Tag Archives: Senate

REAL ID Fright Fest 2015, Oklahoma Edition

Headlines 2015

Kaye Beach | Oct. 6, 2015

The headlines are scary.

Vaguely worded policies issued by the federal Department of Homeland Security and sensational headlines have allowed misconceptions about the actual consequences of not having a REAL ID to grow.

The very worst possible consequences of not having not having a REAL ID card are actually quite minimal.

To refresh your memory- the REAL ID Act was passed with little to no debate in Congress in 2005 as a rider to a ‘must pass’ military and disaster relief funding bill.  The most controversial portion of the law imposes federal standards upon state driver’s licenses and ID documents.  And contrary to media reports, the REAL ID Act does require the collection and digital retention of every driver license applicants’ biometric facial image.  This fact is acknowledged by the National Conference of State Legislatures as well as other policy professionals so you don’t have to take my word for it.

nscl

The biometric and other personal information is required to be shared among the states and is accessible to the federal government.
The consequences for having a REAL ID are far more disturbing than the consequences for not having a REAL ID  which can be summed up like this; Someday, if you do not have a REAL ID compliant driver’s license or one of the umpteen acceptable alternatives, the TSA will look you up in their database to make sure that you are really you and you may be subject to a secondary screening which generally means you will be asked to either go through the naked scanner or get a pat down and they will look in your bags. That’s about it so why are we being treated to this over the top fright fest?
Because fear is one of the only tools DHS has to get the states to comply

Jim Harper at Cato explains:

Right now, the Department of Homeland Security is sending out emissaries to tell state leaders that their residents might soon feel the TSA’s wrath. State motor vehicle bureaucrats and pro-national ID groups are joining them in the effort to herd state leaders over the national ID cliff.
But the threat of TSA enforcement is an empty one. REAL ID “deadlines” have come and gone many times. No state has ever come into compliance with REAL ID. No state will be in compliance in 2016. And the TSA will not begin a program to prevent Americans from traveling by air.

The adoption of the REAL ID standards is (by law) is voluntary for the states. This is not a mandate so implementation can only be accomplished gradually by persuading (or intimidating) the states into compliance. Since the law is so controversial (not to mention convoluted and costly!) states have little incentive to adopt the REAL ID standards.
No one really seems to want a REAL ID — unless they think that the consequences for not having one might be dire.

“. . .by requiring Real ID-compliant licenses to board commercial aircraft, the law could put a lot of public pressure on states to issue licenses that meet its standards.”
Source: USA Today, Real ID is slowly changing state drivers’ licenses, Jan. 22, 2014

Oklahoma has been granted an extension by the Dept. of Homeland Security. An extension means that the state’s driver’s license and ID cards will be accepted just as if the ID was fully REAL ID compliant.
From the Dept. of Homeland Security, REAL ID Enforcement in Brief:
“Individuals holding driver’s licenses or identification cards from these jurisdiction may continue to use them as before.”
The jurisdiction referred to are states where their licenses have been “(1) determined to meet the Act’s standards; or (2) that have received extensions.”

This means that Oklahoma ID’s are acceptable for flying, entering specified federal buildings and entering a nuclear facility, 3 of the four “official purposes” that will require a REAL ID.  There are FOUR official purposes that require a REAL ID but I have yet to hear the media cover the fourth purpose even once.

The REAL ID final rules require a REAL ID complaint driver’s license or ID card for certain specified “official purposes” (defined in Sec 201 of the Act.)
#1 Entering Federal facilities
#2 boarding a Federally-regulated commercial aircraft
#3 Entering a nuclear power plant
and
#4 Any other purpose established by the Secretary of Homeland Security
(Real ID Final Rules http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2008-01-29/pdf/08-140.pdf)

The fourth official purpose is what a good friend of mine refers to as the “dictator clause”  It means just what it says.  The Secretary of Homeland Security can add any other purpose he or she wisher.  No congressional review – no nothing.  Would it bother you if you were required to present your biometric national ID for say….ammo?

That fourth purpose could come in handy for just about anything that needs to be monitored, rationed or controlled.  Ask Oklahoma media to cover THAT!

The DHS will be reviewing the progress of states that have received extensions this month. I predict that Oklahoma will be granted another extension.

On Dec. 29, 2014, the Dept. Of Homeland Security extended the deadline for enforcement upon states that have an extension or are deemed compliant with REAL ID until Oct. 1, 2020. Oklahoma appears to exempt from enforcement until 2020.

In the worst-case-scenario, one where the DHS refuses to grant our state and extension and we become subject to enforcement in order to board a plane “no sooner than 2016,”  it’s still not going to be a big deal for Okies.

Not once has it been publicly asserted by the Department of Homeland Security or the TSA that not having a REAL ID compliant license would ever be a basis for denying a person the ability to board a commercial aircraft or that a U.S. Passport is the only accepted alternative to REAL ID
Clarifying statements have been made by DHS officials though, they just aren’t the ones that make the headlines.
For example, Darrell Williams, former Senior Director, Office of State Issued ID Support, Department of Homeland Security, testified before a Congressional subcommittee that there are a variety of identification alternatives to a REAL ID and that not having a REAL ID compliant license will not prevent a person from boarding a plane. He went on to say to say that even individuals with NO FORM OF ID at all can still be permitted to fly.

