Monday, April 30, 2007
Of this bill Jones said:
Another, which won final approval from the legislature Thursday, would allow lawmakers to escape fines if they don’t fully disclose campaign contributions. The bill is subject to interpretation, but may excuse violations even if they were intentional. Jones said that was not his intent.OK...lets look at the video one MORE TIME...am I missing something here? Rep. Jones is asked point blank by Rep. Vaughn, does this bill cover acts of commission as well as omission? He said it covers BOTH!!!!!!
Even the members who sponsor bills often are not very familiar with the bills. One thing that becomes very apparent as you watch videos from the Tennessee Legislative web site is how many bills are "carried" by a single lawmaker. These are the lawmakers who sponsor the bills and push them through the committee process. Some lawmakers carry over 100 bills. There is absolutely NO WAY a single lawmaker can be knowledgeable about this many bills. They must rely on expert witnesses and lobbyists who, in many cases wrote the bill. Many sponsors automatically defer to expert witnesses.
Many lawmakers would probably say, "there is no way we can read all these bills." That is of course THE POINT!!
Sunday, April 29, 2007
The District 29 senate seat John Ford ruled from for so many years now belongs to his sister, Ophelia. "I was torn apart. We love him. We didn't want any guilty verdict," Ford says. Senator Ophelia Ford admits she's been missing in action for most of this legislative session due to chronic anemia and dehydration, but told us are run much differently under her reign. "Well, I'm not taking money from nobody that's a major thing right there," Ford says.
Sites like Maplight.org, Opensecrets.org and Follow the Money, along with wiki-based political reporting resources like Congresspedia, are increasingly giving ordinary citizens the ability to easily document the flow of special-interest money and how it influences the legislature.
These new tools are providing an unprecedented level of transparency, exposing patterns of influence that otherwise would have remained invisible to ordinary citizens.
Costs of submitting many building designs to Rutherford County planners will double starting Tuesday. The fees have been increased to help pay for about half of staff operations, said Rutherford County Planning Director John Davis.
"The county is trying to make as many departments as it can self-sufficient and, in order to do so, needs to raise fees," he said.
Saturday, April 28, 2007
HERE is an article about a recent retreat by Murfreesboro officials. A retreat by definition is an escape from the normal public meeting venue. It almost always involves discussion of substantial issues (why else would you have it) and many times involves a quorum.
The idea that public officials need an escape from the public is pure arrogance. If you want an escape from public scrutiny then go get a job in the private sector.
Friday, April 27, 2007
Carpool lane cheaters -- drivers who don't have enough passengers to qualify for access to the lanes but use them anyway -- have become so commonplace that they're clogging some diamond lanes, slowing the trip for those who pile a couple of passengers into their cars. Caltrans data show that carpool lane cheaters have become more common as traffic has worsened over the past five years.
"They usually don't have anyone or anything in their cars -- it's just one person,'' said Joyce Holter, a solo driver who commutes on Interstate 80 between Richmond and Berkeley in the regular traffic lanes. "They're really brazen. It's amazing.''
In response to complaints, state Sen. Abel Maldonado, R-Santa Maria (Santa Barbara County), has proposed legislation that would set up a hot line and Web site for motorists to tattle on carpool lane cheaters. Those cheaters would receive a warning letter. The bill, SB889, passed the Senate Transportation Committee this week.
What!!! This is an outrage!! We can't assume people are actually able to make their own decisions and may in fact choose NOT to buy insurance. We must assume they are utterly unable to make decisions about their own welfare....wait, we have to go even further, we must assume they are victims of circumstance and can't even fight their way to a point where they have the ability and resources to make their own decisions.
We don't preserve our fellow citizens dignity by assuming they are incapable of making decisions about their own welfare. In fact, we destroy it by making this assumption.
Yes, we know there are people who need help but simply being aware that people need help does not give me or you moral superiority or the right to use government to impose our moral orthodoxy on our fellow citizens.
