initiative, referendum, and recall

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Two-Thirds to Raise Taxes

Thursday, January 22nd, 2015

You can’t keep a good Eyman down.

“Who says politicians don’t listen?” asked Tim Eyman in a recent email to his Washington State supporters.

“OK, you got me: we normally do. ;)  But not today.”

Pleased as punch, Eyman announced the resurrection of the two-thirds requirement for legislators to raise taxes. Three times voters have passed initiatives promoted by Mr. Eyman mandating a 2/3 legislative vote or a vote of the people before taxes can rise — in 2007, 2010 and again in 2012, the last two times by a whopping 64 percent vote.

But in 2013, the state supreme court ruled voters could not so limit their state legislature, short of a constitutional amendment. And — you guessed it — the Evergreen State lacks a statewide initiative process for voters to amend the constitution . . . without the permission of their legislators.

Eyman was blocked; the voters thwarted. Legislators could go back to raising taxes as usual.

Not so fast!

Enter State Sen. Mike Baumgartner (R-Spokane), who helped motivate a narrow GOP majority to pass a new Senate rule, 26-23, that no new tax may pass the chamber without garnering a 2/3 vote.

Democrats are livid. “Going around the voters is not only disingenuous,” bemoaned Washington State Democrats Chairman Jaxon Ravens, “it is wrong.”

Going around the voters? Really? It must have slipped his mind that “the voters” had previously voted (and been thwarted) three times.

“[H]as the Senate already nullified any attempt by Gov. Jay Inslee to create a carbon emissions charge or a capital gains tax — solely by rearranging its own internal rules?” asked John Strang at Crosscut.com.

Yes is the answer from those pesky voters.

And from their representatives who listen.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

The Year You Made Us More Free

Thursday, January 1st, 2015

More important than which party controls the U.S. Senate, or which nine people don Supreme Court robes, or even who will be elected president of these United States come 2016, is something much more within our individual and collective control: what you and I do to protect and advance liberty.

From this date — Jan.1, 2015 — forward, let us never wait for a political savior to ride in on a white horse. We cannot wait.

And we don’t have to.

In fact, only through “We the People” taking the leadership role can a pro-liberty agenda be established. Politicians won’t do it for us, not consistently.

Yet, the few might follow our good lead.

And we can hopefully make all politicians respond to the issues that define the future of freedom.

Starting right now, as president of the Liberty Initiative Fund, I ask you: join me in placing a three-plank pro-liberty platform on state and local ballots and, thereby into law and government policy across the country, between now and November 8, 2016.

Hold government accountable. Pass term limits in more cities and states. Fix out-of-control public employee pensions. Enact ethics reforms.

Fight crony capitalism. Create a voter check on public subsidies. Protect citizens from eminent domain abuse. Open up business entry.

Protect our liberties. Clean up law enforcement with measures that stop the highway robbery known as civil asset forfeiture, require police to wear lapel cameras, and mandate independent prosecutors in fatal or violent incidents involving police.

We can create better government, a freer marketplace and a safer society.

Gandhi said: “We must become the changes we seek in the world.”

I say, “At least, let’s put our changes on the ballot and give them a fighting chance.”

There will never be a patronage army for liberty. But there is you and me. And since we agree . . . we might be able do something about it.

We’re strong enough to start.

These battles appeal to libertarians, conservatives, liberals, progressives.

I’m reminded of Patrick Henry’s 1775 “Give Me Liberty” speech:

They tell us, sir, that we are weak; unable to cope with so formidable an adversary. But when shall we be stronger? Will it be the next week, or the next year? Will it be when we are totally disarmed, and when a British guard shall be stationed in every house? . . .

Sir, we are not weak if we make a proper use of those means which the God of nature hath placed in our power. The millions of people, armed in the holy cause of liberty, and in such a country as that which we possess, are invincible by any force which our enemy can send against us.

Mr. Henry was talking about cataclysmic historical forces, the defeat of the world’s foremost empire. So are we, in a way.

