performance audits on trial 2
You are still paying... 3
PUBLICATION OFVI THE 4 EVERGREEN FREEDOM FOUNDATION Worker Freedom 8 1 READING THEAFEDERALIST
LIVING LIBERTY JULY 2008 | WWW.EFFWA.ORG
A PUBLICATION OF THE EVERGREEN FREEDOM FOUNDATION
Climate Catastrophe for
Washington by Michael R. Fox Ph.D.
ashington is facing a catastrophe. But contrary to the hysterics displayed by legislators this session, the catastrophe will be legislative, not weather-related. The state recently passed a Greenhouse Emissions Law, ESSHB 2815. It creates a framework for reducing greenhouse emissions in the Washington economy. It is massive in scope and disastrous in nature. Passing legislation that rations and taxes energy further at a time when food and gas prices are rising will be devastating to the state economy. This legislation reflects the agendas and values of many Washington legislators and their green supporters. In general these agendas are destructive and more than a little totalitarian in nature. This is especially noticeable in the 30 years of environmental attacks on the nation’s electrical supply systems. We have had forces opposing nuclear and hydro energy, and now fossil fuel energy through restricting CO2 emissions. Collectively, these represent nearly 98 percent of the nation’s total suppliers of electricity. Try to imagine your home, business and family if 98 percent of the electricity were shutdown. And no, ethanol won’t cure this staggering problem; nor will unreliable, intermittent, heavily-subsidized windmills and solar facilities fill the energy gap. Washington’s new climate change law is a recipe for catastrophe.
Important Features of the Bill
To help implement the intrusive and costly features of the bill, it calls for hiring 16,000 new employees, public and private, bringing this effort to a total of 25,000 people, all paid for by the taxpayers. As a rough estimate this will cost more than $2 billion dollars annually, forever.
First, the legislation calls for limiting the per-vehicle miles citizens can travel by 50 percent. Granted, this is a goal four decades into the future, with travel restrictions beginning before then, but legislating such draconian edicts in a state and nation so large, means that families’ interstate travel will be severely impacted, not to mention the engines of commerce like trucks and trains. Notice that this has nothing to do with increased fuel efficiencies for cars. This isn’t science. This is governmental tyranny.
commitments. Two Spanish steel mills have recently left Spain and resettled in the US because of rising costs of energy in Europe due to similar ineffective emissions restrictions. Third, the legislation does not spell out the desired target temperature the bill seeks. Without such a target, we can never know when we have succeeded, and the program would go on forever. It would also help if the bill described why the targeted cooler temperature is more desirable. The state is coming out of one of the
“This isn’t science. This is governmental tyranny.” Second, the legislation calls for CO2 emissions to be 50 percent below the emissions of 1990. This is madness, costly madness, with little potential benefit. A number of EU nations which have adopted such commitments are not reducing their CO2 emissions at all, but are rapidly increasing them. The US, as a matter of cost reductions and energy efficiency, is doing much better than the EU nations in restraining such emissions without such
coldest winters and heaviest snowfalls in its history. It would be helpful if legislators would tell us what was so desirable about such a brutish, long winter, and why we should spend billions to get more of them. Fourth, while worrying about CO2 emissions, the bill’s notable failure to suggest the CO2-free energy option, Continued on page 12
NON-PROFIT ORG. U.S. POSTAGE
OLYMPIA, WA PERMIT #462
Performance audits on trial by Amber Gunn
ome legislators are unhappy with performance audits. They made their displeasure known at a May 22nd work session of the Appropriations Subcommittee on General Government and Audit Review. Representative Mark Ericks (D-1) framed performance audits as being opinion-based in statements to his fellow legislators. “On the issue of performance, it’s still an opinion...Many of the topics that are covered are opinions.” Using this type of language in reference to performance audits downplays their importance and implies that it matters little when findings or recommendations are discarded because they are only opinions. If something is an opinion, then there is no right or wrong. There are no “better” opinions, only well-
defined ones and poorly-defined ones. Opinions can be more easily discarded for that reason. While performance audits may not be as black and white as financial compliance audits, they do clearly define and measure high performance and low performance. They gather best practices to show agencies what similar high-performing agencies look like and seek to duplicate those practices. They are held to rigorous government accounting standards as well as to the statutory requirements of I-900. And, by the way, 57 percent of people voted for them. During the work session, legislators asked various questions about the dedicated performance audit fund established by Initiative 900—who gets the money, what it may be used for and how much goes into it every year.
“Quote” “It was sponsored by the Evergreen Freedom Foundation, the reactionary libertarian gripe mill that prides itself on being the state’s Official Pain In The A....” – Blather Watch blog reporting
on a debate between ATR President Grover Norquist and radio personaility David Goldstein
VOLUME 18, Issue 7 EFF’s mission is to advance individual liberty, free enterprise and limited, accountable government.
Publisher: Tom Henry Editor: Tom Henry Layout: Joel Sorrell
Evergreen Freedom Foundation PO Box 552 Olympia, WA 98507 (360) 956-3482 Fax (360) 352-1874 email@example.com • www.effwa.org
It was clear that several members would like to see some of that money go back to audited agencies to reimburse them for costs involved in complying with performance audits. Legislators already tried that this session, but the bill died at the last minute. Several committee members also raised concerns about the value performance audits are bringing to citizens and whether they are being conducted in the best way. Hence, several remarks were made about how legislators should go about “auditing the auditor.” Continued on next page
This Issue 3
3 letter from lynn YOU ARE STILL PAYING
4 6 7 8 9
4 READING THE FEDERALIST vi James Madison, the Convention, and Republican Principles 6 MORE SCORN FOR TAXPAYERS AT THE PORT OF SEATTLE $1 MILLION AND COUNTING...FOR WHAT? 7 VICTORY AT THE U.S. SUPREME COURT...ONE YEAR LATER 8 WORKER FREEDOM LOCAL GOVERNMENTS = UNION RAINMAKERS? 9 A MATTER OF VISION WHAT ARE “PUBLIC” SCHOOLS? 10 TEXAS-SIZE TRANSPARENCY
12 SO, WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?
W W W . L I B E R T Y L I V E . O R G
OURYOUR BLOG! POST
OPINION ON THE ISSUES!
A PUBLICATION OF THE EVERGREEN FREEDOM FOUNDATION
LetterLET fromTER Lynn FROM LY NN by Lynn Harsh
You are still paying... Cost of Government Day - n. the date of the calendar year, counting from January 1, on which the average American has earned enough in cumulative gross income to pay for his or her share of government spending (total federal, state, and local) plus the cost of regulation.
