxpayers will get inflation relief checks and retirees will average four-figure savings in a plan Michigan’s top Democrats say answers the call for helping families.

The size of those relief checks wasn’t announced. 

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Detroit Gets $24 Million to Reduce Traffic Deaths

The city of Detroit will receive $24.8 million to redesign existing transportation infrastructure in high crash areas to reduce traffic fatalities.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said the money is part of $800 million in grant awards for 510 projects through the Safe Streets and Roads for All Grant Program.

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Michigan State Superintendent Opposes Retention Part of ‘Read-by-Three’ Law

The Democrat-dominated Michigan Legislature wants to scrap the retention part of the 2016 read-by-grade-three law.

Sen. Dayna Polehanki, D-Livonia, introduced Senate Bill 12, which aims to stop the state from possibly holding students back who are one or more grade levels behind on reading. The law also requires reading intervention and ongoing monitoring assessments to support student literacy.

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Michigan County Spurns $1.5 Million in Private Election Funding Amid Growing ‘Zuckerbucks’ Backlash

A clerk in Ottawa County, Mich., has declined a $1.5 million election grant from a nonprofit linked to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, citing qualms about accepting private funds for public election administration, as a growing number of states and localities across the nation are moving to refuse, restrict or ban so-called “Zuckerbucks.”

Ottawa County Clerk Justin Roebuck announced Tuesday that he was removing the elections division of his office from consideration for funding by the U.S. Alliance for Election Excellence, after reporting in November that the county was a finalist in the network’s “Centers for Election Excellence” program.

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Michigan Man Convicted of Joining ISIS, Training in Terrorist Tactics

A federal court convicted a Dearborn, Michigan, man of joining the Islamic State (ISIS) and training in terrorist tactics from 2015 to 2018, the Department of Justice said in a press release.

Ibraheem Musaibli traveled to Syria in 2015 and enrolled in an “ISIS-run religious training camp” before moving on to a military training facility, where he learned how to operate a machine gun, the Department of Justice (DOJ) said in a statement. He then swore allegiance to ISIS and served as a member of the terrorist organization for the next two and a half years, a rare instance of a U.S.-born individual leaving America to support the notorious terrorist organization, according to The Detroit News.

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Michigan Doctor Sentenced to More Than 16 Years for His Role in Healthcare Fraud, ‘Shots-for-Pills’ Scheme

A Michigan doctor was sentenced to 16.5 years in prison for his part in a health care fraud scheme that billed more than $250 million in fraudulent claims to Medicare, Medicaid, and health insurance programs and illegally distributed over 6.6 million doses of opioids.

In September 2021, Francisco Patino, M.D., 68, of Wayne County, was convicted at trial in the Eastern District of Michigan of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and wire fraud, health care fraud, conspiracy to defraud the United States, and pay and receive health care kickbacks, conspiracy to commit money laundering, and money laundering.

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Legislative ‘Adopt and Amend’ Procedure Upheld on Michigan Ballot Proposals

The Michigan Court of Appeals has upheld the process by which Republican legislators amended two 2018 ballot initiatives passed by Michigan voters.

One ballot proposal would have increased the state’s minimum wage to $12 per hour in 2023 and increased tipped wages to the full minimum wage. A second ballot measure would have forced businesses to adopt extensive paid sick leave for employees. The proposals would have gone into effect on Feb. 20.

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Michigan Gov. Whitmer Calls for ‘Immediate’ Relief in State of the State Address

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer called for “immediate” relief to some Michiganders from rising prices in her State of the State address Wednesday evening.

Whitmer, the Democrat who won a second term in November, said three proposals will make a “real difference” to many residents who are “facing the pinch right now” at the grocery store and with medical bills and prescription costs.

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Study: Michigan Toll Roads Could Cost $10 Billion Now to Raise $2 Billion by 2030

The Michigan Department of Transportation has commissioned a study about enacting highway toll roads to raise revenue to fix roads.

The study follows a growing tax revenue hole from increasing fuel efficiency that leads to fewer fillups at the pump and more electric vehicles whose drivers don’t pay state or federal fuel tax.

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Michigan Court Approves $20 Million Unemployment Fraud Settlement

The Michigan Court of Claims has entered an order certifying the $20 million class-action settlement against the Unemployment Insurance Agency.

The settlement resolves a class-action lawsuit against the agency claimed in 2013 it falsely accused unemployment recipients of fraud and seized private property without due process.

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Michigan Mayor Blames Residents for Crime

After being sued for violating the First Amendment, Eastpointe Mayor Monique Owens spent 15 minutes at Tuesday’s council meeting airing her grievances against the public. Owens complained that at a previous meeting, her daughter heard a member of the public criticizing her.

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