The Human-care Complex: How It All Began

Today, January 1, 2013 Obamacare taxes hit all Americans.

This is the second in a series by Watchdog Wire to explain how we came to implement this, the most sweeping of all legislation in the history of America. To read the first column please click here.

The question to be answered is: Who and what got us to this point?

Jeanne M. Lambrew, Tom Daschle and Scott S. Greenberger in their book “Critical” published in 2006 stated, “UNTIL THE BEGINNING of the twentieth century, medical care in the United States was inexpensive because it was largely ineffective.” The authors provide no evidence for this statement but it is this progressive ideal that becomes the foundation for the Patient Protection and Affordable Healthcare Act (HR 3590) passed by the 111th Congress commonly known as Obamacare.

Lambrew, Daschle and Greenberger wrote in “Critical”, “When Progressive Era [1890-1920] reformers turned their attention to workers’ health, they decided to put compulsory health insurance on the national agenda for the first time. In 1914, the American Association for Labor Legislation began drafting legislation to provide workers with free medical care, paid sick leave, and a modest death benefit. By 1917, the AALL bill had been introduced in fourteen state legislatures. The fate of the legislation foreshadowed the health insurance debates that occurred throughout the twentieth century.”

The American Association for Labor Legislation was formed to promote uniformity of labor legislation and to encourage the study of labor conditions with a view toward promoting desirable legislation. The Association was founded as a branch of the International Association for Labor Legislation. Preliminary discussions about forming the group occurred during 1905 and culminated in the first meeting of the Association held on February 15, 1906, in New York City.

“Physicians, fearing that any third-party payer, especially the government, would regulate doctors’ fees vigorously opposed it. They were allied with the insurance companies, which worried that government health insurance would undermine the private life insurance market. In a 1918 referendum, the measure was soundly defeated,” wrote Lambrew, Daschle and Greenberger.

While the arguments against government health insurance remain the same the progressive movement did not let it die.

In 1918 some unions supported the bill, but others joined with employers to fight it. Samuel Gompers, President of the American Federation of Labor (AFL), denounced the proposal as “a menace to the rights, welfare, and liberty of American workers.” According to Lambrew, Daschle and Greenberger “[O]pponents of national health insurance would raise the specter of ‘socialized medicine’ to great effect.”

What happened next set the stage for the creation of the Human-care Complex.

Because people had so little money, hospital occupancy rates plummeted. In search of a steady source of revenue, hospitals began offering “prepayment” plans to certain groups, such as hospital employees, teachers, and firefighters. For a monthly fee, members were guaranteed free hospital care if they ever needed it. So began the road to human-care insurance based upon expanding access based on illness rather than health.

Lambrew, Daschle and Greenberger wrote, “The hospital prepayment plans endured, evolving into the Blue Cross system and becoming the model for group health insurance as we know it today. One crucial feature of the plans was that they were employment-based—that is, they were offered to groups of workers large enough to spread out the cost of caring for the sick or injured. Still spooked by the prospect of government-sponsored health insurance, many employers accepted the Blue Cross system as a more palatable alternative.”

But just like all private sector solutions created through necessity, the government took an interest and become more directly involved in human-care via the tax codes.

“Our employment-based system solidified during World War II, when the federal government [tax] exempted ‘fringe benefits’ such as health insurance from wage and price,” noted Lambrew, Daschle and Greenberger.

And so it grew. To attract workers, who were scarce because so many men were in the military during WW II, some employers offered them generous health coverage. The government’s decision to exempt health benefits from personal income taxes accelerated the trend. Unions bolstered the nascent insurance system by cutting their own deals with hospitals and later with the Blue Cross.

The next column will look into the expansion of the government/human-care industrial complex from 1945 to today.

The 10 Worst Regulations of 2012

The Heritage Foundation published its 10 worst regulations of 2012. Here they are:

1. HHS’s Contraception Mandate

The Department of Health and Human Services on February 15 finalized its mandate that all health insurance plans include coverage for abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization procedures, and contraceptives. To date, 42 cases with more than 110 plaintiffs are challenging this restriction on religious liberty.

2. EPA Emissions Standards

The EPA in February finalized strict new emissions standards for coal- and oil-fired electric utilities. The benefits are highly questionable, with the vast majority being unrelated to the emissions targeted by the regulation. The costs, however, are certain: an estimated $9.6 billion annually.

3. Fuel Efficiency Standards

In August, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in tandem with the Environmental Protection Agency, finalized fuel efficiency standards for cars and light trucks for model years 2017–2025. The rules require a whopping average fuel economy of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. Sticker prices will jump by hundreds of dollars.

4. New York’s 16-Ounce Soda Limit

Not all regulations come from Washington. On September 13, at the behest of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the New York City Board of Health banned the sale of soda and other sweetened drinks in containers larger than 16 ounces.

5. Dishwasher Efficiency Standards

Regulators admit that these Department of Energy rules will do little to improve the environment. Rather, proponents claim they will save consumers money. But they will also increase the price of dishwashers, and only about one in six consumers will keep his or her dishwasher long enough to recoup the cost.

6. School Lunch Standards

The U.S. Department of Agriculture in January published stringent nutrition standards for school lunch and breakfast programs. More than 98,000 elementary and secondary schools are affected—at a cost exceeding $3.4 billion over the next four years.