Williams TSA REAL ID

Mr. Williams as the former Director of the REAL ID program for the Department of Homeland Security with (which directs the Transportation Security Administration) is very familiar with the policies of both agencies. No publicly available official statement on the matter of REAL ID and boarding a federally regulated commercial aircraft refutes Mr. Williams’ testimony.

Here is the TSA’s list of preferred ID documents:
• Driver’s licenses or other state photo identity cards issued by Department of Motor Vehicles (or equivalent)
• U.S. passport
• U.S. passport card
• DHS trusted traveler cards (Global Entry, NEXUS, SENTRI, FAST)
• U.S. military ID (active duty or retired military and their dependents, and DoD civilians)
• Permanent resident card
• Border crossing card
• DHS-designated enhanced driver’s license
• Airline or airport-issued ID (if issued under a TSA-approved security plan)
• Federally recognized, tribal-issued photo ID
• HSPD-12 PIV card
• Foreign government-issued passport
• Canadian provincial driver’s license or Indian and Northern Affairs Canada card
• Transportation worker identification credential
http://www.tsa.gov/travel/security-screening/identification

Here the TSA goes into a bit more detail regarding its identity verification procedures:

“TSA prefers that passengers use an acceptable ID at the checkpoint and only publishes the acceptable forms of primary ID, such as a driver’s license and passport on its website. However, we understand that, due to extenuating circumstances a passenger may not have an acceptable form of ID when attempting to travel on a commercial aircraft. Therefore, TSA has alternate means to verify identity in order to allow a passenger to travel and may rely on a variety of government-issued documents, commercial databases, and other agencies to verify passenger identity. The alternative means to establish identity are not published on the website in part because TSA prefers that passengers use acceptable ID.

The TSA website informs passengers that, if they do not have acceptable ID, they can alternatively provide additional information and undergo additional screening in order to be cleared. Specifically, the website informs the public that: “If you are willing to provide additional information, we have other ways to confirm your identity, like using publicly available databases, so you can reach your flight.”
(TSA response to congressional inquiry Aug. 7, 2014
https://www.scribd.com/doc/237497624/TSA-Doc)

No one is going to have to get a passport or be barred from flying due to the REAL ID Act.

Sparks Real ID

This press released today by the Oklahoma Senate certainly sounds dire.

Can you imagine if people were unable to enter the Social Security office?  What if you were asked to appear in Federal Court and you don’t have a REAL ID?  What would happen?

Apparently nothing.

REAL ID Act of 2005 Implementation: An Interagency Security Committee Guide
Aug 2015, Interagency Security Committee
“…there is no requirement to produce a REAL ID Act compliant ID to enter a Federal facility for accessing health or life preserving services (including hospitals and health clinics), law enforcement (including participating in law enforcement proceedings or investigations), participating in constitutionally protected activities (including a defendant’s or spectator’s access to court proceedings, access by jurors or potential jurors), voting or registering to vote, or applying for or receiving Federal benefits…”
https://www.dhs.gov/sites/default/files/publications/isc-real-id-guide-august-2015-508_0.pdf

According to the Department of Homeland Security
REAL ID does NOT apply to the following:
• Entering Federal facilities that do not require a person to present identification
• Voting or registering to vote
• Applying for or receiving Federal benefits
• Being licensed by a state to drive
• Accessing Health or life preserving services (including hospitals and health clinics), law enforcement, or constitutionally protected activities (including a defendant’s access to court proceedings)
• Participating in law enforcement proceedings or investigations

There is too much fear, uncertainty and doubt being pumped out by the media and state officials for me to address in just one post so expect more posts soon.  Until then – don’t let them scare you!

Oklahoma Vapers call to Action Calls, E-mails needed in support of SB 1892

Kaye Beach

Feb. 17, 2014

**Update**  Feb. 18, 2014  The bill is SB1892 not SB1852 as I had listed.  Sorry about that.

SB 1892 passed the Senate Finance committee today  but due to a minor snafu the title was stricken.  The bill will have to go to conference committee for title to be restored.  If all that sounds confusing, the bottom line is that it will end up before the committee and have to be voted on again.  This should happen shortly and so if you didn’t get your calls or emails in, it wouldn’t hurt to do so now.

Will update again as soon as there is any movement on this bill.  Thank you!

SB 1892 will be heard in the Senate Finance Committee tomorrow morning at 10:30 AM in Rm 535

Call or email the Senate Finance committee members tonight or first thing tomorrow morning and tell them to vote YES on SB 1852!

Electronic cigarettes and vapor products are NOT tobacco and should not be categorized as such.  SB 1852 defines “vapor products’ separately from tobacco products and does not allow vapor products to be taxed like tobacco products.  This is GOOD!  It keeps the safer option of ‘vaping’ accessible to more smokers who have been unable or unwilling to quit smoking.

Briefly tell the committee members how you or your loved ones have benefitted from using a personal vaporizing device.  Ask them to vote YES on SB 1852 and thank them for their time.

