In metro St. Louis many municipalities seem to be farming the public. They issue questionable citations, with large fines and stack on fees. This video gives a great explanation.
What needs to be done to change the practice of farming the public (especially the poor) for fines? What type of initiative would you propose?
The Rio Rancho, New Mexico city council thinks the car you’re driving should be forfeit if you are arrested for drunk driving. Most of us would expect a trial first, and perhaps if you’re driving another person’s car they should get a chance to contend the forfeiture. Fortunately, Todd Hathore is stepping up to defend the idea that we’re innocent until proven guilty. Todd has organized a referendum petition drive to let voters decide this issue. It requires signatures from 10% of the registered voters to call a referendum vote in Rio Rancho, hopefully some additional citizens will stand with Todd and insist on a trial before punishment.
Innocent until proven guilty? Maybe.
However, your property is not innocent until proven guilty.
Current state law allows the Michigan State Police and other law enforcement agencies to raid a home, confiscate property, sell it, and deposit the money in the department coffers all without a conviction but merely on suspicion that drug violations occurred.
Unfortunately this is not a Michigan issue. It’s become more and more common as a result of the federal government’s war on drugs. There is good news, several states have introduced legislation to restrict government’s ability to grab property without a conviction.
Representative Jeff Irwin in Michigan introduced a bill to prohibit forfeiture of property by law enforcement unless a person is convicted of a crime. HB4361
Also New Mexico HB0560
New Mexico police must now convict you of a crime and prove your property was used in the crime before you forfeit it to the authorities. Also, the money gained from the property will now go to the state’s general fund instead of police budgets, so that police do not have incentives to take from citizens.
Additional bills have been introduced in: Texas, Oklahoma, Maryland, Indiana (transparency only but a step in the right direction), and Florida.
It’s not all good news, bills to reform asset forfeiture have been shut down in: Virgina, Wyoming, and Colorado.
A bill to expand the government’s power to seize your property has been introduced in California.
Several groups are working to stop government from using asset forfeiture to encroach on property rights. For more info I recommend Americans For Forfeiture Reform.
President Obama suggested mandatory voting as a counter to money in politics.
How does that work in places where it’s been tried?
Brazil elected a clown.
Can mandatory voting get money out of politics? No.
What will get money out of politics? Two things, reducing government’s influence and reducing government spending. As long as government spends money, people will lobby to get a piece of the pie. You can see this in township and village government all the way to federal government. The only difference is how much people are willing to spend, and that is directly connected to the size of the contracts to be gained. Government’s influence is creating laws that impact businesses and individuals. In both of these examples the bigger the government the more money is spent to influence politicians.
Forcing people to vote is likely to increase not decrease the amount of money in politics.
A Nebraska bill to undo a draconian pay-per-signature ban advanced (38-0) in the Unicameral Wednesday. There has been only one (minimum wage increase) successful statewide petition drive since the signature ban was created. The bill was introduced by Senator Mike Groene of North Platte, Nebraska.
Activist newly elected senator Mike Groene
“Pay-per-signature actually helps prevent fraud because petition organizers would double check signatures for validity before paying workers,” Groene said.
From Citizens In Charge Foundation ( a 501 (c) (4) citizen-powered advocacy organization that serves as a partner to Citizens in Charge Foundation in protecting and expanding the initiative and referendum process.)
Other arguments for and against pay-per-signature are available at ballotpedia.org
Transparent government is a popular issue. Unless you’re in power.
On Tuesday, the White House published a notice in the Federal Register, deleting the regulation that required the Office of Administration to be subject to public information requests, which would have required a response under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
The Office of Administration is made up of seven offices that are in charge of overseeing the general administration of the entire Executive Office.
This is a much different take than we would expect from a representative government.
An example of good policy can be found in Asheville, North Carolina.
Transparent access is an essential duty for those in public service. “We have a very strong commitment to providing access to information,” says Scott Barnwell, a member of the Code for Asheville brigade and an employee for the Asheville IT services department. “From our perspective, it’s not just about following local and state statutes, but taking them a step further towards more accessibility. It’s providing what the people want.”
The more power politicians have and the longer they have that power, the less they seek to serve the public and the more they seek to enshrine their power.
Political issues at the municipal level can be very interesting. You have all the typical issues; term limits, minimum wage, marijuana legalization. Occasionally new ideas pop into the mix. Some catch on, and some fizzle.
Here are a few recent issues:
In response to a petition to shave a public vote before allowing zoning variances in Aspen, Colorado the city council is stopping all variances. Zoning is one issue that is consistently blocked from the initiative process.
Voters won’t have a chance to overturn a smoking ban in St Joseph, MO. Proponents withdrew their request to the city council after failing to gather enough signatures to appear on the ballot.
Voters in Brattleboro, Vermont recently turned down an amendment to lower the voting age to 16 for city elections. Now the issue is up for discussion in San Francisco.
It’s the season. In many places those jokers who won the popularity contests last election day are up to no good.
A “Citizens Commission” in Arkansans has just raised legislator pay by more than double. It seems as though the last 30 days of public comment was a sham.
The commission has received dozens of emails objecting to the pay raises, including criticism that the move would create a full-time Legislature and that the pay hikes dwarf the cost-of-living raises that state employees receive.
“I don’t know how the commission can ignore that,” said Commissioner Stuart Hill, who also voted against the raises.
Vice Chairman Chuck Banks said he didn’t believe the commission was ignoring the public reaction to the raises.
“I personally am quite proud we were able to get focused, get on it and do like the citizens expected us to do, and get up here and get the job done and go home,” Banks said.
Buckeye residents are being fed a line of bull about how they really need career politicians.
Mainers can watch as their poster-boy career politician tries to increase his pay and extend his time in office.
Other places where politician pay raises have happened or are in the works:
“The Utah Legislature passed a bill that would pay the state’s top executive $150,000 a year, a nearly 37 percent increase.”
“OLYMPIA, Wash. – Members of the Washington state Legislature may receive an 11% raise over the next few years. The governor is looking at a 4% raise”
Wyoming, “Senate File 116 would increase legislative pay from $150 per day to $175 per day. The raise would be the first for legislators since 2005.”
South Dakota voted down a raise. “SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO AM) – The Senate Local Government Committee today defeated a bill tying legislator’s pay to across-the-board increases to state employee’s salaries.”
Pensions are going back on the ballot in Phoenix, the third time 4 years.
Phoenix has pension problems. The city employees pension system is seriously underfunded. It all comes down to math and politics. Numbers don’t lie but politicians do. To avoid owning up to the pension problem the city council is sending another short term fix to the voters.
Phoenix voters were asked in 2012 to approve a pension reform package. The 2012 package resulted in new hires paying half of the required pension contribution. A good idea, but because the pension fund is seriously underfunded the annual required contribution is higher than it has been in past years. This resulted in new hires being required to contribute 15% of their pay to the pension fund (it’s expected to go up even more,) this is on top of social security withholding and other paycheck deductions.
In 2014 petitions were collected for a ballot initiative to require new employees be enrolled in a 401k style defined contribution system. The city council opposed the measure and wrote a deceptive ballot title. Police and fire fighters who would not have been impacted by the measure campaigned against it. Measure 487 was defeated last November.
Now the city council is proposing another pension reform ballot question. The new proposal will cap pensionable income for new employees at $125,000 per year, and cap employee contributions to the pension system at 11%. This is not going to fix the problem. Unfortunately for taxpayers, politicians are more interested in kicking the can down the road than providing a sustainable retirement option to city employees.