7. Quickie Union Election Rule

In April, the National Labor Relations Board issued new rules that shorten the time allowed for union-organizing elections to between 10 and 21 days. This leaves little time for employees to make a fully informed choice on unionizing, threatening to leave workers and management alike under unwanted union regimes.

8. Essential Benefits Rule

Under Obamacare, insurers in the individual and small group markets will be forced to cover services that the government deems to be essential. Published on November 26, the HHS list of very broad benefits has created enormous uncertainty about the extent of essential treatment.

9. Electronic Data Recorder Mandate

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on December 13 issued a notice of proposed rulemaking to mandate installation of electronic data recorders, popularly known as “black boxes,” in most light vehicles starting in 2014. The government mandate understandably spooks privacy advocates.

10. “Simplified” Mortgage Disclosure and Servicing Rules

In July, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau released its proposal for a more “consumer friendly” mortgage process, with a stated goal of simplifying home loans. The rules run an astonishing 1,099 pages. Then, one month later, the bureau proposed more than 560 pages of rules for mortgage servicing.

According to the Heritage Foundation, “It seems that no aspect of American life can escape government regulation. In the past year, regulators drafted rules that addressed everything from caloric intake to dishwasher efficiency.”

“Most of these rules increase the cost of living, others hinder job creation, and many erode freedom. Not all regulations are unwarranted, of course, but increasingly, the rules imposed by the government have less to do with health and safety and more to do with whether government or individuals get to make basic pocketbook and lifestyle decisions that affect them. And it is not just the regulators who are to blame. Congress writes laws that give unelected bureaucrats the broad powers they wield,” warns the Foundation.

Gov. Scott declares war on Citizens Property Insurance

On November 30, 2012 Governor Rick Scott addressed Florida’s 6th Annual Insurance Summit in Lake Buena Vista. During his remarks he targets Citizens Property Insurance as a threat to Florida’s economic future. Below are his remarks addressing Citizens Property Insurance:

In order to decrease costs for Florida homeowners we must increase competition in the marketplace by addressing major concerns with Citizens Property Insurance.

Citizens was created to be the insurer of last resort. Today Citizens is now the largest insurer in the state.

Citizens poses three major concerns to our insurance market for Florida families who dream of owning a home:

First, the existence of Citizens Insurance increases the chance that Floridians will be hit with hurricane taxes;

Second, Citizens is grossly underfunded; and

Third, Citizens inhibits new companies from coming to Florida resulting in less competition.

First, all of Citizens policyholders are subject to a special hurricane tax. Florida families could be hit with a hurricane tax at a time when they can least afford it, right after a devastating storm. And 79% of Citizens’ policyholders have no idea that they are subject to a hurricane tax.

Think about this. The average Citizens insurance policyholder pays a premium of approximately $2,300. If a storm hits that depletes Citizens’ surplus, either one big storm or several smaller storms, Florida’s families will be assessed hurricane taxes to pay for Citizens losses. This means that the average family with a Citizens policy faces a hurricane tax of over $1000.

A family may be forced to pay this tax even though their home wasn’t hit by a storm. A family in Tampa could be insured with Citizens and face a hurricane tax to pay for losses to Citizens’ policyholders in Miami.

If Citizens can’t pay its claims, the families with Citizens policies are first up for hurricane taxes. Then, once Citizens taxes its own policyholders, they will then tax every Floridian with an insurance policy in order to get additional funds.

So, Citizens Property Insurance poses a threat to each and every Floridian with an insurance policy. If Citizens can’t pay its claims, we are all on the hook for its losses. And Floridians can be taxed multiple times. Your homeowner’s policy could be taxed; your auto policy could be taxed. Even the policy on your family pet could be taxed.

That means that the average Florida family who owns a home and two cars could be taxed three times to pay for a Citizens’ deficit.

Most families have no idea that they are liable for the potential losses of the state’s largest property insurer.

My second major concern is that Citizens is woefully underfunded. Today, Citizens has a little over $6 billion in surplus. But one storm the size of Hurricane Andrew could result in nearly $14 billion in losses to Citizens. That’s an unfunded liability of nearly $8 billion dollars. The only way to pay for those losses is by taxing Florida families.

Finally, Citizens hurts Florida families by crowding out competition in the insurance marketplace, which limits the ability to reduce costs for homeowners.

I’ve traveled the state and spoken to numerous leaders of insurance companies to ask them: “What’s preventing you from expanding your business in Florida?” Nearly every time I’ve been told that the domination of Citizens Insurance prevents new companies from coming to Florida while also preventing existing companies from expanding in Florida.

How can any private insurance company compete with a government-sponsored entity that doesn’t pay taxes and doesn’t need to charge fair market prices? It can’t.

Shrinking Citizens is the first step toward increasing competition in the marketplace and driving down prices for homeowners.

Shrinking Citizens will also protect Florida families from hurricane taxes.

And, shrinking Citizens will attract new capital to Florida and help to permanently reduce the cost of property insurance.

To make the dream of homeownership a reality for more Floridians, we must reduce the size of Citizens, which has grown from an insurer of last resort to an insurance giant in just a matter of years.

We began making some progress toward this goal by giving over 400,000 Citizens policyholders the opportunity to return to the private insurance market this year.

Of course, we must also ensure Citizens is not wasteful. I recently directed the Chief Inspector General to investigate travel expenses and firings at Citizens. This report will tell us what additional steps must be taken to enforce oversight and compliance within Citizens. A taxpayer organized entity must be held to the highest standards of integrity and good stewardship of the public trust.

