Farming The Poor Via Municipal Court

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?

 

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Filed under asset forfeiture, Ballot measures, Ballot Question, Initiative, politicians, transparency

Rio Rancho Doesn’t Care About A Trial

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.

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Filed under Ballot measures, Ballot Question, Initiative, referendum, Uncategorized

Innocent Until Proven Guilty

Innocent until proven guilty? Maybe.

However, your property is not innocent until proven guilty.

From Michigan:

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.

 

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Filed under asset forfeiture, politicians, transparency

I’m Just Here So I Won’t Get Fined

fined

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.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

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Unicameral Likely to Undo Pay-Per-Signature Ban

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.

Mike Groene  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.)

Pay-Per-Signature Bans

 Several states –including Alaska, Colorado, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Oregon and Wyoming – ban or restrict paying people who collect signatures on a ballot initiative, referendum or recall petition based on the number of signatures they collect.  Payment-per-signature allows citizens greater certainty in judging the cost of a petition effort. Moreover, in states that have passed such bans, the cost of successfully completing a petition drive has risen considerably, sometimes more than doubling.

Other arguments for and against pay-per-signature are available at ballotpedia.org

 

 

 

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Filed under Ballot measures, Ballot Question, Initiative, Petition Drive, politicians

To See Or Not To See

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.

transparency2This 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.

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Recent Issues

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.

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Ballot measures, Ballot Question, Initiative, politicians

They Want It All Money and Power

It’s the season. In many places those jokers who won the popularity contests last election day are up to no good.

pigs
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.

 

MP2

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.

MP1

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.”

 

 

 

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Filed under Arkansas Term Limits, politicians

What Does The Public Think

The Arkansas Independent Citizens Commission (7 political appointees,) was recently formed to evaluate pay for Arkansas’ elected officials. They have decided to give the politicians a 1.5x raise. The commission has been taking public comments, here are some samples: (Some editing issues have resulted in misspellings and poor punctuation as I cut and pasted the comments, attribute those errors to me and not the public commenters.)

“How stupid! I taught 40 years and barely made 40000 when I retired. This included a 60 plus hour work week.You all should be ashamed to use tax dollars for this increase for only a part time job. I could understand a raise of 2 or 3 percent but a raise of this size is absurd. I know that all teachers and state employees would like to have a nice raise also!”

plebs1

“I do not take the Sunday Democrat Gazette but a friend who does told me about the proposed salary increases for state legislators, governor, judges, etc. I was sure she had the facts wrong since I knew the legislature was in session every other year for only 60 days. I also know that most senators and representatives have either retired from the work force or still hold a position in some kind of business for which they are well compensated. They return to a paying job when the legislature adjourns. As the legislators work only 2 months or one-sixth of a year the pro rated salaries would be $236, 400.00! So, I did some searching online and found the proposal for the salary increases. I am 67 years old and worked as an RN 40 plus hours a week for 20 years. Then, my husband and I opened a retail store which became quite successful, but, we both worked 14 hours a day seven days a week to insure that success. Right now, I am actually sick to my stomach after reading the recommendations. Little did I know when I voted for the constitutional amendment to create this commission that I was opening up the state treasury to be looted by our elected officials. A sad day for Arkansas.”

peasant1

“I do feel as if the last increase for State employees being only one percent was at best insulting. State employees work hard for every dollar that we earn and the cost of living, as well as minimum wage has went up and minimum wage went up more than one percent so why did the States wages not. I know that at our level we can do better than this and would hope that someone would stand up and fight for us. Thank you for listening,.”

 

“I do not believe that anyone at the higher end of state level i.e. the governor almost doubling his salary is a joke. This is opposed by so many voting Arkansas that it should not pass. This is an outrage to anyone has ever voted an elected official in to office and who do you people that are asking for these increases think you are. I work for the state for DHS and we got a 1% cost of living increase so that the jokers on the hill can almost double their salaries. If this goes through I will not vote anyone that is an elected official at this time back into office so enjoy our pay bump because if it’s in my power you will not see another one as you will no longer be in office.”

