Texas governor warms up to some gun control legislation after meeting on school safety

AUSTIN, Texas — Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said Wednesday he could support stronger regulations for gun storage and quicker reporting to law enforcement when a court has determined someone is mentally ill in order to keep them from having weapons. Abbott …

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California’s ‘Taxpayer Transparency and Fairness Act’ Resulted in Less Transparency, Fairness for Taxpayers

It’s a rule of thumb. One should always expect the opposite result of whatever any government agency promises. The War on Poverty created a permanent underclass that perpetuated poverty throughout generations. The War on Drugs did much to erode our civil liberties, but mainly has emboldened the drug cartel. The examples go on and on.

That brings us to California’s taxing authorities. After scandals at the Board of Equalization—the Orwellian-named agency that had collected sales, use and special taxes—the Legislature gutted it and largely replaced its functions with two new bureaucracies. The 2017 legislation was called the Taxpayer Transparency and Fairness Act. As you might have guessed, since its implementation a few months ago, the state’s tax proceedings have become less transparent and less fair to taxpayers.

The BOE, which dates back to the second California Constitution in 1879, is the only tax-collection agency in the nation that’s administered by elected officials. It is run by four elected board members plus the state controller. After last year’s law, the four elected officials no longer have much to do even though the board still has a few functions.

As with any elected body, it has for decades been plagued by scandals ranging from allegations of nepotism to accusations of misspending. Governors from both parties have for years tried to gut the agency. Expressing a common sentiment, columnist Dan Walters complained that the “agency has become steadily more politicized, with the board’s four directly elected seats treated as either well-paid sinecures or stepping stones to higher office.” Controversies including elected officials “interfering with pending tax cases” have been going on for decades, he wrote.

Those criticisms have some validity. But isn’t it a good thing that politicians get involved given that they typically intervene to help the taxpayer? There’s no reason that the state couldn’t have audited the agency and implemented reforms. Every agency (even the Legislature itself) has controversies. Instead, the Legislature gutted the board and the results are discouraging.

Let’s look at taxpayer “fairness.” Since the new process has gone into effect, not one of the more than 20 income-tax-appeal cases has gotten a single vote in the taxpayers’ favor. The BOE used to hear 10 to 20 sales- and use- and special-tax appeals at each board meeting, but the new Office of Tax Appeals has yet to hear any of those tax cases. The Legislature hammered the BOE for its backlog, but now it’s worse. The BOE would make a decision the same day by vote. Now it can take up to 100 days while interest and penalties add up.

How about transparency? The old Board of Equalization would televise its hearings and archive them so anyone can view the proceedings. That way everyone, including reporters, can see whether a business is being treated fairly or getting the bureaucratic back of the hand. Those proceedings can also be used if the case ends up in court. The new tax-appeal agency posts transcripts, but has yet to televise or archive the hearings, so it’s no longer fully transparent.

There are many stories of business owners who felt like they were getting a raw deal or being treated in a heavy-handed manner by the board, yet who were able to get help from their elected representative on the BOE. That was a reasonable way to level the playing field.

The Board of Equalization also had the incentive to solve vexing tax-policy problems. For instance, legal marijuana dispensaries are required to pay taxes, but because of federal laws they are not allowed to have bank accounts. But they weren’t typically allowed to haul sacks of cash into BOE offices, either. BOE’s officials worked with the dispensaries to help them safely pay their bills in cash. These practical solutions are more likely to be driven by an elected board with constituents than a bureaucracy with subjects.

The main reason the BOE had been a target is obvious. State officials are tasked with maximizing revenue to assure that tax collections match state spending. Anything that reduces that tax flow is a bad thing, from their perspective. Because elected officials need votes and often have their eyes on higher office, they have an incentive to help taxpayers, which means that sometimes the board would reduce the size of the tax payments.