Florida’s Fiscal Cliff Hanger

Florida’s government run Citizens Property Insurance Corp. has more than 1.4 million policyholders statewide. However, that number only reflects approximately 23 percent of Florida’s homeowners insurance market leaving 77 percent of Florida homeowners subsidizing Citizens policies.

According to Americans for Prosperity – Florida, “Nearly half (45 percent) of all Citizens policies in the State of Florida are held by residents living in just four counties – Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach and Monroe Counties. Only two counties out of 67 have a majority of their homeowners insurance policies with Citizens (Miami-Dade and Hernando Counties), meaning private policyholders in Florida’s other 65 counties are subsidizing Citizens’ homeowners insurance for residents of these two counties.”

AFP – Florida notes that in Miami-Dade and Hernando counties, 100 percent of renters, businesses, automobile policyholders, churches, charities, local governments and school boards are subsidizing their counties’ Citizens’ policyholders.

How did government take control of Florida’s property insurance?

It all started in 1972 when the Florida Windstorm Underwriting Association (FWUA) was created under Democrat Governor Reubin Askew to provide wind-only coverage in coastal regions. This was followed by the creation of the Florida Residential Property and Casualty Joint Underwriting Association (FRPCJUA). FRPCJUA was created in December, 1992 under Democrat Governor Lawton Chiles because hundreds of thousands of Floridians were unable to find homeowners insurance following Hurricane Andrew.

Finally, under Republican Governor Jeb Bush FWUA and FRPCJUA were merged in 2002, creating Citizens Property Insurance Corporation. Citizens offers wind-only and all-perils property insurance coverage to Floridians without private insurance options.

According to a September 2012 white paper from the Insurance Information Institute:

Limited availability of insurance coverage for the most vulnerable property was a problem before 1992, yet became amplified in Andrew’s aftermath.

By the end of 1992, the FWUA had fewer than 62,000 policies and an exposure measured by total insured value of $7.4 billion.1 Five years later, with the formation of the Florida Residential Property and Casualty Joint Underwriting Association (FRPCJUA), there were 417,342 policies in the FWUA, another 487,590 policies in the FRPCJUA with a combined exposure of more than $136 billion.2

As of June 2012, Citizens Property Insurance Corp., formed in 2002 through the merger of the FWUA and FRPCJUA, had more than 1.4 million policies in force with nearly $500 billion in exposure to risk.

Thomas C. Feeney, III, President & Chief Executive Officer, Associated Industries of Florida states, “It’s unfortunate that more than three quarters of Floridians, and all of Florida business owners, are burdened with the financial responsibility of subsidizing homeowners property insurance for some Floridians in addition to paying 100 percent of their own insurance premium. With estimates that suggest Citizens Property Insurance Corp. rates are roughly 33 percent below where they need to be in order to cover its risk and pay claims…”

“In addition to the unreasonable financial burden Citizens Property Insurance Corp. places on a majority of Floridians throughout the state, the structure of the state-run insurer has also allowed for subsidized, reckless development in the most hazardous and environmentally sensitive areas of Florida. It’s time to reform Citizens in order to protect Floridians from a financial perspective, while at the same time protecting Florida’s wildlife and coast,” says Manley Fuller, President, Florida Wildlife Federation.

The greatest threat to Florida, a.k.a. Citizens Insurance, is just one hurricane away from pushing all Floridians of a fiscal cliff.

RELATED COLUMN:

Florida property owners hit with massive tax increase.

Fired investigators uncovered evidence of misconduct at Citizens’ top levels

VIDEO: Florida Supreme Court Steals Family’s Property

American’s for Prosperity – Florida released the second video in their You Be the Judge project. It tells the story of the Koontzs, a central Florida family that has been fighting for their property rights for more than 18 years!

In 2011, the Florida Supreme Court invalidated a number of lower court decisions that stated the St. Johns River Water Management District (SJRWMD) had effectively stolen private property from the Koontz’s.  The family was awarded $367,000 in damages but the Supreme Court overturned that ruling saying that it could cause government regulation to cost too much.

The video focuses on the 2011 case of SJRWMD v Koontz in which the court invalidated a number of lower court decisions that stated the St. Johns River Water Management District had effectively stolen private property from the Koontz’s.

This is another example of the Florida Supreme Courts willingness to base their decision on the potential policy effects rather than on core fundamental rights. The Courts bias for a heavy-handed government won out against the rights of a private citizen.

The judiciary must remain independent and impartial, but in order for that to happen citizens must be knowledgeable about the Courts decisions and voice their concerns when the court oversteps their authority.

The US Supreme Court has agreed to hear the Koontz case. For more information visit www.YouBeTheJudgeFL.com.

RELATED COLUMNS:

US Supreme Court accepts another PLF property rights case!

Commentary: SCOTUS to Hear Appeal of Florida Supreme Court’s Bad Call

American Public School Students Going Hungry?

The Huffington Post column “Michelle Obama’s Low-Calorie School Lunches Slammed By ‘Hungry’ High Schoolers” reports, “Michelle Obama’s childhood obesity initiative has been the subject of conservative criticism for some time, and now there’s another group joining in on the attack.”

The group that HuffPo is referring to are public school students, whose video titled “We Are Hungry” [watch below] about school lunches has gone viral.

