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Townhall: Freedom with an Exception Clause

Sunday, April 20th, 2014

It’s an old trick: make the exception clauses completely transform the principles involved.

In Colorado, a politician is trying mightily to transform the nature of citizen involvement in state government. She thinks she’s an angel, of course. But if you think of her as a devil, I’d completely understand.

Click on over to Townhall for this week’s Common Sense column. Come back here, of course, for a little more context.

For other recent Common Sense columns on Townhall, you can view them on this site, as well as on Townhall.com itself: click here for the index.

Their Power

Thursday, March 13th, 2014

Boo hoo.

Thirty-three hifalutin members of Colorado’s political elite — state legislators, former legislators, board of education officials, city and county politicians, and assorted insiders — are whining as plaintiffs in what’s called a federal case.

Why? They lost an election … in 1992! Now, as the federal 10th Circuit Court of Appeals put it, “Plaintiffs claim that they have been deprived of their power over taxation and revenue.”

Over 22 years ago, Coloradans petitioned the Taxpayer Bill of Rights onto the ballot and voters passed it. Known as TABOR, the constitutional amendment limits the growth of government spending, unless voters approve higher spending levels. It also requires voter approval for tax increases, except in an emergency. The politicians objected at the time, but have since lacked both the courage and the democratic sensibility to take the issue back to the people.

Instead, they’re suing to overturn the result.

The legal theory behind the lawsuit? That TABOR limits the legislature’s ability to unilaterally raise taxes or spend money as it pleases, thus denying the state a “fully effective legislature” — thus TABOR violates the federal constitution’s guarantee that each state have a republican form of government.

Last week, the 10th Circuit ruled the state legislators have standing to sue the people of Colorado over the legislators’ right to tax and spend without a bunch of pesky voters getting in the way.

Those who founded our republican form of government would be absolutely astounded … if they could only be stopped, first, from spinning at such high rates of speed.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

Moving Boulders

Friday, January 31st, 2014

Supreme Court says Boulder City cannot sue citizens over ballot initiatives,” read the Las Vegas Sun headline.

An important legal victory . . . a long time coming.

Three years ago, I caught an online story about a citizens group that had petitioned three measures onto their local ballot: (1) require voter approval before the city council could incur $1 million or more in debt, (2) term limits for members on city commissions and committees, and (3) restrict the city to just one publicly-owned golf course.

Their public spirit was promptly rewarded by being sued, personally, and dragged into court by the city attorney of Boulder City.

I called the citizens’ attorney quoted in the news story, Linda Strickland, and we talked for over an hour. This case, as the Nevada Supreme Court has now agreed, is a classic violation of the state’s Anti-SLAPP statute (Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation).

Citizens in Charge Foundation gave Linda and Terry, her husband and law partner, the John Lilburne Award, affording this small town legal scuffle some national recognition and sparking news coverage across Nevada.

On a later trip, I sat in Linda’s living room with a dozen local citizens who recounted the good feeling of participating in the petition campaign and then their unease of being sued by their own city government. I couldn’t be more pleased to now relate that Linda’s efforts have paid off in a state Supreme Court win, protecting the rights of all Nevadans to petition their government.

Freedom is regularly attacked and must be defended. Thanks to Linda and others, it shall be.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

You’re Not Under Arrest

Tuesday, December 17th, 2013

Certain sheriffs in Colorado and other states have something in common. None of them will ever have to say “I was just following orders” as an excuse for failing to respect the right of an individual to bear arms.

They’re simply not following those orders.

In Colorado, Sheriff John Cooke of Weld County says that in addition to being unconstitutional, the state’s new gun-control laws are so vague as to be unenforceable. Before July 1, it was legal to sell or transfer a 30-round magazine. After that date, not. In explaining his policy, Cooke flourishes two such identical-looking magazines, one purchased before July 1, one after. Then shuffles them. “How is a deputy or officer supposed to know which is which?”

John Cooke is one of 55 elected sheriffs (out of 62 total) across Colorado who joined a federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the new law. Also, two Colorado lawmakers have been recalled by voters for supporting it; and a third resigned rather than face a recall.

“In my oath it says I’ll uphold the U.S. Constitution and the Constitution of the State of Colorado,” says Sheriff Cooke. “It doesn’t say I have to uphold every law passed by the Legislature.”

We all know that the vagueness, ludicrousness, or unconstitutionality of a law doesn’t necessarily stop officials from coming down on citizens like a ton of bricks. So the sheriffs’ refusal to obey is commendable. And an example to follow.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

Townhall: Plumber Wrench into the Gears of Gun Control

Sunday, September 15th, 2013

The First and Second Amendment are very good friends. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that they’re close, one always protecting the other, as we witnessed again last week in Colorado. 

For more on the big Rocky Mountain State recall vote, click on over to Townhall.com. And then come back here for a few more links.

Two-Way Communication

Tuesday, September 10th, 2013

Tonight Americans have an opportunity to listen to President Barack Obama as he directly states his case for a U.S. military attack on Syria. Wouldn’t it be nice if, for one day, instead of Americans listening to the president, the president had to listen to us?

Not just on Syria . . . on anything.

Well, Eureka!

The polls will be open in Colorado all day before the Big O’s big oration, from 7:00 am to 7:00 pm Rocky Mountain Time, enabling voters to do the talking in the first recall elections of state legislators in Colorado history.

This is no mere politician monologue, but a real democratic dialogue. And you can bet politicians will be listening — from state legislators to the gun-controller-in-chief.

The conversation started this past legislative session, when Senate President John Morse (D-Colorado Springs) and Senator Angela Giron (D-Pueblo) moved two laws through the Colorado Legislature. Anti-gun laws. This angered Second Amendment activists. The conversation continued when a group of citizens decided they weren’t willing to suffer silently; they drew up recall petitions and then gathered tens of thousands of voter signatures, triggering the recalls.

That’s a lot of hoops to jump through. The president can simply call up the networks and almost instantly communicate to millions. But citizens have to work harder for their talk time.

So, listen respectfully to the president tonight, by all means . . . but remember that, if you want politicians to listen, the initiative, referendum and recall constitute one heckuva megaphone.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

A Voter Revolt

Tuesday, June 11th, 2013

The signatures are in: 16,199 of them — twice as many as needed to initiate the first recall election of a state lawmaker in Colorado history.

The target of voter ire? Senate President John Morse. He ticked off his El Paso County constituents by spearheading the recent triple whammy of gun control legislation that neatly bypassed Colorado voters earlier this year.

You may remember the controversy. The three bills in question, signed by the governor as emergency legislation so that no voter referendum was possible, elicited widespread negative reactions in the state, including nearly every county sheriff in Colorado publicly opposing the bills.

So, why did the sheriffs oppose the legislation, while Democrats in the legislature passed the bills?

Like state legislators, sheriffs are elected. But, unlike legislators, sheriffs deal with self-defending citizens qua citizens, as well as criminals and victims, on a regular basis. Such experience brings a different perspective, and makes sheriffs more skeptical of blunt legislative solutions.

Traditionally, Democrats — despite the fondness demonstrated by their party constituencies for increased government control over private weapons — tend to treat the issue of “gun control” with some modicum of care. At least, those in the mid-west and western states tend to.

But Senator Morse did not.

Morse won the senate seat back in 2010 by fewer than 350 votes, with a Libertarian Party candidate racking up 1,320 votes — almost 5 percent. Libertarians are strongly pro-Second Amendment. Yet, Morse treated his narrow victory as a call for sweeping change. A mandate!

He may reap the “reward” for such “courage.”

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.