August 17, 2012
ALL BETS ARE OFF
An attempt to permanently enshrine the right to collective bargaining in the Michigan state constitution has at least temporarily been thwarted, Reuters reported this week. Michigan labor unions -- apparently rendered jittery by the success of collective bargaining reforms in nearby Wisconsin -- collected nearly twice the number of required signatures to secure a place on the ballot for the measure, but the members of the Michigan Board of State Canvassers effectively voted to nix the initiative. The two Democrats on the board wanted the proposal included on the ballot, but the two Republican voters did not. The tie vote defaults to a "no" vote. The coalition of labor unions have already appealed the decision to the state Supreme Court.
As a reminder, even past prominent pro-labor voices -- like George Meany, longtime president of the AFL-CIO, and President Franklin Delano Roosevelt -- countenanced against collective bargaining "rights" for public labor unions. When public employees negotiate with the government for better wages and benefits, they leave taxpayers effectively without a seat at the negotiating table. It's a monopoly. Workers in the state of Michigan don't need a constitutional right to collective bargaining; they need jobs. They don't need forced labor union dues; they need the freedom to decide for themselves what to do with their own wages. One of the best ways to attract employers to any state is to leave them unencumbered by complex collective bargaining agreements. Cheers to Oklahoma for its status as a right-to-work state!
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THE RIGHT ID IDEA
A Pennsylvania district judge this week threw out arguments against the state's new voter ID law. Judge Robert Simpson said the arguments against the law simply aren't credible. To the claim that the law disenfranchises voters, for example, he retorts, "[The percentage of disenfranchised is] somewhat more than 1 percent, but significantly less than 9 percent [the number used by opponents of the law]."
Opponents of voter ID laws are insulting to those they claim to want to protect. Given that the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation provides identification cards at no cost to voters, opponents of the law are essentially saying legitimate voters currently without IDs are incapable of making a trip to the DOT to obtain one. Barring extreme circumstances, that's a hard argument to swallow.
Yes, citizens of our democratic republic have a right to participate in government, but, if they truly care so little to exercise that right as to be unwilling to obtain a free ID, then we have work to do. Time to educate the citizenry about the awesome weight of freedom! My own view is more optimistic: Citizens do care to exercise that right and will capably acquire an ID if they don't already have one.
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NOW'S THE TIME TO TALK ENERGY -- BEFORE IT'S TOO LATE
Next week (Monday and Tuesday), OCPA hosts energy experts from across the country at our National Summit on Energy and Federalism. The timing of the event couldn't be better. Panelists will discuss why regulation of the energy industry is best handled by state- or local-level regulators in the two days before the national Security and Exchange Commission votes on regulations to implement Section 1504 of the Dodd-Frank financial reform law. That particular section of the law requires an increased level of information disclosure by energy companies, but the SEC is about to implement the section unevenly -- and to the potential detriment of U.S. energy companies. Jack Gerard, president of the American Petroleum Institute, explains:
The rule would only cover companies listed by the SEC. State-owned multinationals—which constitute the vast majority of energy assets world-wide and own 78% of all oil and natural-gas reserves—will not have to comply. The 16 biggest oil companies in the world do not fall under SEC jurisdiction.
Forcing publicly traded companies to release proprietary information about their foreign operations would put them at a serious competitive disadvantage because state-owned firms could plunder that information and determine their rivals' strategy and resource levels. Information worth billions of dollars would be just a few mouse clicks away.
Add this to the list of "unintended consequences" of regulation.
At the most basic level, safety and basic assurances of equality of opportunity should be the goals of regulation of industry -- but do distant bureaucrats possess the on-the-ground knowledge to devise regulations that actually facilitate best practices and square dealing with employees and stockholders? Or do they hamstring companies with inflexible rules that discourage companies from assuming responsibility to solve problems as they arise and render profits ever more elusive and so less worth pursuing with the efficiency and effectiveness that alone ensure them?
More on the energy conference to come ...