Uncategorized — November 28, 2011 at 11:28 am

Will new Mich House Education chair Tom McMillin work with Mackinac Center to destroy the MEA? – UPDATED


With the ouster of Republican Paul Scott in a recall election earlier this month, Michigan Republicans chose a man considered “one of the most conservative members of the House Republican Caucus” to take his place on the House Education Committee, Tom McMillin. This retaliatory choice was predictable (and predicted). Rick Pluta of Michigan Public Radio described it as “a horse head in the MEA’s bed” a la The Godfather.

“If you didn’t like Representative Paul Scott, and what he stood for, and what he was trying to do, [then] State Representative Tom McMillin might give you something to cry about,” explains Rick Pluta, Lansing Bureau Chief for the Michigan Public Radio Network. Rep. McMillin is, “one of the most conservative members of the House Republican Caucus, he may be the most conservative member… he favors sweeping school choice [and] lifting the cap on charter schools. Both of which the teachers unions don’t like. If you were looking for one person that the teacher’s union would not want to fill that position: Tom McMillion [sic] would be the guy,” Pluta notes. […]

[T]hey have left a horse head in the MEA’s bed when they named Tom McMillin to be the chairman of the House Education Committee.”

McMillin has gained notoriety this past year for introducing legislation, HB 5039, that would, according to a press release from the MSU College of Law:

[Prohibit] any state agency or unit of local government from creating a protected class classification that is not expressly included in Michigan’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act. Because the Act does not include sexual orientation or gender identity as protected characteristics, HB 5039 would ban hundreds of laws enacted by municipalities to protect citizens from discrimination.

He also wrote legislation that would allow Michigan companies to make & sell incandescent light bulbs in our state, an intentional thumb-in-the-eye to federal law that phases out the production of these energy-wasting bulbs.

McMillin has sponsored or co-sponsored countless bills that are aimed solely at damaging unions in Michigan and, as reported by Bruce Fealk of the Rochester Citizen, McMillin is a member of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a right-wing organization that cranks out hundreds of “model bills” for use by their members in state legislatures across the country to push their anti-union, pro-corporate, pro-privatization agenda.

McMillin’s antipathy toward teachers and their union, the Michigan Education Association (MEA), is obvious. In a recent interview with the Mackinac Center’s Capitol Confidential blog, he describes the MEA as a group of bullies three separate times. In a statement regarding his appointment to the chair of the Education Committee, McMillin wrote:

“Michigan’s children deserve a quality education and that means we must thoroughly examine how the system is currently failing them. We cannot sacrifice our future by continually focusing dollars on special interests rather than classrooms.”

One can only assume this was said with irony and a tongue planted firmly in his cheek since he and his Republican colleagues stripped $1 BILLION from education last year to fund, in part, an 86% tax cut for corporations.

McMillin was out front about his feelings about the MEA in his CapCon interview. Here’s his response when he was asked if would be able to work with the MEA:

“Well, I’m not going to kick them out of my office. But I don’t know how the MEA can come back and try to lobby for their constituents. Our caucus did include some members who had some sympathy for some of their (MEA’s) positions. But I don’t know if that’s the case anymore.

“The MEA was openly hostile to us. I mean … the way they launched into those attacks … It was like a huge, well-oiled bullying effort. I thought it would backfire then and I still think it will backfire. So, can they come back and effectively work with the Legislature? I really just don’t know the answer to that. This has never happened before, so this is a case where we’re really sailing in uncharted waters.”

This remark takes on new significance today with the revelation of an email sent to McMillin by Mackinac Center senior legislative analyst Jack McHugh:

Our goal is (to) outlaw government collective bargaining in Michigan, which in practical terms means no more MEA,” wrote Jack McHugh, of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, to state Rep. Thomas McMillin, R-Rochester Hills, the newly appointed head of the House Education Committee in a June 1 email.

The Midland-based group describes itself as a nonpartisan research and educational institute dedicated to improving the quality of life, often labled as a free market think tank. McHugh is the group’s senior legislative analyst and editor of MichiganVotes.org, a website that follows legislative activities. […]

McHugh sent the email on his Mackinac Center account to McMillin’s personal account. Others included in the email are Michael Van Beek, the center’s director for education policy; James Hohman, assistant director for fiscal policy; and Kenneth Braun, a policy analyst.

The exchange was given to The Press by Progress Michigan, a liberal advocacy group. Executive Director David Holtz declined to say how the group obtained the emails.

In the MLive article, McMillin claims he likes the MEA just fine but his comments and the legislation he has sponsored and/or supported of indicate otherwise.

MEA spokesperson Doug Pratt was blunt in his assessment.

“It’s right there in black and white, exposing the group for what it really is,” Pratt said. “That proves that the Mackinac Center is nothing but a front for corporate special interests intent on destroying the middle class.” […]

“The Mackinac Center really is in favor of free markets, then why is it calling for some organizations to no longer be allowed to exist?” Pratt said. “The MEA has been around nearly 160 years, and the center’s leaders are trying to destroy and undermine us.”

Given the obvious intent of the Mackinac Center to destroy public employees unions and McMillin’s close affiliation with them and the equally anti-union ALEC, it will be very interesting to watch him over the coming months to see if he carries their water and does what he can as the Education Committee chair to help them achieve their clearly stated goal: the complete eradication of the MEA.

UPDATE: We Are The People Michigan reminds me that Governor Snyder himself is a big fan of the Mackinac Center and recently attended a fundraiser they held. During that event, he told the audience that he keeps a copy of the Mackinac Center’s “101 Recommendations to Revitalize Michigan” on his desk and refers to it often”. Reading through their laundry list is a bit shocking. Here are just a handful of their recommendations:

  • End mandatory collective bargaining for government employees who already enjoy civil service protections.
  • Eliminate state arts grants.
  • Eliminate the Michigan Economic Growth Authority, 21st Century Jobs Fund, and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.
  • Replace conventional health insurance plans for government employees with health savings accounts.
  • Eliminate state subsidies to the cooperative extension service and to Michigan State University’s agriculture experiment station.
  • Eliminate — or cut in half — “Merit Awards,” “Promise Grants” or other non-need-based college scholarships financed by tobacco lawsuit proceeds.
  • Repeal laws that mandate binding arbitration in labor disputes between local government and police or firefighter unions.
  • Repeal the ban on directional drilling for oil and natural gas under the Great Lakes.
  • Halt proposed state mercury-emission limits that are stricter than required under federal law.
  • Repeal the “minimum wage” law, which makes it illegal to pay a person less than $7.40 per hour.
  • Eliminate government-run employment agencies.
  • Eliminate intermediate school districts.
  • Repeal teacher certification requirements.
  • Privatize underused state parks.
  • Privatize management of the Mackinac State Historic Parks.
  • Strengthen the law providing an emergency financial manager for insolvent municipalities and school districts by expanding the manager’s powers and legal protections. COMPLETED!
  • Amend the state constitution as needed to privatize the University of Michigan.
  • Prohibit public entities and their membership organizations, such as the Michigan Municipal League, from lobbying other public entities to impose higher taxes.

I’m rendered nearly speechless that our govenor keeps a copy of this blueprint for corporate takeover of our state “on his desk and refers to it often”. Absolutely astonishing.

[Image credit: Tom McMillin official government website]