Lawmakers prove they don’t read state budget to pass it

The legislature can pass a whopping $ 48.1 billion budget, but that doesn’t mean MPs have to read it.

The point is, virtually none of the 160 House members and 40 Senate members of the Democratic-controlled Legislature have read the hundreds of pages of the budget or have any clue where the money came from. money or where it goes.

But they still vote to approve it, as they did last week before sending the record-breaking tax document to Governor Charlie Baker for his signature. The Republican governor on Friday signed a budget of $ 47.6 billion, vetoing lawmakers’ spending plan at $ 7.9 million.

“Hell no,” a veteran lawmaker told me when I asked him if he had ever read any of the annual budgets he voted on. “I relied on the leadership and the staff.”

By leadership, he means Speaker of the House Ron Mariano and his management team.

And the staff he referred to are the dozens of career budget experts who work for the House Ways & Means Committee, as well as staff from other committees dealing with financial matters at the State House.

The same is even more true for the State Senate headed by Senate Speaker Karen Spilka, where there are far fewer members and its grip is tighter.

One of the State House’s best-kept secrets is that while the legislature may pass a whopping $ 48.1 billion budget for the next fiscal year, that doesn’t mean lawmakers need to read it.

This is also true for the journalists and the editorial writers of State House. Although fewer in number these days, most reporters who “cover” the Legislature also don’t read the budget.

It is also true that the budget, among the thousands of other bills introduced in each legislative session, is the most important document before them.

It is also the most complicated, difficult and boring document you will ever come across.

It would take a certified public accountant to make sense of the budget, let alone a newcomer to the Legislature struggling to balance his personal account.

Here is a random paragraph from the 422-page, $ 48.1 billion budget dealing with a credit for an agency. The allocation is made “notwithstanding article 2 of chapter 70 of the General Laws, as amended by chapter 12B of chapter 76 and article 89 of chapter 71 of the General Laws”. Hey what?

Here is another, “Article 4 of the general laws, as hereby amended by deleting article 68, as last amended by article 5 of chapter 227, of the laws of 2020 by inserting the following article… ”

These are just two small examples of what is in the document.

So what is a legislator supposed to do? Well, the conscientious goes to the Legislative Assembly Institutional Memory Bank, which is controlled by the Speaker of the House, for a briefing. This is the time-honored process. Satisfied, the legislator votes with the speaker.

The most politically ambitious lawmaker, seeking publicity and a stepping stone to a higher office, attacks the process and calls for an eight-year term for the president to reduce his power.

That’s what Progressive Representative Tami Gouveia, Lieutenant Governor D-Acton, proposed last week. As she grabbed the headlines, she only got six Democrats to vote with her along with a handful of Republicans when the motion was defeated, 35-125.

To automatically throw a lecturer under the bus after eight years is to throw away his institutional memory and the memory of his team, accumulated over the years they served before even assuming the function of lecturer. It’s like knocking down a statue of a person you don’t know anything about.

In addition, there are ways to limit a speaker’s mandate or to expel them. Democrats can set term limits in a caucus.

In addition, members can remove a speaker simply by making a motion to “leave the chair” at any time. It is a motion that takes precedence and must be resumed immediately.

In addition, a speaker can be dumped like the late President Thomas W. McGee in 1985, when fellow Democratic Representative George Keverian, McGee’s former majority leader, led a coup against McGee, who was seeking his 10th year of work.

But while McGee was defeated, Keverian continued and the institutional memory of the legislature remained intact.

Time limits are a false problem.

Peter Lucas is a veteran political journalist and columnist from Massachusetts.

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The distrust of the Constitutional Convention towards the executive: the colonial governors

Through Allen C. Guelzo, Ph.D., Gettysburg College

During the first six weeks of the Constitutional Convention, almost all the attention had been devoted to the structure of the new national legislature. But the following discussion on the National Executive was marked by historical distrust of singular authority, as evidenced by the way colonial governors were viewed.

Discussions within the Constitutional Convention shifted from the structure of the legislature to the need for a national executive. (Image: Charles Édouard Armand-Dumaresq (1826-1895) / The White House Historical Association / Domaine public)

The report of the Grand Committee

For all intents and purposes, the Grand Commission report of July 5, 1787, and the vote that ultimately took place on that report on July 16, pretty much settled the question of what the new Congress would look like: two chambers, the lower house. be elected broadly by the people as a whole, the upper house elected by state legislatures, and the authority to initiate all tax matters filed with the lower house.

