South Dakota Senate Bill 197 – Revision of state aids to small schools with open enrollment

busAs a part of National School Choice Week I published a post today advocating open enrollment. I also looked at an open enrollment related piece of legislation in the South Dakota Senate: SB96 School district low enrollment restructuring requirement changes. I see a post over at MadvilleTimes highlighting another open enrollment bill I missed. SD Senate Bill 197 was not actually filed under “education” so missed it. This bill is labeled: “An Act to revise the calculation of the small school adjustment in the state aid to education formula.”

This bill is too long to post here. However the text of the bill can be read here. The bill is split into three section. Here is my take on each of the three sections:

SB197 Section 1

Section 1 of this bill modifies section (2C)  South Dakota Statute § 13-13-10.1 Section 2C defines how a school qualifies for a “Small school adjustment”. Basically the amendment proposed by this bill would do the following:

  1. If a student BOTH resides in AND is enrolled in a school district that qualifies for a “small school adjustment”, the actual “small school adjustment” for that student will be counted in the district the student RESIDES in, and not the district they are actually enrolled in. 
    1. That makes no sense. The student should be counted where he/she actually goes to school.
  2. If a student EITHER resides in OR is enrolled in a school district that does not qualify for a “small school adjustment”, there will be no small school adjustment allowed for that student.
    1. Again, that makes no sense. If a student resides in a “large” school district and chooses to enroll in a small school district that student will not count towards the enrolled schools “small school adjustment”.

SB197 Section 2

Section 2 of this bill modifies South Dakota Statute § 13-13-73 ((2)(b) & (2)(c)). This section basically makes sure the calculation of state aid to education for each school district under the foundation program uses the new rules set in Section 1 of this bill.

SB197 Section 3

Section 3 of the bill states the statute will become effective on July 1, 2014.

At a glance it appears this bill is a sneaky way to prevent small school districts from competing with large school districts in open enrollment. It also appears to give preference to a students residence over where the student is enrolled when two small school districts are involved.  I’ll have to keep an eye on this bill so I can hear the Legislators debate. Maybe I’m missing something and this isn’t as bad of a bill as it seems.

But if I am reading this bill correctly it must be defeated, it appears to be an attack on open enrollment.

South Dakota Senate Bill 96 – School district low enrollment restructuring requirement changes

busToday as a part of National School Choice Week I published a post advocating some benefits of open enrollment. To complement my prior post I thought it relevant to look at a bill before the South Dakota Senate regarding open enrollment. SD Senate Bill 96 is labeled: “An Act to exempt certain school districts from the requirement to reorganize due to low enrollment.”

Basically SB96 will amend South Dakota Statute § 13-6-97. Here is the text of SB96:

FOR AN ACT ENTITLED, An Act to exempt certain school districts from the requirement to reorganize due to low enrollment.

BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF SOUTH DAKOTA:

Section 1. That § 13-6-97 be amended to read as follows:

13-6-97. Any school district that has a fall enrollment, as defined in § 13-13-10.1, of less than one hundred and is not a sparse school district, as defined in § 13-13-78, shall reorganize with another school district or school districts to create a newly reorganized school district with a fall enrollment of one hundred or greater. Any school district that is not sparse and has a fall enrollment of one hundred or less on July 1, 2007, shall prepare a plan for reorganization by June 30, 2009. After July 1, 2007, if the fall enrollment of any school district that is not sparse falls to one hundred or below, that school district shall prepare a plan for reorganization within two years. If any such district fails to prepare a plan for reorganization by the deadline, the Board of Education shall prepare a reorganization plan for the district. However, the provisions of this section do not apply to any school district that receives no foundation program state aid distributed pursuant to chapter 13-13, and that is located at least twenty-five miles from the nearest high school in an adjoining school district in the state. The provisions of this section also do not apply to any school district that is a part of a consortium of school districts exercising joint powers pursuant to chapter 1-24 or intergovernmental cooperation in education pursuant to chapter 13-15 for the purposes stated in § 13-8-1.

This bill appears to do two things:

  1. It removes outdated language that no longer applies.
  2. I adds another exception. School districts that have banded together with other school districts as a “consortium” are exempt from reorganization due to low enrollment numbers.

That seems straight-forward enough. Yet I wonder if a school district becomes that small shouldn’t alternatives be considered. Would it make more financial sense that a school district that has such low enrollment actually be combined with a different school district? Is a consortium being used to protect school districts from having to reorganize? If this bill is being passed to “protect small school districts” instead of finding the right solution I am opposed to it.

Even though I have many questions I am still undecided about this bill. However I do wonder if this is the right solution to a problem; or is it a way for school districts to sidestep  unwanted (but possibly necessary) restructuring. I will look forward to hearing any debate they have in Pierre about this bill.

A look at open enrollment – National School Choice Week 2013

national_school_choice_week_logoToday is day 2 of National School Choice Week. Yesterday I posted a list of terms related to school choice. Today I will look closer at one common form of school choice: open enrollment. Open enrollment empowers parents and adds a certain level of accountability for public schools.