The video beings with the statement – Active teens require between 2,000 and 5,000 calories a day to meet energy and growth needs (“A Guide to Eating for Sports“).

According to Beverly L. Girard, PhD, MBA, RD, Director of Food and Nutrition Services for Sarasota County Florida Schools, “President Harry S. Truman signed the National School Lunch Act on June 4, 1946. Though school food service began long before 1946, the Act authorized the National School Lunch Program. The legislation came in response to claims that many American men had been rejected for World War II military service because of diet-related health problems [recruits were undernourished]. The federally assisted meal program was established as ‘a measure of national security, to safeguard the health and well-being of the Nation’s children and to encourage the domestic consumption of nutritious agricultural commodities’.”

Upon signing the National School Lunch Program legislation President Truman stated, “Despite our capacity to produce food we have often failed to distribute it as well as we should … Congress has contributed immeasurably both to the welfare of our farmers and the health of our children.”

Have we met, if not surpassed, the initial legislative intent of Congress? Do we need government to be concerned about those volunteering for our military services having diet-related health problems? Do we need to be concerned about the redistribution of food given our nation wide system of grocery store chains? Is government the best determiner of a child’s eating habits? Do taxpayers need to provide welfare for farmers?

Many citizens are questioning governments expanding role in the free and reduced lunch program as amended by the Health and Hunger-Free Act of 2010. The new guidelines — the first major overhaul of school meals in 15 years — mandate public school cafeterias serve less fat and sodium and more fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

Taxpayers are also questioning the growing number of students on free and reduced lunches. Sarasota County, one of the wealthiest counties in Florida, has 50.37% of students in the district currently eligible for free or reduced price meals according to Dr. Girard.

Dr. Girard notes, “The determining body for the revised USDA meal pattern was the Institute of Medicine, chaired by Virginia Stallings, MD, The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania.” Why does one institution have such power in determining what and how much children should eat?

The lunch caloric ranges for students are: elementary students – 550-650 calories; middle school students – 600 to 700 calories and high school students – 750 to 850 calories. Dr. Girard states, “If a child eats lunch at school for the 180 days of the school year, they receive about 16.4% of the meals they eat in a year at school. Sarasota school lunches represent adequate portion size and nutritional balance.”

Michelle Obama is concerned about obesity in America. It appears that the free and reduced lunch program’s initial intent to address the diet-related health problems of our draftees is no longer needed. Perhaps it is time to reconsider the need for this federal program?

If obesity is a problem then is there an over redistribution of food in America?

Is this the the American version of Hunger Games?

In a country where the sole employer is the State, opposition means death by slow starvation. The old principle: who does not work shall not eat, has been replaced by a new one: who does not obey shall not eat.” ― Leon Trotsky.

Leon Trotsky was a Bolshevik revolutionary and Marxist theorist. He was one of the leaders of the Russian October Revolution in 1917, second only to Vladimir Lenin. During the early days of the Soviet Union, he served first as People’s Commissar for Foreign Affairs and later as the founder and commander of the Red Army and People’s Commissar of War. He was also among the first members of the Politburo.

RELATED VIDEO:  “We Are Hungry” done by students from Wallace County High School in Sharon Springs,Kansas.

First Amendment Rights Under Attack in Florida

Two Florida cities may have violated the First Amendment to the US Constitution with recent actions taken against local citizens. Those two cities are Venice and Winter Park, Florida.

The First Amendment reads, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

The City of Venice, Florida may have violated the First Amendment ” free exercise” clause when it fined Shane and Marlene Roessiger for holding a Bible study class in their home. Bethany Monk in her Citizen Link column, “Florida Town Threatens Family Over Bible Studies” reports:

The city of Venice, Fla., says a family that welomes six to 10 people in their home for a Friday night prayer meeting is breaking the law — and if the meetings continue, they could be forced to pay stiff penalties.

City officials say Shane and Marlene Roessiger’s group, called In Him Ministries, violates a city code prohibiting a “house of worship” from meeting on property that is less than 2.49 acres in size.

Brad Dacus, president of the Pacific Justice Institute (PJI), told CitizenLink the city is violating the family’s rights.

“This nation was built upon people being able to gather and pray and have Bible studies in their homes,” Dacus said. “Many churches are founded upon that as the beginning of their churches. For cities to be allowed to get away with this is totalitarian.”

Venice City Code Enforcement Officials are also threatening the family with fines of $250 per day for having a small sign in their yard that reads “Need Prayer?” followed by the family’s phone number. The code makes exceptions for political signs, however, which are present throughout the neighborhood.

Dacus said PJI will represent the Roessigers free of charge. “And we will do so until we [receive] final justice on their behalf,” he said.

The City of Winter Park, Florida may have violated the First Amendment “right to peaceably assemble” clause when the City Commission voted to shut down most if not all protests within fifty feet of any home and outlaw protests in any residential area. Freedom Outpost in its column City Prepares To Outlaw First Amendment reports:

Winter Park, Florida’s City Commission gave a preliminary approval to make an “emergency public safety ordinance” permanent. It would effectively shut down most if not all protests within fifty feet of any home and no ability to protest in a residential area. This is the First Amendment under attack.

The ban comes after pro-life protestors picketed the home of a notable resident on August 18. Planned Parenthood of Greater Orlando CEO Jenna Tosh said, “I literally had to push through these folks who were carrying massive protest signs and signs that said, ‘Jenna Tosh kills babies and hurts women.’”