It was all a compromise, and neither James Madison, who wanted everything to be elected widely, nor William Paterson, who wanted everything in the new Congress to represent the interests of the state, were entirely happy with the outcome. . But it was a result.

This is a transcript of the video series America’s Founding Fathers. Watch it now, on Wondrium.

The fear of colonial governors

This result immediately gave way to the next big subject before the Convention, and that was the form of a new national executive. And that promised to be no less thorny than the question of representation in Congress. As Madison explained to Jefferson, any discussion of a national executive would sharpen the old fear of power to such an extent, jeopardizing freedom.

There was an unappealing executive example in American minds in the form of colonial governors. Before the Revolution, each colony had a legislature elected by the people, and a governor and a council of governors appointed by the Crown in England. Only Connecticut and Rhode Island elected their own governors.

The power of the colonial legislature

The fate of these colonial governors was not happy. Their appointment came from the Crown, so they had to represent the interests of the Crown. They had the power to grant lands and public office appointments to their friends, but their salaries were provided by the legislatures, and the legislatures never hesitated to use the salaries as leverage to counterbalance the authority of the crown.

Fixed and declared wages, a Massachusetts governor was curtly informed, were inconsistent with our Constitution. As a result, governors frequently found themselves between a colonial rock and a royal hard place. Many Colonial Governors actually stayed in England and delegated their powers to an unlucky person who was actually just the Lieutenant Governor.

Learn more about the Grand Committee.

Powerful British Governors

A portrait of Lord Dunmore in traditional Scottish costume.
Lord Dunmore, the Royal Governor of Virginia, was a powerful example of the type of executive Americans had come to distrust. (Image: Joshua Reynolds / Public Domain)

The governors who remained on the ground in America only worsened the reputation of governors in the 1770s by stubbornly resisting the movement towards independence and revolution.

Lord Dunmore, the royal governor of Virginia, had attempted to seize the cache of weapons and military supplies in Virginia, and had instigated the slaves of Virginia to desert their masters and to form what was called the Ethiopian regiment. by Dunmore.

Sir John Wentworth, the Royal Governor of New Hampshire, had attempted to prevent the New Hampshire militia from taking control of Fort William & Mary in Portsmouth Harbor.

At the end of the Revolution, Americans wanted to do as little as possible with senior and powerful executives.

Governors in Confederation

The American political climate had not been much better for the governors under Confederation either. State constitutions resulting from the Revolution, when they provided for a governor, ensured that governors were kept on a very short leash: terms of one year; limitations on re-election; and election by the legislature.

In several states, an executive council created by the legislature further limited the authority of governors. In Virginia, the governor could do nothing without the advice of his council. And the Articles of Confederation was no longer anxious to allow any other form of free executive.

Congress versus Governor

The Confederation Congress reserved to itself virtually all the powers of government – legislative and executive – and provided for only: a, a standing committee to manage affairs during the adjournment of Congress; and two, “to appoint one of them to chair, provided that no person is authorized to serve as chair for more than one year during a three-year term”.

The only notable exception to this rule in the early years of the American Republic was New York, where the revolutionary constitution written in 1777 provided for a governor vested with supreme executive power and state authority. The governor was to be elected by the people at the same time as the assembly, and not by the legislature. The governor would be the commander-in-chief of the state militia, and he would even be granted a limited veto over legislative bills.

Learn more about America’s founding fathers.

A powerful governor

A governor could be elected indefinitely in New York. In fact, George Clinton had served as governor of New York for the 10 years that the constitution of 1777 was in effect. Not only held it, but enjoyed it. He vetoed 58 laws. He used the militia to apprehend Daniel Shays rebels who had fled to New York. He orchestrated both his state’s rejection of the Congressional tax proposal and the issuance of £ 200,000 in paper money.

Some looked down on Clinton as a demagogue, but Clinton was a fine demonstration of what a powerful leader could do. None of these examples, however, offered a very satisfactory model for Congress as it turned to the design of a new national executive.

Common questions on the mistrust of the Constitutional Convention towards the executive power

Q: Why were the pre-revolution US governors in a difficult position?

The appointment of colonial governors were from the Crown, so they were expected to represent the interests of the Crown. They had the power to make land grants and appointments to public office, but their salaries were provided by the legislatures, and the legislatures never hesitated to use the salaries as leverage to counteract the authority of the Crown. .

