Thursday, 5 June 2008
Judicial Selection Reform Long Overdue
COMMENT: In answer to an article that was just factually wrong, Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey (R-Blountville) has written an excellent op-ed that gives a lot of very important background to this issue which is sure to be addressed in January.
Judicial Selection Reform Long Overdue
Published: June 1, 2008
BY RON RAMSEY
Published: June 1, 2008
BY RON RAMSEY
In 2006, the state witnessed a nearly year-long battle between the Judicial Selection Commission and Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen over the process of selecting appellate judges, including state Supreme Court justices.
It culminated in a state Supreme Court ruling that the commission had failed in its duty to provide diversity in the choices it sent to the governor. The commission had twice submitted the name of a favorite son and former head of the Tennessee Democratic Party – after Bredesen made it clear he wished to have qualified minority candidates on any slate he received.
FAST FORWARD to the beginning of this year. Early in the year, I announced that one of my highest priorities for the legislative session would be reform of the judicial selection process. There are many reasons for this:
* Special interest control. Currently, special interests control the appointment process. Although I have eight appointments to the commission, six of those – by law – must come from the Tennessee Trial Lawyers Association (recently renamed the Tennessee Association for Justice) and the District Attorneys General Conference. This means that 75 percent of those who pick our judicial nominees are selected by special interests in the legal community. This must change. Tennesseans must have some form of accountability from those who choose appellate judges, including those who serve on the Supreme Court.
* Open government. The Judicial Selection Commission refuses to open its meetings and deliberations to the public. This has been Gov. Bredesen’s main disagreement with the commission, and I agree with him. The legislature now makes all floor sessions, committee and subcommittee meetings available online, in addition to posting all votes. There is no reason why the commission cannot at least meet in public.
* Diversity. Until I was elected lieutenant governor, the Judicial Selection Commission had never had a member from east of Morristown. No one from Bristol, Kingsport, Johnson City, Elizabethton, Erwin, Greeneville, Newport, Mountain City or any other place in Northeast Tennessee had ever been included. Indeed, the commission had only one member from east of Knoxville in its history. That is why I was proud to appoint the late Steve Rose of Kingsport to the commission and was equally proud to appoint Tom Davenport of Bristol.
FOR THESE REASONS, I spoke with all interested parties during the legislative session to craft a compromise reform for a process which obviously does not work. I proposed an amendment which removed special interest control of the nominations but still allowed legal groups to submit names, though neither I nor the speaker of the House would be bound by their list.
My amendment also required the commission to meet publicly and authorized the governor to do a standard Tennessee Bureau of Investigation background check on his nominee. The amendment required geographic and ethnic diversity on the commission and prohibited registered lobbyists from serving on it.
Once drafted, the amendment was shared with constituents, the press, the Tennessee Bar Association, the Tennessee Trial Lawyers Association and any other interested party who requested a copy. While I commend the Tennessee Bar Association for its willingness to discuss the details of the plan, no other legal group or legislator was remotely interested in a compromise that removed special interest control of the Judicial Selection Commission. That unwillingness to bend spelled defeat – at the hands of a bipartisan coalition – for the effort to renew the commission in both committee and floor votes.
Ironically, when the commission came into existence in 1994, it also faced bipartisan opposition. I voted against the measure, but so did many Senate Democrats, including Minority Leader Jim Kyle, Floor Leader Roy Herron and Sen. Douglas Henry. House Democratic Majority Leader Gary Odom also opposed the plan.
THE CURRENT judicial selection process is a perfect storm of special interest control, closed government and lack of accountability. I intend to continue the fight to reform the commission in 2009.
While I would prefer to improve the current system, allowing Tennesseans to have a greater voice in the judicial selection process, our constitution clearly allows the election of appellate court judges and Supreme Court justices. Given the stark choice between entrenched special interests controlling who serves on the bench and allowing voters to decide, I feel certain the General Assembly will choose the latter.
Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville, is a senator and Tennessee’s lieutenant governor
Posted on 06/05/2008 5:23 PM by Bobbie Patray
Tuesday, 3 June 2008
A New Argument About Immigration
A New Argument About Immigration
by Phyllis Schlafly, May 28, 2008
Read this article online: http://www.eagleforum.org/column/2008/may08/08-05-28.html
Many arguments, pro and con, about how to deal with illegal aliens have been passionately debated over the past couple of years, but there are still other arguments that need public exposure. Mark Krikorian presents a new argument in his forthcoming book called "The New Case Against Immigration: Both Legal and Illegal."