bout 15 years ago, the principal of my older son’s school called me to his office. After beating around the bush with small talk for some time, I finally determined that he was very curious about what I did for a living. My son had been unable to clearly articulate it, and his garbled explanation left the principal thinking I might be a secret agent or some such thing. The following year, my boy came home with his first real paycheck. He was fuming! He had multiplied the amount of money he was going to make each hour by the number of hours he’d worked, and the amount written in on his paycheck was considerably less. That event finally gave me an opportunity to explain to him, in ways he could understand, what I do for a living. He was distressed that I hadn’t gotten around to solving the problem of high taxes and excess government spending before he started working. When he went off to college several years later, he moved to a lower-tax state. The news I write to you today underscores the reason I am unlikely to persuade him or my lovely daughterin-law to move back to Washington state in the near future. Because…this year, Americans will work until July 16 to pay for the cost of federal, state and local governments and their regulations. While the numbers for each state have not been released yet, Washington was the eighth highest cost state last year and we expect it to be in the same neighborhood this year. July 16! Socialists are the only people who really believe it’s a good idea to work more than half the year to pay for the cost of government. Would the majority of the people who live in our state call themselves socialists? Of course not! So what’s the real deal? Most people feel helpless to do anything about high taxes. Few know much at all about how government
Performance Audits Continued from page 2 . . . We sent legislators an open letter the following week in response to their criticisms. Here is a short excerpt: EFF understands that performance audits offer many recommendations and that perhaps some are not worth pursuing. The audits offer an array of options for you to consider. Recommendations should only be discarded after careful consideration and rigorous evaluation by audited entities and the legislature, not
– Americans for Tax Reform
spends our money now. But that’s about to change with our new state budget transparency law. Last year, we wrote that the Cost of Government Day (COGD) would continue to fall later in the calendar year for some years to come. That’s because entitlement spending is consuming larger portions of the budget as baby boomers retire. Furthermore, legislators in our state seem to have an easier chance than their colleagues elsewhere to railroad costly new programs through the legislative process. Of all bills passed by the legislature, the budget is the most critical. Most members of the public won’t spend hours combing through the budget; that’s why we elect legislators. It is their responsibility to examine proposed spending meticulously and thoughtfully. If legislators don’t insist on doing this, they are failing in one of their primary obligations as a lawmaker. Let me explain a little bit about how the budget-voting process works here in Olympia. On Wednesday, March 12 of this year, House Democrats held a press conference at noon to announce the release of their supplemental budget. The document was not available until after their press conference. At 1:30, people were still waiting in line to get a copy. Two hours later, the House Appropriations Committee held a public hearing on the budget that wasn’t available several hours earlier. This action was very disrespectful to the public, since no member of the public would have had an opportunity to review the document and make comments in that amount of time. In fact, most of the committee members had not seriously reviewed the budget before the hearing either. Which begs the question: why hold a hearing on a bill that no one has had time to read? This hardly makes for informed and rigorous debate.
because they are inconvenient or difficult to implement. I encourage each of you to be a strong performance audit advocate, as I know some of you are. These are ideas that will stand up to harsh criticism, but only if the goal is more accountable, efficient government. The right questions must be asked, and you must be given all the information you require as elected stewards of our tax dollars. Demand excellence, and excellence will follow.
Keep in mind that this was a supplemental budget, meaning legislators were voting to fund programs that they didn’t include in the normal two-year main budget. The supplemental budget is supposed to be for unforeseen, emergency type costs, yet they have become routine over the past few decades. This means lawmakers are not properly planning for revenue and expenditures in the main state budget. Still, most lawmakers argue that they were informed enough to vote on the $215 million supplemental budget, just like they argued the year before that they were sufficiently informed to vote on the $29.6 billion general fund budget when the process was much the same. We’re about to find out how many of them will stick to that story once the budget details go online for all of us to see. We argue that the budget-building process is counterproductive and patronizing; that many lawmakers may come to regret what they voted for once more details emerge. So, EFF staff created model legislation last year that would require a 72-hour budget “timeout” before hearings or votes on revenue or appropriations bills could occur. The American Legislative Exchange Council also thought that was a good idea, and adopted the legislation at its annual conference for all legislators in the entire country. A budget timeout is just plain sensible. Legislators need time to learn what they are voting for or against, and the public and watchdog groups like EFF also deserve time to review the budget and raise red flags on questionable priorities. It took 15 years for us to persuade enough people that performance audits and transparent budgets are a good idea. Those two powerful tools will help us go straight to the public with information they need before casting votes for various candidates. This will help build more solid ground for the good guys to stand on, leaving the rest to remain on eroding sand if they wish. In addition to my personal desire for limited, less costly government, I’d like to persuade my children to consider moving back to Washington state. Living in a lower-taxing state would be a huge incentive for them. Now…if I can just do something about our weather. UPDATE: The new state revenue forecast has been released and it is pointing to a continuing expansion of the “spend and spend more” budget deficit already in place. The state expects to collect about $224 million less in general tax revenue over the next three years. We tried to warn them!
Our letter also respectfully reminded legislators that the State Auditor is independently elected, and works for the people, not the legislature. Based on legislative efforts this session and key comments at this work session, we can expect more attempts in 2009 to raid the auditor’s fund on behalf of audited agencies. Lest we forget, this is the same branch of government that made it illegal for the auditor to conduct independent performance audits for 40 years. It’s going to take serious education and defensive efforts to protect performance audits from legislative tampering next session.
Reading Part VI: The Federalist
by Trent England
Reading The Federalist in 2008 The Federalist Papers explain both the reasons for and the workings of the Constitution of the United States. It is “the most powerful body of political thought ever produced in America,” according to historian Rober t Middlekauff. For Americans who believe in the enduring value of the Constitution, The Federalist is an essential resource and a guide. This essay is the sixth in a series to help readers understand and appreciate the lasting relevance of this American classic. Living Liber ty presents these monthly essays and encourages you to read The Federalist with us.
he end of the sixth summer of war approached Philadelphia with little promise of an end to the war itself. To the north, the British appeared content to hold New York City indefinitely. In the south, British troops had taken Charlestown, South Carolina, early in 1780 and moved haltingly northward. By the summer of 1781, they were in Virginia preparing to build a naval base at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay. American hopes relied heavily on French gold, French soldiers and especially the French navy. In May, General George Washington had noted that only “a powerful aid of ships, land troops and money from our generous allies,” would allow him to engage in meaningful offensive operations. A few French ships arrived in early July with more than 4,000 soldiers. This almost doubled the size of Washington’s forces around New York City, but remained inadequate to engage the nearly 17,000 British and Hessian (German) forces within. On August 14, Washington received word of 3,000 more French troops aboard a full French fleet headed for the Chesapeake. There, British General Cornwallis was building a base at Yorktown with about 5,000 troops. The young French General Marquis de Lafayette
commanded just over 4,000 Americans dedicated to observing, containing and harassing Cornwallis’ force. Washington quickly determined to lead about half his forces south for a rendezvous with Lafayette and the French fleet. The American Commander-in-Chief together with a number of officers— American and French—entered Philadelphia with great fanfare at about one o’clock in the afternoon on August 30. They remained in Philadelphia until September 2, a Sunday. That morning, as many Philadelphians surely looked heavenward, those glancing north witnessed the approach of about 2,000 American soldiers. As the ragged soldiers marched through to the simple sound of fife and drum, Congress and the commanding officers reviewed the troops from the steps of Independence Hall. The heat and billowing dust may have gotten the worst of the young congressman from Virginia, James Madison, who so often dressed in black. At five feet six inches tall, he may also have had difficulty viewing the troops, especially if he found himself behind the towering frame of Washington. If he could see over the crowd and through the dust, Madison may for the
first time have beheld Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Hamilton. Both were young and brilliant patriots; Madison was 30, Hamilton was 24. Each may already have known of the other by reputation. By the end of 1782, Hamilton would join Madison in Congress and they would become allies in the cause of strengthening the national government. In September of 1781, there remained a revolution to win. Behind Hamilton and the American soldiers came more than 4,000 French troops “dressed in complete uniform of white broadcloth, faced with green, and … furnished with a complete band of music….” It took the next two days for the French forces to parade through the city. At the same time, the best news of the year reached Philadelphia: the French fleet had indeed reached the Chesapeake. Within the month the American and French troops would become a hammer, smashing Cornwallis’ forces against an anvil of French ships. In a sprinting bayonet charge, Hamilton led his forces against a British position. His leap from the shoulders of one of his men to be the first over the works, as well as his protection of British prisoners from reprisals, secured his place as a hero of the Revolution. Cornwallis, with more than 7,000 British and Hessian soldiers, surrendered on October 19, 1781. James Madison heard news of the victory just after three o’clock in the morning on October 22. Washington had sent one of his aides on a fast horse with the news, which was yelled through the streets of Philadelphia as soon as it arrived. Patriots dared hope that victory was at hand. “If these severe doses of ill fortune do not cool the phrenzy and relax the pride of Britain,” wrote Madison, “it would seem as if Heaven had in reality abandoned her to her folly and her fate.” James Madison It seemed the very edge of civilization when James Madison’s grandfather, Ambrose Madison, settled his young family in Orange County, Virginia, in about 1730. It remained something like