Here is the Oklahoma Vapor Advocacy League’s Alert on SB 1852.  (Find out more about OVAL at http://ovalok.org)

oval alert sb 1852

You can email the Senate Finance committee members in one swoop by copying and pasting their emails as provided;

mazzei@oksenate.gov; Brinkley@oksenate.gov; Aldridge@oksenate.gov; dahm@oksenate.gov; david@oksenate.gov; fordj@oksenate.gov; halligan@oksenate.gov; johnsonc@oksenate.gov; jolly@oksenate.gov; mcaffrey@oksenate.gov; simpson@oksenate.gov; sparks@oksenate.gov; treat@oksenate.gov

You can call the Senate Finance committee members by dialing the Senate Switchboard and asking to be connected to the Senator you wish to speak with.   Senate switchboard (405) 524-0126

Senate Finance Committee Members are as follows:

Senator Mike Mazzei – Chair
Senator Rick Brinkley – Vice Chair
Senator Cliff Aldridge
Senator Nathan Dahm
Senator Kim David
Senator John Ford
Senator Jim Halligan
Senator Constance Johnson
Senator Clark Jolley

Senator McAffrey
Senator Frank Simpson
Senator John Sparks
Senator Greg Treat

Oklahoma Action Alert! SB618 DNA Collection Before Conviction

dna prison

Kaye Beach

March 6, 2012

SB618 by Sen. Clark Jolley and Rep. Leslie Osborn will be heard as early as today tomorrow in the OK Senate.

SB618 would require mandatory collection of your DNA following arrest for felony and even some misdemeanor offenses. 

If there is a reasonable suspicion that the arrestee is connected to other crimes, law enforcement can get a warrant for the sample.  Collecting and databanking of DNA on arrestees as a matter of course and not upon any particular suspicion of a connection to a specific crime, negates the principle of innocent until proven guilty which is the cornerstone of our justice system.

The original mandate of DNA databases – to record genetic markers from convicted offenders, on the dual theories that convicts are;

1) likely to reoffend

And

2) their diminished expectation of privacy legitimizes the search.

The expansion of circumstances from which DNA can be collected, analyzed and indexed to people arrested but not convicted of a crime goes well beyond the purpose and intent of creating a criminal DNA database

Please Contact your Senator and ask them to please VOTE NO! on SB618.

e-mail block.  Use bcc and send out one e-mail;
aldridge@oksenate.gov, allen@oksenate.gov, anderson@oksenate.gov, ballenger@oksenate.gov, barrington@oksenate.gov, bass@oksenate.gov, bingman@oksenate.gov, boggs@oksenate.gov, branan@oksenate.gov, brecheen@oksenate.gov, brinkley@oksenate.gov, brooks@oksenate.gov, brownb@oksenate.gov, burrage@oksenate.gov, coates@oksenate.gov, crain@oksenate.gov, dahm@oksenate.gov, david@oksenate.gov, ellis@oksenate.gov, efields@oksenate.gov, fordj@oksenate.gov, garrisone@oksenate.gov, griffin@oksenate.gov, halligan@oksenate.gov, holt@oksenate.gov, ivester@oksenate.gov, johnsonc@oksenate.gov, johnsonr@oksenate.gov, jolley@oksenate.gov, justice@oksenate.gov, loveless@oksenate.gov, marlatt@oksenate.gov, mazzei@oksenate.gov, mcaffrey@oksenate.gov, newberry@oksenate.gov, paddack@oksenate.gov, schulz@oksenate.gov, sharp@oksenate.gov, shaw@oksenate.gov, shortey@oksenate.gov, shumate@oksenate.gov, simpson@oksenate.gov, sparks@oksenate.gov, standridge@oksenate.gov, stanislawski@oksenate.gov, lewis@oksenate.gov, treat@oksenate.gov, wyrick@oksenate.gov,

Senate Members http://www.oksenate.gov/Senators/Default.aspx?selectedtab=0

Here is the letter I wrote to the Senators;

Dear Senator,

Our DNA contains our most private information.

SB618 would require mandatory collection of your DNA following arrest for felony and even some misdemeanor offenses. Our Constitution guarantees your right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty.  Taking DNA prior to conviction is a warrantless search.   If there is a reasonable suspicion that the arrestee is connected to other crimes, law enforcement can get a warrant for the sample.

One of those *misdemeanor offenses that SB618 would require a DNA sample for is for urinating in public (outraging public decency) It ought to be a banner opportunity for bolstering the *CODIS system with DNA samples from harmless Oklahoma college kids.  And that is exactly the purpose of SB618-to populate the CODIS database in the hopes of raising the number of hits on unsolved crimes.

*The Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) is a software system that  allows for state, local and federal authorities to share DNA profile information.

*See page 26 SB618 for a complete listing of offenses that will require DNA sampling and inclusion into the CODIS database.

Right now the Supreme Court is debating a case (Maryland v. King, 12-207) that may overturn as many as 29 state and federal laws that allow the collection of DNA samples when a person is arrested.  The Court’s decision on this case will be rendered in June of this year.

The original mandate of DNA databases – to record genetic markers from convicted offenders, on the dual theories that convicts are;

1) likely to reoffend

And

2) their diminished expectation of privacy legitimizes the search.

