Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Hobby Lobby Slippery Slope

The issue of Hobby Lobby vs. Sibelius has brought many interesting issues to light.  The Displaced Plainsman examines the issue through the lens of the free market.  To me the issue of Hobby Lobby refusing to follow a law over religious objections is a slippery slope for corporations and businesses to not follow other governmental mandates because of a religious exemption claim.  

One step toward the downhill slide of the slippery slope is the idea that non-religious corporations can be granted religious protections.  Amy Davidson with The New Yorker wrote back in 2013, 

The other way to look at it is that Hobby Lobby is making a broad claim, not a narrow one, about the character of contraceptive coverage: that it is different, that it is distinctly more of a religious question than a health one. In this sense, the Hobby Lobby case is about whether the Supreme Court will privilege a particular set of religious beliefs about contraception. 
Hobby Lobby argues that the law already grants exemption to religious institutions, like churches; the Administration has even come up with a work-around for religiously affiliated entities, like Catholic hospitals, in which the payment for contraception is essentially made by the insurance company. Why can’t it have one, too? There is also a well-developed definition of what a religious organization is, which Hobby Lobby doesn’t meet (and of a corporation, which it benefits from). It might as well ask why it can’t choose which taxes it does and doesn’t pay. Congress made a choice, largely political, and also guided by a couple of centuries of constitutional history, about what could and should be asked of religious organizations. It didn’t just ask every synagogue, mosque, and church what it was and wasn’t willing to cover.  (emphasis is mine)
It seems that one justice in particular is taking up mantle that all corporations are religious human beings that should have their rights protected.  Justice Alito asks the question and gets the response as reported on NPR (probably one of the best places for Supreme Court coverage on radio or TV):
Alito focused on a different question: Why for-profit corporations should be barred from making claims that their religious rights are being infringed. "You say they can't ever get their day in court?" 
He was told by the government that precedent has been clear that business are not given the same religious protections when it comes to exemptions from certain laws.  Justice Elena Kagan sees the danger in Alito's thinking (from the same NPR report)
Justice Elena Kagan observed that using that reasoning, an employer might have a religious objection to complying with sex discrimination laws, minimum wage laws, family leave laws and child labor laws, to name just a few. 
So, I guess that businesses all over will hope for the Supreme Court's ruling.  It means that now they will be able to turn the rights of workers back to the early 1800's.  That would only be the Christian thing to do. 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Latterell Is Full of a Lot of (Confusing) Talk and Little Explanation

I consider Isaac Latterell to be one of the far more right Republicans in the State.  A person that would probably make Phil Jensen proud.  His focus is not really on the people of District 6, but more on making a conservative name for himself on issues involving the actions of the federal government and passing anti-abortion bills that are unenforceable and would have no impact on the number of abortions in South Dakota.  A person that seems to follow the edicts of Rand Paul.  However his latest stand against corporate financing in politics very interesting; confusing, but interesting.

In his latest blog entry, Latterell posts that there needs to be more money in politics.  First he talks about the evils of lobbyist and how they spend too much money in Pierre to buy your vote and pass laws that benefit the corporations or get funding for special actions that occur outside of the normal system.  This is interesting since he still has not explained why he voted for a pork laden hog-housed bill that spent around 2.5 million in a 100% unconstitutional fashion. The question is sitting on his blog waiting for an answer.

Then he talks about why there should be more money from the average voter and less from PACS and special interest groups.

The answer surprised me, and is the reason I confidently state that there is not enough money in politics. With 105 legislative positions in the state, less than $1 million was spent on all campaigns to elect them–whereas millions are spent each year on ads and lobbyists for these special-interest laws. 
Where would you guess this small amount of money that is spent on candidate campaigns comes from? If you said the people they represent, I’m sorry–that’s rarely the case. One typical candidate report I just looked at showed that only 11% came from regular individual contributors. The vast majority came from special interest groups who have paid lobbyists.
This is a confusing statement considering when you look at where Mr. Latterell received most of his funding. $1,500 from Jim Latterell, $1,500 from Don Frisco, Xcel, SD Realtors, SD Corn Growers, SD Ethanol, and Black Hill Home Builders PAC is not exactly going around to District 6 voters and asking for financial support.  