By the way, the new tax authorities have significantly increased their own administrative budgets from the old BOE days. The Department of Finance gives reasonable explanations for some of the growth (standard increases in pay and benefits, new IT and other start-up costs, artificially deflated final year spending for the BOE as its powers were reduced), but we see the spending trajectory. It’s going up, now that the administrators are in charge.

Bottom line: A reform designed to boost transparency and taxpayer fairness has reduced both of those things. No one should be surprised.

Steven Greenhut is Western region director for the R Street Institute. He was a Register editorial writer from 1998-2009. Write to him at [email protected]. This column was first published in the Orange County Register.

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Wicker Introduces Pro-Life Legislation to Save Human Embryos

Miss. Senator Says, ‘Human Life Should Never Be Created or Destroyed for Research.’ U.S. Senator Roger Wicker, R-Miss., today introduced S. 2956, the “Patients First Act,” which would promote stem cell research without the creation, use …

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Fight the Power

You needn’t believe that Barack Obama personally texted IRS agents and instructed them to harass conservatives to know that he disdains the constitutional order. The evidence is in the legislation he signed. Both the Affordable Care Act and Dodd-Frank …

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Mitch McConnell, Chuck Schumer say sexual harassment bill will pass Senate

The Senate leaders of both political parties released a rare joint statement Wednesday, saying they expect to quickly pass long-stalled sexual harassment legislation that would overhaul the system through which Capitol Hill handles such cases. “We want to …

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Rhode Island: Committee Recommends Two Gun Control Bills for Passage

Rhode Island
Rhode Island: Committee Recommends Two Gun Control Bills for Passage

Fairfax, VA – -(Ammoland.com)- Last week, the Senate Judiciary Committee considered S.2292A and S.2492A, and recommended them for passage.  Both bills will now go to the Senate floor to receive further consideration.  Please contact your state Senator and strongly urge them to OPPOSE S.2292A and S.2492A.

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Senate Bill 2292A, sponsored by Senator James Seveney (D-11), would ban certain firearm accessories and impose a $10,000 fine and 10-year prison sentence.  Aside from the harsh penalty for possessing a firearm accessory, the legislation’s language is extremely broad and includes any accessory “which accelerates the rate of fire.”  In other words, this means that common modifications to firearms to make them more suitable for self-defense, target shooting, hunting, and even overcoming disability may be banned, with violations resulting in severe penalties.  This bill is poorly crafted and should be opposed.  The only thing this is going to do is put law-abiding competitive shooters in jeopardy of prosecution.

Senate Bill 2492A, sponsored by Senator Maryellen Goodwin (D-1), would create broad gun ban powers under the guise of “extreme risk” protection orders.  NRA-ILA strongly believes that dangerous individuals should not have firearms.  However, this “red flag” legislation is an overreach with few legal protections for those who may be falsely accused.   This sweeping legislation would allow almost anyone to have another’s guns taken with little or no due process.  The bill allows seizure and forfeiture through ex parte hearings where a respondent isn’t given notice and a hearing.

Again, please click the “Take Action” button above to contact your state Senator and request that they OPPOSE S.2292A and S.2492A.

National Rifle Association Institute For Legislative Action (NRA-ILA)

About:
Established in 1975, the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA) is the “lobbying” arm of the National Rifle Association of America. ILA is responsible for preserving the right of all law-abiding individuals in the legislative, political, and legal arenas, to purchase, possess and use firearms for legitimate purposes as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Visit: www.nra.org

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Senate leaders reach bipartisan deal for handling sexual harassment claims on Capitol Hill

After months of delay, senators said Wednesday they have reached a deal on legislation to reform how sexual harassment claims against lawmakers and staff are handled on Capitol Hill. The legislation requires members of Congress to personally repay …

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Immigration Showdown Puts Ryan’s Job in Peril

Paul Ryan is struggling to stop an immigration showdown in the House, as his Republican Conference spirals into an all-out war that could put his speakership on the line.

