Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Thinking about a pragmatic Libertarian agenda for Delaware

I've been working on thoughts for a Libertarian agenda for Delaware. Please keep in mind that these are my ideas and NOT in any way products of, or associated with, the Libertarian Party of Delaware.

Nor are they complete. I'm still working on energy policy and some other key issues like what to do with our horrible social services bureaucracy or--better yet--DELDOT.

Here's the deal: they are intended to be pragmatic suggestions for moving forward on existing state problems consistent with the general Libertarian principles of more personal freedom and greater governmental accountability (while always thinking about how large the government really needs to be). Some of them will be less daring than many of my Libertarian friends would like--I don't make apologies for that; we have to start where we are.

In the whole, this is offered to readers like Tyler Nixon, kavips, Shirley, Liberalgeek, or Tom to start a genuine conversation.

Open Government: Because we pay for it, and we have to live with its decisions, I support:

• Ending the Desk-drawer Veto that only enhances the ability of careerists to keep broadly supported legislative reforms from ever reaching the floor.

• Establishing Transparency Rules that require our legislators to reveal when they, their family members, or their businesses and employers stand to benefit from the votes they cast.

• Requiring School Districts to place their check-books online, so that the parents and property owners who pay for our children’s education can make sure the money for public education actually makes it into the classroom.

• Enacting a Constitutional Amendment that authorizes Initiative, Referendum, and Recall, so that Delaware’s citizens can take a direct hand in crafting the laws and regulations that govern their lives.



Public Education: Because we cannot afford to handicap our children with a public education system that costs too much while not producing excellence, I support:

• Implementing the key cost-saving provisions of the LEAD Report with respect to transportation, energy, construction, purchasing, and prevailing wage requirements, which will simultaneously save Delaware taxpayers tens of millions of dollars and generate the funding for real improvements in our schools.

• Replacing the high-cost, high-stakes Delaware Student Testing Program with a more affordable and accountable state-wide assessment that actually takes into account student performance in our classrooms.

• Modifying the costly and complicated SEED program into a merit-based State income-tax credit to support high-achieving Delaware graduates attending any college or university of their choice.

• Developing a state-wide incentive system to encourage the best teachers to come to Delaware, stay in Delaware, and actively pursue continuing education and professional development.

• Allowing funding equity for all charter schools with an open enrollment policy that can demonstrate that they serve minority, disadvantaged, and special needs populations to the same extent that traditional schools within the same geographic district do. Allow two or more charter schools to “pool” their populations to meet this requirement.


Government spending: Because Delaware can’t afford a State government running $200 million deficits or “forgetting” that it was owed a $67 million tax payment, I support:

• Transitioning from expensive, proprietary computer software for routine government uses to virtually free “open source” programs, saving all of us millions each year. [Stolen from Dana Garrett; who says progressives and libertarians don't share some of the same objectives?]

• Empowering the Governor of Delaware with a line-item veto to cut wasteful State spending when the legislature won’t do its job.

• Requiring the annual State budget highlights to be formatted each year in a manner that clearly reports the cost and number of new Government positions authorized.

• Encouraging as many State offices as possible to adopt a four-day workweek to save energy and reduce transportation costs.

• Implementing the State Auditor’s May 2008 recommendations that would immediately save taxpayers $21 million without sacrificing government services.


Taxation and regulation: Because taxes are “the power to destroy” and excessive regulation erodes our freedom, I support:

• Instituting a series of tax credits for the working poor so they can keep more of what they earn to help defray rising medical, educational, and transportation expenses.

• Passing “Plain English” legislation that allows citizens and small business owners to challenge overly complicated bureaucratic regulations.

• Establishing a Deficit Reduction Priorities List at the beginning of each fiscal year that clearly indicates the order in which State agencies and services will be reduced in the event of a budget shortfall.

• Requiring that all environmental, health/safety, and equal opportunity regulations placed on citizens and small businesses be enforced on all State government agencies, including the General Assembly.



Privacy and Property: Because it isn’t really yours if the government can take it away from you anytime it pleases, I support:

• Reviving Senate Bill 245 to protect property owners from the bureaucrats and politicians who think they should be able to seize what’s yours in order to make a few bucks for their favorite constituents.

• Passing legislation to guarantee patients the right to declare any person of their choice as advocate and decision-maker should they become incapacitated.

• Keeping the government out of your personal relationships by defeating small-minded attempts to use a Constitutional amendment to prohibit civil unions in Delaware.

• Balancing the economic prosperity brought by new development against the strain on our infrastructure by utilizing common-sense impact fees to help fund new schools, sewers, and roads.

• Decriminalizing the possession or use of small amounts of marijuana.



Health Care: Because Delaware citizens can’t move confidently toward a 21st-Century economy if they spend too much time worried about what it costs to see a doctor, I support:

• Locating and signing up the 27,000 Delawareans who qualify for Medicaid, but who haven’t yet stepped forward to receive coverage. [I may think there are better alternatives, but in the short run there is no excuse for the government not to keep its promises.