That night the Commission passed and emergency 60-day ordinance that banned protesting in residential areas. Then on September 10 they voted to make that ordinance permanent.

Isaac Babcock from the Winter Park/Maitland Observer reports, “The 4-1 vote, which was opposed on the Commission by Mayor Ken Bradley, grabbed the interest of a local constitutional lawyer, who said the city went ‘way too far’ to stop anyone from protesting within 50 feet of a residential home in the city. Attorney and UCF political science instructor Derek Brett said the ordinance would ban protesting in ‘huge swaths of the city,’ referring to it as ‘unconstitutionally overboard’.”

City attorneys claim the ordinance will hold up in court. They cite Frisby v. Schultz that was decided by the Supreme Court in 1988. The Court ruled 6-3 that the First Amendment right to freedom of assembly and protest was not violated when the the Milwaukee, Wisconsin, suburb of Brookfield passed an ordinance banning protests outside the home of Dr. Victoria, who performed abortions.

Florida: Ranked In Bottom Ten For Lawsuit Climates

Governor Rick Scott has repeatedly stated that the axis of unemployment are taxation, regulation and litigation. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Institute for Legal reform released its State Lawsuit Climates list and Florida is one of the ten worst offenders. Florida ranks 41st (in the bottom ten) in the U.S. Chamber survey of state lawsuit climates.

According to the U.S. Chamber:

A state’s legal climate is an increasingly important factor in business decisions, according to a survey of senior attorneys and executives conducted for the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform (ILR) by Harris Interactive.

Seventy percent of the 1,125 survey respondents say that a state’s lawsuit environment is likely to impact important business decisions at their companies, such as where to locate or expand their businesses. That is up 13% from just five years ago.

“As our economic downturn has continued, a growing percentage of business leaders have identified a state’s lawsuit climate as significant in determining their growth and expansion plans and the jobs that come along with them,” says Lisa A. Rickard, president of ILR. “That makes the consequences of this survey even more significant to the economic growth of individual states.”

The 2012 State Liability Systems Ranking Study found that 51% of senior attorneys view the fairness and reasonableness of state court liability systems in America as fair or poor. However, the percentage who said that liability systems were excellent or very good reached 49%, up from 44% in 2010. This continues a general upward trend in the overall average score—expressed numerically on a scale of 1 to 100—of state liability systems since the survey began in 2002. From 2002 to 2005, the overall score averaged 52, whereas from 2007 to 2012, the score averaged 59. The score increased 3 points from 2011 to 2012. (Scroll down to see a partial list of best and worst legal climates).

Survey respondents said that the most important issues that policymakers should focus on to improve the litigation environment in their states include limits on discovery, elimination of unnecessary lawsuits, fairness and impartiality, speeding up the trial process, and tort reform.

Methodology

Participants in the survey were made up of a national sample of 1,125 in-house general counsel, senior litigators or attorneys, and other senior executives who said that they are knowledgeable about litigation matters at companies with at least $100 million in annual revenues.

Respondents were asked to grade states (A–F) in each of the following areas: having and enforcing meaningful venue requirements, overall treatment of tort and contract litigation, treatment of class action suits and mass consolidation suits, damages, timeliness of summary judgment or dismissal, discovery, scientific and technical evidence; judges’ impartiality, judges’ competence, and juries’ fairness. They were also asked to give the state an overall grade for creating a fair and reasonable litigation environment. These elements were then combined to create an overall ranking of state liability systems.

Click here to check out the interactive map and download the report.

Top 5 State Legal Climates:

1) Delaware
2) Nebraska
3) Wyoming
4) Minnesota
5) Kansas

Bottom 5 State Legal Climates:

41) Florida

46) Illinois
47) California
48) Mississippi
49) Louisiana
50) West Virginia

Five Worst Local Jurisdictions

46) Los Angeles
47) Chicago/Cook County
48) California (unspecified)
49) San Francisco
50) Philadelphia

Throwing Money At Education Isn’t Working

A new study titled Throwing Money At Education Isn’t Working by State Budget Solutions found that, “Higher levels of funding do not ensure higher graduation rates, nor does it directly correlate to higher test scores on the ACT.” Florida’s numbers show that spending more on education has not moved the needle on student ACT scores or reduced the state’s drop out rate.

State Budget Solutions examined national trends in education from 2009-2011, including a state-by-state analysis of education spending as a percentage of total state spending, and a comparison of average graduation rates and average ACT scores per state. The study shows that states that spend the most do not have the highest average ACT test scores, nor do they have the highest average graduation rates.

Florida is no exception to this rule. State Budget Solutions reports, “None of the states spending the least on education (as a percentage) had the lowest average graduation rates. The same is true for ACT scores. An outlier to this general trend was Florida. In 2009, Florida spent less on education than 46 other states. In fact, Florida spent five percentage points less than the national average on education. Florida also underperformed in ACT scores, ranking third for the states with the lowest average ACT scores, but did not similarly underperform based on average graduation rates.”

