Posts Tagged ‘Michigan’

When you head in to work tomorrow, take a look around you. Take a look at your fellow workers. Try to imagine for a moment how many of them are content with working there. Is it at least 7 in 10? If you currently work in a non-union workplace and just 1-in-3 of your fellow employees think starting a union is a good idea, they will soon be taking money out of your paycheck whether you join the union or not – and there will be nothing you – or the law – can do to stop them! On the contrary, the law will in fact, protect their right to do it!

The Michigan ballot proposal 2, a proposed amendment to the Michigan state Constitution is dubbed the ‘Protect Our Jobs‘ proposal. But perhaps it should be called the ‘Protect Our Mobs‘ proposal instead. The proposal was essentially started by a number of large union lobbies in response to the growing number of states adopting “Right to Work” legislation. In that many dub ‘Right to Work’ laws as ‘Union Busters’, the unions decided to make a pre-emptive strike by enshrining the right to unionize and collectively bargain in the state’s constitution, essentially forever banning ‘Right to Work’ in Michigan.

Well, that sounds great right? Protecting a worker’s right to organize? But workers already have a right to organize and Right-to-Work legislation cannot take that right away. Right-to-Work simply gives a worker the right to ‘opt-out’ of a union if they do not wish to belong to one. Now some of you more savvy civics students may be aware that due to the Taft-Hartley Act of 1947, workers already have the right to opt-out of unions if they so choose. So what’s the problem?

The problem results from two things. The first being a US Supreme court decision made in the case of Abood vs. the Detroit Board of Education from 1977, and the second a standard set by the National Labor Relations Board.

Mandatory Dues

In the Abood case, the Supreme court ruled that an individual cannot be forced to pay for political costs associated with a union at his workplace if those political funds went to support causes that the employee himself did not support. Great right? But the case also upheld that an employee can be required to pay union dues even if he has no interest in joining the union, lacks a vote in said union, negotiates his contract independent of the union and receives no other benefits from the union. Not so great!

The briefs from Abood cite a number of reasons for the decision from ‘receiving benefits’ of collective bargaining to ‘promoting peaceful labor relations’ and stopping ‘free riders’. But suffice it to say, once unionized, employees who are not members of the union at a company can and are required to pay union dues.

The 30%

Protect Our Mobs

The second issue is just what it takes to establish a union in the first place. If you aren’t part of a union shop now, Proposal 2 passing will only increase the likelihood that you soon will be by making union protections a front page issue and enshrining such organization as part of Michigan Constitutionally protected rights.

So just what does it take to start a union? Well, according to current policies with the National Labor Relations Board, (empowered by the National Labor Relations Act of 1935) “[the perspective union] must file a petition supported by a showing of interest from at least thirty percent of the employees in the group that the union seeks to represent, typically called the bargaining unit.” So, in other words, just 30% of the people working for a given company need to be interested in forming a union. That’s just under one in every three employees. Another way to put this is, that 3 out of every 10 employees of a company can require the other 7 to pay to support their desire to unionize.

Besides the fact this is only an attempt to stifle individual rights by blocking the right of individuals to opt out of union membership and mandatory dues withholding from their paychecks, this is law is also a blatant attempt at establishing ‘group rights’ and empowering large unions. I cannot make the suggestion strongly enough on just how this will kill Michigan jobs and take away individual choice.

Vote No on Proposal 2

Vote No on Protecting Mob-rule!

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Mitch Albom at WJR 760am

Well, once again good ole Mitch Albom set off my ‘critical thinking bullshit detector’ on my commute home. Today he had on a guest who was discussing some research he was apparently trying to collect on the Michigan Concealed Carry law as part of the acknowledgement of it being passed 10 years ago.

Among some of the other things that were discussed, the guest had pointed out some of the things that the law proposed to do.  Obviously, it established a legal process for a ‘no fault’ CCW. (‘no fault’ in this instance refers to the fact that instead of having to prove a ‘need’ to have such a permit, the responsibility instead falls upon the issuing body to prove cause not to provide one to anyone applying) It also established anonymity protection for the applicants, i.e. not adding their names to some kind of publicly accessible registry.  But apparently, it also established reporting guidelines to better assess any impact on illegal activities that permit owners might be involved with in any way.

