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The Best of the Best: CapCon's Top 10 Stories of 2014

Police seize property; religious discrimination in school contracts; Obamacare piles on disabled family’s burdens

It was a banner year for Capitol Confidential in 2014 as daily readership grew more than 40 percent, the product of top-notch journalism covering stories and angles often ignored by the rest of the media. Here are the top 10 stories most popular with readers in the past year.

1. Man Who Speaks out About Police Seizing His Assets is Arrested Hours Later

Wally Kowalski worked with a local prosecutor to ensure that the medical marijuana he was growing complied with Michigan’s voter-approved law. The state police disagreed and raided his home, using asset forfeiture laws to seize property without charging him with a crime. Only months later – and within hours of Capitol Confidential publishing his story – was Kowalski actually charged with a crime and arrested with a middle-of-the-night knock on the door.

2. U-M Department Chair: ‘It’s Okay to Hate Republicans’

Professor Susan Douglas is a department chair at the University of Michigan, and goes beyond just disagreeing with those who don’t share her political views. An article she published in a left-wing publication opened with the line, “I hate Republicans.” The professor issued an apology and directed the website to change the title – but not the opening line.

3. Wisconsin Wind Turbines Declared Health Hazard

In 2014 the Board of Health for Brown County, Wisconsin declared wind turbines to be a human health hazard. The ruling came in a case similar to one proceeding through Michigan courts. Capitol Confidential has been practically alone in reporting serious questions surrounding this multi-million dollar industry that would be much smaller but for state and federal government subsidies and mandates.

4. Non-Christian Teachers Given ‘Special Consideration’ in Union Contract

A series of articles described how school districts across Michigan have ratified union labor contracts containing illegal and unconstitutional provisions. Among the most eye-opening was agreed to by the Ferndale public school district, which committed itself to discriminating on the basis of religion, race, and gender. The provision was removed after Capitol Confidential broke the story (which was also picked up by nationwide news providers).

5. Which Michigan School Districts Pay the Most?

An examination of teacher salaries and student academic performance in Michigan school districts found no relationship between the two. Earlier coverage revealed that most districts were thumbing their noses at the spirit and often the letter of a law requiring some form of merit pay.

6. In Great Lakes States, Union Retaliation Fails

Government employee union leaders made thunderous political threats against Midwest governors who trimmed some of their perks and powers. But in the 2014 election, chief executives in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Ohio all won reelection decisively. In Illinois, the incumbent Democrat was defeated by an opponent promising reform.

7. Disabled Family Sees 300 Percent Increase in Health Insurance Costs Under Obamacare

The Davert family in Bay City has been through a lot: Ken has cerebral palsy while his wife Melissa and their twin children, Austin and Michaela, have brittle bone disease and a high susceptibility to lung infections. The federal Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) increased the challenges by causing their health care premiums to quadruple.

8. Property Seized, Money Taken – But No Crime

In separate incidents, Van Buren County residents Wally Kowalski and Thomas Williams had their property seized, cash taken, and bank accounts frozen without being charged with a crime, much less arrested. These cases highlight the problems with criminal asset forfeiture laws in Michigan and elsewhere.

9. Making Sense of the Complicated Ballot Language for Proposal 1

Confusing ballot language about an important tax reform proposal on the August ballot aroused understandable suspicion among many voters who have found reasons to distrust the political class. This explainer helped clear the air. The measure was adopted and many job providers will no longer be forced to pay property tax on their business tools and equipment.

10. SEIU Membership Drops 80 Percent After Dues Skim Ends

Once they were free to choose for themselves whether to pay dues money to the SEIU union, most home-based caregivers in Michigan quickly bailed. About 44,000 people left the union in 2014, with more expected to follow this year.

These and many similar stories would never see the light of day without Capitol Confidential. If you enjoy what you read, please consider a donation so we can continue to provide hard-hitting, investigative news from a limited government perspective.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.