State Watch

State Watch

States Need to Get Serious About Pension Reform

By 10.7.15

It’s clear that the economy is going to be one of the driving issues in the 2016 presidential campaign, but with the entire country riveted to national politics, it’s easy to forget that state issues are at least as important as what the federal government is doing.

Of the 16 Republican candidates, seven have been governors. They understand the importance of state-level reforms, and will be running hard on their records as bold leaders, unafraid to make the hard decisions required of a state’s chief executive. 

As they stand on debate stages trumpeting their accomplishments, they will have to address how the country can deal with its unsustainable obligations on entitlement programs such as Social Security. No less worrisome, however, are the unfunded liabilities faced by state and local pension programs.

State Watch

Missouri’s Hateful 8

By 9.21.15

Political pundits and prognosticators are apoplectic over the rise of Trump.

How could such a buffoon be taken so seriously by so many, they ask each other nightly on cable news and daily on op-ed pages. Don’t they know he’s not qualified for public office?

That may be true. It also misses the point entirely.

Here are some professional politicians: Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter, James Buchanan, Barack Obama.

Here are some of the great gifts bestowed upon us by professional public servants: The Civil War, the Bay of Pigs, Stagflation, Obamacare, the U.S. Post Office.

Yes, Americans are quite used to suffering the wages of professional public servants. And Republican voters have perhaps suffered most of all. When liberals elect liberal presidents, they get liberal policies (Medicare). When conservatives elect Republican presidents, they get … liberal policies (Medicare Part D).

Liberal presidents appoint liberal Supreme Court Justices who produce liberal opinions (Ginsburg). Republican presidents appoint Republican justices who produce… liberal opinions (Roberts).

State Watch

EPA Power Grab Incites States to Consider Nullification

By 7.17.15

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has in recent years imposed numerous new regulatory rules strangling the freedoms of businesses and property owners. Latching on to every possible excuse for regulating economic activities by citing microscopic effects on air and water, EPA has shown no respect for any boundaries in imposing its draconian mandates. State governments are experiencing the effects and are increasingly taking action to reduce the amount of economic carnage the Obama administration’s EPA inflicts.

States’ refusal to enforce what they consider to be unconstitutional federal laws is known as nullification. In the Virginia Resolution of 1798, James Madison said states are “duty bound to resist” when the federal government violates the Constitution. States are now embracing this concept by responding to an increasing regulatory burden imposed by federal bureaucrats.

State Watch

Taking Leave of Sickness

By 7.1.15

Oregon’s Legislature just passed a law requiring employers to offer five days of paid sick leave to their employees per year, making Oregon the fourth state to adopt sick leave mandates for employers, following Connecticut, California, and Massachusetts. At the federal level, President Obama called for a national paid sick leave law in his 2015 State of the Union address. 

But while labor activists treat paid sick leave like a proxy war against Wall Street, the casualties are all on Main Street. In practice, paid sick leave mandates like Oregon’s fall short of supporters’ expectations and are startlingly ineffective at achieving their basic goal of keeping sick employees from coming to work.

State Watch

Will California Suicide Bill Die a Natural Death?

By 6.25.15

When SB 128, which would legalize physician-assisted suicide for terminally ill patients, passed the California Senate, supporters hailed the measure’s success as a sign of its inevitability. And what Democrat in this heavily left-leaning Legislature wants to be on — say it slowly — The Wrong Side of History?

It turns out reports of the measure’s slam-dunkedness were greatly exaggerated. Opponents of SB 128 expected the bill to sail through the Senate but then get mired in the Assembly. Sure enough, this week state Sens. Lois Wolk and Bill Monning, co-sponsors of the bill, had to pull a scheduled vote in the Assembly Health Committee and delay it until July 7 because, as the San Francisco Chronicle’s Melody Gutierrez reported, six committee Democrats are not on board. Five are members of the Latino caucus. Ergo the new spin on the bill, advanced by Wolk, is that the Roman Catholic Church, in all its might, is leaning on its flock to kill the bill.