These reports almost always leave the impression that local elected officials are absolutely helpless in the face of inevitable growth of spending and the working assumption is that current tax rates, whatever they may be, will "never keep up" with the "crushing" demands of government.
Any references to "growth" are almost always related to the growth in spending, not the growth in tax revenue. In fact, there is usually a complete lack of any historical data that would show taxpayers how much revenue has grown over time. The working assumption regarding growth is that spending always grows faster than revenue so growth must inevitably equal tax hikes.
This is so ridiculous on the face of it that it doesn't really deserve discussion but discuss it they will. This is a damned sad.
Thursday, April 26, 2007
Oh, by the way, it looks like the chances are very good that Gov. Bredesen will propose a gas tax increase next year.
Under the base-case emission scenario derived, which accounted for projected improvements in gasoline and E85 vehicle emission controls, it was found that E85 (85% ethanol fuel, 15% gasoline) may increase ozone-related mortality, hospitalization, and asthma by about 9% in Los Angeles and 4% in the United States as a whole relative to 100% gasoline.
The Tennessean also has some reservations about the tax and the way its being collected.
TALLAHASSEE -- Gov. Charlie Crist entered the legislative fray over cutting property taxes Wednesday, rolling out an ambitious plan that would provide billions of dollars in taxpayer savings and local government cuts.
Crist's plan -- released with lawmakers at a testy impasse -- rivals an ambitious House plan with its estimated $33.5 billion savings over five years.
But, like the Senate's plan, it does not include a controversial plan to eliminate property taxes on residents' primary homes and raise the state's 6 percent sales tax.
Cutting property taxes is the biggest issue of this year's session after several years of often double-digit tax increases. A spokeswoman declined to say whether Crist opposes a sales-tax hike -- a key issue in negotiations.
Wednesday, April 25, 2007
Davidson County Chancellor Claudia Bonnyman this morning ruled in favor the Nashville Scene in its attempt to shed light on the current effort to revise the state's methods of carrying out the death penalty.
As NashvillePost.com recently reported, the Scene filed a lawsuit against the Tennessee Department of Corrections after the dapartment and its commission, George Little, denied an open-records request from the alternative weekly newspaper seeking to lift the hood, so to speak, on the execution review process.
The study confirmed previous research which has shown that smarter people tend to earn more money, but pointed out there is a difference between high pay and overall wealth.
"The average income difference between a person with an IQ score in the normal range (100) and someone in the top two percent of society (130) is currently between 6,000 and 18,500 dollars per year," it said.
"But when it came to total wealth and the likelihood of financial difficulties, people of below average and average intelligence did just fine when compared to the super-intelligent."
An irregular pattern of total wealth as well as financial distress levels -- such as maxed out credit cards, bankruptcy and missing bill payments -- emerged among the various degrees of intelligence, the study said.
1316 patients who had no regular source of care and kept their initial primary care appointment were enrolled and randomized with either a nurse practitioner (n = 806) or physician (n = 510). ... No significant differences were found in patients' health status ... at 6 months ... hypertension ... was statistically significantly lower for nurse practitioner patients (82 vs 85 mm Hg; P = .04). No significant differences were found in health services utilization after either 6 months or 1 year. There were no differences in satisfaction ratings following the initial appointment (P = .88 for overall satisfaction). Satisfaction ratings at 6 months differed for 1 of 4 dimensions measured (provider attributes), with physicians rated higher (4.2 vs 4.1 on a scale where 5 = excellent; P = .05).But docs are taught more medicine than nurses; why are they no better at primary care? Probably because docs are famously overconfident. For example, one study found that on average when docs were 88% confident that their patient had pneumonia, in fact only 20% of such patients had pneumonia. And overconfidence is fatal in primary care.
Tuesday, April 24, 2007
In an effort to make the legislature more accessible to working citizens and students, the Oklahoma House held its first Saturday session, according to an article on NewsOK.com. More than 100 people filled the gallery including a number of students. Speaker Lance Cargill deemed the day a success and hoped to do it again next year. He also encouraged parents to bring their children to the capitol for the Saturday session to improve their civic knowledge.
