Sen. Grooms has introduced SB 97 which would recognize Indiana grown popcorn as the state snack of Indiana. Sure, these things are kind of silly, but I’m a popcorn junkie (mainly because it’s a vehicle for salt and butter), so this is one I can get behind. I will, however, criticize the legislative drafting. It has the sort of “whereas” puffery that’s more at home in a resolution. (E.g. “Whereas, the State of Indiana produces nearly five hundred million (500,000,000) pounds of popcorn on Hoosier soil each year.”)
Sen. Buck has introduced SJR 2 and Sen. Young has introduced SJR 10, both urging constitutional conventions under Article 5 of the United States Constitution. In relevant part, Article 5 provides, “The Congress … on the application of the legislatures of two thirds of the several states, shall call a convention for proposing amendments.” SJR 2 wants a convention for the purpose of making a nine justice Supreme Court a constitutional requirement while SJR 10 wants a convention for the purpose of considering term limits for members of the U.S. House and Senate.
The text of SJR 10 purports to limit its application to the consideration of term limits and for no other purpose. The text of SJR 2 proposes specific language for a Constitutional amendment. As I said back in 2014 when they were proposing a convention to address the national debt (because the national debt is a matter vital concern during Democratic Presidential administrations), this is opening a can of worms. Nothing in the text of Article 5 suggests that there are limitations on the amendments that may be proposed by a Convention once convened. “Revolutions often get away from their bourgeois instigators. Once a Constitutional Convention was opened up, I would anticipate radical factions taking over.”
The Supreme Court amendment is an effort to make the number of Supreme Court Justices a constitutional matter rather than a statutory concern as the Founders originally envisioned. Changes to the number of Justices were not uncommon during the country’s first century. Congress initially set the number at seven Justices where it remained from 1789 – 1807. (In 1801, the number was reduced to 5 but in 1802 that change was negated before it ever took effect.) In 1807, the number was increased to seven members. In 1837, the number was increased to nine. In 1863, the number was increased to 10. In 1866, the number was reduced to seven contingent on vacancies but in 1869, the number was set at nine before all of the vacancies took effect. Since then, there have been the nine justices, although there was a move toward expansion under FDR when ideologues on the court resisted Congressional New Deal efforts. The “switch in time that saved nine” was the quip about how the Supreme Court was able to stay at nine justices when their jurisprudence became more accommodating toward New Deal initiatives.
The term limit amendment does not specify a particular limit for the number of terms that a member of Congress may serve. I generally regard term limits as a specious solution to perceived governmental dysfunction. After all, plenty of the newer members are as bad or worse than older members — many of whom honestly seem to want to be responsive to their constituents. It’s an easy and superficial way to be mad at government generally without having to get into specific policy details which will often bore the ordinary citizens and might prompt them to realize that “Hey! I don’t hate *that* part of government!” Ultimately, short term limits would give more power to lobbyists and bureaucrats who have had time to understand the twists and turns in the government structure. New arrivals would be at a disadvantage and the lobbyists could generally just wait out any difficult members who got elected. That said, I could probably get on board with a term limit that was long enough. McConnell’s been in the Senate for 35 years, Leahy for 45 years. Pelosi has been in the House for 33 years, Don Young has been there for 47 years, and three House members you’ve mostly never heard of have been there for 40 years. A twenty-five year term limit wouldn’t give me any serious heartburn, I don’t think. That’d be about 7% of each chamber: ~30 of the 435 House members and seven of the 100 Senate members. Not sure that’s worth the bother of a Constitutional Convention.
The story goes like this – Biden won the election by a lot. Trump who is famous for not liking losers is a very sore one. So, he and his supporters make baseless allegations of widespread fraud. Now Trump’s supporters like Sen. Braun want to overturn the election results on account of there being allegations of fraud (which, if you were following along earlier, were made simply because Trump and his supporters didn’t like the outcome.)Braun cites “unprecedented allegations of voter fraud.” They’re unprecedented because in the past, when there was no evidence of voter fraud, United States Senators by and large decided to go along with the rule of law and acquiesce to the will of the people even if their guy didn’t win rather than making up stories about voter fraud.