Q: What was the position of the governors under Confederation?

State constitutions resulting from the Revolution, when they provided for a governor, ensured that the governors were kept on a very short leash: terms of one year; limitations on re-election; and election by the legislature.

Q: Were there strong governors in Confederation?

In New York, the revolutionary constitution drafted in 1777 provided for a governor vested with supreme executive power and the authority of that state. A governor could be elected indefinitely in New York. In fact, George clinton had served as governor of New York for the 10 years that the constitution of 1777 had been in effect. Some looked down on Clinton as a demagogue, but Clinton was a fine demonstration of what a powerful leader could do.

Keep reading
Navigation laws and parliamentary control over colonial commerce
The Economic Consequences of the American Revolution in Massachusetts
American post-revolutionary America

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Set set for dissidents to speak out as BSY calls for BJP legislative party meeting

Upon returning from Delhi after meeting with central party leaders, Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa announced that a meeting of the BJP legislative party would be called on July 26, the day he completed his two-year term in office. This has now set the stage for dissidents for a show of force and to voice their grievances.

Amid intense speculation about a change in leadership after the veteran leader’s two-year tenure in the state, the scheduled second anniversary reunion appears to have only raised the stakes.

Announcing the meeting after arriving in Bengaluru after his two-day visit to Delhi, during which it was reported that he had offered to step down, Mr Yediyurappa sought to paint a picture of control. He said the party’s high command had tasked him with securing a victory for the BJP in the 2023 Assembly and 2024 Lok Sabha polls. “So to get everyone on this business, I called our legislative party meeting on July 26,” he said. He also said he would travel to Delhi again in the first week of August.

However, sources say the chief minister has been resisting the dissidents’ request for a party legislative meeting for more than two months, fearing it could turn into a platform for a show of force by their dissidents. go.

“Considering the way he announced the legislative party meeting after meeting with party chairman JP Nadda and Amit Shah, it is evident that the high command ordered him to convene it. We will discuss all our issues to the tune at the meeting, including the request for a change of leadership, ”said a senior dissident party leader, indicating that it would be a rocky affair.

Silence from above

Sources close to Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa, while claiming he would remain chief minister and that the high command had not asked him to resign, said he was “unhappy with the lack of display of confidence” in him. .

“There was no talk of a change of leadership, but Yediyurappa expressed his displeasure that the high command did not end the daily speculation about a change of leadership in Karnataka. As the media speculated on his resignation on Saturday, he was left alone to defend himself and no one from the high command clarified the matter. This weakens not only his position, but also that of the government and the party in the state, ”said one of his relatives.

Meanwhile, the high command’s silence was read as tacit support for their demands by dissidents.

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Posted on July 15, 2021 in COVID-19, COVID-19 Press Releases, Latest News, Press Room, Press Releases

For the video click here

For photos click here

For resources click here

For the letter to the Legislative and Judicial Assembly, click here

HONOLULU – Governor David Ige today officially informed the Hawai’i State Legislature and Chief Justice Mark E. Recktenwald that he will no longer be issuing a moratorium on evictions once the moratorium is over current expired on August 6. The moratorium on evictions has been in place since April 17, 2020.

“At that time, the COVID-19 pandemic interrupted travel around the world. Hundreds of thousands of Hawaiian residents who depend on the tourism industry for their livelihoods were out of work, and I issued the first moratorium to prevent mass evictions, ”Governor Ige said. “The pandemic is not yet over, but thanks to safe and effective vaccines, many residents are now back to work. “

In addition, federal funds are available for emergency rent assistance. Tenants and landlords are encouraged to apply for and accept the rental aid distributed in each county.

For residents who may not have been able to catch up with their rent payments, the state, counties, legislature, judiciary, and service providers are working together to keep people in their homes after the day. expiration of the moratorium on evictions.

Governor Ige signed a measure passed by the Legislative Assembly this year, which changes procedures for eviction for non-payment of rent. Law 57 considerably modifies the owner-tenant code and encourages mediation for both tenants and owners:

  • Tenants have more time to seek help and make agreements to avoid eviction;
  • Tenants have the right to mediation; and
  • Initially, courts can review summary possession cases for those who owe four months or more rent back.