First lets review the definition of open enrollment I am using for this post:

Open Enrollment – Open Enrollment improves student achievement and enhances parental choice in education by providing additional options to students to enroll in public schools without regard to their parents’ residence. Open Enrollment provides students in the traditional public school system the choice to enroll in a school in any district provided without regard to the pupil’s school of residence. Open Enrollment laws vary by state with some states having more restrictive policies and others more liberal.

Ironically when speaking with others about school choice I have found it common that the terms “school choice” and “open enrollment” are seen as being the same thing. Even researching open enrollment I have found the terms interchanged too often. Open enrollment is in fact just one of multiple options that are included in school choice. However open enrollment is perhaps the most common and least misunderstood form of school choice (I thought it was important to make this distinction before moving on).

At its core, open enrollment is about empowering parents with the ability to enroll their child in the public school they feel provides the best learning environment. There are many factors a parent may take into account when making such a decision for their student. Possible reasons for choosing open enrollment may include (but are not limited to):

  • Student achievement scores. When researching schools many parents will look at student achievement scores over a long period of time. Lower scores alone may not be the deciding factor. A school that has lesser overall achievement scores that have continuously risen for several years may be more favorable than a school with higher achievement scores that have been falling or remained stagnated for several years. Many parents would prefer their students to be in a school that embrace continuous improvement over keeping the status quo. 
  • Curriculum and areas of focus. When parents look at the curriculum between schools they will see slight differences. While all schools provide basic education in “core” subjects, they are not all equal. Different schools will focus upon different core learning opportunities. Some will even place greater focus upon ‘extras’ such as foreign languages or arts. If extra learning opportunities are available that would complement a students interests or strengths it is understandable that  parents would want the ability to choose a school accordingly.
  • Culture. All organizations have a different culture, even schools. Parents should take some time to tour the school and talk with staff members and teachers to see if the culture present is a good fit for the student and the parents. This does not necessarily mean there are “good” and “bad” cultures being chosen from; it may be a choice of the better culture for a student. For instance once school may have a culture that thrives upon competition and individual achievements; while another school has a culture that focuses upon teamwork and group achievements. Both situations have their merits. And the focus upon one aspect does not mean the other is missing from a school. However having the flexibility to choose between these schools empowers parents to find the best culture for their children.
  • Physical location. School district borders are not always best suited for all families within that geographic location. Parents should have the ability to choose a school that best suits their situation. For instance, when I lived in Minnesota I lived in a school district that would put my middle-schooler in a school that was thirty minutes drive time away. However we happened to live just five minutes away from a from a school in the neighboring district. Both schools were very similar in culture, curriculum  and student achievement scores. Open enrollment gave us the option of choosing the closer school. (We chose not to use open enrollment for different reasons, but it was good to have the option).

These are just four broad reasons a parent may choose open enrollment for their children. There are dozens of other reasons. But I feel this list is long enough to make a point: open enrollment allows parents the flexibility to choose the best learning environment for their children.

It should also be noted that open enrollment also acts as a public school accountability tool for tax payers. Public schools are financially supported by tax payers. This includes federal, state, city, and/or property taxes. Tax payers must feel their investment in public education is creating the best learning environment possible. Open enrollment allows a certain level of accountability for these tax investments.

Schools that consistently lose enrollment to other schools will send up a red flag. School test scores may not be enough for tax payers to determine if a school is performing well. However parents consistently choosing certain schools over others in open enrollment lets school boards and tax payers know something is very different between the schools. In such cases tax payers task local school boards to determine why there is a difference. It may not even be that the school losing enrollment is doing something “wrong”; instead it may be other schools in the area have improved in areas that make them more appealing. Tax payers can then let elected officials (including school board members) know that action must be taken.

As I end this post I would like to make one last point: open enrollment is not about “good” or “bad” schools. Open enrollment is about empowering parents with the ability to enroll their child in the public school they feel provides the best learning environment. Open enrollment acknowledges that not all students, parents, schools, or educators are exactly the same. Parents should be able to choose the best public school situation that fits their particular needs. As an added benefit open enrollment also acts as an additional accountability tool taxpayers and school boards can monitor. The increased school choice through open enrollment helps to ensure everyone (especially the learners) will have better outcomes.

National School Choice Week 2013 begins today

national_school_choice_week_logoToday kicks off National School Choice Week 2013! Occurring from January 27th until February 2nd, this event allows us as a society to learn more about an important issue for America’s future. Each day this week I will create a post highlighting a benefit of school choice. Today I will begin by providing some basic school choice information. The following terms are provided by the National School Choice Week website. They are also the definitions I will use for the rest of this week. It is my belief that many of the misconceptions regarding school choice have to do with a misunderstanding of what each choice is.

School Vouchers – School vouchers give parents the freedom to use all or part of the tax funding set aside for their children’s education to send their children to the public or private school of their choice. Vouchers can take different forms – including universal voucher programs, income-based voucher programs, vouchers for children performing poorly in public school or who are attending failing public schools, or special needs vouchers.