a frontier plantation throughout the 18th Century, even as it grew to almost 4,000 acres. Like other Virginia plantations, it relied heavily on slave labor. Born on March 16, 1751, James Madison was the first child of James and Nelly Madison. He grew up on the plantation established by his grandfather and in a British colony filled with numerous Madison relatives, friends and associates. While not at the very top of Virginia society, the Madisons were firmly established and successful. At the age of eleven, after James Madison had learned basic reading, writing and arithmetic from relatives and tutors, he was sent to a boarding school near the coast. There he mastered English and Latin and probably also studied Greek. He returned home in 1767 to learn from a new tutor who was a recent graduate of the College of New Jersey at Princeton (now Princeton University). In the summer of 1769, Madison set out for Princeton himself. Along his journey to college, Madison passed through the greatest city in the American colonies. In all the Englishspeaking world, Philadelphia was second only to London. At the time of Madison’s visit, Philadelphia was alive with protests against London’s new trade policies. The College of New Jersey was no less alive than America’s great city. The Presbyterian school was a training ground for “New Light” evangelical itinerant preachers and was thus in conflict with much of the existing religious order. It incorporated public speaking and debating drills into its curriculum and allowed students to study authors and ideas contrary to the official views of the college. It was a hotbed of American patriotism. Madison completed his college studies in just two years, but remained for an extra seven months to study theology with the college president, John Witherspoon. Returning home in April 1772, Madison studied law and maintained correspondence with his college friends. When the First Continental Congress called for “Committees of Safety” throughout
A PUBLICATION OF THE EVERGREEN FREEDOM FOUNDATION
the colonies, Madison was elected to the Orange County committee along with his father. In late 1775, Madison became an officer in the county militia. Frequent ill health, however, precluded him from active military service. On April 25, 1776, the voters of Orange County elected Madison to the Virginia legislature. He was 25 years old. In his first session he supported independence and advocated for greater religious liberty. The next year, refusing to campaign using “spirituous liquors, and other treats having a like tendency,” he lost his legislative seat to a tavernkeeper. Toward the end of 1777, the legislature elected Madison to the Council of State that advised Virginia’s governors. There he served first Patrick Henry and then Thomas Jefferson. In 1780, the legislature sent Madison back to Philadelphia as a delegate to Congress. There he faced what must have seemed like crisis after crisis, even after the victory at Yorktown. Madison remained a member of Congress through October 1783. In his final year in Congress, Madison forged an alliance with a new representative from New York. Alexander Hamilton had left the army to return to his wife and infant child, but was elected to Congress within a year. During 1783, as financial failures led to riots of unpaid soldiers and eventually the flight of Congress from Philadelphia to Princeton, Hamilton and Madison believed that only a more effective national government could preserve the union and protect the people from external and internal threats. Over the next four years, Madison and Hamilton remained the leading voices for reforming the Articles of Confederation. In 1786, they secured a call for a convention the next year in Philadelphia. To prepare, Madison read a library of works sent from Paris by Jefferson. The books were in English, French and Latin, and included ancient and contemporary works on history, philosophy, politics and economics. In May 1787, Madison and Hamilton arrived at Philadelphia for the Convention sharing grave concerns but high hopes. They departed in September dedicated to securing ratification of the new Constitution. By October, Hamilton had planned a series of essays and had secured coauthors Madison and John Jay. They would write under the pen name Publius. Federalist No. 37-40: The Convention, its detractors, and republican principles (Madison) The preface to the first bound volume of The Federalist—published while newspapers were printing still more Publius essays—notes that the work features “repetitions of ideas which cannot but displease a critical reader.” This was, of course, due to its serialized nature and political purpose. Thus the beginning of essay No. 37 returns to a familiar theme: the importance of moderation and an open mind as readers weigh the merits of the new Constitution and consider the arguments of Federalist and Anti-Federalist alike. Moving to his topic—the Constitutional Convention and its new plan of government—Publius reminds readers that “a faultless plan was not to be expected.” Those considering whether
to adopt the new plan ought to reflect on the imperfections of man, imperfections present in both the men of the convention and the men who must now judge their work. Publius points out several particular difficulties faced by the Convention: balancing stability and liberty, delineating state and national interests, and defining the branches of government. Referring back to the now famous tenth essay, Publius suggests that the different state interests represented at the convention must have presented “difficulties.” While diverse interests might benefit the government once established, he writes, “yet every one must be sensible of the contrary influence which must have been experienced in the task of forming it.” What was “unprecedented” and “unexpected” and the “real wonder” is that
to ask whether the proposed Constitution is republican and whether it is federal (government of the states) or national (government of the people). Publius defines a republic as “a government which derives all its powers directly or indirectly from the great body of the people and is administered by persons holding their offices during pleasure for a limited period, or during good behavior.” He finds this definition satisfied by the proposed Constitution. Publius considers a number of constitutional provisions while considering whether the plan is federal or national. He finds that the plan mixes federal and national elements, but that national power is limited “to certain enumerated objects only, and leaves to the several States a residuary and inviolable sovereignty over all other objects.”
is impossible for the man of pious
in it a finger of that
which has been so frequently and signally extended to our relief in the critical stages of the revolution.” the Convention succeeded in issuing the Constitution at all. “It is impossible for the man of pious reflection,” writes Publius, “not to perceive in it a finger of that Almighty hand which has been so frequently and signally extended to our relief in the critical stages of the revolution.” Publius opens No. 38 pointing to the reliance in ancient Greece on individual lawgivers. America, he suggests, should be grateful that it need not put so great a trust in a single man. Again acknowledging constitutional imperfection, Publius suggests that there remains much to learn about government. The surest way to find and fix constitutional flaws is to put the system into operation, according to Publius. He cites the debate over the Articles of Confederation. The actual shortcomings of the Articles were not predicted, though they became apparent soon after that plan took effect. Publius proceeds to list disagreements between those who oppose the Constitution. His point seems to be that it is far too easy to criticize without offering any alternative. While the Federalists offer an admittedly imperfect plan, the AntiFederalists offer only endless disagreements with the effect of protecting a failing status quo. “No man,” writes Publius, “would refuse to give brass for silver or gold, because the latter had some alloy in it.” Publius also points out how many arguments against the Constitution could apply also to the Articles. Both permit standing armies in peacetime. Neither provided a bill of rights. Both compromised on slavery. While the branches of government are somewhat intermingled by the Constitution, they are wholly consolidated in Congress under the Articles. From considering the Constitutional Convention, Publius proceeds in No. 39
In No. 40, Publius responds to those who challenge the authority of the Convention to issue a new plan. Looking at the calls for a convention issued first at the aborted Annapolis convention and then from Congress, Publius finds three charges. Delegates “were to frame a national government, adequate to the exigencies of government and of the Union; and to reduce the articles of Confederation into such form as to accomplish these purposes.”
Publius cites two well-known legal rules for interpreting these three provisions. First, that each should be interpreted, if possible, not to conflict with the others. Second, that if a conflict is found to exist, “the less important should give way to the more important part.” Framing an adequate national government was, Publius says, the purpose of the convention. Nevertheless, he questions whether this charge against the Constitution is more about words and titles than substance and law. The one difference identified by Publius is the provision for ratification. One failure of the Articles was its requirement of unanimity for any amendment. The Constitution required adoption by only nine states to take effect. Publius says that “this objection, though the most plausible, has been the least urged in the publications which have swarmed against the convention. This, according to Publius, is because most Americans have realized the folly of requiring unanimity, of “subjecting the fate of twelve States to the perverseness or corruption of a thirteenth.” Indeed, Rhode Island would not ratify the Constitution until George Washington had been president for more than a year. Publius closes with two more arguments, one in support of the Convention and one in support of the Constitution itself. Even if the Convention did somehow exceed the powers granted to it, Publius asks the reader to consider the creation of the Committees of Safety and the Continental Congress during the Revolution. Desperate circumstances may require a people to step outside their current form of government to exercise their right “to alter or to abolish it.” And even if all his arguments thus far should fail, Publius challenges Americans to consider the proposed Constitution on its own merit.