• Relaxing overly strict licensing requirements to allow experimentation with innovations in health care like retail clinics and internet pharmacies.

• Legalizing medical marijuana so that patients with chronic, intractable pain have access to a full range of pain management options.

• Examining the precarious financial situation of Delaware’s hospitals in order to develop strategies to keep them solvent in a fiscally responsible manner.


Comments welcome.

And no, I'm not running for any office.

Update: I forgot to include that I favor an immediate moratorium on executions in the State of Delaware and the eventual repeal of the death penalty.

8 comments:

Brian Shields said...

My idea for the SEED program was to convert it to a student loan that was repayable with a maintenance-only non-profit interest rate. Having an option to defer your state tax refund to the balance was also an idea.

Would open source programs open us up to hacker attacks? You have to remember the fear factor in these old people.

A "Deficit Reduction Priorities List," nice. I really like the idea of prioritizing state funding. Every division seems to think they have top priority and it would smack them back into reality. That would also give legislators something to play around with and politic. It has the potential to be controversial, but in a good, conversational-in-the-home way.

An all around very good list. if i didn't comment it was because I couldn't add anything to it and agreed.

Joe M said...

I have to say, this all sounds pretty damn good, Steve. I have one question though...

Could you explain
"• Passing “Plain English” legislation that allows citizens and small business owners to challenge overly complicated bureaucratic regulations."

I'm not trying to play "gotcha" or anything, I honestly don't understand what you mean.

As to Brian's comment about open source, the short answer is No. While open source programs can have the same vulnerabilites as, say, MS Office, the hacking community at large bypasses those holes to concentrate their attacks on commercial products.

The open source community is also by and large much quicker in closing any holes in their code.

The big issue with open source is compatibilities with the commercial programs, and moving users to unfamiliar and less feature-rich software.

Steve Newton said...

Joe
This is a concept that's been batting around for a few decades, that sets a standard that legislation and particularly regulation have to be written in non-jargon and be correctly interpreted by a layman.

There would be obvious exceptions for highly technical items (say % emission standards) but that tax laws or business regs must be written in English that anybody with a basic high school reading proficiency could interpret.

The US tax code, for example, has been rated out a number of times as being too complex for college undergraduates to read...

Duffy said...

• Establishing Transparency Rules that require our legislators to reveal when they, their family members, or their businesses and employers stand to benefit from the votes they cast

How about transparency in committee meetings? Making all meetings open to the public with minutes recorded and posted on Delaware.gov. Reasonable exceptions available.

• Requiring School Districts to place their check-books online, so that the parents and property owners who pay for our children’s education can make sure the money for public education actually makes it into the classroom.

How about requiring n% of spending to be on narrowly defined classroom parameters?


• Enacting a Constitutional Amendment that authorizes Initiative, Referendum, and Recall, so that Delaware’s citizens can take a direct hand in crafting the laws and regulations that govern their lives.

Indeed. This will be especially effective in a smaller state like ours


• Transitioning from expensive, proprietary computer software for routine government uses to virtually free “open source” programs, saving all of us millions each year. [Stolen from Dana Garrett; who says progressives and libertarians don't share some of the same objectives?]

This is a double edged sword. If you're talking applications, yes. OS, I'm not so sure. I lurv Ubuntu as much as the next guy (and probably more) but how many Linux admins do you think we have in DE?


• Empowering the Governor of Delaware with a line-item veto to cut wasteful State spending when the legislature won’t do its job.


I'm leery of giving the Governor that kind of clout. It may well be used to punish rivals. Have to think about that one.


Nowhere do you suggest eliminating extra constitutional spending or any form of privitazation. I assume that's under the less than aggressive umbrella you cited. Where are the ideas that let private companies bid for jobs that government is currently doing? How about allowing companies to bid for services at current (or lower) budgeted levels for government services? Where are school vouchers?


• Instituting a series of tax credits for the working poor so they can keep more of what they earn to help defray rising medical, educational, and transportation expenses.

Please define "working poor".

How about sunset language on all tax bills. Require them to be renewed every 5 years. Require government to keep their books to the standards private industry must. No robbing Peter to pay Paul allowed.

Lastly, two term limit for all offices. Further, anyone who holds statewide office may not hold another for 5 years after his/her last term of service.

Finally; no one named Biden or in anyway related to someone named Biden may hold any office of any kind ever.

(that last bit may be reaching)

kavips said...

Because of the Olympics, I will repeatedly visit and "starburst" off and on.

On this visit, in regard to the DSTP in your selection on education I would recommend using the SAT as the comparison guide used to rate schools.

I covered this in more depth before, but since schools naturally evolve towards teaching to the test, it makes sense to use the test most required for institutions of higher learning... The infrastructure is already there, so costs would be minimal. Additionally the SAT compares more favorably against the national tests of India and China. Finally by teaching to the SAT, we would not be dumbing down our students to appease hacks of all occupations and persuasions.

tom said...

