Politics: February 2013 Archives

In a 6-3 decision, the Supreme Court of Washington said that only a simple majority can be constitutionally required to pass a law, regardless of repeated voter initiatives signalling a clear majority of voters want a two-thirds requirement to increase taxes.

I find the reasoning specious, as does a third of the Court. Indeed, the Court says something puzzling to defend its claim, that "[Whether to require a supermajority for the passage of tax legislation] is left to the legislative branch of our government. Should the people and the legislature still wish to require a supermajority vote for tax legislation, they must do so through constitutional amendment, not through legislation."

But the people are the legislative branch. It's right there at the top of Article II: "The legislative authority of the state of Washington shall be vested in the legislature, consisting of a senate and house of representatives, which shall be called the legislature of the state of Washington, but the people reserve to themselves the power to propose bills, laws, and to enact or reject the same at the polls, independent of the legislature, and also reserve power, at their own option, to approve or reject at the polls any act, item, section, or part of any bill, act, or law passed by the legislature."

If the legislature can make a rule requiring a two-thirds vote, then so can the people.

Anyway, the main point is the latter part: guess what's coming next? You can bet your bottom tax dollar that we'll have a constitutional amendment on the table soon, to put this thrice-passed initiative into the state constitution.

And thankfully, with Republicans controlling the Senate with a few anti-tax Democrats, we won't see tax increases any time soon, regardless.


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There's this idea out there that the sequester and its effects are the fault of Republicans. No one following along thinks that, but it's the majority opinion.

In early 2011, the debt limit was going to be reached within the year. President Obama knew this was coming, and should have reduced spending early in the year to prepare for the fact that the law said he couldn't borrow any more money.

Instead, Obama spent as though there would be no limit. He said it was Congress' job to increase the limit, even though he had voted against doing it as a Senator, and told many lies about how not increasing it was going to result in default, even though we had enough money to pay for all mandatory spending.

They did come to an agreement on the debt limit, thanks to Obama promising two things: that there would be automatic cuts if they didn't come to an agreement on deficit reduction. Stated all along was that we need a "balanced" approach, with both tax increases and spending cuts.

So fast forward to 2012, and Obama saying the sequester is a terrible idea that came from the Republicans, and doing other antagonizing of the Republicans that seems designed to push them away, so they would be less likely to want to make a deal. And then in early 2013, the Republicans agreed to spending increases, getting absolutely nothing in return. Obama said he "fulfilled a major campaign promise" by getting the tax increase. Republicans said that this was understood to be the tax increase portion of a deal, and now it was time to work on the spending cuts.

So now we're looking at the deadline to avoid the sequester, and the Repulicans have made several proposals, including to change nothing except to fund certain things that would otherwise be cut, and to cut spending more intelligently. Obama has rejected everything that does not include another tax increase.

And let's not also forget that every single cut that has been announced is a choice. The amounts cut are mandatory, but how they are applied is a choice. Every time someone says "we have to cut teacher pay" or "we have to do this or that," they're lying. They are making a choice about what to cut, and it seems like -- just as Obama is trying to antagonize Republicans into not making a deal by lying about them nearly every day -- Obama is picking cuts designed to make the public angry. The Republicans even offered a proposal to make those choices easier and smarter, and Obama rejected it.

Obama is saying the Republicans came up with the sequester, even though he did. Obama is saying the Republicans won't concede to a tax increase to avoid sequester, even though they did just last month. Obama is saying the Republicans are to blame for no agreement, holding the country "hostage," even though Republicans have made explicitly balanced offers and Obama rejects them.

There's no question that Obama deserves the overwhelming majority of the blame here. He is lying about the lack of tax increases, lying about specific cuts being necessary, and apparently doing anything he can to avoid a deal. Either he doesn't want a deal, or he is doing a great job of pretending he doesn't want a deal.

Indeed, even Democrats are pointing out that because most Americans are blaming Republicans, the President has no real reason to come to an agreement. So avoiding the "pain" of a sequester is not reason enough for him, apparently. It's a bizarre thing: Obama is acting like he wants sequestration, and is responsible for almost every part of how we got here, but everyone is still blaming Republicans.

As I've said, I am open to having the sequestration. If they won't cut spending on their own, this is a good start. It's a terribly dumb way to cut, but it's better than not cutting. But I think Obama wants sequestration a lot more than I do.

Seattle Times columnist Danny Westneat was shocked, shocked to find that Washington Senate Democrats actually are trying to send cops to inspect your home if you own a gun.