During 2008, Living Liberty will present monthly essays and encourages you to read The Federalist with us.
most powerful body of political
thought ever produced in
– Robert Middlekauff
| Federalist No. 1: Introduction
| Federalist Nos. 2–8: Importance of a union of all the states
| Federalist Nos. 9–14: The size of the union and its economic conditions
| Federalist Nos. 15–22: Defects of the Articles of Confederation government
| Federalist Nos. 23–36: Necessity of “energetic” government
| Federalist Nos. 37–40: The Constitutional Convention and its detractors
| Federalist Nos. 41–51: Controlling government power
September October |
| Federalist Nos. 52–61: The House of Representatives
Federalist Nos. 62–66: The Senate
| Federalist Nos. 67–77: The Executive
Federalist Nos. 78–83: The Judiciary
January 2009 |
Federalist Nos. 84–85: The lack of a bill of rights and the conclusion
N R O C S E R S R MO E Y
E L T T A A P TAXPORT OF SE ING
N U O C D N AN O I L L I $1 M ? T A H W ...FOARmber Gunn
half a million in attorney fees with virtually no description of what work those attorneys actually performed. The port wrote an agreement for the scope of work these attorneys would perform, but failed to sign or date it. We have no idea when the document was written, who wrote it, or if the Port Commission or the attorneys have even read it. It looks more like an impromptu word document written for our benefit rather than a contract. From the scope agreement they provided us, it appears that the port is paying attorneys up to $500 per hour to conduct information technology work, thus rendering all documents subject to attorneyclient privilege and exempt from public disclosure. Considering that the port has an entire legal team at its disposal, it is bizarre that these invoices were not flagged. Port General Counsel Craig Watson personally signed off on each of these non-itemized invoices. If you were paying three legal teams hundreds of thousands of dollars, wouldn’t you want to know what they were doing? Apparently the port has no such concern. Smell that? That’s the stench of business as usual. The port has a history of signing off on vague, open-ended agreements, according to an independent performance audit released in December 2007. The audit found the port wasted nearly $100 million in taxpayer dollars and violated numerous state laws on projects from January 2004 through March 2007. The audit’s findings revealed “no controls were in place to deter, prevent, or detect bribery, kickbacks, illegal gratuity, or bid-rigging schemes.” In addition, auditors found the port frequently circumvents competitive
That’s the stench of business as usual.”
he Port of Seattle’s legal bills have reached nearly $1 million for the three law firms hired in response to its recent performance audit and the launch of a criminal investigation by the Department of Justice. The firms were hired prior to having any report from FBI investigators about whether or not any of the allegations are true. As of today, no one at the port has been charged with a crime. Imagine how much the port will spend over the next year as this investigation continues. How long are these three firms going to be employed and at what potential cost? Attorneys from the Seattle firm Danielson Harrigan Leyh & Tollefson have billed $523,076.46 to the Port of Seattle since they were hired in January. The second firm, Yarmuth Wilsdon Calfo, has billed $318,893.49 in the same period. Both firms specialize in white collar criminal defense. The third firm, McKay Chadwell, headed by former U.S. attorney Mike McKay, has billed $143,047.21 to the Port, which includes subcontracted services performed by forensic investigators. The combined legal bills for all three firms total $985,017.16 according to invoices provided by the Port in response to a public records request by EFF. With multiple $300, $400, and $500-dollar-an-hour attorneys, it is not surprising that the port’s legal bills have accumulated so quickly. The port initially withheld some of the attorneys’ billing records from us. When the invoices were finally sent, most were not itemized. Based on the documents we received, it appears that the port signed off on more than
bidding requirements and fails to enforce basic contract provisions, “resulting in delays, extra costs, and an inability to defend against claims.” No one at the port has been fired or disciplined, despite these findings. Is it surprising, then, that nothing has changed? Actually, the port displayed its angst and arrogance by spending $365,000 to commission its own audit to refute the independent auditor’s findings. The port’s audit found “no significant deficiencies nor material weaknesses” in sharp contrast to the state audit. The port’s actions are especially distressing in light of its authority to collect taxes and fees without taxpayers’ permission. The 2008 property tax levy for the port will cost property owners $75.8 million dollars. The Port of Seattle is the only major port on the west coast that uses property tax levies as part of its revenue stream. The ports of San Francisco, Portland, and Los Angeles do not. If they can function without a property tax levy, why can’t the Port of Seattle? To add insult to injury, the Port has spent an average of $20,000 a month on lobbying for the last five years. Nothing says “priorities of government” like using taxpayer dollars to ask for more taxpayer dollars. Despite the public’s broken trust, an FBI investigation, and a big fat “F” on a major audit, the port still has the authority to tax King County residents. There were several bills introduced this session to repeal the port’s taxing authority, but of the 328 new laws that passed, none of those bills were approved. Perhaps next year, lawmakers will reconsider. Until then, we’ll continue to beat the drums for change.
“The Evergreen Freedom Foundation should be
“The wisdom of this book serves as a high standard
– WA State Attorney General Rob McKenna
– WA Supreme Court Justice Richard B. Sanders
commended for this clear guide to our Constitution.”
against which we ought to judge our judges.”
This new book, written by EFF attorneys, is an in-depth review of the declaration of rights within the Washington Constitution. The book, with a foreword by State Supreme Court Justice Charles Johnson, examines the constitutional convention, discusses significant cases that
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have interpreted the constitution, and provides citizens with critical information about their fundamental rights.
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Image Courtesy of King County Journal
Victory at the U.S. Supreme Court...one year later by Michael Reitz
une 14, 2007. Our day started early that Thursday morning. We were expecting a ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court in our case against the Washington Education Association (WEA), and we knew the decision would come down this week or the next. Waiting for the ruling, I opened a website that provides real-time reporting on Supreme Court decisions. After a few minutes, the alert flashed on the screen: “the Court ruled that it is not a violation of the First Amendment for a state to bar a labor union representing government employees from using non-union workers’ dues for political causes if those workers have not explicitly consented. The result was approved unanimously. . . .” I grabbed the phone and buzzed Bob Williams. “Bob, we won. Unanimous.” “Good,” he said, and hung up. The rest of the day was a blur. We spent the first hour scouring the Supreme Court’s opinion. We sent out hundreds of emails, several press releases, were on the phone with the Wall Street Journal, the L.A. Times, and many other papers. We rushed to Seattle for a press conference and did radio interviews all day long. The prevalent question on everyone’s mind: “What does it mean?” That day was the culmination of an intense year bringing the case to the Supreme Court. Today, with the one-year anniversary of the ruling, we’ve had time to reflect on the impact. We’ve also been able to observe the slow pace of justice as the cases now work their way through state court. Most EFF members will recall that these cases started in August 2000, when EFF filed a complaint against the WEA. The union appeared to be violating a state statute that required unions to get permission from nonmembers before using their mandatory dues for political activity. After an investigation, and an admission of “multiple violations” by the WEA, a trial judge imposed a $590,375 penalty on the union. Subsequently, a group of teachers, represented by EFF and National Right to Work, filed the Davenport classaction lawsuit to recover their improperly-spent dues (named for lead plaintiff Gary Davenport). Both cases ended up before the Supreme Court of Washington. On March 16, 2006, after nearly twenty-two months of deliberations, the Supreme Court issued a shocking ruling. The court said that the requirement on unions to ask permission before spending nonmember dues was “too heavy an administrative burden,” and violated the union’s free speech rights. Attorney General Rob McKenna and the Davenport teachers appealed the case to the U.S. Supreme Court, and the Court accepted the case (a victory in itself). In January 2007, several EFF staffers went to Washington, D.C., to witness the oral arguments. Thanks to donations from EFF members, we were accompanied by nearly 40 teachers from around the country. What a day that was! After the hearing, we walked down the Supreme Court
steps, cautiously optimistic that victory was ours. And five months later, it was. On June 14, 2007, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down the unanimous 9-0 ruling declaring Washington’s law constitutional. The Supreme Court specifically addressed our centerpiece argument: unions have no constitutional entitlement to the paychecks of workers. The Supreme Court’s ruling accomplished several things. First, the justices affirmed that it is constitutional to require unions to ask employees before taking their money for politics. Second, state legislatures can adopt similar laws or laws that provide even greater protection for workers. Third, the “ask-first” laws on the books in other states were declared constitutional. Fourth, the decision ensured the WEA would be held accountable for its past violations of the law.