Empowering the Governor of Delaware with a line-item veto to cut wasteful State spending when the legislature won’t do its job.

The Governor has had a line-item veto since the Constitution of 1897 (Art III, Sec 18, par 3, cl 2). The trouble is that the Minner administration never met a wasteful State spending program it didn't support, and if elected, Carney is likely to follow in her footsteps.

tom said...

If you're talking applications, yes. OS, I'm not so sure. I lurv Ubuntu as much as the next guy (and probably more) but how many Linux admins do you think we have in DE?

Far more than you think.

The banking & finance industries are almost exclusively UNIX on the backend transaction processing systems, and many of them use it for customer visible stuff like web sites as well.

High shools and colleges use it to teach Programming, and especially Operating Systems courses because thoe tools are free and the source is available.

Also, many sysadmins could be easily convinced to relocate here from nearby cities like Philly, Baltimore, DC, and NYC due to the lower cost of living.

tom said...

Ok, now that I actually have time for a real reply:

Open Government:

I agree with almost all of these, with the possible exception of "Desk Drawer Veto". I am not sure there is much that can be done about this, nor am I entirely convinced that anything drastic should be.

This is a power that almost necessarily arises from the fact that the chairperson of a committee must control the order in which resolutions are considered. I believe that by instituting some or all of the other openness reforms and keeping the government strictly limited to its proper constitutional role the worst abuses of this power could be easily curtailed.

That said, I would not be at all opposed (pending enactment of our openness reforms) to changing the rules in the House to make it easier to get bills scheduled, force committees to act on them and bring them to the floor for a vote.

However, the Senate is supposed to be a slower, more deliberative body. Individual Senators, groups of Senators, and the Senate leadership need methods of slowing down or blocking legislation they have concerns about, with corresponding checks & overrides of course.

In addition to Steve's proposals, we should pass DownsizeDC.org's “Read the Bills Act”, "Write the Laws Act", and "Enumerated Powers Act" with whatever modifications are necessary to make compatible with Delaware's government.

Also, require that any software or firmware used in devices that can affect public policy or produce evidence admissible in our Courts be open source (including, but not limited to Voting Machines, Traffic Light cameras, Radar or other speeding detection devices, and Blood Alcohol Content measuring devices)

Public Education:

I'm not going to agree with a whole lot of what Steve (or most likely anybody else) has to say on this topic because I in favor of scrapping the whole failing government school system and replacing it with free-market based institutions that actually work. It just isn't right to force taxpayers to fund the incarceration and indoctrination of other people's, or even their own, children into whatever ideologies & mythologies the state is currently supporting.

Until that happens :-) ... I would require every school district referendum (or any other referendum on government spending) to include equal and opposite options allowing voters to reduce spending and cut taxes and/or pay off existing bonds by the same amounts that they propose to increase it, as well as an option to do nothing and maintain the current levels.

Government spending:

I agree with all of Steve's proposals here, except, as I said in a previous comment, the Governor already has a Line-Item Veto and has for a long time. They just need to use it. Castle & Carper weren't much better than Minner in this respect.

Taxation and regulation:

Again, I agree with Steve's proposals in this category.

I also want Delaware to protect it's citizens against the Federal Government & the Federal Reserve stealing their money through "inflation". All State agencies, subsidiary governments, and Corporations (including Municipal Corporations) chartered by the State of Delaware should be required to accept and offer payments in Gold or Silver coins (or "medallions", "tokens", "ingots", etc. of known weight and purity from any respectable mint) and value them, w/o regard to any face value they may bear, according to the Liberty Dollar's price formula, or any other reasonable formula determined by law that tracks large movements in the market value while damping out short-term fluctuations.

Privacy and Property:

• Reviving Senate Bill 245 ...

Yes!

• Passing legislation to guarantee patients...

Agreed.

• Keeping the government out of your personal relationships by defeating small-minded attempts to use a Constitutional amendment to prohibit civil unions in Delaware.

Get the government out of the relationship business entirely by abolishing marriage licenses and instead requiring the State, its subsidiaries, and all Corporations (including Municipal Corporations) chartered by it to respect any form of union sanctioned by Common Law, and/or any religious organization.

• Balancing the economic prosperity brought by new development against the strain on our infrastructure by utilizing common-sense impact fees to help fund new schools, sewers, and roads.

No. Just guarantee the people who are actually impacted the right to sue those responsible for reasonable damages whether it is the State, a private entity, or both.

• Decriminalizing the possession or use of small amounts of marijuana.

... and other recreational drugs.

In addition, Pass SURJ's bill (formerly HB 71) eliminating mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses.

Eliminate the ridiculous definition of "trafficking" level drug possession offenses as violent crimes from Delaware law.

Pass legislation clarifying that drug offenses and other victimless crimes, even if they are classified as felonies, are not "infamous crimes" for purposes of voting, holding public office or possessing firearms.

Repeal all state and local laws that are inconsistent with Heller v DC.

(it's getting early. maybe I'll tackle Health Care in another comment)