Tax-credit Scholarship Programs – Tax-credit scholarships allow businesses or individuals to invest in the education of children in their communities by giving them a tax credit from state taxes for donating to non-profit organizations. The organizations use that money to fund private school scholarships for students. In some programs, students must meet certain income criteria to be eligible for scholarships. Scholarship Granting Organizations (SGOs) are non-profits that can be started by anyone. Participating private schools are required to meet standards for safety, fiscal soundness, and non-discrimination.

Personal Tax Credits and Deductions – Through personal tax credits and deductions, parents are given a tax credit or tax deduction from state income taxes for approved educational expenses. This usually includes private school tuition as well as books, supplies, computers, tutors, and transportation. Even when tuition is not eligible for the credit or deduction, these programs still make school choice easier for parents because they relieve the burden of non-tuition expenses at private schools. Some programs restrict the income level of eligible recipients or the amount they can claim.

Open Enrollment – Open Enrollment improves student achievement and enhances parental choice in education by providing additional options to students to enroll in public schools without regard to their parents’ residence. Open Enrollment provides students in the traditional public school system the choice to enroll in a school in any district provided without regard to the pupil’s school of residence. Open Enrollment laws vary by state with some states having more restrictive policies and others more liberal.

Homeschooling – Parents who choose homeschooling educate their children outside of public or private schools, typically within their own homes. This method of education is becoming more and more common in the United States. Many states require standardized test scores, curriculum approval, and regular professional evaluation of students.

Charter Schools – Charter schools combine the accountability and oversight of traditional public schools with the flexibility of private schools. Charters are tuition-free independent public schools that are freed from many state and local rules and regulations in exchange for increased financial and academic accountability. Parental involvement is strongly encouraged. Charters are open to all children – students are selected at random. They are accountable for results-based student achievement.

Magnet Schools – Magnet Schools are free public elementary and secondary public schools of choice that are operated by school districts or a consortium of districts. Magnet schools have a focused theme and aligned curriculum to themes like Science, Technology and Engineering (STEM), Fine and Performing Arts, International Baccalaureate and International Studies, MicroSociety, Career Tech, and many others. They use the state, district, or Common Core standards in all subject areas, however, they are taught within the overall theme of the school.

Virtual Schools and Online Schooling – Virtual schools are institutions that teach students entirely or primarily through online curriculum. They provide flexibility and allow for highly individualized, personalized instruction. In some states, virtual schools must have a brick-and-mortar location where children go to receive online instruction. In other states, online instruction can be done from home.

Blended Learning – A blended learning approach combines face-to-face classroom teaching with web-based online learning.

Please feel free to stop by each day this week as I highlight the various aspects of school choice.

South Dakota Governor Daugaard and US President Obama Agree: Balance of Power is Annoying

scott_kirkwood_scalesThis has been an interesting week for use of Executive power in relation to committee assignments. In one case we a Democrat President that decided to go beyond the powers of the executive office and appoint committee members without working with the Legislative Branch. In another case here in South Dakota, we have a Republican Governor that decided he was not going to carry out legislation passed by the South Dakota Legislature. Both cases are similar because the involve the Executive Branch ignoring balance of power.

First lets look at President Obama’s power reach. Trevor Burros provides a good summary of the Presidents transgression:

Slightly over a year ago, on January 4, 2012, President Obama appointed four people to high-level offices without the constitutionally required “advice and consent” of the Senate. Three of those appointees were placed on the NLRB, and the other was Richard Cordray, chosen to direct the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau, the “consumer watchdog” agency created by Dodd-Frank.

The appointments were one of the most significant power grabs by a president in recent memory. The Constitution requires that certain “officers of the United States,” a category which indisputably includes NLRB board members and the director of the CFPB, be appointed by the president with the “advice and consent of the Senate.” Like many constitutional provisions, this is a “checks and balances” requirement that helps ensure the president does not unilaterally control the executive branch for his own purposes.

Under normal circumstances the President can only make such appointments while the Senate is in recess. Many previous presidents have use intra-session recesses to invoke their emergency appointment power. This case with Obama is unique because it was not done during an actual recess. Back during the Bush years Senator Reid enacted  “pro forma” sessions during intra-session recesses. These pro forma sessions legally blocked the President from unilaterally enacting their emergency appointment power. It is during one of these sessions that President Obama decided to ignore balance of power and the law.

The judge that ruled (PDF) against the Obama administration had this to say:

The Constitution’s separation of powers features, of which the Appointments Clause is one, do not simply protect one branch from another. These structural provisions serve to protect the people, for it is ultimately the people’s rights that suffer when one branch encroaches on another.

Notice how the ruling says this is not only an attack on another branch of the government; it is also an attack on the people’s rights.

Going back to South Dakota there is a similar situation, with a twist. In 2009 the South Dakota Legislature passed and Governor Rounds signed House Bill 1239: An act to create the South Dakota Boxing Commission and to provide for the supervision of boxing, kickboxing, and mixed martial arts competitions and sparring exhibitions in the state. Section 1 of this law required the Governor to appoint five members to a newly created South Dakota Boxing Commission.