“Every union dollar spent on politics should come from a voluntary donor.” The ruling also indicated a possible shift in the Court’s treatment of labor unions. Justice Antonin Scalia, writing for the Court, noted the “enormous power” unions exercise over public employees—having the ability to “tax” them for representation. But Justice Scalia said this entitlement is statutory—not a constitutional right— and can be rescinded or regulated by state legislators. Unions, he said, have “no constitutional entitlement” to the money of workers who do not want to join. This language provides an opening for free-market advocates who want to give workers a choice about union dues. The unanimous decision from the Supreme Court set off a wave of criticism of the WEA’s coercive tactics. All total, more than 125 editorials and columns were written about the case. Only one piece supported the union— and it was written by the WEA president! Several major papers wrote about the case multiple times: the Wall Street Journal (five editorials); the Seattle Times (four editorials); Investor’s Business Daily (two editorials); the Washington Times (three editorials and three guest columns); the Detroit News (two editorials and two columns); the Rocky Mountain News (one editorial and two columns); and the Orange County Register (three editorials). To widen the impact, we distributed news of the ruling to the American Legislative Exchange Council, which has a membership of 2,000 state legislators, and the State Policy Network, a coalition of think tanks like EFF. Several state lawmakers introduced legislation to codify the legal victory. Unfortunately, the WEA returned from Supreme Court hearing and convinced the Washington Legislature to pass a bill that reduced the effectiveness of the law moving forward. We vehemently opposed the bill, which
passed despite objections from the attorney general and criticism from most of the state’s major newspapers. Where are we today? After the ruling, both cases were remanded back to Washington courts for final resolution. Having prevailed at the Supreme Court, the State sought to impose the original penalty on the WEA, and also requested that the union pay the State’s cost of bringing the appeal to the Supreme Court. Another key issue is how the union will comply with the law after the legislature’s amendment. As of this writing, the WEA and the Office of the Attorney General are negotiating a settlement to resolve these issues. The teacher class-action lawsuit (Davenport) is on a slightly different track. The WEA argued that many issues had yet to be resolved, and the Washington Supreme Court agreed to send the case down to the Court of Appeals. The Court of Appeals heard arguments in February. The WEA requested that the teachers’ case be dismissed, arguing that while the law at issue may be constitutional, it does not allow teachers to recover money that was improperly taken and spent. Attorney Steve O’Ban, representing the teachers, argued that teachers should indeed be entitled to a return of the money the WEA misspent. We are now awaiting a ruling from the Court of Appeals to determine the next steps. What’s our destination? In the months following the victory at the U.S. Supreme Court, we have been able to evaluate the impact of the case, and more importantly, we’ve discussed the goals that motivate us. Our objective at EFF is to ensure that employees have a choice about union membership and political spending. Every union dollar spent on politics should come from a voluntary donor. We want to ensure that government does not mandate union representation for workers. And employees deserve information about how unions spend their money. When unions are left to attract and retain satisfied customers non-coercively, the market will determine whether they provide a needed service. The question common in most policy debates is how to accomplish this vision. Should we swing for the fences at every good pitch or should we play patiently—moving policy forward one base at a time? We believe that the most effective approach is to keep the end goal in mind, make progress toward it, and take advantage of key opportunities. If the bases are loaded and a pitch comes right down the center of the plate, we should capitalize on it. But much of our progress will come from steady, incremental advances. Either way, the Davenport ruling was an important victory along the way, and will be used as a platform to launch other reforms. Thank you for your part!
Worker Freedom by Sonya Jones and Scott Dilley
“He who sacrifices freedom for security deserves neither . . . .”
reedom is defined in Webster’s dictionary as the quality or state of being free…the absence of necessity, coercion, or constraint in choice or action… liberation from slavery or restraint or from the power of another…independence…the quality or state of being exempt or released usually from something onerous. Unfortunately, many Americans are willing to exchange their personal freedom for something they perceive as benefiting the greater good. In a recent Seattle PI guest column, Paula Hall discussed the heart-wrenching story of her life without health insurance coverage. It’s hard not to feel sorry for Hall and her family, and her situation is emblematic of our current health-care crisis. But Hall and her union, SEIU, believe that our only choice is between the status quo and more government intrusion into the health-care system. In fact, there are other options. Why must the choices for health care coverage be so limited? When we buy groceries, we have our choice of stores, each containing various products and brands. Shouldn’t we get to have some say-so in what health insurance we buy and how much we’re willing to pay for it? Florida, which has the fourth highest rate of uninsured people in the nation, has provided the latest example of health-care insurance innovation. Instead of granting SEIU’s desire for more government answers to health care, Florida legislators unanimously approved a rollback of government-imposed regulations on health insurance companies. Now Florida insurance companies have more flexibility in what plans they offer, and consumers have the option to purchase health insurance coverage with leaner costs and benefits. The plans are designed to be less than $150 a month, and are – like every product – subject to market competition.
“Government-induced problems, such as our health-care crisis, are best solved by getting government out of the equation and by allowing individual choice and responsibility to bring about real freedom.” According to unions, though, workers have collective “freedom.” This “freedom” is used to force government to further regulate and distribute health care to everyone, because we consumers really can’t or shouldn’t be free enough to choose for ourselves what we want and need. This hardly represents “liberation from slavery or restraint or from the power of another.” Why is SEIU so interested in this issue? According to Hall, one SEIU goal is to “ensure all workers have the freedom to unite for a voice on the job.” The “freedom to unite” is code for growing SEIU and other labor membership on both the national and state levels, often times using the intersection of public money and the private sector as an excuse to grow public-sector union membership. In these economically volatile times, many Americans are seeking relief to their daily financial struggles. Such
– Benjamin Franklin times provide fertile ground for labor unions. With lofty promises of job security that only unions can provide, many struggling American workers will be lured into this form of slavery. But private-sector employees still have a choice about labor unions, at least for a bit longer; a large majority of those who work in the public sector are not so fortunate. A recent piece on FoxNews.com warned that the Employee Free Choice Act, banishing secret ballot voting to certify a union, is sure to pass if Sen. Barack Obama is elected President. “We will pass the Employee Free Choice Act,” Obama said. “It’s not a matter of ‘if’; it’s a matter of when. We may have to wait for the next president to sign it, but we will get this thing done.” Ironically named, the union-backed legislation diminishes free choice for private-sector employees through a highly visible card check system that makes workers vulnerable to coercion and retribution by the unions. The second largest union in the country, SEIU (comprised of both private and public sector members), already is committed to spending $75 million this election year. On the whole, labor unions plan to spend a total of $360 million. The goal is to elect a president and other officials that will help pass new laws to expedite union certification for private-sector employees. Under this legislation, workers would not have the ability to choose their own destiny in “the absence of necessity, coercion, or constraint in choice or action.” Meanwhile, private industry will continue to seek union-free opportunities for positions that are autonomous by nature. We need look no further than Michigan to see how this plays out in the real world. When doing business in a union-stronghold state became too expensive for American auto manufacturers, they simply relocated manufacturing facilities to right-towork states or Mexico. Even Michigan, once heavily dominated by unions, is now considering right-to-work legislation, which provides employees a choice in whether or not to join their union. Perhaps people now realize that the unions cannot always deliver on what they promise, especially when the economy is languishing and businesses need to be reenergized. With a changing political climate looming around the corner, the next four to eight years will be fraught with challenges. Unions enjoy disproportionate power in legislatures and in the court of public opinion because of their easy access to money from employees’ paychecks. Union talk about collective “freedom” really amounts to more control by unions and favored politicians. Government-induced problems, such as our healthcare crisis, are best solved by getting government out of the equation and by allowing individual choice and responsibility to bring about real freedom. Workers should have an alternative to the current system of compulsory unionism. True, individual worker freedom will exist only when employees are free from coercive union practices. Whether the topic is health care or ending compulsory unionism, the benefit is not just increased competition and better products. The biggest benefit to our society is the protection of individual liberty and the freedom to make one’s own choices. After all, isn’t that what America is all about?
