In exchange for relief from a state-mandated stormwater remediation fee, and direct government subsidies to pay for property improvements intended to reduce runoff, some churches in Prince George’s County, Maryland have made an unusual commitment to the authorities. I explain, and raise questions, at Free State Notes. Since when does government get the power to cut churches tax breaks in exchange for their agreement to preach an approved line?
If so, you’d never guess from the result in the Maryland governor’s election, I argue at Cato at Liberty.
Trial lawyer and inveterate Litigation Lobby booster Bruce Braley lost his Iowa senate bid (“He comes across as arrogant, and I think it’s because he is,” said an unnamed Democratic official.) Sen. Mark Pryor, chief Senate handler of the awful CPSIA law, lost big.
Massachusetts voters again rejected Martha Coakley, whose prosecutorial decisions we have found so hard to square with the interests of justice. The Wisconsin Blue Fist school of thought, which sees organized government employees as the natural and truly legitimate governing class, met with a rebuff from voters not only in Wisconsin itself but in neighboring Illinois (where Gov. Quinn, of Harris v. Quinn fame, went down to defeat) and elsewhere. Colorado voters rejected GMO labeling, while a similar Oregon bill was trailing narrowly this morning but not with enough votes to call.
California voters rejected Prop 46, to raise MICRA medical liability limits, require database use and impose drug testing of doctors, by a 67-33 margin, and also rejected Prop 45, intensifying insurance regulation, by a 60-40 margin (earlier).
I’ve written a lot at my Free State Notes blog about the governor’s race in my own state of Maryland, and unlike most others was not surprised at Larry Hogan’s stunning upset victory. The politics category there includes my letter to Washington Post-reading independents and moderates about why they should feel comfortable electing Hogan as a balance to the state’s heavily Democratic legislature, as well as my parody song about what I thought a revealing gaffe by Hogan’s opponent, Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown.
Video now out from Save Farm Families on the Hudson Farm case (earlier). Description:
Collateral Damage: Farm Families Under Attack reviews the questionable political and academic actions that enabled the New York-based Waterkeeper Alliance to push forward with its lawsuit against the Hudson family, and the continuing threat that environmental extremists pose to family farmers, not just in Maryland but across the nation.
I wrote about the case here, here, and here. It raises questions of legal ethics (when the mistaken factual basis for a claim is revealed, aren’t the attorneys obliged to withdraw it?), ideological adventurism in the environmental sphere by state-affiliated law schools, and the need for loser-pays. Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler, who failed in a bid for the Democratic nomination for governor, comes off badly in the video, and America’s Most Irresponsible Public Figure® Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., even worse.
[cross-posted from my Maryland blog Free State Notes; more on RFK Jr.'s latest foray into public discussion, in which the celebrity scion/frothing hothead again demands the incarceration of various persons who take the opposite side from him in environmental controversy]
More coverage: Mark Newgent/Watchdog and Len Lazarick/Maryland Reporter.
Three columns to read on the subject: Gene Healy, Glenn Reynolds (linking this site), and Nat Hentoff (like Healy, a Cato colleague) in his syndicated column (thanks for mention). I had a letter to the editor yesterday in the Frederick News-Post drawing connections with local lawmakers (as well as a blog post at Free State Notes with similar themes) and the Arizona Republic quoted me Tuesday on the federal subsidy programs that drive militarization, including transfers to the ever-controversial Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office of Joe Arpaio. Earlier here, here, here, here, here, etc.
P.S. Also quoted on NPR.
And so the experiment begins. The politics are pretty interesting, with neither the teachers’ unions nor the voters in places like Baltimore city necessarily thrilled about this development. It’s far more popular with various legal services groups, liberal foundations, and of course the Obama Administration’s Department of Education and Justice Department. [Washington Post, earlier on similar Los Angeles initiative and on the race angle]
In more than a dozen states in recent years, governors, legislators or both have arranged through law or regulation to install unions to represent the fast-growing ranks of home health and child care workers, who in many instances are family members receiving a state stipend for looking after their own loved ones. In Harris v. Quinn, a five-member majority of the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that it violates the First Amendment rights of these recipients to require them to pay dues to a union of whose views and activities they may not approve. It did not alter — for now, at least — the 1977 Abood precedent under which full-fledged public workers can be required to pay such dues, instead recognizing a new category of “partial public employees.”
I explore some of the implications in this Cato podcast with interviewer Caleb Brown. Earlier on Harris v. Quinn here.
P.S. A tip-off from SCOTUS on where it intends to take Harris logic? One view from the Left [In These Times] Ruling is rebuke to various governors, including Maryland’s Martin O’Malley, who have employed executive orders to unionize home health carers [Marc Kilmer, MPPI; related, George Leef] Eugene Volokh dissents on the underlying “bedrock” First Amendment issue [Volokh Conspiracy] Will a teacher’s case called Friedrich v. CTA be the vehicle for revisiting Abood? [Jason Bedrick, Cato] And some clues that the first draft of Harris v. Quinn might have overturned Abood, before the majority reconsidered and pulled back [Jack Goldsmith, Sachs, Homer, at On Labor]
Eight of the twelve most affluent counties in the United States are in the Washington, D.C. area, and high among them stands Howard County, Maryland (Columbia/Ellicott City), where the celebrations tomorrow will be a bit constrained:
Some find it a damper on the festivities to bring Howard County’s Fourth of July fireworks into compliance with County Executive Ken Ulman’s December 2012 edict sharply restricting the sale of sweet beverages and high-calorie snack food at county-sponsored events. Under the regulations, which are “the first and only of their kind in the state,” at least “50 percent of packaged food offered at county events must contain 200 calories or less per portion”; prepared food, such as funnel cakes and soft-serve ice cream, is not covered. [Baltimore Sun via Quinton Report] The rules exempt the county’s “Wine in the Woods” event, held each May.
Whether or not the policy mirrors the preferences of voters in Howard County (and who knows, it might), it serves the function of affluence signaling in the conspicuously prosperous county. One reason families pay a premium to move to a county like Howard is the implicit promise that their kids will grow up with plenty of worldly, educated, skinny role models and that the government is not going to be run in line with the wishes of poorer or lower-status residents. Message sent!
[adapted from my Free State Notes blog]
The group Save Farm Families is doing a nonfiction film (link to trailer) about the Hudson Farm case, in which Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s Waterkeeper group, backed by a University of Maryland environmental law clinic, sued an Eastern Shore chicken farming family on charges a judge later threw out as unfounded. More at my local policy blog Free State Notes.
The Chamber has been tracking this major engine of contingency-fee litigation as it jumps from federal practice to the realm of similar state laws vigorously lobbied for by the plaintiff’s bar. I have an opinion piece in the Baltimore Business Journal on the Maryland version, which 1) nearly passed this year, 2) would go further than the federal law in some vital respects, and 3) has become an issue in a closely watched primary contest.