That's because the current farm bill helps commodity farmers by cutting them a check based on how many bushels they can grow, rather than, say, by supporting prices and limiting production, as farm bills once did. The result? A food system awash in added sugars (derived from corn) and added fats (derived mainly from soy), as well as dirt-cheap meat and milk (derived from both). By comparison, the farm bill does almost nothing to support farmers growing fresh produce. A result of these policy choices is on stark display in your supermarket, where the real price of fruits and vegetables between 1985 and 2000 increased by nearly 40 percent while the real price of soft drinks (a k a liquid corn) declined by 23 percent. The reason the least healthful calories in the supermarket are the cheapest is that those are the ones the farm bill encourages farmers to grow.
Just a month after supporting a tax-increment financing plan for downtown Johnson City, Washington County commissioners surprisingly pulled out of the program this morning. The TIF program will still eventually help fund downtown improvements, but now, the improvements will be delayed. So why would county commissioners change their minds in just a matter of weeks?
The program, which covers 300,000 federal employees nationwide, has been abused by workers across a variety of agencies, the Government Accountability Office will report to Congress today. Workers in the Washington region alone have defrauded the government of at least $17 million a year, with the actual figure probably several million dollars higher, according to the GAO.
Sunday, April 22, 2007
State Reps. Dale Ford and John Litz aired their political concerns during a taping of "Legislative Chat," a public affairs talk show produced for public television by East Tennessee State University.
Litz, D-Morristown, said last year's landmark ethics legislation restricting contact between lawmakers and lobbyists has been bad for the legislature.
"A lot of our problems that we're having now is we're never seeing each other outside the legislature," Litz explained. "We never build a bond between each other. I blame a lot of that on the ethics legislation we passed. I think we jumped the gun on it."
NASHVILLE — Buried in the state budget is a special provision for the state's top lawmakers that allowed former Senate Speaker John Wilder to have the full cost of travel on his private plane reimbursed with taxpayer money.
Most of Tennessee's 132 lawmakers must adhere to a law that allows them to bill the state for the actual auto mileage between their home and the Capitol. Those living at least 100 miles away can be reimbursed for the lowest fare commercial flight available.
But under separate travel rules established in the annual state budget document, the speakers of both chambers, the majority leaders, the Senate floor leader and House majority whip are given the special perk of having the full costs reimbursed for "travel by conveyance owned by such person."
Saturday, April 21, 2007
Do you agree or disagree with the following statement? - "Bigger government leads to more corruption."
Source: Zogby International / Judicial Watch
Methodology: Telephone interviews with 1,039 American adults, conducted from Mar. 22 to Mar. 26, 2007. Margin of error is 3.1 per cent.
Friday, April 20, 2007
Less than a week after raiding Rep John Doolittle's (R-CA) northern Virginia Home, FBI agents have raided a business tied to Rep Rick Renzi's (R-AZ) familiy. That's Rep Renzi in the picture -- you can't keep up with the Congressional corruption without a program.
Roll Call reports Mr Renzi has stepped down from the House Intelligence Committee in light of the investigation. (Roll Call via PoliticalWire.com)
For almost a decade, some divisions of the Department of Agriculture published the Social Security numbers of individuals who receive federal aid in a publicly available online database of government grants. The Farm Service Agency and at least one other agency within Agriculture included the nine digit numbers as part of the tracking number assigned to each recipient of government assistance, called a Federal Award ID.
Those tracking numbers were then published in the Federal Assistance Awards Database System (FAADS), an online compendium of "all types of financial assistance awards made by federal agencies to all types of recipients," which is updated quarterly. This database is generally used by experts and is not very user-friendly.
So far, it's not clear whether the inadvertent publication of individuals' Social Security numbers is limited to the two agencies in Agriculture, or whether the problem extends to other departments and agencies as well.
Norris had proposed the bill to set a $50,000 annual income cap for eligibility (For the over 65 property tax freeze), with local municipalities having the option to set a lower limit. But, Norris said, the state's attorney general warned that the plan might be unconstitutional.