Local Governments = Union Rainmakers? by Michael Reitz
s it constitutional for states to prohibit school boards from collecting political contributions for public employee unions? The U.S. Supreme Court is reviewing this question in a case from Idaho. Last month the Evergreen Freedom Foundation filed an amicus curiae brief in support of the State of Idaho. In 2003, the Idaho Legislature passed the Voluntary Contributions Act, which banned the collection of political contributions through government payroll systems. Several unions filed suit, claiming the law violated their free speech rights. In November 2005 a federal district court ruled the payroll ban unconstitutionally impeded union speech. The state could ban the practice for its own employees, said the court, but couldn’t meddle with labor issues at the local level. This rendered the law unconstitutional when applied to municipal governments, school districts and other local government bodies. Even stranger, the judge said payroll deductions are preferred because without automatic deductions, employees could be subjected to union strong-arming. Unions would have to “engage in face-to-face solicitation, a technique fraught with the potential for coercion.” The State of Idaho appealed this ruling to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. In October 2007, the Ninth Circuit affirmed the lower court decisions ruling the ban unconstitutional when applied to local governments. The State of Idaho then appealed the case to the U.S. Supreme Court, which accepted the case in March 2008. We decided to file a “friend-of-the-court” brief for several reasons: for one, EFF assisted the Idaho Legislature when it crafted the law. Also, we believe that private organizations should not be able to utilize a government system to collect political contributions. Union members who want to contribute to the union’s political fund can do so privately and individually. Finally, the Ninth Circuit’s logic could have a devastating effect on a state’s ability to regulate public employees. In our brief, which was joined by the American Legislative Exchange Council and the Independence Institute of Colorado, we argue that states have adopted a wide variety of labor laws. Unions are the beneficiaries of significant entitlements and privileges, but no constitutional obligation on the state exists to bargain with the union. Accordingly, states have adopted, and courts have upheld, numerous restrictions on unions’ statutorily-conferred bargaining status. The Ninth Circuit’s ruling departs from this general practice of deference to state policymakers, and imposes a rigid prohibition on state governments, using the First Amendment to erect a “wall of separation” between states and local governments. If upheld, the ruling could undermine a state’s ability to adopt many labor-management laws. The case is Ysursa v. Pocatello Education Association, and it will be argued before the Supreme Court next fall.
A PUBLICATION OF THE EVERGREEN FREEDOM FOUNDATION
A matter of vision by Jonathan Bechtle
o you see any problem with our state’s ban on smoking in public places? What about Seattle’s prohibition on restaurants using trans fats? These laws may make us feel more comfortable or healthy, but is it the role of government to micro-manage our personal health choices? Or what about the Monorail’s use of its eminent domain power to take a large parcel of property in Pioneer Square, most of which it planned to sell for a profit? That seems bad, but is it actually wrong? All of these questions can be answered by understanding the proper role of government in society. And each of these actions is a sign that our government has forgotten why it exists. The fifty-six men who signed the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, understood that government exists to secure our fundamental rights: our “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” In fact, that’s why they broke from England—because King George’s government had forgotten that role while trampling on colonists’ rights. They declared independence with the vision of creating a government carefully designed to have enough power to protect individual rights, but no more. One hundred and thirteen years later, July 4, 1889, that same vision was on the minds of the delegates who gathered in Olympia to write Washington state’s constitution. I believe it’s no coincidence that they made the Declaration of Rights—thirty two sections specifically cataloging our fundamental rights—the
first part of the constitution. They even spelled out their vision in the first sentence, writing that government is “established to protect and maintain individual rights.”
“Little by little, lawmakers are regulating away our individual rights and claiming it as progress. Why are they wrong? Because the protection of individual rights is absolutely necessary for a free and prosperous society.” But I fear that’s no longer the vision of many of our leaders. They view government as the all-powerful helping hand, the big brother who helps us lowly citizens out of all our jams. But to get that help we have to give up some rights, such as being able to set rules on our own property for whether our patrons can smoke or eat unhealthy foods, or letting government take our property because they have a better use for it. We have to give up a little freedom of speech there, a little freedom of religion here, some parental rights over there. Little by little, lawmakers are regulating away our individual rights and claiming it as progress. Why are they wrong? Because the protection of individual rights
is absolutely necessary for a free and prosperous society. If we want America to continue to be the land of entrepreneurs, a place where anyone can make something of themselves, it must be a land where government protects life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. But it’s up to us to make that happen. Our state constitution says that We the People hold the political power, and because of what that band of revolutionaries did back in 1776, we can set the role for our government. But we’ve accepted the handouts, we’ve allowed the regulations, we’ve elected leaders who don’t know the proper role of government. Restoring the proper vision for government starts with us knowing and understanding our fundamental rights. EFF can help with that. We’ve just published a Citizen’s Guide to the Washington State Constitution, Article I, a little book that will give you a tour of the Declaration of Rights. Once we know what it means to protect life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, we can start engaging our neighbors and leaders in meaningful discussions, we can understand what laws are good and bad and why they are harmful, we can begin holding our government accountable to protect rights and thereby ensure that we still have some freedoms to celebrate on Independence Day. You can order a copy of the book by calling our office or going onto our website at www.effwa.org.
