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Archive for November 27th, 2012

It Would Be Nice If The Speech Police Had An Answer To This Question

The folks at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) have a great essay contest for high schools juniors and seniors. I only wish the speech police would answer the question.

What is the essay question?

Why is free speech important at our nation’s colleges and universities? Using examples from both videos, discuss how censorship of student speech is incompatible with higher education. Your essay should be 800–1,000 words. 

I suggest that any entrant to this contest look no further than NC State’s “free expression tunnel” for great examples of the damage the speech police can do.

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Score One For Economic Opportunity

In my Carolina Journal commentary published today, I write about two interesting cases of unwarranted regulation and licensing that stifle economic opportunity. Here’s a sample.

The Louisiana monks who faced time in the slammer for selling handmade wooden caskets to support themselves have won a victory in federal court against the protectionist Louisiana State Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors. 

The licensing board had sought to keep the monks out of the casket-selling business and instead wall off the business for a select group of funeral industry insiders. The complaint? The monks’ simple, modestly priced caskets — which are blessed before delivery — put funeral homes at a disadvantage. 

The ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit makes great reading for those of us who oppose economic protectionism and cronyism. But a statement on page 16 jumped out at me: “The great deference due state economic regulation does not demand judicial blindness to the history of a challenged rule or the context of its adoption nor does it require courts to accept nonsensical explanations for naked transfers of wealth.”

And that is what too many licensing rules are all about. 

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Fee Imposed On Arizona College Students Used To Lobby For Permanent Tax Hike

The Goldwater Institute may file suit over this.

The ASA is a non-profit group that advocates for higher education and whose spending came into the spotlight this year when it gave $122,000 to support the Yes on Proposition 204 campaign. The ballot measure, which failed in the Nov. 6 election, would have permanently extended the temporary 1-cent-per-dollar educational sales-tax increase that expires May 31. Some student-government leaders objected to the ASA spending money on the campaign and resigned from the group’s board of directors in protest.

The ASA is funded through a $2 per-semester fee applied to each student’s bill at all three state universities. The fee is refundable, although some students contend that isn’t widely known.

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Wake Commissioner Paul Coble Talks About Transparency In Spending

The Raleigh Public Record has a transcript of Wake County Commission Chairman Paul Coble’s recent State of the County comments. There are many interesting things in the speech, but the issue of transparency caught my eye.

I hope each of you has had a chance to look at the new WakeGOV website that launched in October. It is our newer, fresher website but more importantly, it is easier for our residents to use. To build the new site, our Information Services department saved money by keeping everything in house. They did not use outside vendors to create the site and the content was created at the department and division level. More than 100 county employees have been trained to add content to the new site, which is one of the most viewed government sites in the state. In a matter of fact, on Friday, the new site won several awards at the 2012 North Carolina Association of Government Information Officers Seminar.

One aspect of the site that is innovative is the WATCH section, where residents can easily see exactly how their taxes are being used. Instead of looking back at the end of the year to see how much money was spent, they can see in real-time every expense incurred by the county. WATCH has received many awards, including a Digital Government Achievement Award from the Center for Digital Government, a national research and advisory institute on information technology policies and best practices in state and local government.Wake County also been contacted by a number of other governments who are interested in developing similar software for their jurisdiction. I need to give credit to Mr. Gurley as he was instrumental in the idea of using technology to make our government more transparent.

Excellent news for taxpayers. The WATCH portal can be found here.

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