“The judiciary has been working since last year with agencies and community partners across the state to prepare for the expected increase in eviction cases once the moratorium is lifted,” Chief Justice Mark E said. Recktenwald. “We thank these partners for their efforts. I also want to thank Governor Ige and the Legislature, especially Representatives Troy Hashimoto and Nadine Nakamura, for working collaboratively to enact legislation to help tenants and landlords resolve their differences in these unprecedented times. “

“We passed a law this year to support the thousands of people who could become homeless once the moratorium on evictions is lifted. Law 57 gives time for landlords and tenants to work together on a payment plan before the moratorium ends on August 6. Through mediation, a payment plan can be negotiated so that landlords can start collecting rent owed and tenants can stay in their homes. This is a great opportunity for our community to come together to help each other, ”said Senator Sharon Moriwaki.

“Lawmakers knew it was important to create a ban at the end of the moratorium on evictions. The last thing we want to see is families and people suffering from economic hardship due to the coronavirus pandemic becoming homeless. HB1376 will provide a fair and balanced process for landlords and tenants to seek rent assistance, mediation and negotiate a resolution before resorting to an eviction case, ”said Representative Troy N. Hashimoto, the main initiator of the project. of law.

“Bill 57 creates a great process in which landlords and tenants can work with a neutral third party to resolve their disputes. The best case is to keep the tenants in their units. The new law also helps prevent the judiciary from being overwhelmed with business. The Office of Consumer Protection can provide information to homeowners and tenants, ”said Stephen H. Levins, executive director of the Office of Consumer Protection.

“Mediation offers landlords and tenants the ability to negotiate creative deals that meet the landlord’s needs to be paid and the tenant’s needs to stay housed. Mediation is not part of the legal system, and landlords and tenants make their own agreements that work for them. We hope our residents will benefit from our services, ”said Tracey Wiltgen, Executive Director, The Mediation Center of the Pacific, Inc.

“As we recover, we knew that day would come eventually. We thank the governor, state legislature, and our community partners for helping to ease the transition for landlords and tenants. With the recent adoption of Law 57, mediation is now a necessary step before expulsion. We want our residents to know that there is still time and that the resources are available. We continue to accept applications for the Kaua’i Coronavirus Rental Assistance and Utilities Program, where eligible applicants can receive up to $ 4,500 per month for rent and no cap per month for eligible public services. Please consider these resources, know your rights and seek help if needed, ”said Mayor Derek SK Kawakami, County of Kaua’i.

The state urges tenants to:

  • REPLY at the mediation center when they contact you.
  • APPLY for rental assistance.
  • CALL to get legal help if you need it, to make sure you know your rights.



Hawaii County:

Kaua’i County:

Maui County:


  • The Emergency Broadband Benefit can help eligible households pay their internet bills and, in some cases, purchase laptops, desktops and tablets:

Mediation services:

O’ahu: Pacific Mediation Center at

East Hawaii: Ku’ikahi Mediation Center in

West Hawaii: West Hawai’i Mediation Center at / owner-tenant

Maui County: Maui Mediation Services at tenant /

Kaua’i County: Kauai Economic Opportunity, Inc. Mediation Program at (808) 245-4077 x229 or x237 or [email protected]

For more information:

Hawaii Legal Aid Society:

Pacific Mediation Center:


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Common Sense Institute Finds Fee Hikes Wipe Colorado Tax Cuts | Legislature

What the state gives the Coloradans in the form of tax relief is more than recovering costs, according to an analysis released Wednesday by the Denver-based Common Sense Institute.

Coloradans will disburse $ 255 million to cover expenses approved by the General Assembly this year.

True, the business think tank points to a 0.08% cut in state income tax approved by voters last year under Proposition 116 will help, but not enough.

“We entered the 2021 legislative session knowing there was $ 1.8 billion in new taxes and fees, and we came out with $ 2.1 billion in new net costs to individuals and businesses. statewide, ”said Chris Brown, the institute’s vice president of research and policy. .

He broke it down into a comparison: “If we were to increase our state income tax to collect an amount of revenue equal to the pending fees, it would have to increase by 1.23 percentage points or 27. % from the current 4.55% tax rate. “

Voters missed the opportunity to vote on fee increases, as they do with taxes, because fee increases for state-run businesses are exempt from the Taxpayer Bill of Rights of the constitution of the ‘State.

The legislature created six new companies this year, each of which is expected to raise less than $ 100 million in its first five years, bypassing the voter approval required by Proposition 117, which voters also adopted last November.