{snip}

But that call to unity fell on deaf ears.

A group of moderates frustrated with the lack of action to protect Dreamers from deportation is expected to collect enough signatures to force bipartisan immigration votes in the coming days, according to lawmakers and aides tracking the effort. And conservatives who oppose those bills are threatening to hold Republican leaders — starting with Ryan — responsible if they don’t stop it.

“If we run an amnesty bill out of a Republican House, I think all options are on the table,” Freedom Caucus member Scott Perry (R-Pa.) told reporters Monday night when asked whether Ryan could remain speaker if the so-called discharge petition succeeds.

“If leadership doesn’t stop it, they would be violating their own word, which was the Hastert rule, majority of the majority,” agreed Rep. Dave Brat (R-Va.), referring to an unofficial Republican policy of not holding votes on matters that aren’t backed by more than half of the conference.

Conservatives are so desperate to stop the discharge petition that they’re suggesting Ryan strong-arm moderates to get them to back down {snip}, Such a move would be devastating for those centrists, many of whom hail from swing districts targeted by Democrats.

“I know when I voted against a rule, [leadership] threatened to take away all travel, they threatened to take away NRCC contributions,” said Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows (R-N.C.). “Most of those people who are on the discharge petition are very much closer to leadership than members of the Freedom Caucus, so I don’t see them” defying leadership.

One conservative lawmaker who was kicked off the whip team several years ago for defying leadership told Ryan, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) that they should remove moderates who support the discharge petition from the current whip team. GOP leaders said nothing in response, according to a lawmaker in the room.

{snip}

The clash comes as Republicans face a daunting election this fall. {snip}

Ryan also has found himself inside a pressure cooker, with a small faction of Republicans on the Hill and in the White House whispering that he should step down now rather than serve out his term as speaker. If the discharge petition succeeds, it would only further weaken Ryan’s hand.

That’s one of the reasons some Republicans who support the idea in theory have held back from signing the petition. Rep. Tom Rooney (R-Fla.) told Politico on Monday that he didn’t want to put Ryan in a bad situation so was unlikely to join his colleagues in forcing the issue. At this moment, however, no other lawmaker would likely have the 218 votes it would take to become speaker.

Ryan, who opposes the discharge petition because he says it empowers Democrats, was close to halting it last week. On Thursday, several moderates agreed that they would hold off on collecting the final signatures to force the issue. In return, the speaker would work with them and the Freedom Caucus to allow a vote on a conservative immigration bill in addition to a measure more palatable to moderates.

But Freedom Caucus members, while claiming they want to negotiate, have said they would not allow such a process unless the second bill meets their own parameters and is supported by a majority of Republican lawmakers. A bipartisan bill like the one moderates are seeking, they argue, runs counter to the results of the 2016 election.

{snip}

At the same time, leaders have not reached out to moderates to clarify what the second bill would look like, making them feel as though the pitch for a two-vote deal was disingenuous. And during a whip meeting Monday night, Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) said the House would certainly vote on the conservative immigration bill sought by conservatives in June but did not affirm that legislation backed by the moderates would also get a vote, raising skepticism among centrists.

That lack of a plan has led moderates to forge ahead with their discharge petition. Several who are about to sign on said they want to speak personally with Ryan first to give him a heads-up.

One of those leaning toward signing this week is Rep. Tom Reed of New York, a staunch leadership ally.

Conservatives, meanwhile, have continued to say they’re willing to work with moderates to come up with an immigration bill that would get a majority of the conference’s backing. But GOP leaders and moderates don’t believe them, because negotiations have been ongoing for months without a breakthrough.

To beat back the petition, conservatives have suggested GOP leaders put the far right’s immigration proposal on the floor. That plan procedurally would squash the petition for a time. But GOP leaders note that moderates could — and have vowed to — block any standalone vote on a conservative bill that doesn’t also include a vote on their own ideas. Procedurally, all that moderates would have to do is vote with Democrats to kill the rule governing debate for the conservatives’ bill.