This nation of shopkeepers, the common folks with common sense and common decency, must again battle the Empire of Big Government. And let me advance the notion that we are up to that awesome task.

Every New Year’s Day I reflect on the words of author and politician, Marianne Williamson, who in her book, Return to Love, wrote:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

Let’s work together to make 2015 the year we helped create an America more free. Call me (571-659-2320) or email me (paul@libertyifund.org) if you want to take action in your city or state.

Or help by contributing funds to others working all across the country.

Oh, wait! Don’t call me today; I’m watching college football. But please call me (or email) tomorrow, Friday, Jan. 2, 2015. If I’m busy, or talking to someone who dialed me a minute earlier, leave a message (that’s just, ahem, common sense) — I’ll call you back.

Let’s take charge and usher in change together, at the grassroots, this year.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

Bailing Out Topeka

Friday, December 12th, 2014

Back in August, the city council in Topeka, Kansas, voted to expand a redevelopment district and purchase Heartland Park Topeka, a “multi-purpose motorsports facility” featuring drag racing, dirt racing and more.

Chris Imming wasn’t keen on the notion. He put together an initiative petition calling for a public vote. Topeka townspeople eagerly signed it.

Taking this as a cue, did the city officialdom welcome this vibrant exercise of basic American democracy? Did they ready themselves for that election?

Afraid not.

Instead, the city sued to block a vote on the issue.

A local judge sided with the insiders, ruling in the city’s favor. The development decision was administrative in nature, the Robed One determined, not legislative. That made it beyond reach of the citizen initiative process.

Both the judge’s designation of “administrative”  and his rationale for exemption from a citizens’ veto seem more than dubious. Clearly, “the people” should be able to overrule any decision made by the city council, which is established for the express purpose of representing the views of “the people.”

Kudos to Mr. Imming for appealing that lower court decision. Thank goodness for folks like him, folks who stand up against the powerful public and private forces always looking for a bailout or a subsidy.

“We’re bailing out the city,” argues Doug Gerber, Topeka’s administrative and financial director. He cites the city’s previous redevelopment district, which annually costs a cool million dollars in bond service, while bringing in only a fifth of that in sales tax revenue.

So politicians want to double down, to cover their past rotten wheeling and dealing by . . . expanding it.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

Automatic Tax Hike Nixed

Wednesday, November 12th, 2014

The contest? Uneven, in a sense. My side was outspent more than 17 to one.

But, in another sense, the odds were closer, maybe even on my side.

Well, our side.

That is, Liberty Initiative Fund, my 501(c)(4) outfit, was the largest contributor to a referendum campaign in Massachusetts.

In 2013, the legislature had passed a bill to turn a fuel tax of 24 cents per gallon into a more permanent rate structure, increasing the tax every year as the Consumer Price Index rose.

Citizens of “Taxachusetts” objected to the idea of automating tax hikes. Perhaps thinking about their wallets, they were hardly amused by their state government piling further taxes on whenever prices, including fuel prices, rose. It’s one thing to have to pay more when supplies get tight or demand bids up prices, making gasoline and diesel more expensive. But why pay extra to the government?

Automatically. Without a legislative vote on the record.

So citizens petitioned to have the law referred to a general vote. The measure became Question 1 on last week’s ballot.

It won with a 53 percent majority. The automatic tax hike was nixed.

So, who outspent us? Who wanted the permanent, automatic tax hike? The extra tax revenues, I wrote before the election, “are slated to go toward road construction and maintenance in the Bay State. And — surprise, surprise — the biggest opponents of Question 1 are construction companies doing business with the state.”

But, despite special interests dumping tons of money, citizens won.

The money spent by Liberty Initiative Fund was leveraged effectively. Because, on issues like this, siding with the people is no long shot.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

Burkina Faso and Arkansas

Monday, November 3rd, 2014

Maybe Burkina Faso, in northwest Africa between Mali and Niger, isn’t the easiest “Jeopardy” question for most of us in the U.S. But any place that’s seen massive protests because the head of state tried to escape term limits becomes pretty memorable to me.