The pro-more-immigration crowd argues that today's immigrants are just like immigrants of a century ago: poor people looking for a better life who are expected to advance in our land of opportunity. Krikorian's new argument is that while today's immigrants may be like earlier ones, the America they come to is so very different that our previous experience with immigrants is practically irrelevant.
The essential difference between the two waves of immigrants was best summed up by the Nobel Prize-winning advocate of a free market, Milton Friedman. He said, "It's just obvious that you can't have free immigration and a welfare state."
The term "welfare state" does not just mean handouts to the non-working. Our welfare state encompasses dozens of social programs that provide benefits to the "working poor," i.e., people working for wages low enough that they pay little or no income taxes.
Immigrants of the previous generation were expected to earn their own living, pay taxes like everybody else, learn our language, love America, and assimilate into our culture. Today's immigrants likewise come here for jobs not welfare.
During those prior major waves of immigration, the United States didn't have a welfare state. Native-born Americans survived the Great Depression of the 1930s without a welfare state.
The Social Security retirement system was established only in 1935. Most other agencies that redistribute cash and costly benefits from taxpayers to non-taxpayers started with Lyndon Johnson's Great Society in the late 1960s.
Today's low-wage immigrants and lower-wage illegals can't earn what it costs to live in modern America, so they supplement with means-tested taxpayer benefits. And many immigrants don't learn our language or assimilate into American culture because of the multicultural diversity taught in our schools and encouraged in our society.
Today's immigrants fit the profile of the people who benefit from our welfare state: the working poor with large families. Krikorian sets forth some dismal figures.
About 30 percent of all immigrants in the U.S. workforce in 2005 lacked a high school education, which is four times the rate for native-born Americans. Among the largest group of working-age immigrants, the Mexicans, 62 percent have less than a high-school education, which means they work low-wage jobs.
Nearly half of immigrant households, 45 percent, are in or near poverty compared with 29 percent of native-headed households. Among Mexicans living in the United States, nearly two-thirds live in or near the government's definition of poverty.
Costly social benefits provided to the working poor include Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (now called TANF, formerly AFDC), food stamps, school lunches, Medicaid, WIC (nutrition for Women, Infants and Children), public housing, and Supplemental Security Income (SSI).
The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is one of the most expensive parts of income redistribution. Twice as many immigrant households (30 percent) qualify for this cash handout as native-headed households (15 percent).
Health care is another huge cost. Nearly half of immigrants are either uninsured or on Medicaid, which is nearly double the rate for native-born families. Federal law requires hospitals to treat all comers to emergency rooms, even if uninsured and unable to pay.
Hospitals try to shift the costs onto their paying patients, and when the hospitals exhaust their ability to do this, they close their doors. In Los Angeles, 60 hospitals have closed their emergency rooms over the past decade, which imposes another kind of cost.
Immigration accounts for nearly all the growth in elementary and secondary school enrollment over the past generation. The children of immigrants now comprise 19 percent of the school-age population and 21 percent of the preschool population.
The Heritage Foundation estimated that in order to reduce government payments to the average low-skill household to a level equal to the taxes it pays, "it would be necessary to eliminate Social Security and Medicare, all means-tested welfare, and to cut expenditures on public education roughly in half." Obviously, that is not going to happen.
Attempts to limit welfare eligibility for illegal aliens by provisions added to the 1996 welfare reform law, SSI, food stamps, Medicaid and TANF all failed. Krikorian concludes that "Walling immigrants off from government benefits once we've let them in is a fantasy."
As Americans are pinched between falling real estate values and the inflation of necessities such as gasoline, they are entitled to know how their tax dollars are being spent. The big bite that social benefits to immigrants (one-third of whom are illegal) takes out of taxpayers' paychecks should be factored into any debate about immigration or amnesty policy.
Posted on 06/03/2008 5:21 PM by Bobbie Patray
Monday, 2 June 2008
Coming Soon to a Bathroom Near You...
COMMENT: The march against morality and common sense continues ignoring safety and modesty concerns to say nothing of religious convictions. Where will it stop??
Coming Soon to a Bathroom Near You...