Here are the Florida specific numbers provided in the study:

Percent of Florida’s Total Spending on Education:

2009 – 25%
2010 – 24.8% (NOTE: In 2010 Florida received an additional $700 million in federal RTTT funding)
2011 – 25.2%
2012 – 25.6%

Average ACT Composite Score for Florida:

2008-09 – 19.5
2009-10 – 19.5
2010-11 – 19.6

Florida Education Spending & Student Performance Data:

2009-10 Per Pupil Funding $400
2009 Drop Out Rate/NCES Drop Out Rate 76.3%/63.6%
2010 Drop Out Rate/NCES Drop Out Rate 79.0%/65.0%
2011 Drop Out Rate/NCES Drop Out Rate 80.1%/66.9%

NCES: National Center for Education Statistics

According to the study, “Each year, the United State spends billions of dollars on education. In 2010, total annual spending on education exceeded $809 billion dollars. Although it is unclear whether that figure is adjusted for inflation, that amount is higher than any other industrialized nation, and more than the spending of France, Germany, Japan, Brazil, the United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia combined. From 1970 to 2012, total average per pupil expenditures in the U.S. has more than doubled.”

“Despite higher levels of funding, student test scores are substantially lower in the United States than in many other nations. American students scored an average of 474 on a 600-point scale, performing only slightly better in science, with an average score of 489. By comparison, Canadian students scored an average of 527 and 534 on the same tests, and Finnish students scored 548 and 563, respectively,” notes the State Budget Committee study.

A conclusion of the study is, “As a result of centralization, states have less authority to develop state-specific metrics to accurately measure education initiatives. Localized control results in more narrowly tailored metrics and a better understanding of failure and success based on those metrics. Oversight at a local level is more practical and more effective than federal oversight.”

RELATED VIDEO: Teachers union speaks out against new film ‘Won’t Back Down

Rep. West Receives Guardian of Small Business Award

Congressman Allen West (R-FL) received the National Federation of Independent Business Guardian of Small Business Award Thursday.

The award is presented to members of Congress who NFIB considers “champions” of small business owners. West received a perfect score of ‘100’ for his votes on 13 key NFIB supported pieces of legislation concerning issues from healthcare, energy and Federal Government regulations.

Rep. West received a perfect score from the National Federation of Independent Businesses as did sixteen other members of the Florida delegation. Republican Senate Candidate Connie Mack received a 100 percent, with Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz garnering a zero. Senator Bill Nelson received a score of 36 and Senator Marco Rubio a score of 100.

Here is the list of the Florida delegation by district and their NFIB scores:

1      Miller, J. 100
2      Southerland 100
3      Brown, C. 0
4      Crenshaw 100
5      Nugent 100
6      Stearns 100
7      Mica 100
8      Webster 100
9      Bilirakis 100
10    Young, C.W. “Bill” 100
11    Castor 8
12    Ross, D. 100
13    Buchanan 100
14    Mack 100
15    Posey 100
16    Rooney 100
17    Wilson, F. 0
18    Ros-Lehtinen 9
19    Deutch 0
20    Wasserman Schultz 0
21    Diaz-Balart 92
22    West, A. 100
23    Hastings, A. 8
24    Adams 100
25    Rivera 100

For a complete look at how each Member of the 112th Congress voted, click here

“Our small businesses are at the heart of keeping this economy going and I am proud to receive this award,” West said. “As I travel Dixie Highway in Palm Beach County and visit small businesses in South Florida, I see firsthand the importance of expanding opportunities and reducing burdensome regulations on our independent employers. Our small businesses represent the best of the American spirit and I will continue to be their voice on Capitol Hill.”

NFIB President and CEO Dan Danner praised West for his commitment to American business owners.

“In the 112th Congress, Representative West proved he is willing to stand up and do big things for small business,” Danner said. “Guardian-award winners are genuine small business champions, consistently voting to promote and protect the right of small business owners to own, operate and grow their businesses.”

Congressman Allen West is a member of the House Committee on Small Business and is a member of the Subcommittee on Contracting and Workforce and the Subcommittee on Investigations, Oversight and Regulations.

The Guardian of Small Business Award is presented to lawmakers who vote with small businesses 70 percent or more of the time and demonstrate a commitment to protecting free enterprise.

National Federation of Independent Business is the nation’s leading small business association. Founded in 1943 as a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization, NFIB gives small and independent business owners a voice in shaping the public policy issues that affect their business. NFIB has 350,000 members and its mission is to promote and protect the right of our members to own, operate and grow their businesses.

Florida Implements Tough Anti-Terrorism Funding Bill

Flying below the media radar screen was an event on July 11, 2012 at which Governor Rick Scott signed legislation to keep state-chartered financial institutions from being pipelines for money supporting terrorism.

Governor Scott joined leaders of Florida’s Jewish community in standing against Iran’s development of weapons of mass destruction. Governor Rick Scott joined leaders of Florida’s Jewish community at the Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County to ceremonially sign Senate Bill 792, Financial Institutions. The legislation gives the Office of Financial Regulation (OFR) the authority to require Florida’s state-chartered financial institutions to report information on any accounts that have connections with a foreign financial institution knowingly supporting international terrorism.

“Florida and Israel have strong cultural and economic ties, and as the only stable democracy in the Middle East, Florida must stand with Israel and against her enemies,” Governor Scott said. “One of Israel’s greatest threats is Iran and its leader’s insistence on developing nuclear capabilities and weapons of mass destruction. “We have a responsibility to stand for freedom and democracy and against terrorism.”

SB 792 creates new reporting requirements. OFR will be notified by Florida financial institutions whether any correspondent accounts or payable-through accounts with a foreign financial institution are knowingly:

· Facilitating the efforts of the Iranian government to develop weapons of mass destruction.

