On November 6, Michigan voters will decide six ballot proposals, while Troy voters have an additional one. My first article gave general principles for evaluating proposals and more details on a Tax for Every Purpose (question 4), not be covered here. Here are the Five Questions again:
- Does it favor direct democracy rather than representative democracy?
America’s representative democracy is superior to the parliamentary systems used elsewhere in the world. Direct democracy has its purposes, but at its worst it can be mob rule. Ballot proposals like these can leave decisions in the hands of people who are too busy or not well enough informed to make wise decisions, assuming they have chosen honest leaders.
2. Does it enlarge the size and scope of government instead of making it more efficient?
3. Does it overturn decisions made by previous elections or my elected representatives?
4. Does it make a special dedicated tax or even worse, a new tax with a government board to oversee its spending?
5. Does it make a constitutional amendment for an issue that is best debated in the legislature?
If any of the above questions can be answered yes, you should probably vote no, assuming that you favor efficient, responsive, representative government. In particular, any change to the Constitution should be viewed with extreme caution.
Listen to TV and radio ads with a large grain of salt. Designed to appeal to emotions, they can leave you dazed as firefighters and school bus drivers plead both sides for Proposal 2.
Everything is about the kids. They are so biased they would be humorous if they didn’t involve serious issues regarding our country’s future.
Same goes for robo-calls if you can stand them. I usually hang up.
A more thoughtful approach starts with the unbiased information prepared by non-partisan staff of the state legislature and mailed to all voters by Bill Bullard, Oakland Country Clerk, and State Representative Marty Knollenberg. This summarizes the proposals and arguments for both sides. It is a useful starting point but highlights the power of incumbency since it’s mailed at our expense, not the office holder’s.
Non-Partisan is Sometimes Highly Partisan
“Non-partisan” is often quite biased and partisan. Many of the endorsements in this guide were gathered from the “independent, non-partisan” Michigan League of Responsible Voters guide to ballot proposals.
Their biased wording on Proposal 3 says it “reduces our state’s dependence on foreign oil and out-of-state energy.” What’s wrong with buying electricity from Ohio, Indiana or Ontario or getting oil from Canadian oil sands, unless you want to discourage American refinery jobs in Louisiana and Texas?
The Keystone Pipeline would have created thousands of American jobs, yet was blocked by the Obama Administration at every turn, even after it was rerouted around the Ogallala Aquifer in Nebraska to ease environmental concerns. The job President Obama cares most about is his own, and the way he gets reelected is partly by raising money from environmentalist groups.
Ballot Proposals are not Bi-Partisan
Any ballot proposal is worded exactly as the special interest group favoring it wishes. It bypasses the normal bipartisan discussion, much as Obamacare was rammed through Congress without any Republican input except for protests. No amendments for improvement are voted on.
A Proposal for a Future Amendment
It’s ironic that our constitution can be amended by a simple majority of the people. Perhaps conservatives should mount their own ballot proposal to change the process, requiring a two-thirds majority vote to amend the constitution. Recalls and overturning laws could remain a simple majority.
Follow the Money
Figure out who will gain from passing this proposal. Someone spent money to get it on the ballot. Do their interests line up with yours?
Find out what groups are supporting and opposing it before deciding. They spent more time studying it than the average voter.
Proposal 3 Content
This constitutional amendment would require utilities to generate at least 25% of their annual retail sales of electricity from wind, solar, biomass and hydropower by 2025. Safeguards limit annual consumer rate increases to 1% from this mandate and extensions will be allowed beyond 2025 if the 1% rate increase would be exceeded.
The legislature will also be required to pass laws to use Michigan made equipment and employ Michigan workers.
Applying answers to the Five Questions,
- Yes, it bypasses the state legislature with a direct ballot proposal.
- Yes, state government will be required to pass more laws. For each law, there are hundreds of pages of regulations, to be written and interpreted by bureaucrats (unelected officials).
- Probably, since this was never introduced in the legislature or would have been voted down. We already have a law requiring 10% renewables by 2015.
- Probably taxes will have to go up to support the government workers mentioned above.
Vote No because of Yes answers to all five questions.
Proposal 3 Analysis
While well-intentioned, every form of energy generation has it pluses and minuses. Michigan doesn’t have enough elevation changes or volume of water flow in its beautiful rivers to make hydro power viable on a large scale. Where there are dams forming a lake or at the Soo locks, hydro generators could be installed.
Covering the state with solar panels would be expensive; solar electricity is still very costly per kWhr of electricity. Michigan doesn’t have enough sunny days to make this worthwhile; just ask anyone who installed solar panels for supplemental home heating during the last energy crisis in the 1970s.
Tilting at Windmills
That leaves biomass (emissions concerns just like any other fuel) and wind. We recently stayed at the Pheasant Country Inn bed and breakfast in Fowler, Indiana near Purdue University. They don’t have the Great Lakes water resources there, but do have lots of wind. The farmers get $5000-7000 per year for each windmill on their land. In return they provide access for maintenance crews. Overall cost per kW*hr varies depending on how much wind there is.
It’s a good deal for the farmer but spoils the view of the peaceful landscape. These giant windmills look like pterodactyls as they slowly turn. The Audubon Society got involved as the wind farms had to be located away of bird migration routes.
A Silver Lining
At least the mandate doesn’t extend to industrial customers, which would kill jobs. This constitutional amendment would only drive up electricity costs for individual customers, making it more expensive to live here.
Requiring laws for Michigan-made equipment is a good thing in general but again drives up costs if the machinery could be purchased from Indiana or Ontario. This provincial thinking also caused some in Troy to criticize Mayor Daniels for caring about the rest of the state and our country’s debt by opposing wasteful federal spending like the Troy transit center.
Follow the Money
Certain green industries stand to gain, since power companies will be forced to buy their products. Environmental groups support it as their agenda of opposing carbon dioxide generation at all costs is advanced.
For sure the rest of us lose as we pay more for electricity.
Check out endorsements
Environmentalist groups like the Sierra Club, Clean Water Action, Michigan Environmental Council recommend a Yes vote, not surprisingly. Public sector unions and organized labor also support it.
The moderate conservation organization The Nature Conservancy has no opinion on it easily found on their website.
I’m voting No for economic growth and low electricity prices for Michigan consumers; how about you?