He's hoping that a change to the bill to set the cap at the median income for 65- to 74-year-olds will be approved.
Thursday, April 19, 2007
The billions of dollars thrown at global health problems by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation are changing the game in drug discovery, posing big challenges to the world's top drugmakers, according to a report on Tuesday.
Pharmaceutical information group IMS Health Inc. said the emergence of megabuck philanthropy was both a threat and a collaboration opportunity for manufacturers.
"Pharma companies need to develop an explicit strategy to deal with this phenomenon," IMS said in its annual Intelligence.360 report on factors shaping the industry.
Wednesday, April 18, 2007
The Third Court of Appeals has released an opinion vindicating the rights of taxpayers to sue the government over spending in violation of the Texas Constitution.
The ruling, written by Justice Robert Pemberton, in Hendee v. Dewhurst, was released this morning. Edd Hendee, executive director of Citizens Lowering Our Unfair Taxes (CLOUT), filed the suit in June of 2006."We agree with the Plaintiffs that the Texas Supreme Court's jurisprudence under Article VII, Section 1 compels us to hold that Article VIII, Section 22 is self-executing to the extent of prohibiting legislative action inconsistent with tis provisions, and that Plaintiffs claims of violations do not present non-justiciable political questions" Justice Pemberton wrote. Pemberton additionally upheld a century of Texas precedent despite the arguments of the Attorney General, writing "a taxpayer has standing to sue in equity to enjoin the illegal expenditure of public funds, even without showing a distinct injury." He added: "We reject the State Defendants' narrow view of the taxpayer standing exception."
"As you can see from the figure, once the burden of cigarette taxes is accounted for, only the top half of Tennessee earners come out ahead from this part of the Governor's plan, while the lowest-income households pay much more in taxes than they receive back in spending. Overall, this component of the Governor's plan alone results in a fiscal redistribution of $2.3 million from the bottom 50 percent of Tennessee earners to the top 50 percent"
Tuesday, April 17, 2007
WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service today granted a six-month tax filing and payment extension to those affected by the shootings Monday at Virginia Tech, in Blacksburg, Va. This relief applies to the victims, their families, emergency responders and university students and employees.
"Taxes are the last thing the Virginia Tech family should be worried about at this time," IRS Commissioner Mark W. Everson said. "Our hearts go out to the people affected by this tragic event."
When they started voting Senator Norris declared Rule 13, which means the member declares a personal interest in the vote, then several other Senators said they had carry permits....finally Speaker Ramsey says that all Senators declare Rule 13.
Monday, April 16, 2007
Florida's income tax aversion dates to 1924, when voters banned it through an amendment to the state constitution.
The state remains a tax haven more than 70 years later, one of only seven states without a personal income tax. The others are Alaska, Nevada, South Dakota, Texas, Washington and Wyoming.
Chambers of commerce and real estate agencies still pitch Florida's income tax ban, along with its beaches and sunshine, to lure retirees, the wealthy and their money to the state.
The chances of lifting it appear as remote as ever, even though the state's constitutional Taxation and Budget Reform Commission, which is meeting this year and next, has the power to review Florida's entire tax structure and place amendments on the ballot.
Sunday, April 15, 2007
NASHVILLE, Tenn., March 28 /PRNewswire/ -- HealthLeaders-InterStudy, a leading provider of managed care industry intelligence, reports that TennCare, Tennessee's state Medicaid program, experienced a reduction in overall pharmacy spending, decreasing from $2.44 billion in 2005 to $1.20 billion in 2006. According to the latest Tennessee Health Plan Analysis, implementing drug limits, centralized management and beefing up the state's prior authorization process have made a difference in pharmacy spending.
"The resulting estimates indicate that tax increases are highly contractionary. The effects are strongly significant, highly robust, and much larger than those obtained using broader measures of tax changes. The large effect stems in considerable part from a
powerful negative effect of tax increases on investment. We also find that legislated tax increases designed to reduce a persistent budget deficit appear to have much smaller output costs than other tax increases."