· Providing support to a foreign terrorist organization.

· Facilitating the activities of a person who is subject to financial sanctions by the United Nations Security Council’s Iranian sanction resolutions.

· Engaging in related money laundering activity.

· Facilitating efforts by Iranian financial institutions to carry out prohibited activities.

· Facilitating a significant transaction or providing significant financial services to an entity whose property interests are blocked pursuant to federal law associated with Iran’s proliferation of weapons of mass destruction or support for international terrorism.

To implement this legislation, OFR will submit an annual report to the Governor and the Legislature. Any state-chartered bank or credit union that does not provide information may face a penalty of $100,000. OFR will present information about the reporting process to the Governor and Cabinet at an upcoming meeting. Governor Scott thanked Senator Don Gaetz for sponsoring SB 792.

PODCAST: How Government Is Killing Businesses In FL

Allen Fugler, Executive Vice President Florida Pest Management Association in Orlando, FL and Tim Southerland from Southern Wood Producers Association and the American Loggers Council – Florida in Panama City, FL join Watchdog Wire Radio. Mr. Fugler and Mr. Southerland explain how government at every level is destroying small businesses in Florida and across America. Today it appears the business of government is to destroy small businesses according to Mr. Fugler and Mr. Southerland. Over regulation is keeping Florida small businesses from expanding and growing.

Listen to the podcast of this show and learn how government at every level is putting small businesses out of business from these two industry experts.

LISTEN TO THE PODCAST INTERVIEW BY CLICKING HERE

The next four years could bring a tidal wave of more than 4,100 regulations for the American economy. Regulations in the pipeline are estimated to cost the economy more than half a trillion dollars. To view a sampling of regulations, that will cost the economy $515 billion, click here.

Small Businesses for Sensible Regulations launched a nine-state campaign to raise awareness on the several thousand regulations that could go into effect if President Barack Obama is reelected. To learn more about the Small Businesses for Sensible Regulation coalition go to – http://stopthetidalwave.org.

The Mother of All Hoaxes

There was a brief flurry of stories in the media at the beginning of what has become a historic summer of hot weather across the U.S. that global warming was to blame. They faded swiftly because the public has concluded that global warming is the mother of all hoaxes, because we are in the midst of a failing economy and the political campaigns that will decide if the nation literally lives or dies.

This has not stopped the Public Broadcast System’s News Hour from airing a new series “on how climate change in the Pacific Northwest is affecting the region’s Native American Indian tribes—flooding their reservations and threatening the region’s salmon fisheries.” Climate change is shorthand for global warming.

While the nation’s media continues to propagate the hoax, what hope is there for the TRUTH?

Significantly “the NewsHour’s year-long Coping with Climate Change series is funded by a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation.” The nation’s leading foundations have been funding the global warming hoax for decades and continue to do so.

So one more article about the deception and duplicity of global warming may seem superfluous and it would be if the U.S. Air Force wasn’t spending $59 per gallon of “green biofuel” and the U.S. Navy wasn’t doing the same for its Great Green Fleet. The justification for this is the utterly false assertion that “alternatives” are needed in the event we can’t produce or import petroleum.

The U.S. is floating on an ocean of oil, but for now it can only be extracted from lands owned privately because the Obama administration has done everything in its power to restrict access to it on federally owned lands and, of course, the billions of barrels locked up off-shore.

In exactly the same way that the Obama administration has presided over the loss of billions in subsidies and loan guarantees for the solar panel companies or the ridiculous costs of wind power industry compared to a single coal-burning plant, at the heart of it all has been the claim the global warming is caused by “greenhouse gas” emissions, carbon dioxide, that imperil the Earth.

Recently, my friend Joseph L. Bast, the president of The Heartland Institute, wrote an article, “IPCC Admits Its Past Reports Were Junk”, posted on AmericanThinker.com.

It struck me that very few people even know that IPCC is the acronym for the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Few people know that the entire global warming hoax was generated by the IPCC, let alone know what it is.

Most people associate global warming with Al Gore who has been among its most prominent advocates, warning that “the Earth has a fever” and that we were doomed if we didn’t stop generating carbon dioxide. Gore and his collaborators wanted to sell “carbon credits” in exchanges around the world and for a while he greatly enriched himself.

In Australia, the government has imposed a tax on carbon dioxide which it likely to destroy its manufacturing base along with the extraction of coal and other minerals.

Here in the U.S. the Environmental Protection Agency continues to assert that carbon dioxide must be regulated as a “pollutant” under the Clean Air Act and, if successful, will likewise destroy what is left of our manufacturing base and all other industries that generate or use energy to function.

And the man in the street remains completely clueless about the impending ruin of the nation based on the reports of the IPCC which the Inter-Academy Council (IAC), a group created by the world’s science academies to provide advice to international bodies, has long since concluded were utterly false and baseless.

On June 27, the IPCC issued a statement saying it had completed the process of implementation of the recommendations that an August 2010 IAC analysis had made after examining who was contributing to their reports, who was reviewing their content (the same people!), and the astonishing, utterly false, claim of “a consensus” that global warming was happening.

As Bast points out, “It means that all of the ‘endorsements’ of the climate consensus made by the world’s national academies of science—which invariably refer to the reports of the IPCC as their scientific basis—were based on false or unreliable data and therefore should be disregarded or revised.”

