Sunday, March 26, 2006

Life Is No 'Do Over'

I hate to be the one to tell you this but, unlike children's games, there are no 'do overs' in real life.

Our legislators are talking about easing our expungement laws. Simply put, expungement is a lie about the past. What happened happened. We can't make it un-happen with an eraser.

On the other hand we should do everything in our power to help a person to reclaim his or her life and to allow for a second chance.

The rights of individuals are protected by our Bill of Rights and other amendments to the U. S. Constitution

Amendment XV

Section 1. The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.

Section 2. The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

I'm no lawyer but perhaps imprisonment for a crime could be considered a " ... previous condition of servitude", in which case it would be a violation of our US Consitution to discriminate against persons who have paid for their crime (or are on probation for less serious crimes).

It would be a much better way to protect the rights of individuals if we added similar language to our own Rhode Island laws than to pretend that something did not happen when, in fact, it did.

We have enough laws, let's use them.

But, maybe it's just me

Friday, March 17, 2006

It's debatable

The Providence Journal recently ran "Voter initiative threatens R.I. elites" which was a response by Sen. Marc A. Cote to Rep. John Shanley's earlier column opposing voter initiative legislation. It was excellent and shed important light on a timely issue.

These two articles symbolize the best tradition of a democracy - debate. The Journal has performed a valuable service to the people by providing a forum for debate which allows people to consider both sides of an issue before making up their minds. What better way is there to insure the success of our democracy?

When ballot questions came up in Massachusetts, where I spent most of my life, I was especially gratified that the Secretary of State mailed a brochure to everyone in which each question was explained, along with two opinions, pro and con. The opinions were written by people chosen by each side to represent it's views.

This was extremely helpful to me, and I am certain, to most voters. I called the Secretary's office in Providence and asked that they do this in Rhode Island as well. I never received a response nor have they done so.

Here is what is currently required of a ballot question: 

1) Descriptive Heading. The descriptive heading shall be a brief caption of the question including the purpose of the question and the dollar amount, if applicable.  The heading should be limited to 12 words and a dollar amount, if applicable.

2) Authorization. The authorization shall be a line containing the cite to the authority for the question to appear on the ballot.

3) Text of the question.  The text of the question shall be the exact language of the referenda/question that shall appear on the ballot.

In my view there should also be a summary of the pro's and con's of each question to help the voter.

Respectful debate. Then let the people decide.

But maybe that's just me

Sunday, March 5, 2006

Legal isn't good enough

When I talk to groups about changing the current ad valorem system of property tax distribution I am frequently challenged by those who feel that tradition has value and this tradition has withstood the test of time.

The system we use is specified in RIGL §44-5-1 "The tax is apportioned upon the assessed valuations as determined by the assessors of the town as of December 31 in each year at 12:00 A.M. midnight,"

Those assessments are driven by the marketplace, unlike the original intent of the law which developed long before the industrial revolution. In those early days, value was assessed on the basis of the income derived from property - we were an agricultural society after all. It was much closer to an income tax in those earliest days and it was quite fair. The wealthiest always paid the most.

Today, things are very different; the wealthiest can receive tax reductions, many average people get increases that force them sell their homes, yet after thousands of years, the law remains unchanged. The fact that it is legal simply isn't good enough.

It was once legal for white people to own black people
It was once legal for women and black people to be unable to vote.

We change unfair laws and this law is no exception. The American Industrial Revolution started in Pawtucket,
RI in 1793. It would be only right for the Property Tax Revolution to start here as well.

You can visit our website to see how at RIGHT

But maybe it's just me.