His solution to the problem:  Write him a paycheck or hire your own lobbyist

To be clear, I do not think increasing salaries is the answer. What I am advocating for is a group of people in the district gathering together on a set of clear principles, and contributing 1% of their income to good government. They could hire a lobbyist who will work for their principles and actually answer to them.

We don’t want special interest money to be the dominant force in politics, because we all ultimately work for whoever signs our checks. We can’t have our politicians spending 40% of our income but receiving the majority of their contributions from special interests. Because when it comes to government, you get what you pay for–and right now, someone else is paying!

That’s why I say there’s not enough of our money in politics. If we as individuals would voluntarily spend even $10 a month on good government, hiring lobbyists or candidates instead of them coming to us, we would overwhelm the special interest money (both federal and state), and have people in Pierre and Washington not just claiming to work for us, they would literally work for us.
 He is right in one area.  We need to take more responsibility in whom we send to Pierre.  It is never a good thing to be left with candidates like Isaac Latterell, who are the only ones left running, and not people whose primary concern is the people of his or her district over scoring political points.  I am glad to hear that Mr. Latterell is willing to stand up against PAC money or money from special interest corporate groups.  I am sure he will accept none of it this election cycle.

Monday, March 17, 2014

#Mcconneling for a Laugh

If you have not heard of the latest internet craze, John Stewart threw down the gauntlet after discovering a 2 minute and 22 second "B" roll of McConnell for PACS to use later.  There was no sound other than a cheesy soundtrack, and John Stewart discovered that you could add basically any song to it for great fun.  I wanted to share two that I just love with everyone.  Happy St. Patrick's Day to everyone, and I hope you get a little laugh.

Adopt Stupid Senators: This one is a special version with the creator going above and beyond.

This next one makes my children laugh out loud every time:

(ARRRGGG.  I can't get it to work.  You will have to just click on the link.  Sorry.


Saturday, March 15, 2014

Montgomery Is Right, the Republican's Priority Is Not Education

There has always been a lot of talk from Republicans in Pierre about how they love education, but it has always been more talk than action.  From Daugaard's promise that education would receive the first and last dollars under his administration (even with the legislature going above the Governor's original 1.6% that was adjusted to 3% after he had an opponent, it is still not up to the 2011 levels), to Republicans that pat themselves on the back when they do anything for education and in the next voice claim that there is simply no money to give to education.

Rep. Fred Romkema, R-Spearfish, said lawmakers gave schools as much money as the state had left over. 
"The target this year was $4,804 for the public schools. We almost split the difference," Romkema said. "We only have so much money to spend, and I think we made a good faith effort here to get halfway there. I think we should be commended for that, and not leave here with some guilty feelings."
That seems to always be the response.  I asked Senator Otten from District 6 that if you never look for additional funds and actually cut back on revenue, how will you ever be able to increase the funding for education to a level that everyone says is important.  No real answer could be given, except that money is not the answer to improving education.  People will always want more money.  (Darn those teachers for wanting to eat.)

That is exactly the problem.  You can't claim education is a priority if it is the last thing you deal with.  David Montgomery with the Argus Leader makes that observation on his blog Political Smokeout: 
The comments reflect a philosophical dispute about budgeting process. Here’s what I surmise from observing the budget process for a number of years: Generally speaking, Democrats would say school funding is their top priority, fund it at the level needed, and then build the rest of the budget around that priority. Republicans look at school funding as just one of a number of priorities in a complicated budget, not one that necessarily gets primacy. That means lawmakers determine how much money is available and then allocate a portion to schools, rather than determining how much money schools need first and allocating the rest of the money to other areas. [emphasis is mine]
I appreciate the increase, but it will be meaningless if Republicans are doing this simply because it is an election year.  Maybe this is a small step in the right direction of making education a priority, but when you include cuts to programs like JAG and past laws passed by the Governor and the Republicans, I am not holding my breath.  

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Religion and Abortion

Lately there has been a lot of attacks being thrown at Representative Tyler for some comments made over an bill that would deny abortions based on sex-selection or to prevent the birth of a child with down syndrome.  People have sunk to the lows of calling her a liar and I am sure other nasty names.  In her heartfelt and emotional response to the debate of the bill, the Representative made several valid points.  One of which never really gets answered: the law is unenforceable.  There is no way to really determine the reasoning why a woman would have the abortion because she could provide any reason for it.  This is a feel-good piece of legislation that will have zero impact on the number of abortions performed in this state.  ZERO.