“It means that the EPA’s ‘endangerment finding’—with its claim that carbon dioxide is a pollutant and threat to human health—was wrong and should be overturned.”

It is a terrible thing to live in a nation governed by falsehoods, spending the public wealth on useless technologies, living under the tyranny of government departments and agencies pursuing those lies for their own agendas and political masters.

Unless the harm perpetrated in the name of global warming is reversed, we shall all remain the victims of the United Nations IPCC, the EPA, and all other entities seeking to control every aspect of our lives.

The poles are not melting, the glaciers are growing, the oceans rise mere millimeters over centuries, and right now planet Earth is cooling.

© Alan Caruba, 2012

English WINS in Florida Court

The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld an earlier ruling from the U.S. District Court that product manufacturers and distributors are not obligated to provide warnings in languages other than English. The ruling applies to both assembly instructions and manuals for consumer products. This is the second victory for English in the courts in the past few months. The Arizona Supreme Court recently defended English proficiency as a requirement to run for public office.

This new ruling stems from a 2009 incident when a Florida resident who understands only Spanish bought two propane heaters from Home Depot in Miami. The woman mistakenly used the heaters indoors, even though they were outdoor-only heaters, and the resulting fire caused hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage to her home.

The woman sued both the manufacturers of the heaters as well as Home Depot claiming they were liable since the safety and assembly instructions on the heaters were provided not in Spanish, but only in English.

Subsequently in 2010, the U.S. District Court ruled that the woman exhibited “willful ignorance” in assembling the products without understanding the instructions and neglecting to seek additional assistance, and just last week, the Eleventh Circuit concurred that the English-only safety warnings were adequate and noted that even though the woman did not speak English, the pictures on the instructions were perfectly clear.

The English Language Unity (ELU) act has been introduced in Congress – S. 503 and H.R. 997. The English language advocacy group Pro-English supports the ELU act.

Over 140 New Florida Laws Took Effect on July 1, 2012

As of July 1, 2012 over 140 new Florida laws took effect. To view a complete list of the new laws click here.

The following are some of the laws passed during the 2012 session and now in effect.

HB 7127 Relating to School Improvement and Education Accountability – Education Committee

School Improvement and Education Accountability: Revises provisions relating to implementation of public school improvement, including use of school improvement plans, corrective actions, intervention & support strategies, & school turnaround options; revises provisions relating to school grading system. Effective Date: July 1, 2012

HB 7087 Relating to Economic Development – Finance & Tax Committee

Economic Development: Provides exemption from intangible tax for lessees performing governmental, municipal, or public purpose or function; establishes funding source for H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute from portion of cigarette tax collections; establishes purposes for which funding to H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute may be used; revises excise tax rates levied upon each ton of phosphate rock severed; defines term “mature field recovery oil” & applies to such oil tiered severance tax rates applicable to tertiary oil; provides exemption from tax on sales, use, & other transactions for electricity used by packinghouses; expands exemptions from sales & use tax on labor, parts, & equipment used in repairs of certain aircraft; provides exemption from tax on sales, use, & other transactions for sale or lease of accessible taxicabs; revises eligibility criteria for tax credits under Urban High-Crime Area Job Tax Credit Program; increases amount of income that is exempt from franchise tax imposed on banks & savings associations, etc. Effective Date: July 1, 2012

HB 7059 Relating to Acceleration Options in Public Education – K-20 Innovation Subcommittee

Acceleration Options in Public Education; Provides for Academically Challenging Curriculum to Enhance Learning (ACCEL) options to provide eligible public school students educational options that provide academically challenging curriculum or accelerated instruction; requires school district to adopt policy for early graduation; provides for career-themed courses; revises provisions relating to articulated acceleration mechanisms & dual enrollment programs; provides requirements for development & contents of school district & Florida College System institution articulation agreement; requires comprehensive student progression plan to include information on accelerated educational options; provides reporting requirements for student funding; provides for calculation of additional FTE membership based on completion of career-themed courses & early graduation. Effective Date: July 1, 2012

HB 7003 Relating to Environmental Resource Permitting – Agriculture & Natural Resources Subcommittee

Environmental Resource Permitting; Requires DEP, in coordination with water management districts, to develop statewide resource permitting rules for activities relating to management & storage of surface waters; preserves exemption from causes of action under “Bert J. Harris, Jr., Private Property Rights Protection Act”; provides exemption from Administrative Procedure Act; requires counties, municipalities, & delegated local pollution control programs to amend ordinances & regulations; provides applicability, effect, & repeal of specified rules; provides presumption of compliance for certain stormwater management systems; provides exemptions for specified stormwater management systems & permitted activities. Effective Date: July 1, 2012

HB 5701 Relating to Taxation – Finance & Tax Committee

Taxation: Requires that deductions for cost of collecting & enforcing documentary stamp tax & for specified service charge be available for payment of certain obligations secured by such tax revenues with respect to bonds authorized before specified date; provides for collection of allowances of amount of tax due by persons who file returns only by electronic means & pay amount due on such returns only by electronic means; adopts 2012 version of Internal Revenue Code for purposes of ch. 220, F.S.; changes filing date for estimated tax under certain circumstances; requires DOR to provide adequate notice to affected taxpayers relating to earlier due dates for making estimated payment, etc. Effective Date: July 1, 2012