The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, October 04, 2013

The Gangbox - Assorted News and Notes

By The Building Tradesman

Michigan still bad for business. After nearly three years of complete Republican control off all levers of state government, a $1.8 billion tax break for businesses at the expense of retirees, the imposition of right-to-work, plus the adoption of a plethora of other regulation-reducing and business-friendly laws, you’d figure Michigan would be at the top of the list of business-friendly states.

Nahh. Not even close.

Forbes Magazine, one of the nation’s bibles for business, last month ranked the 50 states on which have the best climate for business and careers. Michigan was ranked No. 47, beating only Rhode Island, Mississippi and Maine. Virginia was ranked No. 1. Our Great Lakes neighbors were ranked as follows: Minnesota #8, Indiana #16, Ohio #29, Illinois #38 and Wisconsin #41.

In 2011, when Forbes did a similar ranking, Michigan also finished No. 47. Even advertising isn’t helping: In January our state sponsored a $144,000, full-page ad in the Wall Street Journal, touting Michigan’s new right-to-work status. The header on the ad was "What Happens When Michigan Makes History.”

“Our study,” Forbes says, “looks at six important factors for businesses: costs, labor supply, regulatory environment, current economic climate, growth prospects and quality of life.” Broken down into subcategories, Michigan ranked No. 38 in business costs, No. 48 in labor supply, No. 16 in regulatory environment, No. 47 in economic climate, No. 47 in growth prospects, and No. 23 in quality of life.

The Forbes ranking isn’t the first to hate on Michigan. Back in June we reported that our state was ranked No. 44 in business climates among the states by Chief Executive magazine

“You won't hear the Republican governor tout this report, but Michigan families don't need a magazine ranking to know that Republican Gov. Snyder isn't working," said Lon Johnson, Michigan Democratic Party Chair. "Snyder's new half a million dollar TV ad is heavy on happy talk – but light on facts. Snyder's school cuts have led to widespread teacher layoffs, school closings, and climbing college tuition, and Snyder's pension tax is hurting seniors living on a fixed income. It's clear Snyder's $1.8 billion tax giveaway to corporate special interests has failed to create jobs. That's why Michigan needs a leader in Lansing who understands Michigan values, and will work hard to build an economy that works for everyone, not just the wealthy and well-connected.”


The lawyers’ turn for RTW. Lawyers in Michigan don’t have a union, exactly.

But let’s bust them too, said Greg McNeilly, president of the Michigan Freedom Fund. He said on Sept. 21 that he is working with Republican lawmakers on a measure that would repeal a state law requiring attorneys to pay membership dues to the state Bar of Michigan if they want to practice in the state.

"They shouldn't be second-class citizens," said McNeilly. "We need to give them the freedom to practice. Other states do that. They don't have compulsory, mandatory bars. So why should Michigan? We need to be the freest, best place for anybody to practice any profession." News reports said lawyers pay about $300 a year in dues to the state bar.

Bruce Courtade, past president of the State Bar of Michigan, told Mlive: "My response was, we're not a union, we're not an employer. There are so many reasons for us to remain a compulsory, mandatory bar, including the fact that there is a discipline system set up that the profession itself is regulating. So it would require setting up a new system to do that. There would be so many initiatives that benefit the justice system that would be compromised if we went to a voluntary bar. I think it would be really unwise."


Troubled bridges. Michigan has 28 bridges that are considered “structurally deficient” and "fracture critical," according to data compiled by The Associated Press released Sept. 16.

A bridge is structurally deficient if at least one major component of the span has significant deterioration. A bridge is fracture critical if the failure of a single, vital component could cause a collapse. The label doesn't automatically mean a bridge is too dangerous for travel, state officials said.

Nationwide the AP analyzed data on 607,380 bridges in the National Bridge Inventory, which are subject to national inspection standards. There are 65,605 structurally deficient bridges and 20,808 fracture critical bridges, according to the most recent data. Nearly 7,800 bridges fall into both categories.

Michigan’s share of those deficient bridges is low, and many are in sparsely populated areas. MDOT controls only five of the 28 structurally deficient bridges on the list.


Prevailing wage. Talk of repealing Michigan’s Prevailing Wage Act of 1965 is heating up a bit, some of it coming from recent op-eds encouraging repeal by Associated Builders and Contractors-Michigan President and CEO Chris Fisher that were published in various newspapers around the state.

“We’ve heard some rumblings in the past month, but nothing serious yet,” said Todd Tennis, an IBEW lobbyist for Capitol Services. “I’m thinking Republicans might use the same formula as they did with right-to-work, wait for the lame duck session and take it up then.”

The next lame duck session is in November-December 2014, after the general elections but before the start of the new term in January.

As we have said in the past, there has been support among some Michigan Republican lawmakers for keeping prevailing wage, a likely reason it has not yet been repealed.