Apparently, one of the beefs that Mr. Albom wanted to highlight is that this reporting standard did not carry with it any penalties for non-compliance.  And also apparently, many jurisdictions have not been complying with these reporting guidelines.

Now at this point let me say that I agree with both Mr. Albom and his guest.  If there is a requirement in the law that crimes related to CCW permit holders be reported, they should be.  If, for whatever reason, jurisdictions are not reporting these statistics then that is a legitimate beef to take up with those jurisdictions.  But that is where my agreements end.  And the fact that Mr. Albom felt the need to make this ‘news’ at all reminded me all to clearly of the non-issue news about the potential hazards of Reardon metal in the book Atlas Shrugged.

I’ll give Mitch credit that he did present both sides of the arguments.  He did point out at least twice that you can neither say that crimes are occurring as a result of increased handgun carrying by-way-of legal CCW permit carrying citizens nor can you say that crimes are being prevented by CCW permit carrying citizens when such statistics are not reported.  But he then went on at least half a dozen times to suggest that the statistics on CCW related crimes are under-reported.

If you cannot determine either way, then that is nothing more than an assumption.  You could just as easily assume that these statistics are not being reported because these jurisdictions in question have little or nothing to report!  With that said, the latter is still an assumption, but I would argue it is a safer assumption than the one he is alleging by way of suggesting an under-reporting of CCW related crime.  He also added to this suggestion that ‘there’s not way to tell’.  But I think there is.

There are organizations with political motives on both sides of the debate that could benefit from news one way or another.  (he tacitly eluded to this as well but did not correlate it as it would have no doubt damaged his presumption of ‘under reported crimes)  Both sides have people who monitor the news and would report on any and all successes and/or abuses (respective to their political motive) that benefited their side of the debate.  BUT….. the media tends to reverberate the negative, anti-gun sentiments wider, farther and longer than any pro-gun news.

If in fact there were known abuses of the law by CCW permit holders, the media would pounce on that like a bunch of blood crazed hounds.  Witness the case of Bernie Goetz as a gleaming example of the kind of media bias I am referring to.  Although not a legal-CCW related case, the media went crazy over the coverage of the criminal charges against Mr. Goetz and almost entirely glossed over the criminal acts being committed against him at the time.  (they also grossly under reported the ‘effects’ of his actions on the crime statistics in the NY subway in the weeks following his criminal act of self-defense)

To say there is ‘no way to know for sure’ simply because statistics are under-reported to support either claim, is to over look the media blood-lust for anti-gun rhetoric, in the midst of perpetuating more anti-gun rhetoric!

Unfortunately Mr. Albom, I must say yet again….

Critical-Thinking Bullshit Detector

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Public Act 165 of 2003, known as the Driver Responsibility Law, took effect October 1, 2003. This law was amended by Public Act 52 of 2004 and Public Act 460 of 2008.”
(mcl Section 257.732a)

So says the Michigan Government website dedicated to the Michigan Driver’s Responsibility Law under the heading ‘What is Driver Responsibility‘.  They go on to say:

Its purpose is to encourage traffic safety by deterring potentially dangerous driving behavior. Other states, including New Jersey and Texas, have implemented similar laws.

The reality is that the MDRL is a controversial law that has been subject of considerable debate since it’s enactment, including recent legislation aimed at eliminating many of the fees.  (most recently, Senate Bill 166 dubbed ‘repeal the “Bad Driver” Tax” put forward by Sen. Bruce Caswell (R) – it is currently stalled in committee)

The alleged purpose of the law is to act as a ‘deterrent’ to various forms of bad driving and other violations such as drunk driving or not having the proper insurance.  The alleged justification for the fees is to ‘cover the [additional] costs’ related to such violations and costs ‘to Society’ related to the offenses or the people committing them.

Many of the voices speaking out against this law point out that it targets the poor, seems to constitute a ‘double jeopardy‘ violation (in that the fees are only assessed after and in addition to the fines of a specific violations), and aren’t even meeting the original goal of revenue collection. (49% of the fees have not even been collected [1])  There are even questions as to whether or not people of low incomes facing bankruptcy may still be held responsible for payment of the fees.