They also ignore the fact that Representative Tyler never voted on the bill since it was denied by several Right to Life proponents.  As Tyler posted in Madville Times:
I did not vote on the bill--it never made it to the House floor. It was voted down by the RTF life members of the committee. In fact RTL did not testify--they were told to leave this bill alone. And, as I have said may times, if anyone wants to know why I voted any way...just ask!
One other comment made by Representative Tyler is that her priest discussed with her why he believed that Jesus would have been pro-choice.  Apparently, this has people all over the country wanting to attack Representative Tyler.  The Dakota War College reports that a "national" right to life organization has picked up on the story.  In the story, they asked Representative Tyler's priest if he said that abortion was okay, (by the way Representative Tyler in no way said abortion was okay and specifically said, "I got after that — we have free will — and there is no way I would ever urge anyone to have an abortion.")  In response to the question of support for abortion, the Father stated:
Please understand that I am NOT in anyway supportive of any type of abortion. My conversation with Representative Tyler was in reference to free will. God gave us the choice to choose life or death — with the consequences of our choices.
To me that is exactly what Representative Tyler was talking about: free-will to make choices.  The religious views of abortion and the politics of abortion are mixed up and they shouldn't be.  The focus of legislating against free-will is one of the most ineffective methods of trying to prevent something.  Jesus gave us a clear model for us to follow: Don't condemn, don't belittle, don't cast the first stone, but instead learn to walk with the person.  If our focus were to begin to walk side by side with others instead of rule over them, then we would have a real impact on ending the "sin."  Jesus talks much more about loving and caring for another instead of the need for laws to restrict free-will.  I think one of the strongest verses on this subject is from Romans 14: 1-23:
As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand. One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind.
I wonder how many of the people passing this legislation have really walked with women that are considering abortions.  I wonder how many have spent real time getting to now their stories.  I wonder how many of them have offered support and kindness without bringing in their judgement for these women.  If they had, maybe there would be less need for abortions in this world.  If they had legislated like Jesus, maybe there would be fewer women considering and agonizing over the idea of needing an abortion in the first place.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Isaac's Got Some Explaining To Do

Isaac Latterell loves to come off as a defender of the Constitution, but he seems to have a real problem following the US Constitution or the South Dakota Constitution.  Cory Heidelberger reports on his blog, Madville Times, that the House violated the constitution in their action to fill a bill with "pork barrel" funding.  As Cory explains, the funding includes $1,000,000 for Lewis and Clark (which several Republicans get angry about in Washington as "earmark" spending), $500,000 for REPI, $500,000 to improve airports, and $464,000 to the School of Mines to go after shale oil research.

Both Isaac Latterell and Herman Otten voted for this unconstitutional amendment the first time, to reconsider the failed action, and then the final time to pass it.  I am not sure their angle in the whole process?  Was this out of concern to get money for the Lewis and Clark project (a million is barely enough to keep it operational and would not expand it) or did the Tea airport need some improvements?  Maybe they were promised something in their closed meetings that we will never know.  Whatever the reasons, good or otherwise, they should have followed the correct path.  They should have had a full hearing and been brought out into the light.

Isaac should explain how his actions follow the principals he "claims" to follow:
Corruption and Disloyalty to the Constitution and to the People Must Never Be ToleratedWe need to stop voting for politicians who will enrich themselves or their friends at the expense of other people. Government is not a career to pursue when you want to control other people or can’t make money fairly. We have to be so serious about requiring loyalty to the constitution that disingenuous, self-serving politicians will be afraid to run. Because we have been asleep at the wheel, politics has attracted the wrong kind of people. If We the People wake up and start asking the right questions, taking our duty as king seriously, good politicians won’t need millions of dollars and slick advertisements to get elected.
I can agree with you on this Mr. Latterell, we don't need someone in Pierre that can't follow the State Constitution.  We don't need someone that won't be open and honest in the process.  We don't need the wrong kind of person that says do what I say and not what I do.  We don't need your kind of actions in Pierre.