In fact, the first region that pops into my head as a point of comparison and contrast is my own home state of Arkansas.

There are big differences in the respective battles over term limits, of course. In Burkina Faso, thousands clogged the streets after the 27-year presidential incumbent, Blaise Compaore, schemed to evade a constitutional term limit on his office. Facing unrelenting pressure, Compaore soon stepped down, not even awaiting the next election.

The furtive attempt to water down state legislative term limits in Arkansas hasn’t gotten as high on the radar there as the machinations in Burkina Faso. But the folks at Arkansas Term Limits (“vote AGAINST Issue #3”) have done much to publicize the scam, taking a wooden Trojan horse from town to town to vivify the point that the politicians bearing the “gift” of suspiciously eager self-reform have hidden a bomb at the bottom of the package: a doubling (or more) of their maximum permitted stay in a single legislative seat.

The media has started to pay attention. The story has gotten out.

Has it been enough? Have enough voters been reached to fend off the assault? When Tuesday’s results come in, we’ll know.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

Of Wolves and Politicians

Friday, October 24th, 2014

Should Michigan’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR) create a wolf-hunting season? That question will be on the statewide ballot this November.

Twice.

Twice? Yes, voters will decide two separate referendums: Proposal 1 and Proposal 2. And yet, voters may not actually determine with either vote whether there will be a wolf hunt.

What’s going on has less to do with killing wolves than it does with politicians butchering democratic checks to their power.

Until 2012, wolves were a federally protected endangered species. Now some say the estimated 650 wolves in Michigan have become a nuisance.

It has long been legal to shoot wolves threatening livestock or people, so that’s not at issue.

What is at issue? Last year’s legislation, which gave the DNR power to establish a wolf-hunting season. Animal protection activists objected, gathering more than 250,000 signatures to put the law to a statewide vote.

Okay, let the people decide, right?

Wrong. Legislators intent on not permitting citizen control passed a brand new law to have it their way — the people be damned. So tenacious citizens signed more petitions to put this second statute to a referendum.

Hence the two referendums on the ballot.

Legislators still weren’t finished, though. They passed a third bill, this time slapping an unrelated appropriation in it, thus blocking a referendum. That law faces a legal challenge.

This seems a choice between the government regulating wildlife matters with or without any popular check on that power. By voting NO on both Proposals 1 and 2, Michiganders can tell the wannabe dictators in Lansing that their democracy-hunting season is over.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

“Deceptive” Charge “Misleading”

Friday, October 17th, 2014

Many politicians serve as powerful arguments for term limits. Arkansas State Senator Jon Woods rivals the best.

Sen. Woods (R-Springdale) and State Rep. Warwick Sabin (D-Little Rock) authored a 22-page, 7,000-word constitutional amendment on this November’s ballot. They say Issue 3 is about ethics and transparency.

You decide.

Woods and Sabin threw together various ethics provisions and then stuck in a gutting of term limits. Their ballot title reads it is “establishing term limits” — without bothering to inform voters that it doubles how long legislators can stay in the Senate and more than doubles the House limit — to a whopping 16 years!

This week, Arkansas Term Limits debuted TV ads alerting the public to the scam, charging that legislators have “pursued a campaign of silence . . . letting the deceptive ballot title do their work,” so that “when Arkansas voters go to the polls there will be no mention of the doubling of term[s].”

The unrepentant Sen. Woods says that it is “misleading” to call his Issue 3 deceptive. Meanwhile, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports that, after asking if Woods’s ballot language wasn’t indeed deceptive: “Woods said he doesn’t know.”

The senator’s response to the Arkansas GOP Convention’s nearly unanimous resolution against Issue 3? “You just have a couple of nuts that got together on a Saturday that were out of touch with Arkansans and passed a silly resolution that in no way reflects the point of view of all Republicans in Arkansas.”

Perhaps Democratic politicians are smarter. Democratic co-author Sabin is nowhere to be found in news coverage of Issue 3, likely hiding under his bed.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.