The expansion of circumstances from which DNA can be collected, analyzed and indexed to people arrested but not convicted of a crime goes well beyond the purpose and intent of creating a criminal DNA database

Whether or not collecting DNA samples from arrestees is an effective way to solve crimes is a moot point.  The ends do not justify the means.

On this point Supreme Court Justice Scalia agrees;

“I’ll bet you if you conducted a lot of unreasonable searches and seizures, you’d get more convictions, too,” Scalia said. “That proves absolutely nothing.”

Source: Bloomberg, February 26, 2013, DNA Collection Questioned as Court Weighs Privacy Rights http://mobile.bloomberg.com/news/2013-02-26/dna-collection-questioned-as-court-weighs-privacy-rights.html

This bill should receive a NO vote on its lack of constitutional merit alone.

But if that isn’t enough for you, there is more to consider. Once we cross the threshold of DNA collection prior to conviction and without a warrant what is next?

I will let Greggory LaBerge, Director, Crime Laboratory Bureau, Denver Police Department tell you exactly where we are heading.

“I’ll give a brief talk on forensic genetics of DNA database expansion, and specifically the CODIS database as it sits today, and where we think it will go in the future.

. . . We talk in the near term about how this database can be expanded. . . .There are states also looking at all arrestees legislation. . .”

Source: GENETICS AND PUBLIC POLICY CENTER AT JOHNS HOPKINS UNIVERSITY “A PERFECT MATCH? DNA IN LAW ENFORCEMENT” http://www.dnapolicy.org/resources/GenePOPSforensics_transcript.pdf

SB618 is a critical step towards mass DNA databasing of non-criminal
citizens and  DNA familial searches.  Eventually the ‘vision’ is DNA samples for roadside traffic stops, and merging our property records and financial profiles, workand medical history files, demographic data along with other biometric data including DNA.

The ultimate goal is a universal database of DNA profiles thatcan be used to predict our propensity for criminal behavior before any crime is committed.

Don’t believe me?   Believe Director LaBerge.

Source: The Forensic Genetics of DNA Database Expansion http://www.dnapolicy.org/resources/LaBerge-National_Press_Club_07.pdf

LaBerge lays out law enforcements vision for the CODIS DNA database;

Near Term DNA database Expansion (slide 8)

  • All convicted felons-current
  • All felony arrestees-currently expanding
  • All arrestees
  • Some misdemeanors

He lists the following near term desired uses of the CODIS DNA databases in the United States (slide 19)

  • Familial DNA searches
  • All military personnel DNA collected (now) and run (later) and searched against national CODIS as condition of enlisting
  • DNA databases based on privilege like DNA from teachers, driving, government and law enforcement jobs etc.

And eventually- (slide 21)

Relational databanks-biometric data merged with:

– DNA,

– fingerprints,

– photos,

– vehicle registrations,

– facial and body index/structure characteristics,

– Accurate ethnicity, race prediction

– demographic data,

– work and medical history,

– financial profiles,

– behavior modeling

– Criminal history,

By 2022 LaBerge predicts (slide 22);

laberge outer limits 1

  • Rare allele databases that relate genotype to geographical data
  • Predictive databases for crime propensity
  • Integrated police forensic intelligence databanks
  • Medical condition databases and DNA markers that characterize conditions-Research database access?
  • Roadside DNA profiling at every police stop
  • Universal databases

Read more Envisioning the future of the CODIS DNA database final

SB618 is moving us closer to this dystopic future.  Forced DNA testing should stop with people convicted of crimes.

Please vote NO on this unconstitutional and inhumane bill!

Sen. Tom Coburn on Fusion Center Follies

Kaye Beach
Nov. 8, 2012
Sen. Tom Coburn is hoping that the Senate subcommittee report that he co-authored will spark fusion center reform.    Read the Report and share a copy to your state legislator too!
Nov. 6, 2012
By TOM COBURN

Since the 9/11 attacks, Congress and the White House have invested hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars in support of dozens of state and local fusion centers across the United States. After a two-year Senate investigation identified problems with nearly every aspect of the Department of Homeland Security’s involvement with these centers — including irrelevant, untimely or useless intelligence reporting to DHS, among other widespread deficiencies — there is a clear need for reform.

Since 2003, more than 70 state and local fusion centers, supported in part with federal funds, have been created or expanded to strengthen U.S. intelligence capabilities and detect, disrupt and respond to domestic terrorist activities. DHS’ support for and involvement with these centers has centered on their professed ability to strengthen federal counterterrorism efforts. However, as the investigation found, there are significant factors hindering this initial intent to connect the dots in the sharing of terrorism-related information among state, local and federal officials.

 

Read More

Senate adds high resolution cameras to chamber; unveils other upgrades to heighten transparency

Oklahoma State Senate Press Release

For Immediate Release: November 8, 2012

Private citizens, members of the media and others interested in following the legislative process will find accessing actions in the State Senate easier than ever before, thanks to several new technological upgrades that are now being put in place.

New high resolution cameras have been added in the front and back of the chamber for those following the Senate on the Internet, with new software enabling bill information and links to the text of measures to appear next to the chamber video. The camera angle for the website will change depending on which microphone is being used.