FRC, May 30, 2008
Congress may be adjourned for the Memorial Day recess, but a series of misguided state bills aren't providing any relief for pro-family groups. Just ask the residents of Colorado, where locals are bracing themselves for an "anti-bias" law that is actually changing where people use the restroom. Yesterday, over the protests of thousands of families, Gov. Bill Ritter (D) signed SB 200 into law. The legislation blurs the sexual lines by making all public accommodations, including locker rooms and restrooms, "gender-free." In other words, anyone--regardless of their biological identity--will be welcome in the men's or ladies' room, including cross-dressers, men who self-identify as women, women who self-identify as men, and people who haven't made up their minds. To make matters worse, Colorado defines "public accommodations" as everything from malls, restaurants, and schools to small and even home businesses. The other side says this is about discrimination. But the chance of offending a few people hardly justifies putting everyone else at risk, which is exactly what SB 200 does. For every transvestite who takes advantage of this law, there are a dozen sexual predators who will see this as a chance to put women and children into a vulnerable situation. Focus on the Family launched a statewide awareness campaign, but in the end, even Colorado's largest Christian ministry couldn't compete with Ritter's desire to pay off liberal financier Tim Gill, who sank serious dollars into the governor's election campaign in 2006. >From here all eyes will turn to Montgomery County, where a November ballot initiative will determine the fate of its bathroom bill.
To read more about Tim Gill, go here.
Guv strikes state's gender-specific restrooms
'Who would have believed it would be legal for men to enter women's locker rooms?'
With today's signature on SB200, Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter, a Democrat, has eliminated gender-specific restrooms and locker rooms statewide, giving woman and girls reason to fear being confronted by predators, cross-dressers "or even a homosexual or heterosexual male," according to a critic.
The state's new "transgender nondiscrimination" bill makes it illegal to deny a person access to public accommodations, including restrooms and locker rooms, based on gender identity or the "perception" of gender identity.
Ritter signed the Expanded Discrimination Prohibitions, approved by the legislature, with this definition:
"'Sexual orientation' means a person's orientation toward heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality, or transgender status or another person's perception thereof."
"Who would have believed that the Colorado state legislature and its governor would have made it fully legal for men to enter and use women’s restrooms and locker-room facilities without notice or explanation?" said James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, the Christian publishing and broadcast ministry in Colorado Springs.
"Henceforth, every woman and little girl will have to fear that a predator, bisexual, cross-dresser or even a homosexual or heterosexual male might walk in and relieve himself in their presence," Dobson said. "The legislation lists every conceivable type of organization to which this law applies, including restaurants, bathhouses, massage parlors, mortuaries, theaters and 'public facilities of any kind.' Those who would attempt to protect females from this intrusion are subject to a fine of up to $5,000 and up to one year behind bars.
"This is your government in action. It represents a payback to Tim Gill and two other billionaires who have essentially 'bought' state legislators with enormous campaign contributions. Coloradans deserve better!" Dobson said.
"And by the way, because of the way this bill is written, it is not subject to the initiative process. There is no recourse,” Dobson said.
According to the bill, business owners and managers of restaurants, gyms, barber shops, massage parlors and managers of public facilities "of any kind whether indoor or outdoor" cannot deny a person employment or access to a facility based on gender identity or that "perception."
The bill also makes it illegal to discriminate based on "sexual orientation" when renting, selling or leasing housing or when selecting members for jury duty." Penalties for those who discriminate against others based on gender identity include fines and/or time in jail.
The same issue, on which WND has reported, already has created a mess in Montgomery County, Md., where a lawsuit is pending seeking to deprive residents of the right to vote on whether they want their restrooms and locker rooms opened to men who believe they're women.
WND reported the Montgomery County Board of Elections certified a petition assembled by Maryland Citizens for a Responsible Government that would be placed on the November election ballot.
To continue reading, go here.
Friday, May 30, 2008
The Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender civil rights organization, today recognized the signing by Gov. Bill Ritter of legislation prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in housing, public accommodations, credit transactions, juror service, and other areas. The legislation, sponsored by state Sen. Jennifer Veiga and state Rep. Joel Judd, expands existing laws that prohibit discrimination based on race, sex, religion, disability, and other characteristics.
“HRC congratulates Gov. Ritter, Sen. Veiga, and Rep. Judd on taking this important step to advance equality for Coloradans. We also thank and congratulate Equal Rights Colorado and the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center of Colorado for their hard work. As Gov. Ritter has said, this law is about basic fairness and treating people equally,” said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese. “Opponents of equality did their best to scare and divide Coloradans, but it’s heartening to see that their tactics were rejected. This is a positive step forward for Colorado, coming on the heels of two pro-equality laws enacted in 2007.”
In 2007, Colorado enacted laws prohibiting employment discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity and providing for second parent adoption. The new law takes effect immediately.
Posted on 06/02/2008 5:18 PM by Bobbie Patray