Section 8 of the bill provided a sunset of July 1, 2012. This sunset provided three years for the commission to be setup. Since the commission would be self-sustaining through fees collected per Section 2 of the bill, it should not have needed to be enacted permanently. Unfortunately Governor Rounds decided he did not like this law so he chose to ignore what was legally required of him. When it came time for Governor Daugaard to comply with this law he also chose to ignore his duties set forth by the South Dakota Legislature.

Just like his counter-part in the White House, the Governor of South Dakota has decided his office is above balance of power. Governor Daugaard’s failure to comply with this statute is a direct snub at the South Dakota Legislature. Since South Dakota has a legislative session that lasts only two months the Governors office is highly relied upon to execute the statutes set forth. Does that mean South Dakota is giving too much power and trust towards the Governors Office? Maybe we are, and the legislature is doing something about it. The South Dakota Senate has brought this bill forth again as Senate Bill 84.

This bill differs from the 2009 version in one noticeable way. Only one of the commissioners is to be appointed by the Governor. Two will be appointed by the president pro tempore of the Senate and two appointed by the speaker of the House of Representatives. So how did the Governor feel about this change. Let’s look at his words from yesterday:

 

I would be very happy if the Legislature would amend that legislation to give themselves complete authority to appoint that commission

It isn’t hard to imagine the Governor failing to appoint that one member as required by law. As I noted before, South Dakota has a very short legislative session that lasts about two months. It is critical that the Executive Branch can be trusted to handle committee appointments in a lawful manner. By choosing not perform his duty under law the Governor has shown contempt for both the South Dakota Legislature and citizens of South Dakota.

As I conclude this post its hard to see the above situations as anything but different symptoms of the same problem: the Executive Branch has no respect for the balance of power. By choosing to illegally make appointments President Obama has decided he is beyond the control of the United States Senate. Likewise by failing to make committee appointments Governor Daugaard has decided he is beyond the control of the South Dakota Legislature. Perhaps now it is time for state and federal legislative bodies to start reviewing the balance power between branches and bring it back into alignment.

Gun rights versus property rights: South Dakota House Bill 1129

Leomarc_sign_no_parkingToday was the first reading for South Dakota House Bill 1129. Bills like HB1129 have been popping up around the country for a while now and are often called a “parking lot bill”. The full language of this bill can be read at the end of this post. This bill is summarized by the following title:

FOR AN ACT ENTITLED, An Act to prohibit businesses and employers from establishing certain policies against the ability of an invitee or employee to store firearms and ammunition in a locked motor vehicle parked on the premises.

First I will look at what I believe this bill intends to do: protect 2nd amendment rights. As a libertarian I understand and fully support the right to bear arms. Included in the right to bear arms is the fundamental right of self-defense. Employers that prohibit firearms on their property remove the ability of employee to protect themselves using firearms. It is becoming more commonplace for employers create an “absolutely no guns allowed on this property” policy. Gun rights activists have taken this as an attack on their right to bear arms and have been trying to get as many states as possible to enact “parking lot bills”.

The Second Amendment restricts the government from infringing upon the human-born right to keep and bear arms. However the Second Amendment does not does not restrict private property owners in such a manner. In fact it is well within the rights of a property owner to prohibit firearms while on their property. Parking lot gun bills try to force property owners to give up their rights. Another example is free speech. I can write on my blog that Company X is bad because they engage in crony capitalism. I can ask for others to join me in boycotting Company X. However if I go on the private property of Company X and start talking bad about them it is within their right to have me removed from the property. The constitutionally protected rights of an individual do not allow that individual to override the individual rights of another individual.

It is within the rights of a business such as Company X to enact a “no guns allowed on the premises” rule. I think companies making such rules are silly and short-sighted. However, no matter how I feel about such rules I agree they are well within their rights.

At the same time it is well within the rights of an individual choose different employment. Employment is voluntary; or as it is often called: “at will”. If an employee disagrees with the gun policy of a company they are well within their rights to terminate their employment with that company. I think it’s a good idea for employees to leave such a company, and let them you know why your leaving on the way out.

It is important for gun right advocates to remember that the right to bear arms does not override the rights of other individuals. Don’t get me wrong, I am a gun owner and advocate personal security. However I cannot support legislation that reduces property rights from individuals and business owners in South Dakota.

*** Updated **** Even though I use employee as an example here, the same principle applies to anyone entering the business owners property (including customers, vendors, etc..) I still think its a silly thing for companies to do, but within their rights. 

HOUSE BILL NO. 1129

Introduced by: Representatives Russell, Greenfield, Kaiser, Miller, Nelson, and Olson (Betty) and Senators Otten (Ernie) and Monroe

FOR AN ACT ENTITLED, An Act to prohibit businesses and employers from establishing certain policies against the ability of an invitee or employee to store firearms and ammunition in a locked motor vehicle parked on the premises.

BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF SOUTH DAKOTA:

Section 1. No business or other public or private employer may establish, maintain, or enforce a policy or rule that prohibits any person from transporting or storing, on any area provided for invitee or employee parking or in any other public place, a firearm or ammunition if the person is otherwise in compliance with all applicable state statutes and rules and the firearm or ammunition is locked out of sight within the trunk, glove box, or other compartment or area within a privately-owned motor vehicle.