In addition, a new voting board will enable the display of more information, including a full short title and a list of upcoming bills to be heard that day.
“This is part of our ongoing effort to make it easier and simpler for people to see the work that’s being done by their senators,” said Pres. Pro Tempore Brian Bingman. “With each upgrade, we are continuing to make the legislative process more accessible than it’s ever been before.”

Bingman, R-Sapulpa, said the changes also enable the Senate to become more efficient—the display of upcoming bills on the vote board will help members who want to switch from paper copies of legislation to electronic versions.

A new sound board will be tied to the voting board, along with the website and high definition cameras making it possible to archive audio in a more useable format. Archived, searchable audio of the Senate’s legislative sessions will be available on the website beginning with the 2013 session. The new voting and sound boards will also allow enhanced archived audio that will be searchable by bill number. The Senate also has archived digital audio of sessions for the previous ten years available on CD through the Records and Information Division.

“Through the use of digital technology, the Internet and other improvements, the Senate has made tremendous strides in promoting transparency,” said Bingman. “I’m especially proud that we’ve achieved these upgrades through the hard work and talent of our own staff—we really appreciate their effort and dedication.”
These latest upgrades, including the digital cameras for the chamber, will be completed in time for the 2013 legislative session. In September the Senate announced that all committee rooms would now have the equipment to provide streaming audio and video. Additional upgrades mean real time committee votes will be available on the internet. All materials presented in interim studies and committee meetings during the session are also being made available online.

For more information contact:
Sen. Bingman: (405) 521-5605

Rally For Healthcare Independence Sat. July 7th 9-11 AM Oklahoma State Capitol

Kaye Beach

June 28, 2012

Save the date!

In response to the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the Healthcare Reform law, a Rally for Healthcare Independence has just been announced by the Oklahoma Tenth Amendment Center who is sponsoring the event.

More details will be provided as they become available.

**Update**

July 2, 2012-The Oklahoma Tenth Amendment Center has begun to announce speakers for the Rally.  So far, Howard Houchen, Republican candidate for Oklahoma’s Senate District 5 and Toby Pedford, highly regarded liberty activist and speaker, have been publicly announced.

If you are a Facebook user, you can RSVP online here.

Invite your state senator or representative. 

Senate Directory

House Directory

Sample invitation letter

If you are not sure who your legislator is, go here; http://www.oklegislature.gov/FindMyLegislature.aspx

Flyer to download and share here

The ruling can be read here

THE FEDS WANT TO TAKE YOUR CAR! Randal O’Toole’s Transportation Newsletter

Kaye Beach

May 21, 2012

I don’t necessarily agree with O’Toole on everything here.  For example,He urges the creation of ” quasi-governmental toll road authorities” such as the ones in assistance today in Florida and Texas.  O’Toole notes that these entities are politically well insulated.  O’Toole see this as a plus but customer complaints like this one make me a little skeptical.

Lots of good info here though!

 

THE FEDS WANT TO TAKE YOUR CAR!              May 20, 2012

Randal O’Toole’s transportation newsletter

TRANSPORTATION REAUTHORIZATION IN CONFERENCE COMMITTEE

On May 8, members of the House and Senate conference committee started meeting to debate the surface transportation reauthorization bills. Normally, conference committees meet when the two houses of Congress pass different bills, but the 884-page House bill (H.R. 7) never made it to the House floor due to objections from fiscal conservatives who claimed it had too much pork in it (as well as objections from Republicans in transit-heavy cities such as New York and Chicago). But the real pork can be found in the 1,674-page Senate bill, known as MAP-21 (S. 1813).

Among other things, the Senate bill includes:
* A continuation of payments to national forest counties to make up for lost revenues due to reduced timber sales;
* A seven-year extension of the Land & Water Conservation Fund to buy more lands for the Forest Service and Department of the Interior;
* A brand-new National Endowment for the Oceans, Coasts and Great Lakes.

Of course, these have nothing to do with transportation and everything to do with politicians trying to tack their favorite projects onto a bill that Congress has to eventually pass.

In the area of transportation, the House bill is actually the most fiscally conservative transportation reauthorization bill passed out of any committee in 35 years. The bill includes no earmarks (a feature of transportation bills since 1982) and minimal deficit spending. While it does spend about $5 billion more per year than gas tax revenues, this is a huge reduction from the existing law, which as of 2009 was spending $10 billion to $15 billion more than revenues. The Senate bill continues spending at 2009 levels, which means about $15 billion in annual deficits.

From a transportation view, there are many differences between the two. The House bill continues the Small Starts program (transit capital grants of up to $75 million) that the administration wants to use to fund streetcars all over the place (see below). The Senate bill never mentions Small Starts. The Senate bill also allows “New Starts” money (which the bill calls “fixed guideway capital investment grants”) to be used to maintain existing rail lines as well as build new ones. Since the nation’s rail transit systems suffer from about a $60 billion maintenance backlog, it is better to spend on maintenance than build new lines we can’t afford to maintain.

The Senate bill also includes three amendments raised by New Mexico Senator Jeff Bingaman designed to kill public-private partnerships. One would prevent private road partners from using the same depreciation schedules used by all other industries; a second would prevent the from using tax-exempt private activity bonds that other infrastructure companies can use; the third excludes public-private roads from a state’s total road mileage when calculating a state’s share of federal highway funds. All of these demonstrate the hostility of Senate Democrats to market-based transportation.