Double Jeopardy and the Michigan Court of Appeals

The issue of ‘double jeopardy’ has already been addressed in the Michigan Court of Appeals in case Docket No. 264103, Todd Dawson v. Michigan Secretary of State and Department of Treasury.  In that case, the plaintiff argued against the statute on three grounds;  the first involving violation of the ‘double jeopardy’ clauses of both the United States and State of Michigan Constitutions, violations of ‘equal protection’ clause of the 14th amendment to the Bill of Rights, and on violation of the ‘uniformity of taxation‘ clause under Michigan law.

The court found that since the the fees were ‘civil’ in nature and since the defendant did not establish they were ‘invalid’ in nature that they did not constitute a violation of either State or Federal protections against double jeopardy — which applies to criminal prosecutions and punishments.  Further, since the fees were assessed allegedly to cover the additional ‘cost to society’ resulting from specific acts, they could not be deemed as violations of equal protection or uniformity of taxation.

Although it should be obvious by anyone reading their ruling that this almost seems ‘contrived’ and leaves a sour taste in your mouth, the ruling appears to be consistent with the law.  (What is distasteful is that it appears this may have been considered by the lawmakers who supported the law in the first place and thus constitutes an ‘end run’ around these very Constitutional protections)

The plaintiff attorneys in the Dawson case filed an appeal but the motion for appeal was denied.

Due Process

One of the issues that was not addressed by the Dawson case was the matter of ‘due process‘.   The fifth and fourteenth amendments to the US Constitution protect a citizen’s right to have their day in court, to face their accusers, and not be required to testify against themselves and to be able to address any charges levied against them in a fair and reasonable manner.  This right was not only addressed in the original 10 amendments but was clarified further in the 14th after these rights were denied to citizens such as slaves and Native Americans.

People assessed these Driver Responsibility Fee have no means of appeal.  The Michigan DRL website says as much in their list of Frequently Asked Questions:

Can I appeal the suspension?
No. In accordance with MCL 257.322 and 257.323, there is no hardship appeal of the Driver Responsibility fee or Driver Responsibility suspension.

(It lists no other comments on appeal for other ‘non-hardship’ related reasons.)

Furthermore, the Michigan law [mcl 257.907(4)] already addresses the ability of the district courts to assess both fines and additional fees for costs related to these offenses, stating:

“the judge or district court magistrate shall summarily tax and determine the costs of the action, which are not limited to the costs taxable in ordinary civil actions, and may include all expenses, direct and indirect, to which the plaintiff has been put in connection with the civil infraction, up to the entry of judgment*.”

*this section further limits such additional charges for costs to a maximum of $100.  (MDRL fees can be up to $1000 assessed for two years in a row for a total maximum of up to $2000, 20 times as much)

The end result is that the views of the Appeals Court that “the Legislature intended to impose a civil, and not a criminal, penalty” would seem to suggest that the ‘civil’ fee is being treated as separate and distinct from the legal action — except to the extent that the one is incurred as a result of the other.  Since this fee is assessed not through the criminal ruling of the court, and since there is no avenue to challenge or appeal it’s being levied then it would seem to be akin to a Bill of Attender (forbidden by Article I, section 9 of the US Constitution) and a clear violation of the principles of due process.

Why should I care?

Of course, if you don’t get stopped for traffic violations and keep your insurance coverage current, you will likely never experience one of these fees.  So why should you give a damn about having it repealed? Among other things, the same types of arguments in regards to ‘due process’ violations for flat fees are being addressed regarding other types of legislation.

Just some examples of these include the national healthcare reform  mandatory requirement under President Obama’s Comprehensive Health Reform package and things such as windfall profit taxes and retroactive penalties on corporate bonuses for executives.

[1] Huron Daily Tribune (michigansthumb.com) May 10, 2011
 Fees Exist Beyond what’s paid at the Court House
“According to Caswell’s office, roughly $1.2 billion has been assessed in driver responsibility fees, but only about $626 million has been collected, which is a return [of] about 51 percent. As of January, nearly 2.5 million people have had their license suspended.”

(I was going to post something else tonight, but moved it back a few days as this has become a more ‘pressing’ issue today – I’ll add a comment as to why below)

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