Section 2. Any person who is legally entitled to transport or store a firearm or ammunition, but is denied the opportunity to do so by a policy or rule prohibited by section 1 of this Act, may bring a civil action in the appropriate court to enjoin any business entity or other public or private employer from violating section 1 of this Act. In any actions brought pursuant to this section, court costs and attorney fees shall be awarded to the prevailing plaintiff.

Section 3. Any employee discharged by any business or other public or private employer for a violation of a policy or rule prohibited by section 1 of this Act, if the employee was lawfully transporting or storing a firearm or ammunition out of plain sight in a locked motor vehicle is entitled to the recovery of the following:

(1) Reinstatement to the same position held at the time of his or her termination from employment, or to an equivalent position;

(2) Reinstatement of the employee’s full fringe benefits and seniority rights;

(3) Compensation for lost wages, benefits, or other lost remuneration caused by the termination; and

(4) Payment of reasonable attorney’s fees and legal costs incurred.

Section 4. No business or other public or private employer may be held liable in any civil action for damages, injuries, or death resulting from or arising out of another person’s actions involving a firearm or ammunition transported or stored pursuant to this Act including the theft of a firearm from an employee’s or invitee’s automobile, unless the business or other public or private employer solicited or procured the injurious actions.

Privacy rights versus first amendment rights in the gun debate: South Dakota SB 97

1269850054 (1)The other day I looked at a few of the gun bills before the South Dakota legislature and added a few comments to each. I didn’t really analyze the wording of them too much, I was more worried about the intent. Since SB 97 has been getting so much negative attention I thought it would be worthwhile to actually look deeper into this bill. After reviewing this bill I believe my initial assessment may have been incorrect. (I have included the current revision of SB97 at the end of this post).

First I will touch on why I believe this bill was introduced. In New York a media organization used FOIA to retrieve the names and addresses of gun permit holders in Westchester and Rockland counties. This information was then used to create an interactive map showing the names and addresses of these permit holders. This interactive map still exists, however the name and address data have been removed to comply with a new law passed by the New York Legislature.

Some detractors of this bill will say “but South Dakota doesn’t require a permit to buy guns”. However those same detractors are supporting a federal law requiring background checks on the purchase of all firearms. Whether the name “permit” is used is irrelevant. If a government mandated background check is required to purchase a firearm, that is essentially a permit in all but name. I believe this bill has been introduced to preemptively protect the private data of South Dakota citizens no matter what happens at the federal level.

This is one of those times the libertarian in me must decide between “information should be available to all” and “privacy rights of individual must be protected”.

As a standard rule I am a fan of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). FOIA has allowed the citizens of the United States to view the activities of the government. By being able to view this activity a new level of accountability has been reached. The mainstream media in particular has been a big user of the FOIA to report on how government programs are actually being run. Transparency in government is always best!

But should the personal data of law abiding US citizens be subject to a FOIA request? I find it difficult  to support such a use of FOIA. The right to bear arms is a fundamental human-born right protected by the 2nd Amendment. Should private citizen data become available to the public just because those citizens are exercising their constitutionally protected right? How about private data regarding first amendment protected rights. Almost every day I exercise my first amendment right to free speech by posting on this blog. Should the government keep a list of political bloggers and allow the public to get my personal information? I would say no to this.

Do we as a society want the government to provide personal data of citizens to be used for political purposes? I would actually say the government should not be collecting such data to being with. However, since the government is collecting this data it is important they recognize the privacy rights of individuals. In my original post I had stated

This bill annoys me only because it should be unnecessary. Moral and ethical privacy standards should not have to be codified.

I stand by these words. But I should have continued to analyzed the bill before going further.

By deciding to publish the private information of law abiding citizens for political reason the media organization in New York crossed an ethical line that should not be crossed. The organization in question happens to be a left-leaning corporation. But I could see a right-leaning organization doing the same thing with private data such as welfare check recipients. Data should be protected no matter what political party uses that data, or how good their intentions are. I still think the media organization in question crossed an ethical line. But crossing ethical lines is not necessarily a reason to create a law.

Even though I think the media organization in question crossed an ethical line, I do not think  they did anything that should be illegal. The true criminal act in this case was executed by the government. The government should not have allowed the personal information of private citizens to be given out simply because they were exercising constitutionally protected rights.

That is where SB 97 breaks down. Here is the main deal-breaker of this bill:

No person, newspaper, periodical, publication, or electronic medium may publish or make public any information with the intent…

SB 97 prevents citizens from using their right to free speech and it prevents news organizations from using their freedom of press rights. Both of these rights are protected by the First Amendment of the US Constitution. For this reason I simply cannot support SB 97.

Instead of restricting the individual free speech and freedom of press rights the legislatures in Pierre must look at how the data is handled. The legislatures involved in this bill should go back to the drawing board and create a bill that restricts government from sharing the private data of lawful citizens. A law with the following spirit should be written instead (I say spirit because I’m not sure of the best legal way to say it):

No government agency shall share the private data of citizens engaged in a right protected by the US Constitution. This includes the address, location, telephone number, e-mail address, or other electronic contact information.