The good news is that the conferees have said they will treat the House bill equal with the Senate one even though the House bill never actually passed the House. The bad news is that many if not most of the conferees are more attracted to pork than to fiscal conservatism. On the House side, Republicans include House Transportation Committee chair John Mica (who often said he would have passed a more fiscally liberal bill were it not for the tea party members of Congress), former chair Don Young (who wrote the 2005 bill that included more than 7,000 earmarks), and likely future chair Bill Shuster (whose father was one of the biggest pork barrelers in Congress). Democrats include Oregon representatives Earl Blumenauer (who wrote the Small Starts law) and Peter DeFazio (who objects to any new roads, especially if they are privately funded).

Even if the Senate bill passes, it will expire in less than 18 months, so the next session of Congress can begin the debate all over again. But it would be better if it did not pass because it will start several new programs and expand other programs that will be harder to kill in the next bill. It seems like the best fiscal conservatives can hope for is more gridlock.

Links:
List of Senate conferees: http://tinyurl.com/6mobbqz
List of House conferees: http://ti.org/antiplanner/?p=6466
House bill: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/BILLS-112hr7rh/pdf/BILLS-112hr7rh.pdf
Senate bill: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/BILLS-112s1813es/pdf/BILLS-112s1813es.pdf
Bill Shuster likely next chair: http://tinyurl.com/7ow32ku

COMING SOON TO A CITY NEAR YOU: STREETCARS

Streetcars are a completely obsolete technology that do nothing to enhance urban mobility. Advocates want to build them because, they claim, streetcars lead to economic development. If that were true, they should be funded out of economic development funds, not out of transportation dollars.

Yet the Obama administration is eager to hand out transportation grants for streetcars in cities all over the country. It has already given transportation stimulus funds for streetcars to Atlanta, Cincinnati, Dallas, Salt Lake City, and Tucson. It gave $75 million in Small Starts transit funds to Portland. But Small Starts rules written during the Bush administration require that cities prove that streetcars are more cost-effective than buses at saving people time, something that is impossible to do. (Portland got around the rules by using the political muscle of Oregon’s Congressional delegation.)

The Obama administration wants to change the rules, and cities are lining up to hand in their grant proposals as soon as the final rules go into effect: Albuquerque, Austin, Detroit, Kansas City, Milwaukee, and San Antonio are just a few of the cities that have completed or are currently doing the required environmental analyses to build federally funded streetcars.

These cities have been scammed by consulting firms that claim huge economic development benefits from streetcars. In fact, no city that has built streetcars have generated any economic development unless the city accompanied that streetcar with hundreds of millions of dollars worth of other subsidies and the neighborhood in which the streetcar was located was already growing.

For example, Portland’s streetcar, which opened in 2001, went through two neighborhoods in Northwest Portland, and city officials brag that after it was built, developers invested nearly $1.4 billion into these neighborhoods. Developers in one of the neighborhoods, known as the Pearl District, received about $450 million in subsidies, and here they invested more than $1.3 billion in more than 50 projects. A similarly sized neighborhood in Northwest Portland received no subsidies, and developers invested only $17.6 million in seven projects. Clearly, developers followed the subsidies, not the streetcar.

On or about June 14, the Cato Institute will publish my detailed analysis of the streetcar fad. In the meantime, this is one good reason why Congress should take all competitive grant programs out of the transportation bill and allocate funds exclusively using formulas.

Links:
My comments on proposed rules: http://tinyurl.com/7zkon9t
Pro-streetcar group: http://www.modernstreetcar.org/

VEHICLE-MILE PRICING: AN IDEA WHOSE TIME HAS COME; BUT HOW?

Everyone knows the gas tax is on its way out. Due to inflation and more fuel-efficient cars, we only pay one-third as much for every mile we drive as people paid in 1956, when Congress created the Interstate Highway System. Cars are getting more fuel-efficient all the time and electric cars, if they ever become significant, will only make the problem worse.

Raising the gas tax could solve part of this problem, but not all of it. For one thing, gas taxes are collected by the federal and state governments, but few local governments collect gas taxes. Though most states share their gas tax revenues with cities and counties, it isn’t enough, so local governments must find about $30 billion a year in general funds to support roads.

A second, even bigger, problem is that gas taxes don’t properly price roads, and the $100-billion-plus annual congestion cost is the result. While economists have long advocated congestion pricing of roads, people don’t like to “pay twice” for roads. So many fiscal conservatives have promoted the idea of building new HOT (high-occupancy/toll) lanes parallel to existing congested roads, both to give people a congestion-free option and to demonstrate the benefits of congestion pricing.

The problem with HOT lanes is they only solve part of the problem with congestion. Congestion begins when too many vehicles try to drive on a road, exceeding the road’s maximum capacity. But congestion continues long after the number of vehicles fall below the maximum capacity because, at slow speeds, the capacity of the road actually declines. Preventing the decline in capacity through congestion pricing of all lanes would save Americans billions of hours and billions of gallons of fuel a year.