However, the indirect costs of the new laws and regulations will likely exceed the direct costs, the researchers said. While they cannot yet fully quantify the numbers, the total could run into billions of dollars.

“While a single new regulation may not change the outcome of a company’s decision to expand to Colorado or move to our state, at some point the cumulative regulatory burden could,” warned the Common Sense Institute in the white paper.

Read the full analysis, titled “The High Price of the 2021 Legislative Session,” by clicking here.

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Psychedelics decriminalization bill met with skepticism in California legislature

After going through various committees, California’s bill to decriminalize most psychedelics met with deep reservations on both sides of the aisle during a health committee hearing. If the bill were to move to a floor vote, at least two lawmakers have indicated they would have difficulty supporting it.

(CN) – A bill to decriminalize a raft of psychedelic drugs in California has met its first opposition in the California Assembly health committee, hinting at possible bipartisan opposition if it goes ahead the body.

Democrat Wendy Carillo illustrated the dismay over Senate Bill 519, saying she was concerned that decriminalization of these drugs would lead to more drugs in her community.

“If it helps to bring these drugs onto the streets, then I’m sorry that I can’t stand this,” she said.

Other Democrats like Autumn Burke have also expressed reservations.

“It took me a long time to get to where I could support the bill,” she said.

Democrats’ reluctance to support a bill drafted by Democratic state senator Scott Weiner could be a sign of unease with the bill that extends beyond just Republican members of the assembly. If enough Democrats defect and oppose the bill, it will not survive in the state legislature that enjoys a Democratic qualified majority in both houses.

Weiner was not here Tuesday to introduce his bill or to address concerns from lawmakers about the possible unintended consequences of decriminalization. Instead, Buffy Wicks, a member of the Democratic Assembly, attempted to answer questions and provide detailed data on why decriminalization would benefit the state. Wicks has repeatedly noted that she does not have access to details requested by her fellow lawmakers.

Chad Mayes, a former Republican currently registered as an Independent, has indicated he will vote to withdraw the bill from the committee but remains undecided as to whether he will support him once he reaches the prosecution. the assembly.

“Many veterans organizations support this bill,” he said.

Jesse Gould, the founder of the Heroic Hearts Project, has testified in previous hearings about how his post-traumatic stress disorder after three combat missions nearly killed him, but treatment using various psychedelic drugs saved his life. life.

“I was barely holding on and turned to psychedelics as a last ditch effort to survive,” he said. “Fortunately, it worked really well.”

Wicks said helping veterans with mental health issues was the “most powerful part of the bill.”

But Democrats on the Public Safety Committee, where criminal justice reforms are popular with committee members, seem more optimistic about the bill than their counterparts on the Health Committee.

“I don’t know if I will support this bill once it is introduced, but I want the conversation to move forward,” said Adrin Nazarian, a Democrat.

Nazarian noted that police unions and their lobbyists vehemently opposed the legalization of marijuana, making several statements about how legalizing the drug would lead to increased crime and other ill effects.

“None of these predictions came true,” he said.

A series of scientific studies have shown that psychedelics may prove useful in the treatment a range of mental health issues, including treatment-resistant depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and substance abuse issues.

The bill does not decriminalize the sale of psychedelics in the state. However, a group called Decriminalize California has announced plans to legalize the sale of psilocybin mushrooms in the 2022 poll.

The law initially proposed to review the sentences of those convicted of possession of psychedelics while sealing criminal records, but this provision was removed from the bill during the committee process. The bill would task the California Department of Public Health to create a task force that would explore the possible legalization and use of psychedelics in certain settings.

The legislation would also repeal provisions in the California Penal Code that prohibit the cultivation and transport of fungal spores associated with the psychoactive ingredient.

Republicans have expressed skepticism of the bill, saying removing the stigma from drugs could encourage their use among young people. On Tuesday, some Democrats were of the same opinion.

Oregon became the first state to legalize psychedelic mushrooms for therapeutic purposes and also decriminalized possession of a small amount of all drugs under two measures approved by voters in the November 2020 election.

In California, Santa Cruz and Oakland are two cities that have successfully passed bills decriminalizing the personal use of psychedelics.

Denver, Colorado, became the first city to decriminalize psilocybin mushrooms in 2019. Three Massachusetts cities have followed suit.

Ann Arbor, Michigan and Washington DC legalized the personal use of herbal or mushroom psychedelics.