A bill such as this would protect the privacy of citizens engaged in Constitutionally protected rights without trampling on first amendment rights. Instead of making a gun-specific privacy rights bill the legislature in Pierre should strengthen the privacy rights of all citizens engaged in protected rights. Taking such an action should receive support from legislatures of almost any political background.

 

 

South Dakota Senate Bill 97

This bill was introduced by Senators Monroe, Begalka, Ewing, Jensen, and Otten (Ernie) and Representatives Hoffman, Ecklund, Greenfield, Haggar (Don), Heinemann (Leslie), Hickey, May, Miller, Nelson, Olson (Betty), Rounds, Russell, and Stalzer. Here is the text of SB 97:

FOR AN ACT ENTITLED, An Act to prohibit the publication of certain information pertaining to firearm possession and ownership.

BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF SOUTH DAKOTA:

Section 1. No person, newspaper, periodical, publication, or electronic medium may publish or make public any information with the intent of revealing the identity or location of any person in this state based on the second person’s legal ownership or possession of a firearm. Such prohibited information includes any information that would enable another person to contact or locate the person who owns or possesses the firearm, as follows:

(1) The name, address, location, telephone number, e-mail address, or other electronic contact information of the person who owns or possesses a firearm; and

(2) Any other information relating to any weapons permit, background check, or other information pertaining to the ownership, possession, or procurement of firearms by the person.

A violation of this section is a Class 1 misdemeanor.

The White House wants citizens to pledge support to them

1297309246Looking at the my inbox I have another spam email from the White House. For those who haven’t signed up for emails from the White House here it the content of this message:

Good afternoon —

Taking the oath of office is a serious piece of business.

And being part of an inauguration has a way of focusing the mind on what’s to come. That’s what President Obama meant earlier today when he said, “My fellow Americans, we are made for this moment, and we will seize it – so long as we seize it together.”

In the months ahead, we’re going to be tested, and nothing about the challenges we face will be easy.

So we’re going to need you with us — to build support for solutions, to help move the country forward.

Make a pledge to be a part of that effort. Say that you’ll join us.

As citizens of the United States, we’re a people who draw strength from our diversity of opinion. We take pride in that.

When we disagree, we debate. And where there’s common ground, we act — even though those solutions may be less than perfect.

But we never stop moving forward. That’s our obligation, the responsibility for which we’ve been entrusted.

And a duty like that is impossible to fulfill if you act alone.

We need you to step up. Pledge to stand with us, and we’ll reach out to add your voices to the debates in Washington, to work with you to make this country a better place for everyone.

Join us for the next four years, and help make history:

http://www.whitehouse.gov/inauguration-2013/join

Thanks,

Vice President Joe Biden

P.S. — Watch President Obama’s full inaugural address.

As you can see VP Biden is asking citizens to pledge their support for the current White House administration. If you go to the website there is no actual pledge. In fact all it says is this:

In his Second Inaugural Address, President Obama called on all of us to seize this moment, together. Pledge to join us for the next four years and help make history.

The site contains blanks for the following information: First Name, Email Address, and Zip Code There is also a check-mark to opt into emails like the one above.

I fail to see how pledging support to the Presidents administration will “open debate” or find “common ground”. Personally I thinks its silly and is just another political spectacle, something President Obama spoke against in his Inauguration Speech. But I will watch ininterest to see how the mainstream media handles this pledge.

Conservatives in Washington have been getting heat for signing the Taxpayer Protection Pledge organized by the Americans for Tax Reform. One misrepresentation of this pledge in the mainstream media is that this pledge is to Governor Norquist. Actually if detractors of the pledge would take a few minutes to actually read one of the  four pledges (Governor, State Legislator, US House, US Senate) they will see it is a pledge to the taxpayers being represented and to the American people. Nowhere does the name Norquist show up in the pledge. (I should note here I don’t support the pledge  because it only addresses taxes, and not spending).

I just wonder if the mainstream media will be as tough on this pledge as they have been on the ‘Norquist’ pledge. I’m guessing not. But then many of us feel the majority of mainstream media has already signed a pledge to Obama..

 

PS. One more final thought. Hopefully this doesn’t become another round of that creepy cult-like “for all” campaign used to gain support during the election season.

A look at some gun bills before the South Dakota Legislature

Clue_Guns_PackToday January 19, 2013, has been deemed Gun Appreciation Day. On this day Americans can show their support for the 2nd amendment and appreciation of guns. I think Judge Napolitano best sums up why this show of support is important:

The right of the people to keep and bear arms is an extension of the natural right to self-defense and a hallmark of personal sovereignty. It is specifically insulated from governmental interference by the Constitution and has historically been the linchpin of resistance to tyranny. And yet, the progressives in both political parties stand ready to use the coercive power of the government to interfere with the exercise of that right by law-abiding persons because of the gross abuse of that right by some crazies in our midst.