I don’t expect that Braun will suffer any negative consequences for his bold stand against the democratic process under which our Republic has operated for the last couple of centuries, but I thought I’d at least make a note of his position.
Rep. Frye has introduced HB 1068 which would create local justice advisory councils in each county. It would also add to the duties of the state’s “justice reinvestment advisory council” to include providing guidance to the local councils as well as reviewing state and local sentencing for disproportionality. The local council would consist of the chief public defender, the prosecutor, the sheriff, the head of the local community mental health center, the head of community corrections, the chief probation officer, a member of the board of commissioners, a member of the county council, and one of the local judges. (A couple of those positions don’t necessarily exist in every county so there might be some modifications.) The purpose of the local councils is to advocate for what I’ll glibly characterize as a kinder, gentler, criminal justice system.
Just because I’m being glib, doesn’t mean I’m not in favor of such things. It calls for the councils to promote “evidence based” approaches to sentencing and making greater use of things like community corrections, problem solving courts, mental health & addiction treatment, pre-trial diversion, and other rehabilitation alternatives. I’m a utilitarian at heart, so if we can get offenders on the straight and narrow, making them happier, healthier, productive members of society; I don’t mind at all if we lose out on a little punishment along the way. The bill also calls for the local councils to review and study stuff and make recommendations. They’ll also submit annual reports to the state council.
I guess I’m skeptical about how much of an impact these local councils will ultimately have. But the goals seem laudable, at any rate.
Sen. Kruse has introduced SB 74 which would require employers to employ someone who refuses immunization if the employee claims to have a religious objection or a medical condition that makes the immunization problematic. The bill provides that workplace immunization requirements can’t be applied to a person “if the immunization is medically contraindicated for the employee or prospective employee, or if receiving the immunization is against the employee’s or prospective employee’s religious beliefs or conscience.”
It authorizes a civil suit with damages that would include actual damages, punitive damages, court costs, and attorney fees.
Empowering anti-vaxxers and discouraging widespread vaccination is a bad idea. Exempting legitimate medical conditions from having to get immunized makes sense, but you’d want some kind of process for making sure it was a legitimate concern — not a made up medical condition or a quack doctor.
Sen. Kruse has introduced SB 12 which sets up a process for a person to get a notation on their driver’s license indicating that the person uses a service animal. It doesn’t have a process for verifying that the person is disabled or the dog has any training – so it appears to be the honor system.
These state level service animal laws concern me mainly because they don’t seem to track the federal Americans with Disabilities Act laws. For example, there is no requirement that service animals have any particular credentials. The training requirements are very loose, “service animals are defined as dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities.” A person can train their own animal, and I don’t believe there is any requirement that the training be competent or effective.
In any case, if a business owner saw that there was a service animal notation for Indiana driver’s licenses and decided to ask a person to show their driver’s license as a condition of admitting a service animal, the business would likely be in violation of the ADA.
SB 1, introduced by Sen. Messmer, provides civil immunity to people, businesses, and organizations who negligently expose others to COVID-19. This means that, if a person or individual doesn’t take ordinary and reasonable care to prevent the spread of COVID and causes injuries and death to someone else, the person they’ve harmed can’t recover money from the person who caused the harm. The legislation doesn’t immunize gross recklessness or willful or wanton conduct. So, you probably won’t be liable if you infect someone while refusing to do something reasonable like wearing a mask, but if you go up and lick them or intentionally sneeze in their face, you might have some exposure – so to speak.
To be candid, I don’t know what the line is under current law between going out into public with a cold or the flu or breeding plague ridden fleas. But I have misgivings about this legislation because it encourages people to externalize the risks of their activity onto innocent bystanders.