What are “Public” Schools? by David W. Kirkpatrick
hakespeare wrote “That which we call a rose by but does not own factories that manufacture them. any other name would smell as sweet.” True, but Similarly, it uses private construction companies to would it be as acceptable? What man would dare bring build public buildings and highways. Yet somehow it his wife a dozen skunkweed? And how many wives eased into owning and operating an education delivery system even though that required overcoming strong would want them? public opposition, a history that has long since been Words make a difference. Consider the responses a young man would get if he forgotten, if ever recalled at all. Private institutions told his lady love that when he looks at her time stands which died did not do so because they didn’t work but still, in contrast to telling her she has a face that would because they couldn’t compete with a publicly funded “free” monopoly. stop a clock. A school, whether supported by public or private funds, More seriously, those who set the terms of a debate open to any child who wishes to attend, is arguably in the may not win but they certainly have a head start. public interest and thus a public There is growing consideration as to what a school. That hasn’t become a “public” school is and recognition that the current “...five million generally accepted perception use of the term is at least unnecessarily narrow students being and so the current terminology and can be said to be misleading. prevails. Many citizens who The working definition of words is ultimately educated at have tried to influence decisions whatever is most widely accepted and virtually private expense and actions of government everyone uses “public schools” to mean the save taxpayers schools have discovered they current government owned and operated system. Government owned and operated is, about $50 billion aren’t quite so “public” after all. “Private” schools are often by definition, socialism but to say so upsets the annually.” much more responsive if only education establishment. A few persons have because parents may withdraw begun to use the term “government schools” as their children and stop paying being more accurate. To this many in the school establishment vehemently tuition if they are treated too cavalierly. Many “private” schools can be more “public” than object. Like a character in Alice in Wonderland they want words to mean exactly what they say. They realize traditional public schools. “Public” school students, for that to speak of “public” schools is more effective than to example, must live within specified attendance areas. talk about “private” schools, especially when attempting This may be the entire school district in the case of a small one, but attendance is still geographically based. to persuade taxpayers to foot the bill for them. Yet this was not preordained. As Milton Friedman In larger districts even students living in the district pointed out, government uses tanks, planes and ships are rarely permitted to attend a school other than the
one to which they are not only geographically but even intentionally assigned. “Private” schools generally have no geographic attendance limitations and may even offer scholarships so students can attend who otherwise couldn’t afford it. In the nation’s more than 14,000 public school districts such aid to attract nonresident students is extremely rare. To the contrary, many public school systems hire investigators to make sure such students are excluded. It could further be argued that “private” schools are more public because they educate millions of youngsters, about five million at the moment, at no or little cost to the public purse/taxpayer. Everyone agrees that an educated citizenry is in the public interest. Doing so at little or no public cost, these schools clearly meet this definition. Since educating the average public school student currently costs about $10,000 per year, five million students being educated at private expense save taxpayers about $50 billion annually. As the average nonpublic school educates its youngsters at less cost than the public schools they are also more efficient. To change the interpretation of what constitutes “public” or “private” as applied to schools to more accurately reflect reality is difficult to say the least. Which doesn’t mean it’s wrong. David W. Kirkpatrick is a senior education fellow at the U.S. Freedom Foundation in Washington, DC and a senior fellow in education policy at The Buckeye Institute in Columbus, OH
Texas-size transparency by Brooke Rollins and Michael Quinn Sullivan
exas prides itself on being a leader and enjoys a reputation as a fiscally conservative, low tax state. Consider that the Lone Star State is one of nine states without a state income tax; consistently ranks among the states with the lowest per-capita spending (ranked 50th in the Tax Foundation ranking for 2005); and erased a 2003 budget shortfall of $10 billion by cutting spending, rather than raising taxes. Unfortunately, the budget scrutiny that took place in 2003 was short-lived. Since then, state spending has grown 35 percent. It is easy to get caught up in spending the people’s money if it seems that nobody is watching. In an effort to rein in the growth of the state budget, the Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF) and Texans for Fiscal Responsibility (TFR) teamed up to advance greater transparency in state and local government spending. Together we worked closely with members of the Texas Legislature and the state’s leadership to promote it, in addition to taking the issue directly to the taxpayers for their support. The combined efforts of TPPF and TFR led to significant success, as described below. More success is expected to follow, in Texas and elsewhere. According to SPN president Tracie Sharp, “This year, in the broadest effort in the history of the state think tank movement, 44 institutes in 42 states are spearheading government transparency efforts, pushing for top-to-bottom open government.”
A Foundation for Transparency
In 2003, the state legislature addressed a $10 billion budget shortfall by reprioritizing and reducing spending, rather than raising taxes. TPPF and others calling for reestablishing budget priorities argued that the budget shortfall was the result of a lack of fiscal discipline when times were good. With an improved budget picture in 2005, the TPPF argued for maintaining fiscal discipline and greater transparency in spending, including the posting of school district check registers online. Recognizing a need for greater budget discipline, the TPPF began working with the Governor’s office to promote transparency as a way to slow government’s growth. To move the issue forward with state legislators and leaders, the TPPF hired Talmadge Heflin, a former 22-year lawmaker who presided over the House Appropriations Committee in 2003 and provided the critical leadership to cut spending. Together, Heflin and thenTPPF chief economist Byron Schlomach pursued voluntary transparency efforts through the Office of the Governor and the Texas Education Agency. Once elected Comptroller, Susan Combs posted her office’s spending down to the penny within days of taking office. These early efforts and the committed leadership of Gov. Perry and Comptroller Combs established an important foundation for enacting greater transparency in the legislative process.
Transparency Passes the Texas Legislature
The proposal itself is simple: Make all state expenditures, contracts and grants accessible to the public online in plain English. It would need to be displayed per agency and searchable, allowing for cost comparisons and accountability. The legislation was originally filed in three separate parts: expenditures, grants and contracts. Those three were filed by Republican legislators. A fourth bill, filed by a Democrat, was more comprehensive but not as deep. The four pieces of legislation were merged into one bill with a strong, bipartisan list of joint authors and co-authors and sponsors in both chambers.
The legislation passed the Texas House with a unanimous vote. While the effort nearly stalled in the Senate, it eventually passed without a dissenting vote. Again, Comptroller Combs demonstrated a commitment to transparency by returning a fiscal note reporting no fiscal impact on the state budget for the total transparency package. Prior to and throughout the session, TPPF and TFR highlighted the transparency measure as a common sense reform. The bipartisan list of lawmakers associating their name with this effort underscored the popular support these lawmakers knew they would receive when returning home to their district after the session ended. To highlight the importance of the issue, TPPF and TFR each worked to promote transparency and its importance to lawmakers and the public. In addition to the research, publications and op-eds, TPPF spent a considerable amount of time in one-on-one meetings with legislators and staffers. In all, TPPF board members, leadership and staff (led by Heflin and Schlomach) made more than 100 individual contacts and meetings with policymakers. Further, the team met regularly with the legislation’s authors and co-authors as the bill moved through the House and Senate committees. As a 501(c)4, TFR also drew considerable public attention to the transparency legislation, most notably by sending mail to approximately 100,000 households in targeted legislative districts, garnering nearly 25,000 responses. Those responses, then, were the centerpiece of a Capitol press conference TFR and the bill sponsors had with Gov. Perry before the entire Texas press corps.
Implementing and Expanding Transparency
With the legislation signed into law, Comptroller Combs and her staff were tasked with compiling and presenting the information through the online database. Texas had previously begun the job of bringing the various state agencies into a uniform account coding system, and the transparency legislation accelerated the process. The database is now a permanent feature called “Where the Money Goes” on the Comptroller’s “Window On State Government” website, having gone live on Oct. 1, 2007. Of course, much of the explosive growth of spending by Texas government has occurred at the local level, and so those expenditures should be made public. Both TPPF and TFR are encouraging lawmakers and voters to extend transparency laws to counties, cities, school districts, special taxing districts and other quasigovernment entities.
Additionally, the “contract” section of the database should be expanded to include qualified bidders who were not awarded the contracts. This will allow additional levels of accountability in the contracting process.