Our baseline specification suggests that an exogenous tax increase of one percent of GDP lowers real GDP by roughly three percent.
Americans who sell items through Internet auction sites could be in for an unpleasant surprise at tax time next year, thanks to an IRS proposal designed to identify taxpayers who don't report income from those sales.
The U.S. Treasury Department wants Congress to force auction sites like eBay, Amazon.com and uBid.com to turn over the identities and Social Security numbers of a large portion of their users to the IRS--so tax collectors know how much each person made through online selling.
Friday, April 13, 2007
The Ethics Loophole bill, HB1779/SB1287, is still alive but was delayed until Monday in the Senate. The bill gives candidates 10 days to correct "mistakes." The important question: is the intent of the bill to allow candidates to correct intentional mistakes? The bill was amended in the Senate but only as to the amount and number of mistakes, no language was changed to address the intent and as Sen Kyle says in this short clip, why do we need such a loophole anyway:
This short video shows that the intent of the bill as expressed in the Senate is completely different than the intent as expressed in the House. Sen Kurita says "I want to be sure we are not backtracking on ethics proposals." The bottom line is there is no good reason for this bill.
Thursday, April 12, 2007
The April 10-11 referendum called for a $50 increase during the Fall 2007 and Spring 2008 semesters. Fees would increase by another $50 per semester during the 2009-2010 school year. Along with the current $75 athletic fee, students would be paying a total of $350 a year in athletic fees beginning in 2009-2010. Plans were for the new football team to play its first game in 2010.
With 3,229 ballots cast, 1,907 students were opposed to the fee, and 1,322 were in favor. Over 59 percent of the students who participated voted against the fee, with 27 percent of the student body participating in the vote. The ETSU Student Government Association certified the vote at approximately 6:45 p.m. Wednesday.
Wednesday, April 11, 2007
"Well, children we have begun the block of instruction on how a bill becomes law. We will move onto killer subcommittees, stacking committees and how to write a budget in a locked back room.
"Then our next block will focus on local government. It will focus on the Knox County Commission and explain the advantages of appointed office holders, nepotism and the horrors of terms limits."
(Are we really sure we want to introduce Civics into the classroom? Wouldn't sex education be less damaging to our youth?)
According to a statement by the Republican Party, approximately 1,100 registered voters signed the petition. To send the issue to the polls, law requires that 10 percent of the number of voters, 552 voters, in the last governor's election sign the petition. Though the signatures have yet to be verified by the Election Commission, chances are there will be enough for referendum.
Tuesday, April 10, 2007
A financial hurricane bearing down on Metro government could force significant budget cuts, tax increases or changes in retirement health benefits for future employees.
Metro eventually will have to pay $3.2 billion for retiree health benefits — money it hasn't set aside — unless it changes the way it pays benefits, according to insurance industry statistics reports.
Monday, April 09, 2007
Roane County already has an annual source of income meant to go toward jail construction - $10 collected for every case litigated in the county.
Collected since 2000, the county commission is now authorized by the state to increase this tax.
Saturday, April 07, 2007
"All public officials in New Jersey should remain on notice," warned U.S. Attorney Christopher Christie, who often notes his office has convicted 107 government officials on corruption charges in the last five years.
The "old" ways of doing things in New Jersey are being called into question, prompting legislators to vow to bring change to a state renowned for corruption.
"The events of the past year have shed light on the deficiencies of a number of government agencies and procedures," said Senate President Richard J. Codey, D-Essex.
Assembly Speaker Joseph Roberts Jr., D-Camden, said recent events provide opportunity for lawmakers to take action on ethics reforms in the next 90 days, before they break for the summer and re-election campaigns.
1- People whose income is above the "poverty level" will not, left to their own free will, be as caring and charitable as you believe they should be. Therefore government must force these people to give up their property via taxes so government can give this property to those who deserve it but would not otherwise receive it.