The movement is not limited to progressive enclaves. The Texas Legislature, one of the most fiercely conservative legislative bodies in the country, recently formed a committee to study if “magic mushrooms” could help veterans recover from the trauma of their war experiences.

Follow Matthew Renda on Twitter

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Commentary: Time for Term Limits in the SC Legislature | Comment

The continuing criminal scandals at the Statehouse that since 2010 have trapped two Senators and seven Representatives are clear proof that it is time to limit terms.

Fifteen states already have legislative term limits. South Carolina has long limited governors’ terms, first to one term and since the 1980s to two four-year terms. State legislators should not serve more than 10 years.

Statehouse’s crimes lasted for years before longtime President Bobby Harrell pleaded guilty in 2014 to six counts of misuse of his campaign funds for personal gain. He had been a member of the House for 20 years.

Representative Jim Merrill pleaded guilty to professional misconduct in 2017 and stepped down after 16 years in office. He had been House Republican Leader, as had Rep. Rick Quinn, who pleaded guilty to misconduct in 2017, after 22 years in office.

Representative Jim Harrison served in the House for 24 years, much of which as chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, and had retired when he was convicted of perjury and misconduct in 2018.

Senator Robert Ford pleaded guilty to abusing campaign funds in 2015, after serving in the Senate for 20 years. Senator John Courson pleaded guilty to misconduct in 2018 for abusing campaign funds. He served 33 years in the Senate and chaired the Education Committee.

Three other lawmakers have been found guilty or have pleaded guilty since 2010 – Rep. Nelson Hardwick, who had been in office for 11 years, Rep. Thad Viers, nine, and Rep. Chris Corley, three – but they were not. found guilty of public corruption. .

Long-term service in the legislature increases the power of legislators, as leadership positions generally require seniority. Lawmakers with more seniority and power attract more campaign contributions from high-income corporations and associations that attempt to buy influence and votes.

In addition, senior lawmakers have more influence over the design of legislative constituencies, including their own, which they design to minimize opposition so that they do not or only have symbolic opposition to them. elections.

The result is that senior lawmakers collect large amounts of campaign donations that they don’t have to spend on elections because they have no opposition. Harrell, Ford and Courson got into trouble with the big surplus of campaign money they had accumulated.

Receive a weekly recap of South Carolina’s opinions and analysis from The Post and Courier delivered to your inbox Monday night.

Several other factors increase the corrosive effect of long-term service to the General Assembly. One is what behavioral psychologists call “moral license,” which means that people who see themselves as doing a lot of good also have the right or license to do harm.

Group Thinking can cause lawmakers to think that everyone is abusing their office to make money so that they too can.

Gambling also desensitizes lawmakers to corruption because legislative politics is played as an amoral game in which parties, caucuses, and individuals compete for money and the power to win. Accepting bribes or embezzling campaign funds can be considered a reward for winning.

The corrupt also use campaign funds for illegal personal gain, believing that no one gets hurt because they know donors don’t care what they do with the money as long as they vote like they do. wish.

Lawmakers make the laws, and their familiarity with the often corrupt ways of making laws leads them to disobey the laws themselves.

A final fact is that people who run for public office have big ambitions and a bigger ego. Some think they are entitled to more than their meager pay for all the work they do as part-time lawmakers. Taking money aside is perfectly justifiable in their minds.

South Carolina must end the corrupting effects of too long a term in the General Assembly by instituting 10-year term limits for lawmakers.

This would prevent the criminal acts of senior lawmakers who have plagued our state in recent years.

Ten years would provide senior management with sufficient experience to carry out their legislative functions with sufficient knowledge and wisdom.

John V. Crangle is a Columbia attorney with the SC Progressive Network.

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The Florida legislature is waging war on citizens’ petitions.

Howard L. Simon

Howard L. Simon

The legislature got it with the intrusion on their power by the people of Florida.

In the last session, lawmakers passed the Senate Bill 1890, a harsh measure aimed at preventing citizens from collecting petitions in favor of constitutional amendments by limiting financial contributions that are the oxygen of political movements .

The latter restriction places a cap of $ 3,000 on contributions to committees working to submit a constitutional amendment to voters or opposing a proposed amendment, is being challenged in federal court.

Unsurprisingly, on July 1, the day the law was due to come into force, a federal judge issued a preliminary injunction.