Applicability in the Several States
It would be easy to suggest that Texas was only successful in passing transparency legislation because the state already enjoyed a relatively fiscally-conservative posture, but the overwhelming public support and bipartisan movement for this effort proves that legislators realize it is a winning issue. By bringing the issue to the public’s attention and working with lawmakers to prove it is possible, greater transparency in spending can be a reality in other states as well. Both TPPF and TFR track inputs and impact closely, recognizing that frequent contact and strong relationships with legislators give research legs, while creating a public interest in the story creates important pressure at home. From legislative contacts to speeches and media work, both organizations put a premium on seeing such efforts through to implementation. The legislative and executive support is easy to draw in with the right educational and advocacy efforts, but it is critical that those activities be targeted in the right voting constituencies, and not wasted on broad appeals. The legislative champions for transparency in Texas were lawmakers with young legislative careers and considerable energy and enthusiasm for accomplishment. TPPF and TFR worked closely with these legislators on this and other important issues over the last several years. . Any critique that this effort was simply a right-wing effort to embarrass state agencies was deflected by having several liberal legislators as early co-sponsors. Indeed, the left has often tended to be a stronger rhetorical proponent of open government than the right (with notable exceptions, of course). Open government is one thing few politicians are willing to publicly challenge. Thus, as in Texas, state think tanks that undertake the issue can achieve real policy results with transparency projects. Brooke Rollins is president of the Texas Public Policy Foundation, and Michael Quinn Sullivan is president of Texans for Fiscal Responsibility. They can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com, respectively.
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Thursday, June 26, 2008
The Role of Government—Leave us Alone!
Special Guest: Grover Norquist,
President of Americans for Tax Reform
Current Episode Available Online
Originally broadcast on Thursday, May 22, 2008
Topic: Education in Washington State
will be broadcast live the fourth Thursday of every month at 7:00 p.m. from EFF’s Media Studio in Olympia, Washington. For more information, please contact Juliana McMahan, Citizen Action Network Director, at JMcMahan@ effwa.org or 360-956-3482 or visit our website at www. FreedomMatters.tv.
Please visit our website at www.FreedomMatters.tv for: • Link to watch live program (available the fourth Thursday of each month at 7:00 p.m.)
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Climate Continued from page 1 . . . nuclear energy, indicates a lack of seriousness in solving the CO2 problem. France now generates almost 80% of its electricity using nuclear energy, and it also enjoys some of the cleanest air in the industrialized world. The single nuclear power plant in Washington, the Columbia Generating Plant, is now producing some of the lowest cost electricity in the state, at 3.2 cents per kw-hr. This is lower than cost of electricity from some of the Northwest’s hydroelectric dams. Is it the intention of the legislature to ration energy, increase energy costs, cripple industry and the economy, and destroy jobs? If so, say so. This bill will do so. Fifth, this bill does not mention that of all the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, water vapor represents about 95 percent of the total. Water vapor is involved with infrared absorption (heat), with cloud formation,
taxpayers know whether they are getting their money’s worth from the billions they will pay?
The Political Agenda
The agenda behind this massive movement is part of the continued effort initiated by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) nearly two decades ago. The agenda includes doing harm to the West in general and to the United States in particular. There at the famous 1992 Rio Conference, Maurice Strong, a major leader of the United Nations declared: “Isn’t the only hope for the planet that the industrialized civilizations collapse? Isn’t it our responsibility to bring that about?” This horrific agenda has been pushed, promoted, and embraced by many nations of the world. It has also been
“To suggest that the scientific basis for this legislation is sufficiently known to justify billions in new taxes is clearly not demonstrated. We don’t know the climate processes well enough to do so. No one does.” and with precipitation—all of which have large and poorly understood impacts on the climate. We don’t even know whether water vapor warms or cools the climate, let alone its magnitude. The omission of the effects of water vapor on the climate indicates a poor understanding of what a greenhouse gas is. To suggest that the scientific basis for this legislation is sufficiently known to justify billions in new taxes is clearly not demonstrated. We don’t know the climate processes well enough to do so. No one does. Sixth, as a general observation there are no provisions in the bill to provide transparency in the overall costs of implementing this program. There are few provisions of agency transparency, accountability, and notably there are no provisions to evaluate and distribute the cost/ benefit analyses incurred by the program. What will be the measurable benefits, if any, and how will you know unless you quantify them? How will the
promoted and embraced by a large fraction of the main stream media, not to mention Hollywood. Thoughts of even more Western billions being transferred to Third World despots seem irresistible, especially when Western governors are promoting it, including the State of Washington. There are major problems with the body of scientific research used as a basis for climate change legislation. One of them is the singular assumption that manmade CO2 is a major culprit, and must be limited. To disparage the important role of CO2, it is now redefined as a pollutant, instead of an essential life-giving material. CO2 is well known to be an essential chemical in the crucially important process of photosynthesis. This process assembles CO2 and water to produce lifegiving cellulose and precious oxygen. Nearly all plant life needs CO2, and nearly all animal life needs both the oxygen produced as well as the plant food containing
the cellulose. To proclaim CO2 as a pollutant is little more than an uninformed sneer. The promoters of warming have also redefined other terms to better suit their agendas. The term “global warming” has been changed to “climate change” to permit implicating man’s activities as the cause of nearly all sorts of natural disasters. These include hurricanes, tornados, blizzards, and recently obesity—honest. In 1994, ABC’s Ted Koppel showed himself to be an exception among media personalities in demanding that actual science be used in global warming issues. Al Gore had contacted Koppel to seek his aid to discredit some of Gore’s critics. Koppel concluded his interview with Al Gore by noting: “There is some irony in the fact that Vice President Gore—one of the most scientifically literate men to sit in the White House in this century——[is] resorting to political means to achieve what should ultimately be resolved on a purely scientific basis. The measure of good science is neither the politics of the scientist nor the people with whom the scientist associates. It is the immersion of hypotheses into the acid of truth. That’s the hard way to do it, but it’s the only way that works.” The Washington State governor has put an administrative muzzle on the public by forbidding any discussion of the science. The prevailing paradigm is “the science has spoken” or “The science debate is over”. In fact there has been too little debate, and way too much onerous, one-sided assertions, dominated with the belief that computer models actually produce evidence. They don’t. Michael R. Fox, Ph.D., is a retired nuclear scientist and university chemistry professor. He also is Senior Fellow, Science at the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii.
So, where do we go from here? by Chip Barron
here is something big going on in politics today. You can feel it can’t you? Something new yet solidly founded. Something unexpected yet sorely longed for. It’s something amazing to me. It is something that may be the last chance of survival for this fragile experiment in liberty we call the United States of America. I can feel it and I have seen it. What is going on is the reawakening of the revolutionary, individualist spirit in the hearts and minds of people all over the country. Not just the armchair whining about the slow creep to communism but the “That’s it! I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!” passion that gets men and women of honor and principle off of our butts. Of course there are reasons for this reawakening. Americans everywhere know that our spending, at all levels of government, is a grossly immoral inheritance we are leaving for our children and grandchildren. We are rapidly approaching 10 trillion dollars of debt at the federal level alone.. Americans everywhere know that something is deeply wrong with our monetary policy. The cat is out of the bag. Far too many of us know that inflation is not just prices rising but the deliberate devaluing of our money by the unelected Federal Reserve.
There is evidence everywhere of this reawakening. Since last summer more than 100,000 people have joined Meetup groups to support a candidate for president that says the Constitution IS his platform. We watched as a bill to allow illegal immigrants to buy off their crimes was defeated by a tidal wave sized outpouring of indignation. Caucuses, conventions and primaries have been overwhelmed by unexpectedly large turn-outs of folks that demand an end to corruption and the spending and regulatory excesses of our representatives. This is all good news. I, for one, have never been more hopeful about the prospects of liberty making a comeback here. But we need your help. Yes YOU. There are very good resources to facilitate your action. Our own Evergreen Freedom Foundation has a wonderful program called The Citizen Action Network (www.effcan.org). Get involved with your favorite local political party. I would also recommend Downsize DC (www.downsizedc.org) and The Sam Adams Alliance (www.samadamsalliance.org). Do not wait for someone else to do it. There is still far too few of us that appreciate liberty working or lobbying for that course of governance. I am done sitting on the sidelines and I am not alone. Please join us.
tree of liberty must
be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyr ants.
forbid we should ever be twenty years without such a rebellion; what country can preserve its liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance?”
– Thomas Jefferson to
William Stephens Smith, 1787