The provision of SB 5737 -- sponsored by Democratic Senators Adam Kline, Jeanne Kohl-Welles, and Ed Murray, designed to ban the sale of assault weapons -- states, "In order to continue to possess an assault weapon that was legally possessed on the effective date of this section, the person possessing shall ... safely and securely store the assault weapon. The sheriff of the county may, no more than once per year, conduct an inspection to ensure compliance with this subsection."

Kline says he didn't know that was in the bill. "I made a mistake. ... I frankly should have vetted this more closely."

Well, that's funny to me, because I recall a certain SB 6396 in 2010, which Kline and Kohl-Welles sponsored, which, regarding "safe storage" of assault weapons, read: "The sheriff of the county may, no more than once per year, conduct an inspection to ensure compliance with this subsection."

Oh, and then there's SB 5475, also sponsored by Kline and Kohl-Welles, which on the same topic, read: "The sheriff of the county may, no more than once per year, conduct an inspection to ensure compliance with this subsection."

Danny, can we please not pretend this was accidental? Three bills, two sponsors, all about banning assault weapons, all giving sheriffs the power to inspect homes ... Klein didn't make a mistake. He simply lied about it when you pointed it out. If I knew the predecessor to this bill said the same basic thing three years ago, is it really reasonable to think Klein and Kohl-Welles, who sponsored both, didn't know?

And while we're not pretending, can we admit the bill is nonsense even without this provision? People would still have and get these guns, and would still be able to buy new guns that are functionally equivalent to the ones that would be banned. There are many pistols and rifles that fire the same bullets at the same velocity and same rate that would not be banned by this bill and would be available for similar prices. It cannot possibly have any effect on gun deaths. It's the opposite of "common sense" legislation.

On the Voting Rights Act

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There is a movement to repeal a small part of the Voting Rights Act, Section 5. Known as "preclearance," it is institutionalized discrimination against jurisdictions found to have been previously guilty of discrimination.

On its face, it is a silly law to maintain today. It says that for such jurisdictions, any changes to voting laws that are different from the laws on November 1, 1964, must be approved by the Attorney General. While this may have made sense at the time, it hardly makes sense today to think that Alabama must get Eric Holder's permission to change its voting laws just because it discriminated against minorities 50 years ago: Alabama had an illegal voting test which resulted in low registration and turnout among black citizens.

There is no reason or sense in saying that Alabama, due entirely to circumstances from 50 years ago, should be required to get federal permission to change its laws, while most other states do not.

But the real problem here, I think, is that Holder has abused this power. He has rejected attempts by states to change laws that he simply doesn't like, that he says -- without any serious justification -- would reduce minority voting turnout, such as requiring photo IDs at the polls. My state requires photo IDs at the polls, but because we didn't discriminate against blacks in the 1960s, that's OK?

It's time to end preclearance, and stop punitively holding southern states as lesser than the rest.

State Rep. Mike Hope (R-44) is a co-sponsor of H.B. 1588, which would subject all firearm transfers to background checks, effectively making it illegal for me to sell a gun to my dad or brother unless I pay money to, and ask permission from, the goverment.

Folks like Danny Westneat think this is a great idea, because people buy and sell guns under I-5 without knowing if the person might be a convicted felon. But I've asked many people -- including Rep. Hope -- for evidence that this bill, or one like it, would actually prevent any significant number of felons from procuring guns, and so far, I've gotten nothing but silence.

What the bill certainly would do is put a burden on many law-abiding citizens: not only would they have to wait some indeterminate amount of time to sell the gun, but they would have to pay money, and risk a flaw in the system denying them the purchase. It would have a serious impact on people who aren't breaking the law, immediately.

The odd thing to me is that Hope, through correspondence to me from his state legislature e-mail account, says he would not vote for this bill as written, even though he is sponsoring it.

He says he will propose amendments for guns transferred from parents to children, exempt law enforcement officers and concealed-carry permit holders, and so on, and that without at least some changes, he will vote against it.

But like Westneat, he thinks the bill will help keep guns out of the hands of felons. I don't believe that, and I see no serious argument or evidence for that. Those felons are already violating the law if they are buying guns at all, and while this law would also make the seller culpable, there's no reason I can see to think that sellers for these felons wouldn't still exist, and be relatively easy to find.

<pudge/*> (pronounced "PudgeGlob") is thousands of posts over many years by Pudge.

"It is the common fate of the indolent to see their rights become a prey to the active. The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt."

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Politics category from February 2013.

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