Will conservatives resolve to make government leaner and meaner in 2012?

Lansing Republicans are toasting the close of what was certainly a banner year for them. Lawmakers were able to blast through a wish list that had eluded them for years.

They’re high-fiving each other for having made reforms to local and municipal revenue sharing, business tax cuts, reforming K-12 education and teacher tenure, cutting the number of weeks the unemployed can collect benefits and limiting the number of months families can receive public assistance. They’ve made what some call Draconian changes to the state’s Workers’ Compensation system, and passed legislation to tax pensions.

It was a long list of pent-up wishes conservatives had wanted for years — even decades. What in the world is left for them to do?

Well, the conservative Mackinac Center’s “Michigan Capital Confidential” newsletter has a few ideas.

In today’s edition, the Center ticks off the items still left undone. Many of the initiatives have enough steam to be reintroduced next year. Among them: the repeal of prevailing wage laws, and what the Center calls “stealth unionization.” The “right to teach” bill was also tabled. It would have stopped school districts from making agreements with the Michigan Education Association to require union membership as a condition of employment. The Center suggests that while there was some support for the ideology, the bill was a poorly written attempt at political payback, and may not have enough legs to be re-introduced in 2012.

Certainly for the upcoming year, workers and employers alike will be waiting to see whose resolutions stick, and whose fall by the wayside like a “forgotten by April” gym membership.

There’s more than one way to starve the beast

Right-to-work advocate Rep. Joe Haveman, R-Holland, is introducing a bill that would prohibit school districts from deducting union dues from employee paychecks.

It’s the kind of union-shrinking legislation that will just have to suffice until or unless legislators in Lansing can pass a bill to make Michigan a right-to-work state.

Over the summer, Haveman said at a Tea Party meeting in Zeeland, after being informed by a colleague that Republican Gov. Rick Snyder would not sign right-to-work into law, that he would challenge the governor on that issue.

House Bill 4929 would prohibit union dues from being deducted by a district’s human resources workers on school-owned computers. It would prohibit: “a public school employer’s use of public school resources to assist a labor organization in collecting dues or service fees from wages of public school employees … However public school employer’s collection of dues or service fees pursuant to a collective bargaining agreement that is in effect on the effective date … is not prohibited until the agreement expires.”

If the bill gains support, it’s not likely the MEA would have much luck fighting it, at least not in Michigan Courts.

Earlier this year the Michigan Supreme Court ruled that public school districts cannot administer payroll deductions to the Michigan Education Association political action committee even if the MEA was paying the district to do so.

The Court ruled 4-3 that the deduction is tantamount to a “contribution” to political activity, and that public resources cannot be spent on political activities.