I can’t remember if I’ve mused about this here before, but there’s a thought experiment I keep coming back to when I hear about what Fallen Times we live in. And, trust me, I understand the complaint. The Bad News is relentless. But the news and social media is looking at the world through a fun house mirror. How bad is the reality in comparison to other times? So, the thought experiment is to wonder which previous decade I’d rather live in. For the sake of the argument, I assume that I wouldn’t be living in that time as a heterosexual white man. (The reason for that assumption is to avoid mistaking “better times” for “times that seem better because of the fruits of oppression or discrimination.”)
My conclusion is that things today aren’t much worse than they’ve ever been and, in a lot of respects, are better than they’ve been historically. It doesn’t mean that we can’t aspire to something better, but nostalgia is a helluva drug & the Bad News might have us more depressed than the circumstances really justify.
Just riffing on Sheila Kennedy’s blog post about that WSJ column that criticized Dr. Jill Biden’s use of the title “Dr.” I didn’t read the column – because when’s the last time I found something useful in the Wall Street Journal opinion pages? but I heard about it because my wife definitely recognized the sexism at the root of the column. (Short version – as I understand it – she shouldn’t go by “doctor” because she holds a Ph.D. instead of an MD. Which is nonsense.)
Anyway, it made me think of a more or less conscious decision I made at some point to go by “Doug” in my professional career as often as I can. There are some pretentious gasbags in the legal profession (but not as many as you might think), and I didn’t want to be lumped in with them. Mr. Douglas J. Masson, Esq., JD or whatever, just isn’t my style. And, I kind of roll my eyes when someone has an email signature with a bunch of letters indicating certifications and credentials appended to the end. I’m glad you have expertise that will inform your work, but I’m going to have to see the expertise in action. The credentials themselves are not going to impress me. I’ve never been one to be awed by people with a lot of education or to conclude someone isn’t smart for lack of an education. (The “aww shucks” farmers will often fleece you faster than the guy with the MBA.)
That said, over the years I’ve become more aware that my ability to pull off the “just Doug” thing as a professional is something that, to a certain extent, comes from a place of privilege. Almost everything about me conforms to traditional notions of what it means to be a professional: I’m an upper middle-class educated white male with a neutral accent and (pre-COVID) often dressed in a coat and tie. I can be slightly transgressive by using my first name with no credentials because that’s not going to stop anyone from taking me seriously. (And, I guess for the few who will treat me dismissively on account of not putting on airs, I’m happy enough that they won’t see me coming.) When I was a college student, I was a work-study employee in one of the departments, and there was a professor who — at the time — struck me as being a little more insistent than everyone else about making sure everyone called her by her title. I generally went out of my way to call everyone Mr., Mrs., Dr., Professor, or whatever was appropriate just as a matter of course. But seeing her correct others on a few occasions was, nevertheless, a little off-putting. What I had no appreciation of at the time was the context in which she was doing this. I’m sure she had to fight a little harder for respect than the men in her field.
I don’t have a huge point to make here. Just noting a bit of the cultural context in which the discussion of titles is taking place.
Now that Joe Biden is becoming President, I assume that “conservatives” are going to suddenly remember that one of their core, unshakable beliefs is that deficits are bad. During the periods when this core, unshakable belief is operational, these folks will often thunder about how government needs to tighten its belt just like families do when money gets tight. There are a number of problems with this analogy, but I wanted to post an observation I made three years ago when Trump and the Congressional Republicans passed their tax legislation:
Regarding the analogies to personal finance that will be used to claim we must “tighten our belts” when this tax bill inevitably increases the deficit:
The difference between government spending and personal spending is that, in a household, the adults in the family feel free to allocate 100% of the family’s income according to the family’s priorities.With a country, the government does not (and should not) feel free to allocate 100% of the country’s income. The core question, and one not easy to answer, is what portion of the country’s income should be devoted to the general welfare. It’s something more than 0% and something less than 100%.
If you get too close to 100%, nobody is going to want to work very hard because there is no upside to success. If you get too close to 0%, quality of life will erode so much and wealth will aggregate in so few hands that the majority of people aren’t going to see the value in respecting the laws that seem mostly devoted to protecting the property rights enjoyed mostly by a small sliver of the population.