With that in mind I thought it would be a good idea to review some gun-related legislation being looked at in South Dakota this session. Below are three gun rights bills I found browsing through the South Dakota Legislature 2013 Legislative Session. After each bill I have posted my brief thoughts.

House Bill 1010 – Provide for exceptions from certain misdemeanor offenses relating to possession of handguns.

House Bill 1010 was introduced by Representative Russell (District 30) and Senator Otten (Ernie) (District 6). Here is the text of this bill:

FOR AN ACT ENTITLED, An Act to provide for exceptions from certain misdemeanor offenses relating to possession of handguns.

BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF SOUTH DAKOTA:

Section 1. The provisions of §§ 22-14-9, 22-14-9.1, 22-14-9.2, and 22-14-10 do not apply to any person who may legally possess a firearm under 18 U.S.C. § 922(g) (1-9). The mere possession or carrying of a pistol or revolver without a permit does not constitute grounds for an agent of the state, county, municipality, or township to conduct any search, seizure, or detainment, no matter how temporary, of an otherwise law-abiding person.

Basically this bill  does two things. First, it removes the misdemeanor penalties for law-abiding citizens that wish to carry concealed weapons without a permit. The federal law referenced is a list of citizens that are not allowed to carry firearms. This is a good change to the law. It makes no sense to have a law on the books that restricts 2nd amendment rights; especially when restricting those rights do nothing to prevent misuse of firearms. Making it a misdemeanor to carry concealed without a permit will not prohibit a criminal from carrying a gun.

Secondly this bill prevents law enforcement from conducting an unwarranted search of a law-abiding citizen simply because they are carrying a gun. There are many reasons law-abiding citizens carry weapons (concealed and in the open). The presence of a weapon by itself is not a criminal act. Treating people like they are criminals while they are not actually committing a crime does nothing but trample on individual rights protected in our Constitution.

I believe this bill should pass and be signed by the Governor. Even if it does get passed many South Dakota citizens will want to get a permit in the event they cross state lines. I don’t believe this statute would apply to reciprocity laws.

House Bill 1087 – Authorize individual school boards to create, establish, and supervise individual school sentinel programs to promote school safety.

House Bill 1087 was introduced by Representatives Craig, Bolin, Campbell, Ecklund, Gosch, Heinemann (Leslie), Hickey, Kopp, Lust, May, Olson (Betty), Qualm, Schoenfish, Sly, Stalzer, Steele, Verchio, and Wick and Senators Tieszen, Begalka, Bradford, Ewing, Jensen, Kirkeby, Lederman, Maher, Novstrup (Al), Omdahl, and Rhoden. Here is the text of this bill:

FOR AN ACT ENTITLED, An Act to authorize individual school boards to create, establish, and supervise individual school sentinel programs to promote school safety.

BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF SOUTH DAKOTA:

Section 1. Any school board may create, establish, and supervise the arming of school employees, hired security personnel, or volunteers in such manner and according to such protocols as the board, in its sole discretion, may believe to be most likely to secure or enhance the deterrence of physical threat and defense of the school, its students, its staff, and members of the public on the school premises against violent attack by any terrorist, criminal, deranged person, or other perpetrator of deadly force.

Section 2. Before any school board may implement any school sentinel program pursuant to section 1 of this Act, the school board shall interface with any law enforcement agency that has enforcement jurisdiction over the school premises. Any material changes in the school sentinel program’s personnel or protocols shall be reported to such law enforcement agency forthwith.

Section 3. No school board, in implementing the provisions of section 1 of this Act, may arm any individual teacher or other school employee without the latter’s free, willing, and voluntary consent. No individual teacher or other school employee may be censured, criticized, or discriminated against for unwillingness or refusal to carry firearms pursuant to this Act.

Section 4. No provision of § 13-32-7 or any other provisions of state statute is effective to restrict or limit the provisions of this Act. However, nothing in this Act authorizes any person to carry a concealed weapon without a valid permit.

Section 5. The failure or refusal of any school board to implement a school sentinel program does not constitute a cause of action against the board, the school district, or any of its employees.

This bill is a little more controversial. Here is my take on each of the five sections of this bill:

  1. This is sensible: let the local school board decide what is best for the security of the schools. Having bureaucrats in Washington decide a one-size-fits-all approach for such a large and diversified country does not make sense. This bill does not say South Dakota schools have to arm any one. Rather it says they may do so if that is deemed necessary. 
  2. The second section makes the school board work with local law enforcement if a program of this type is implemented. Any changes must be worked out with law enforcement as well. Again, this is reasonable. It is not only good so local law enforcement know about it; it also allows local law enforcement to help with the program.
  3. In the third section it is said that no program of this type can make any school employee carry a weapon. This one should almost go without saying. Nobody wants people protecting children that are uncomfortable with guns. Being able to use guns in defense of others takes a lot of practice and confidence. There is no way we as a public would want untrained personnel protecting others with guns.
  4. Here it says that other statutes in the law will not restrict this statute. But at the same time conceal carry laws apply in schools that implement this program. This makes sure that people opposed to such a program don’t try to find loopholes in other state laws to cause problems with its implementation.
  5. Finally its made clear that school boards do not have to implement such a program. School boards will not be punished if they don’t implement a program. Honestly, I expect few school boards will even try to set up such a program. But for those that don’t they can feel safe from repercussion.