State Watch

There Goes the High Moral Ground

By 2.19.15

Oregon has long thought of itself as living on high moral ground, embracing that bastion of self-righteousness, environmentalism. The crown has taken some big dents in recent days. Governor John Kitzhaber, just into his fourth term, has resigned. His live-in girlfriend, Cylvia Hayes (also designated “first lady” in recent years; now fiancée), is out as the unsalaried “clean energy” advisor to the governor, with her own office in the State Capitol in Salem.

Things began to unravel in his reelection campaign last fall when the Willamette Weekly reported that Ms. Hayes had been married from 1997-2002 to an illegal Ethiopian alien and had been paid $5,000 for it. She admitted to this and described it as a mistake.

A few days later, KOIN, a Portland television station. reported that she had been involved in a plan to purchase land in Washington state for a marijuana plantation.

She also admitted to this but blamed it on being in an “abusive relationship with a dangerous man” (she soon left him).

It was said that Kitzhaber knew nothing of either matter before the media revelations.

State Watch

Medicaid Expansion Bites the Dust in Tennessee

By 2.9.15

Over the course of just 48 hours last week, Republican Tennessee governor Bill Haslam watched his two-year flirtation with the Medicaid expansion, made available through the Affordable Care Act, get buried by the state legislature.

It was a quick and unceremonious end to what Haslam hoped would be his legacy achievement on health care in the Volunteer State. For roughly twenty-one months, the governor and his policy counsel worked hard to finesse Republican legislators into softening their stance toward his plan, called Insure Tennessee. But in the end, no amount of massaging could win over conservatives in the capitol.

Of course, it’s not that the GOP legislative supermajority has been blind to the healthcare needs of Tennesseans. According to Haslam, it was the legislature that started him down the Insure Tennessee path in the first place when it asked him to identify and suggest ways to address the state’s needs. The problem was that the governor ultimately decided the best fix lay in the expansion of Medicaid services under Obamacare.

State Watch

Texas Cities Are Losing Control of Fracking

By 11.11.14

Overall, conservatives in Texas had a very good election night last week. Republicans took all the statewide offices, as indeed they have in every election since 1994, and claimed virtual supermajorities in both the state house and senate. Even a ballot measure on a light rail project in liberal Austin went down to defeat.

Yet in the midst of this dominance of common sense came one ominous result. Voters in the city of Denton approved a ballot measure banning all hydraulic fracturing within city limits. While municipalities have banned fracking in states ranging from Colorado to Pennsylvania, Denton represents the first time a city in energy-loving Texas has done so. And unless swift action is taken, it may not be the last.

State Watch

In California, Every Love Scene Ever Filmed Is Rape

By 10.2.14

They say Washington, D.C., is Hollywood for the ugly. I can only imagine what this analogy makes Sacramento, which is inhabited by those ambitious California pols who can’t quite make it to Congress.

I’m not sure how those überuglies do the sex up there in Sacramento, and normally none of us should care how these elected frog people get laid. Except that they have now inflicted their ignorance of normal human sexual behavior on the other 38 million people in their state, in the form of a bill that Governor Jerry Brown signed into law Monday. The law requires state colleges to impose safeguards that sound more appropriate in an autistic dating game: that is, students must obtain “affirmative consent” before engaging in “sexual activity” and then ensure that said consent is “ongoing throughout a sexual activity.”

State Watch

New England’s Blue-State Blues

By 7.25.14

They call it the “Texas Miracle,” though California doesn’t think there’s anything heavenly about it. Texas’s economic boom, driven by low taxes and a business-friendly regulatory climate under the cocksure leadership of Governor Rick Perry, is the envy of the rest of the country. There’s a running joke that California’s biggest export is its own people, headed straight for the Lone Star State.

But it’s not just California that has the blue-state blues. Outside the West Coast, the most cerulean part of the country is the Northeast, and specifically New England, the six-state region once bound together by Puritan values, now bound together by mandatory sex education classes. But while New England has embraced looser social values, economically it’s a case study in high taxes, obscene spending, and coercive regulations.