Conservatives, however, don’t believe the moderates and are encouraging GOP leaders to call their bluff.

{snip} Following Ryan’s plea for unity, Meadows has gone out of his way to tell members, aides and reporters that conservatives are not talking about a “motion to vacate the chair” against Ryan, a procedural move that would force a vote on whether he should remain speaker. {snip}

If it came to that, however, most of the conference would probably back Ryan, his allies say. Most of the conference understands that the speaker is in an impossible position, they argue.

{snip}

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New Jersey Action Needed: Senate Committee Passes Multiple Gun Control Bills

New Jersey
New Jersey Action Needed: Senate Committee Passes Multiple Gun Control Bills

Fairfax, VA – -(Ammoland.com)- This week the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee considered and passed multiple anti-gun measures.  The below listed bills will now head to the Senate floor.  Companion versions of these bills have already passed the Assembly, so your Senator needs to hear from you now more than ever.  Please contact your state Senator and urge them to OPPOSE these gun control bills.

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  • S.102 by Sen. Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg (D) is a magazine and gun ban.  This legislation would ban magazines with a capacity greater than 10.  We all know magazine bans do nothing except punish law-abiding gun owners because criminals by definition ignore laws.  This bill would put honest citizens in jeopardy during violent criminal attacks and would subject them to prosecution for possessing what is currently legal property.  This bill would turn the majority of New Jersey’s 1 million gun owners into felons overnight.
  • S.160 by Sen. Vin Gopal (D) would allow for suspension of gun rights by unaccountable “health professionals.”  This bill goes so far as to allow marriage counselors, social workers and nurses to cause suspension of your legal rights.
  • S.2376 by Sen. Linda Greenstein (D) codifies New Jersey’s “justifiable need” standard for the issuance of concealed carry permits.  The bill is a striking blow to the basic fundamental right to self-defense outside the home.  It creates a standard so onerous that nobody can meet it, hence the issuance of permits in New Jersey is close to non-existent.
  • S.2245 by Sen. Fred Madden, Jr. (D) bans handgun ammunition which is already banned under federal law.  This bill does nothing to improve public safety and is a classic example of the asinine nature of New Jersey gun laws as a whole.  This is nothing more than political pandering to gun banners.
  • S.2374 by Sen. Linda Greenstein (D) would require background checks on all firearm transfers.  Again, this is redundant because all transactions in New Jersey require a background check.  The private transfer of long guns requires an FID card and the issuance of that card requires fingerprinting, a background check and references, among other things.  This bill does nothing except add another layer of bureaucracy and fees to an already cumbersome and duplicative process.
  • S.2465 by Sen. Joseph Cryan (D) would prohibit purchasing firearm components to unlawfully manufacture a firearm without a serial number.  This bill has not been heard in the Assembly yet.

Again, please contact your state Senator immediately and strongly urge them to OPPOSE the above listed anti-gun legislation.

One of the scheduled bills, S.2259 by Sen. Richard Codey (D), was held from the agenda and not considered.  S.2259 creates extreme risk protection orders whereby firearms can be seized and constitutional rights suspended with little to no due process.  The bill fails to penalize those who fabricate accusations, and it does nothing to improve public safety.

National Rifle Association Institute For Legislative Action (NRA-ILA)

About:
Established in 1975, the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA) is the “lobbying” arm of the National Rifle Association of America. ILA is responsible for preserving the right of all law-abiding individuals in the legislative, political, and legal arenas, to purchase, possess and use firearms for legitimate purposes as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Visit: www.nra.org

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Caucus using bill to derail DACA vote

The conservative House Freedom Caucus is pushing hard for an immigration bill despised by many advocates for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals participants – an effort that has a chance of getting a House vote as soon as next week. If that vote occurs, it would make it far more difficult for DACA backers to get votes on legislation they’ve been seeking.

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