I’m not sure if this law will pass. I hope it does. Local control of public security is always best. Like I said above, I doubt many school districts will try to implement such a program. However any school district that feels it is necessary should have the ability to do so.

Senate Bill 97 – Prohibit the publication of certain information pertaining to firearm possession and ownership.

Senate Bill 97 was introduced by Senators Monroe, Begalka, Ewing, Jensen, and Otten (Ernie) and Representatives Hoffman, Ecklund, Greenfield, Haggar (Don), Heinemann (Leslie), Hickey, May, Miller, Nelson, Olson (Betty), Rounds, Russell, and Stalzer. Here is the text of this bill:

FOR AN ACT ENTITLED, An Act to prohibit the publication of certain information pertaining to firearm possession and ownership.

BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF SOUTH DAKOTA:

Section 1. No person, newspaper, periodical, publication, or electronic medium may publish or make public any information with the intent of revealing the identity or location of any person in this state based on the second person’s legal ownership or possession of a firearm. Such prohibited information includes any information that would enable another person to contact or locate the person who owns or possesses the firearm, as follows:

(1) The name, address, location, telephone number, e-mail address, or other electronic contact information of the person who owns or possesses a firearm; and

(2) Any other information relating to any weapons permit, background check, or other information pertaining to the ownership, possession, or procurement of firearms by the person.

A violation of this section is a Class 1 misdemeanor.

On Jan 21, 2013, I looked closer at this bill. You can see here why I have chosen to change my mind on this bill. I leave me original comments below untouched (so I can remember my original stance).

This bill annoys me only because it should be unnecessary. Moral and ethical privacy standards should not have to be codified. But since a news organization decided to publish a map of gun owners name and addresses this has become necessary. The NY legislature passed a law earlier this week that forced the names and addresses to be removed from the map. It’s almost incomprehensible that a news organization would find it ethical to invade the privacy of law-abiding citizens. To prevent this from happening in South Dakota I support this bill.

IRS extends special tax treatment of farmers

trattore_architetto_fran_01This post will be the first of hopefully many where I highlight how current tax law hurts the free market.

Yesterday the IRS announced it will provide penalty relief for self-employed farmers. This relief will allow non-incorporated farmers to file and pay their taxes up until April 15, 2013. On normal years “farmers deadline” for taxes is before March 1st.

March 1st has become known as the farmers deadline because of a special treatment of farmers and fishermen in the tax system. Most self-employed tax payers must make estimated tax payments throughout the year if their withholding will not cover the taxes due for that year. Estimated tax payments are due by April 15th, June 15th, September 15th, and January 15th. Sometimes people refer to these as ‘quarterly payments’; but take notice they are not split into equal quarters of the year. Taxpayers that do not make these estimated tax payments will incur a penalty.

Farmers and fishermen are exempt from making estimated tax payments if they pay all federal taxes due before March 1. If they do not make the March 1st deadline penalties will be incurred on the taxes due. Farmers that choose to make estimated tax payments like any other self-employed taxpayer have until April 15th to file and pay their taxes.

Because of the late passing of the fiscal cliff bill many IRS forms will not even be released until February or March of this year. That makes it hard, if not impossible, for farmers to meet the March 1st deadline. In response the IRS will give farmers and fishermen until April 15 to file and pay taxes due.

This sounds all well and good. But do we really need to give farmers special treatment over other business owners? And do we need to give large farm operations an advantage over the small farmer getting started? Is it really in the best interest of our economy for the IRS to pick winners and losers in the market?

How does this special treatment of farmers hurt other self-employed business owners and small farmers? Easy, it provides more working capital for large farm operations to use throughout the year. Every other classification of taxpayer must pay their federal taxes throughout the year. For taxpayers that work for others this is done by deductions in their paycheck. Self-employed taxpayers do this through estimated tax payments. Farmers however are exempted from paying their federal taxes throughout the year.

Since farmers are allowed to keep this money throughout the year they have essentially been given an interest-free loan on behalf of the IRS. I can think of many small business owners that could use this extra working capital throughout the year.

It would seem logical to think “but this will help out the small farmer getting started”. Nope, doesn’t work that way. To be considered a farmer or fisherman by the IRS at least 2/3 of the gross income on the tax return must come from farming (IRS Pub 225 Chapter 15). A farmer just getting started on a small operation is unlikely to be fall within these guidelines. It may in fact take a few years before a farmer actually meets the IRS requirements of being classified a farmer. Not being classified as a farmer means larger well-established farm operations have a tax advantage over new entries into the industry.

Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against farmers. I grew up working on my uncles farm and married a farm-girl. I also work with many farmers on a regular basis. My problem is with the government using tax laws to pick winners and losers in the market. Uneven tax laws create disadvantages for new entries into the industry. Maybe if Washington listens to the Taxpayer Advocate Service and starts to simplify the tax code they will remove this special interest tax advantage. I doubt it… but I can hope.