In a new paper published by the Cato Institute last week, I propose to solve all of these problems at once by replacing gas taxes with vehicle-mile fees. Since the gas taxes are eliminated, no one will be paying twice. Eliminating the congestion will save drivers and businesses tens or hundreds of billions of dollars. Replacing gas taxes with vehicle-mile fees will also effectively devolve transportation decisions to the state and local level. This can be done on a state-by-state basis, though the states should coordinate with one another so they use compatible technologies.

The paper also urges that states and counties create quasi-governmental toll road authorities that collect the fees and spend them exclusively on roads. Such toll road authorities in Texas, Florida, and other states have proven to be well-insulated from politics, and they act almost as efficiently as private road providers. Replacing gas taxes with mileage fees would effectively devolve transportation to the local level.

Oregon has demonstrated that vehicle-mile fees can be collected without invading traveler’s privacy. The system tested by Oregon had people pay fees when they purchased gas. A GPS unit on their car told the gas pump how much drivers owed for the roads they used, but not exactly when or what roads they used. Minnesota is doing a similar test, and similar systems could be designed using cell phones or other wireless devices.

Congestion is a terrible burden on society, while local subsidies to highways politicize transportation and lend support to inane projects such as streetcars. Replacing gas taxes with vehicle-mile fees in a way that will protect traveler privacy should be the top priority for those who want to improve our transportation systems and devolve decisions to the local level.

Links:
My Cato paper: http://www.cato.org/pubs/pas/PA695.pdf
Mileage Based User Fee Alliance: http://mbufa.org/
Oregon’s experiment: http://www.oregon.gov/ODOT/HWY/RUFPP/mileage.shtml
Minnesota’s experiment: http://www.dot.state.mn.us/mileagebaseduserfee/studies.html

HOUSEKEEPING

You can view previous issues of this newsletter at http://ti.org/pipermail/thefedswantyourcar_ti.org/

.

Best,

Randal
The Antiplanner
P. O. Box 76
Camp Sherman, Oregon 97730
541-595-1460
541-588-0518 cell
http://ti.org/antiplanner

Happy Monday! Oklahoma Slips in a New Health Insurance Exchange Bill for ‘ObamaCare’

Kaye Beach

Feb. 26, 2012

Problem

Tomorrow, Monday Feb. 27th, a new Health Insurance Exchange bill is  to be presented in the Senate Health and Human Services Committee.  The language for the Exchange is expected to be inserted into SB1629

Action

Please make calls or send emails to the committee members right away and tell them to VOTE NO on the Health Insurance Exchange bill!

(Contact info below)

Background

Oklahoma is one of 28 states that has filed suit against the federal government to challenge the constitutionality of the federal health care reform law.

Last legislative session, the legislation needed to enable creation of the Health Insurance Exchange was discovered by sharp eyed activists, it was exposed and rejected by Oklahomans and ultimately, Oklahoma legislators.   In April of 2011, this push back also led to Gov. Fallin returning 53 million in federal funds for the creation of the Health Insurance Exchange.

The majority of Oklahomans like the majority of Americans are adamantly opposed to a federal takeover of their health care but our elected representatives seem not to care and keep pushing forward no matter what we say or do. (More info on this here)

Some legislators claim that by implementing the health insurance exchange ourselves we can retain more control over the system than if we wait and allow the federal government to do it for us.  Participating in our own undoing is insane!

From ExposingHealthCareReform.com

  •  “Do you want a computer making life and death decisions, or your doctor?” – Health care reform is really about replacing our traditional medical system with a non-human, technology-based universal health care system.
  • “Do you want the whole world to know your most intimate secrets?” – This system will replace real doctors with virtual doctors; globally share your most intimate information with people you don’t know, severing the once-confidential relationship between patients and doctors.
  • “Do you want your medical records accessible by the government, without a search warrant?” – Our medical records (which include mental health counseling) used to be held as private and inviolate. Under health care reform (“Obama Care”) these records would be accessible not only by the Department of Homeland Security, but thousands of others, including foreign governments.

 

ACTION ITEM

Please call or email the committee members first thing and tell them that the absence of this exchange is all that stands between us and the federal takeover of our health care and that building the exchange undermines the legal case against the flawed health care reform mandates.

Tell the Committee members to VOTE NO on any Health Insurance Exchange Bill!

 

Senate Health and Human Services Committee Members

Agenda for 2/27/2012
Sen Brian Crain                 405-521-5620      crain@oksenate.gov
Sen Sean Burrage             405-521-5555     burrage@oksenate.gov
Sen Rick Brinkley              405-521-5566      brinkley@oksenate.gov
Sen Constance Johnson  405-521-5531      johnsonc@oksenate.gov
Sen Rob Johnson              405-521-5592      johnsonr@oksenate.gov
Sen Dan Newberry          405-521-5600      newberry@oksenate.gov
Sen Steve Russell             405-521-5618      russell@oksenate.gov
Sen Jim Wilson                 405-521-5574     wilson@oksenate.gov
Sen Brian Bingman          405-521-5528     bingman@oksenate.gov

More drones coming to airspace near you? Yes!