2- The forces arrayed against the poor are so great that most of them, left to their own devices, can not raise their income and improve their circumstances.
Both of these beliefs are destructive to the basic ideal of the dignity and sovereignty of the individual citizen. And both lead to this kind of insanity:
The system is being piloted by Harrow Council, in north London, for housing benefit and council tax benefit claims.
Mr Hutton said: "This technology aims to tackle fraudsters while speeding up claims and improving customer service for the honest majority."
He added: "Our investigators are successfully using sophisticated 21st-century techniques to stop criminals. The introduction of this cutting-edge technology will be another weapon in the battle against benefit fraud."
VRA analyses changes in voice frequency and performs thousands of mathematical calculations to identify different categories of emotional content and to recognise genuine callers.
Sweden has some catching up to do. "Boxing did not fit into the Social Democratic self-image of the Swedes in the 1960s," says Åse Sandell, a towering flaxen-haired middleweight, who has risen to the top of women's boxing only by moving to the United States.
Boxing is booming again and Sandell has become the idol of a new generation. The smack of leather on leather, the grunt of young boxers who are no longer confined to heavily regulated amateur bouts: this is the sound and the fury of a cultural revolution in the making. Not the whiff of cordite, but of embrocation and sweat.
Sweden's social welfare model, so admired by Gordon Brown, was ripe for overhaul. Indeed, so ripe that the Social Democrats grudgingly started their own reforms, cutting down, for example, on Europe's most generous sick-leave arrangements, which were blamed for turning a healthy nation into a society of work-dodgers.
Thursday, April 05, 2007
The Congressional Budget Office reported today that through the first six months of the fiscal year (Oct 2006 - March 2007), total tax revenues collected increased by $83 billion compared to the same period last year, an 8% increase. As the table above shows, individual income tax receipts increased by $49B (+11.4%) and corporate taxes increased by $24B (+18.5%), compared to the same period a year ago.
We keep hearing about the "tax cuts of 2003" (rates were decreased) when it was actually a "tax increase," if we look at what happened to revenues. In 2006, tax revenues were at all-time historical high of $2.4 trillion. At the current pace, tax revenues collected this will be $2.64 trillion, and will set another record.
Wednesday, April 04, 2007
Tuesday, April 03, 2007
So, you would think that the Governor and the General Assembly would be content with only talking about a cigarette tax increase AND a gas tax increase....but NOOOOO, now they even want an increase in car tags. This bill passed the subcommittee and is now in the House Transportation Committee.
Motor Vehicles, Titling and Registration - Increases motor vehicle registration fees $16.00 and allocates the revenues to highway funds, local government, and mass transit. - Amends TCA Title 55, Chapter 4.
ITHACA, N.Y. -- Turning plants such as corn, soybeans and sunflowers into fuel uses much more energy than the resulting ethanol or biodiesel generates, according to a new Cornell University and University of California-Berkeley study.
"There is just no energy benefit to using plant biomass for liquid fuel," says David Pimentel, professor of ecology and agriculture at Cornell. "These strategies are not sustainable."
Nonetheless, war tax resisters persist, emboldened by the fact that it is probably too costly for the government to come after them. Hansen said she will stand by her beliefs regardless of the consequences.
"I have paid for taxes -- I have helped to pay for wars before," she said. "I've never felt good about that. It was the invasion of Iraq that pushed the button for me."
Elizabeth Boardman, 65, of San Francisco plans to withhold 41 percent of her taxes this year, a number she estimates the government to be spending on the military from its total budget, excluding what it pays out to war veterans.
Monday, April 02, 2007
Senate Republican Leader Mark Norris (R-Collierville), the main legislative proponent of the constitutional amendment, criticized local government groups, saying they are "secretly hoping" the legislation doesn't pass because "government doesn't give up revenue easily.
"They are just doing everything they can to kill this legislation and the hopes of a lot of our senior citizens along with it and I think it's unfair and I think it's disingenuous," Norris said. "It's just government not wanting to give up its money and that's all there is to it."