 

plebs2

“I’ve was against this issue when it came up last year. I’m against your recommendations now. Not only was the Ballot #3 title/synopsis at the voting booth deceptive so is your 5-state comparison now. Tennessee is in sessio45 days a year, Louisiana 65, Iowa 110, Oklahoma 120 and Missouri 150. Arkansas averaged is 30 days a year Except for Iowa their population is 2 and 3 times that of Arkansas. Do you think this ballot issue would have passed if the terminology at the voting booth had read “increase the legislature’s term limits” instead of setting term limits? Or a bill to “increase the pay of our elected officials?”In the executive branch, do you think we could get the Governor to buy his own groceries, do his own cooking, drive himself to and from work and reduce the expense of the plush Governor’s Mansion we put him in if we raise him from $87,000 to $140,000 annually? In conclusion I think our General Assembly should have the intestinal fortitude to make these salary/expense decisions. Not an autonomous 7-member committee they hand pick.”

lietous

“I am AGAINST the proposed pay increase for Arkansas legislators. While many Arkansas programs that benefit children, families, veterans, and the elderly are constantly being asked to “cut back” because there is “not enough money”, you request that your pay is more than doubled for part-time public service? Most working professional in the State are being looked over for cost of living raises year after year, and when it is received, it is likely 1.52%! Arkansas social workers, DCFS employees, teachers, and mental health therapists working in Community Mental Health Centers, all with bachelors degrees and many with Master’s degrees, do not make $39,400. per year working 50-60 hours per week, many times 7 days/week, all year long! Additionally, DCFS CPS workers are imbursed for mileage at 0.42/mile. Why do legislators receive 15 more cents per mile than the DCFS workers running the city streets and back roads of the state every day of the week? This proposal is a slap in the face to hard working Arkansans and will not stand. It is shameful! Please reconsider.”

 

“I am opposed to the salary increases. I do not believe the amount of salary indicates the level of intelligence you will get through an elected official. I think the higher salary could be the deciding factor to run for an office opposed to the desire to help the people in the great state of Arkansas. Do not insult the majority of the working people by voting yourselves a raise that most of us haven’t had in years.”

peasant2

“Hello… I think you all know the TAXPAYER VOTERS were DECEIVED with issue 3 . I hope you all will take into consideration that TAXPAYERS were deceived with issue 3. I think most TAXPAYERS would be very happy if the whole thing was trashed and let the elected officials but the panel on the ballot in 2016 by its self. Also do the term limits the same way. The AMERICAN and ARKANSAS people are so fed up with being DECEIVED FROM WASHINGTON TO LITTLE ROCK. I for one hope the voters will trow the whole bunch out and start over.”

 

plebs4

 

One in favor

“You have been tasked with a decision that is uber political and will incite strong opinions from both sides. Thank you for your willingness to take this on.I fully support your findings! There are tons of folks that have life experiences that would be invaluable in state offices – whether the legislature or other offices -that simply can’t afford the sacrifice. Literally.The changes you have proposed will hopefully encourage business owners, general workers and folks with great plans for the state that otherwise couldn’t afford to be elected and forgo their pay an opportunity to serve.Arkansas does not have “lifelong politicians”, rather, we have elected volunteers. Let’s encourage the best of the best to volunteer to serve.Thank you for your due diligence. Let’s resemble our comparable states. That is our best bet to move AR forward.”

paidfornowork

Another asking for the Supreme Court to be paid an additional 20k annually.

 

“It never ceases to amaze me at the sheer ludicrous ideas that you people come up with. First, in comparing us to  surrounding states, you leave out the one that more closely matches us and has been our constant companion in the cellar of just about everything, Mississippi. Secondly, these “public servants” do not do this for the money, but for the “honor” of being able to serve the public. The only people that can actually be a legislator are retired people, owners of their own business or farms and lawyers. There are a few other exceptions, but the point is that your regular worker’s boss is not going to let them off for 60 days to vote on the state’s business. This is a part-time job. The salary needs to reflect that. If you need to suggest raises, then why not try your state employees, that’s the backbone of our Arkansas government.”

 

plebs3

 

Additional comments can be read here.

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Filed under Arkansas Term Limits, politicians

Phoenix Pensions On The Ballot Again

voteagain

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.

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Filed under Ballot measures, Ballot Question, pension