Kaye Beach

Feb. 7, 2012

This just in-

Congress OKs FAA bill allowing drones in U.S., GPS air traffic control

7:25 a.m. CST, February 7, 2012

After five years of legislative struggling, 23 stopgap measures and a two-week shutdown of the Federal Aviation Administration, Congress finally has passed a bill aimed at prodding the nation’s aviation system into a new high-tech era in which satellites are central to air traffic control and piloted planes share the skies with unmanned drones.The bill, which passed the Senate 75-20 Monday, speeds the nation’s switch from radar to an air traffic control system based on GPS technology. It also requires the FAA to open U.S. skies to drone flights within four years.
Gee.  You think Oklahoma is one of the six areas set up to test run the drones?
It [the bill] would set up six test areas around the country for demonstrating safety technology to minimize the risk of UAVs colliding with larger aircraft.

More drones coming to airspace near you?

From Government Computer News published Feb. 6, 2012

Keep your eyes on the skies. A bill working its way through Congress could dramatically increase the number of drones allowed in U.S. airspace, the Wall Street Journal reports.

The House of Representatives on Feb. 3 passed a Federal Aviation Administration funding bill that would ease restrictions on the places unmanned aerial vehicles are allowed to fly. The robotic aircraft have mostly been used by law enforcement agencies and by the military in combat zones, and the FAA has limited their widespread use in national airspace because of concerns that their lack of “detect, sense and avoid” technology could raise the risk of midair collisions, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The bill would direct the FAA to find a way of bringing many smaller UAVs into general and commercial air traffic by September 2015. It would set up six test areas around the country for demonstrating safety technology to minimize the risk of UAVs colliding with larger aircraft.

Read More

And this timely report from the ACLU;

Protecting Privacy From Aerial Surveillance

Stealth International Internet Control Imosed on US by ‘Executive Agreement’? ACTA

Kaye Beach

Jan, 30, 2012

ACTA stands for the  Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA)

ACTA is an agreement between several nations (including the US) signed Oct 1, 2011 t for the purpose of establishing international standards for intellectual property rights enforcement. ACTA is designed to establish international legal standards for the purpose of curtailing the sale of counterfeit goods and copyright infringement on the internet.

Read ACTA

Apparently here are many problems with ACTA including the lack of transparency involved in developing and negotiating the treaty  or “executive agreement” as it is being considered since a treaty in the US must get 2/3 approval from the US Senate.  President Obama has bypassed that process and went ahead and signed ACTA without any approval.

Many individuals and groups believe that ACTA is worse than SOPA, the Stop Online Piracy Act bill that was recently shelved due to massive outrage due to censorship on the internet that SOPA would have enabled.  In fact, thousands of Europeans have have recently engaged in protest against their governments participation in this treaty.

What do they know that we don’t?

From the Electronic Frontier Foundation posted Jan 27, 2012

We Have Every Right to Be Furious About ACTA

If there’s one thing that encapsulates what’s wrong with the way government functions today, ACTA is it. You wouldn’t know it from the name, but the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement is a plurilateral agreement designed to broaden and extend existing intellectual property (IP) enforcement laws to the Internet. While it was only negotiated between a few countries,1 it has global consequences. First because it will create new rules for the Internet, and second, because its standards will be applied to other countries through the U.S.’s annual Special 301 process. Negotiated in secret, ACTA bypassed checks and balances of existing international IP norm-setting bodies, without any meaningful input from national parliaments, policymakers, or their citizens. Worse still, the agreement creates a new global institution, an “ACTA Committee” to oversee its implementation and interpretation that will be made up of unelected members with no legal obligation to be transparent in their proceedings. Both in substance and in process, ACTA embodies an outdated top-down, arbitrary approach to government that is out of step with modern notions of participatory democracy.

The EU and 22 of its 27 member states signed ACTA yesterday in Tokyo. This news is neither momentous nor surprising. This is but the latest step in more than three years of non-transparent negotiations. In December, the Council of the European Union—one of the European Union’s two legislative bodies, composed of executives from the 27 EU member states—adopted ACTA during a completely unrelated meeting on agriculture and fisheries. Of course, this is not the end of the story in the EU. For ACTA to be adopted as EU law, the European Parliament has to vote on whether to accept or reject it.

In the U.S., there are growing concerns about the constitutionality of negotiating ACTA as a “sole executive agreement”.  This is not just a semantic argument. If ACTA were categorized as a treaty, it would have to be ratified by the Senate. But the USTR and the Administration have consistently maintained that ACTA is a sole executive agreement negotiated under the President’s power. On that theory, it does not need Congressional approval and thus ACTA already became binding on the US government when Ambassador Ron Kirk signed it last October.

But leading US Constitutional Scholars disagree. Professors Jack Goldsmith and Larry Lessig, questioned the Constitutionality of the executive agreement classification in 2010:

The president has no independent constitutional authority over intellectual property or communications policy, and there is no long historical practice of making sole executive agreements in this area. To the contrary, the Constitution gives primary authority over these matters to Congress, which is charged with making laws that regulate foreign commerce and intellectual property.2

(And by the way, we agree [pdf].)

Senator Ron Wyden has been asking these questions for years, first demanding an explanation from USTR ambassador Ron Kirk, President Obama, and now the administration’s top international law expert Harold Koh. The distinction between executive agreement and treaty should not be lost on this administration: as a Senator, Vice President Joe Biden used the same argument to require the Bush administration to seek Senate approval for an arms reduction agreement.

Read More