For more than 50 years, Floridians have had the right to “propose the revision or amendment” of their constitution by petition of initiative. Essentially, it allows people to go over the heads of lawmakers, straight to voters, when they are frustrated by the inability or unwillingness of the legislature to resolve issues.

And boy, has the legislature felt both the intrusion into its authority and the policies put forward by the people.

Lawmakers fought the people’s proposals and, after they were passed, did what they could to weaken what voters approved when the people took power to:

  • Dedicate funds to a trust to purchase land for conservation purposes
  • Reduce the size of the class.
  • Enact Fair District amendments to prohibit partisan gerrymandering.
  • Authorize the use of marijuana for medical purposes.
  • Demand a gradual increase in the minimum wage.
  • Restore the right to vote for those convicted of felony.

To understand the legislative assembly’s institutional hostility to direct democracy, it helps to see the forest and not just the last tree. Remember some of the weapons that lawmakers have used to hinder and frustrate the people’s right to change their constitution:

  • Ban on collecting petition signatures near polling stations (where registered voters can be found).
  • Require sponsors of constitutional amendments, but not election candidates, to pay to verify signatures.
  • Require Secretary of State’s approval of the text of a proposed amendment and of the voting summary.
  • Require each signature to be on a separate sheet of paper rather than allowing multiple voters to sign on a single sheet
  • Reduced the expiration date of valid signatures from four to two years.
  • Mandate the Supreme Court’s review of the language of a citizen-initiated constitutional amendment, but not amendments proposed by the legislature.
  • Prohibition of paying petition distributors by signature.
  • Allow electronic signatures on candidate petitions, but not citizen-initiated constitutional amendments.

The attorney general (who has the unenviable burden of defending laws enacted by the legislature, whether stupid or unconstitutional) claimed that the latest push to quash citizen-initiated constitutional amendments is just a “cap.” temporary and targeted ”(imposed only in the first at the stage of collecting the petition) and designed to ensure that the proposed amendments have broad support and are not the project of a few donors with deep pockets. (John Morgan’s name is mentioned often here, as if he was the only well-heeled sponsor or opponent of a constitutional amendment in Florida history.)

Note a bit of hypocrisy buried in this attempt to limit contributions that “would limit debate and discussion of a ballot measure,” as the courts have characterized such efforts.

For many conservatives, money is often defended as a form of speech. But as the Supreme Court noted decades ago, “limits on contributions which in turn limit spending clearly infringe freedom of expression.” That is, all speech is protected. It cannot be acceptable for lawmakers to limit speech because it promotes progressive goals.

In granting the preliminary injunction, the federal judge cited two decisions that have governed for the past 40 years, one from the United States Supreme Court. Both argue that a limit on contributions to voting measures “undermines freedom of expression”.

The fact that the legislature has passed the contribution limit anyway is one strategy, employed in this and other areas of law, by which the legislature hopes to induce the courts of appeal (and perhaps the Supreme Court of United States) to drop precedents and change the law.

Equally disturbing was Governor Ron DeSantis’ reaction to the injunction.

He said he was convinced the state would prevail when he got to the court of appeal. In this, it fuels the cynicism that erodes respect for the rule of law, namely that what the law is depends on the policy of the judges hearing the case. His comment suggested that he expected the preliminary injunction but that his real audience is the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, which has a majority of judges appointed by Republican presidents, including six appointed by the United States. former President Trump. But it is interesting that the federal judge who prohibited the entry into force of the law.

Hopefully, in the event of an appeal, the injunction will be upheld by the court of appeal. But our rights should not depend on the expectation that the courts will uphold constitutional principles.

Did your state representative and senator vote to restrict your rights by approving SB 1890? Probably: 75 state officials and 23 senators said yes.

Remember this for the next election.

Howard L. Simon was executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida from 1997 until his retirement in 2018 after the constitutional amendment, which he helped draft, restoring the right to vote for those who have served their criminal sentence.

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Massachusetts legislature unanimously passes $ 48.1 billion budget

More than a week into the fiscal year, the House and Senate bipartisanly agreed to an annual budget of $ 48.1 billion and sent the proposal to Gov. Charlie Baker’s office.

The two branches voted unanimously to approve the revised spending plan, which calls for the ongoing consecration of the state’s controversial film tax credit program, with the continued postponement of the implementation of a tax deduction for charitable donations; and the $ 350 million set aside to support multi-year education funding reform legislation. .

The chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, Representative Aaron Michlewitz, who co-chaired the conference committee that resolved differences between the House and Senate budget proposals, said the vote “will mark the point. culminating in a volatile 16-month odyssey we’ve seen since the pandemic first hit the Commonwealth.

Around the same time last year, budget writers were concerned about a possible implosion of tax revenues and whether state reserves would be sufficient to keep public services together. But taxpayers have provided strong collections to the state, allowing significant increases in spending and allowing for historic deposits in the Rainy Day Fund.

Representative Todd Smola de Warren, one of the two Republicans involved in the budget negotiations, hailed the final deal as “the culmination of this good working relationship that we have across the aisle.”

The 160 representatives and 40 senators all voted to accept the conference committee’s budget.

The budget funds one-sixth of this $ 1.5 billion school funding reform law, approved in 2019, after the pandemic disrupted its original seven-year implementation schedule.

Legislative negotiators struck a compromise on the multiple policy areas that separated House and Senate budget bills, including the future of a program offering tax credits to film and television productions in Massachusetts.

In their compromise, the legislature agreed to make the credit permanent while imposing one of the changes supported by the Senate. Production companies would now be required to make at least 75% of their main photography days or spend at least 75% of their budget in Massachusetts, up from 50% currently.

The final budget does not include Senate-sanctioned language allowing the purchase of Massachusetts lottery products with debit cards, which both this branch and Baker have sought unsuccessfully in previous spending bills.

Negotiators also removed another section from the Senate budget that would have increased the per-trip charge on transportation companies such as Uber and Lyft.

The bill does not propose any general tax increase.

Lawmakers have again chosen to postpone the implementation of a tax deduction designed to increase donations to charities and nonprofits, a move that officials say would free up $ 64 million to spend in the country. spring. The charitable deduction, approved by voters statewide in 2000 but delayed by a series of delays, will now only begin until at least 2023. The budget bill does not explicitly set a new start date and simply says that the program “will not be authorized for the tax year beginning January 1, 2022.

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Legislature corrects budget issues at close of special session

Hawaii lawmakers made several corrections to the state budget at the suggestion of Governor David Ige and overturned a final veto related to state bonds on Thursday, the last day of the brief special session of the Assembly. legislative.

Many of the details of these measures were already settled on Tuesday, when the legislature overturned five of Ige’s vetoes. However, House and Senate rules required lawmakers to wait until Thursday to proceed with final votes.

On Thursday, the Legislature issued a sixth waiver, this time from Bill 53, the legal mechanism that allows the state government to borrow more than $ 1 billion over the next two fiscal years to finance construction projects.

Like Thursday’s other approvals, the veto waiver was technical in nature. There was little discussion of the measures, and lawmakers concluded their work and adjourned the veto session in less than an hour on Thursday.

Lawmakers finished their work and adjourned the veto session on Thursday in less than an hour. Cory Lum / Civil Beat / 2021

The legislature inserted $ 496 million in debt service payable to the state treasury in Bill 54. The measure helps address one of Ige’s concerns that lawmakers violated federal guidelines when they used American Rescue Plan Act funds to pay for some of these capital improvements. projects.

The bill also deposits $ 250 million in the rainy day fund.

These fixes to HB 54 were needed before lawmakers could take a final vote on HB 53, Senate Speaker Ron Kouchi said.

The legislature followed up with sweeping money sitting in various pockets around the state government to deposit it in the general treasury. This ruling gives lawmakers greater control over how these funds are used.

Lawmakers also approved minor changes to Bill 1299 recommended by Ige to correct wording regarding the Milk Control Special Fund and the Hawaiian Home Lands Trust Fund.

The legislature also took some of Ige’s suggestions regarding Senate Bill 589, which deals with various facets of the University of Hawaii.

An important provision allows the president of the UH, David Lassner, to act as the person in charge of the purchases of the system. There are also other contractual terms that lawmakers have clarified at Ige’s request.

However, lawmakers have gone their own way when it comes to the UH Cancer Center. Lawmakers promulgated the cancer center and demanded that it be affiliated with the John A. Burns School of Medicine.

Ige objected to the provision, saying that enshrining the cancer center’s obligations in law limits the university’s ability to make changes in the future.

“These structural changes should be made in consultation with the leadership of the respective institutions and the leadership of UH Manoa,” Ige wrote in his objections to the bill.

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