Archive for January, 2014

You’ll Like This Story

Posted by on Jan 30 2014 | Politics, Purely Personal

In a good story or movie, something happens which then makes something else happen. Luke Skywalker buys a droid. The droid has a message. Luke brings the droid to Obi-Wan Kenobi. Obi-Wan makes a deal with Han Solo for transport to another planet…

If Luke didn’t buy that damn droid in the first place, there’d be no Star Wars, and George Lucas would be working at Olive Garden today.

This idea that something causes another something, which causes yet another, well, it works in our world of politics, too. Here’s an example:

Our investigative reporter, Todd Shepherd, walks into my office asking for money. This is a pretty common occurrence (usually due to his gambling habit), but this time he wants it for an open records request. While Colorado has open records laws, it can cost quite a bit to make public records actually public. Anyway, Todd’s in my office paddling on about his great idea, and it’s only going to cost us around $400. After wearing me down like a teen-aged girl asking her daddy to borrow the car, I finally give in.

Days later, he breaks the story that U.S. Senator Mark Udall’s staff was pressuring state employees to change the official number of Coloradans who got insurance cancellation notices thanks to Obamacare. Accuracy is rarely good in an election year. Not only does this story become front page news in Colorado, but it also makes national news and highlights Udall’s key role in passing Obamacare.

Now, when Chris Christie’s folks were caught intimidating state workers, he fired them and apologized. Senator Udall, by contrast, doubled down and stood by his staff. So the story continues. Pressure built for an ethics investigation. So a “neutral and objective” Ethics Panel was convened and quickly determined that Udall’s staff did nothing inappropriate. Story ends? Nope.

Other media outlets made their own records request of the “neutral” Ethics Panel only to find there were no records. The head of the state regulatory agency wouldn’t release any of the panel’s records, saying there were none. So that causes everyone– from the Denver Post, to legislators, to candidates for governor– to demand an investigation into the investigation. But they still wouldn’t even release the names of those who made up the “neutral and objective” Ethics Panel.

But all that causes the agency head to leak the names to just one news source. And that causes all of the other news sources, like the Post, to cry foul. So that causes the state to release the names of the “neutral and objective” panel officially. And we find out the panel was made up of that same head state regulator, who is a Hickenlooper appointee, her deputy, and her legislative liaison, the former chief of staff for the state Senate Democrats.

So now we know what “neutral and objective” is. And the story will continue.

Imagine. All that wouldn’t have happened if Todd Shepherd didn’t walk into my office to sell me his simple idea for an open records request.

Remember, your support made this happen. To fund future projects like this, donate here.

no comments for now

Bennett-Burr “Bipartisanship” = Yet Another Federal Power Grab

Posted by on Jan 01 2014 | congress, Constitutional History, Constitutional Law, Economics, federalism, Growth of Government, Health Care, Natelson Rob', obamacare, Op-eds, Rob Natelson, supreme court, Tenth Amendment, U.S. Constitution

When politicians start talking about “bi-partisan cooperation,” smart citizens get nervous. It usually means another transfer of freedom and taxes to the federal government at the expense of individuals, families, localities, and states.

Case in point: a Denver Post op-ed by two U.S. Senators (or their staffs) on their latest “bipartisan” deal. The Senators are Michael Bennett (D.-Colo.) and Richard Burr (R.-N.C.). The op-ed is pure political blather, a haze of almost incomprehensible feel-good rhetoric. But the upshot is this: The two distinguished solons are very proud of themselves for managing yet another transfer of authority from the states to the federal government.

You can read the op-ed here. As you can see, it is filled with mind-deadening phrases refined by pollsters and focus group research: “we have worked with,” “bipartisan,” “ensure the safety,” “stakeholders,” “pragmatism and hard work,” etc., etc.

As for the law itself, it has the kind of title we have come to expect from Congress in recent years: The Drug Quality and Security Act. (Doesn’t that title make you feel good?) Of course, many of these labels have about as much correspondence to the real world as the “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.”

The text of the measure is almost impossible for anyone without legal training to understand. (You can see for yourself here.) Essentially, however, it transfers to the federal government areas of drug compounding and distribution traditionally controlled by the states. It imposes new obligations, licenses, and/or paperwork on manufacturers, repackagers, wholesalers, and your local pharmacy. It takes major steps toward federal control of our state pharmacy boards, and restricts state regulatory choices in the areas it covers.

The bill is also about revenue: It authorizes the federal government to collect various new “fees.” (I put the word in quotation marks because those “fees” are really taxes.)

Like the op-ed, the text of the law is filled with mind-numbing, and sometimes deceptive, language. Consider this provision:

Nothing in this section shall be construed to preempt State requirements related to the distribution of prescription drugs if such requirements are not related to product tracing as described in subsection (a) or wholesale distributor and third-party logistics provider licensure as described in subsection (b) applicable under section 503(e) (as amended by the Drug Supply Chain Security Act) or this subchapter (or regulations issued thereunder).

At first, you might think the bill leaves state regulations in effect. But look closer: The provision really is about where federal law does preempt: “requirements . . . related to product tracing . . .. [and] wholesale distributor and third-party logistics provider licensure.” Another passage makes it clear that much state flexibility is gone:

Beginning on the date of enactment of the Drug Supply Chain Security Act, no State or political subdivision of a State may establish or continue any standards, requirements, or regulations with respect to wholesale prescription drug distributor or third-party logistics provider licensure that are inconsistent with, less stringent than, directly related to, or covered by the standards and requirements applicable under section 503(e).

The measure does not set forth its constitutional justification. In other words, it does not cite any of Congress’s enumerated powers as the basis for the authority it claims. Occasional mentions of “commerce” suggest that it relies on the Constitution’s much-abused grant of power to “regulate Commerce . . . among the several States.” In fact, however, the bill sweeps deeply into in-state commerce and into activities that really are not “commerce” at all.

The op-ed touts the bill’s “strong [meaning "intrusive"], uniform” [meaning "centralized"] standards. But the Constitution limited congressional powers precisely to protect us from too many centralized standards. The federalism created by our Constitution is about local control, responsiveness to local preferences, better government, diversity, and the ability of each state to learn from the experience of others. Moreover, as the Supreme Court has pointed out repeatedly, federalism is also about fracturing power to preserve freedom.

Our Founders and generations of Americans have concluded that human freedom and the other benefits of federalism are worth the occasional inconvenience arising from lack of uniformity. This should be particularly true today, when technology has reduced both the benefits of uniformity and the costs of diversity.

“The Drug Quality and Security Act,” however, appears to have been the product of one of those classic deals among politicians and lobbyists. The two Senators assure us that all the “stakeholders” (i.e., groups with lobbyists) were consulted.

But were you?

no comments for now

Clicky Web Analytics