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Archive for the ‘state politics’ Category

While Republicans nationally enjoyed a wave election, Republican federal candidates in New Hampshire underperformed relative to other states. Scott Brown lost very narrowly to incumbent Jeanne Shaheen, dogged throughout the campaign with the “carpetbagger” label. The highly conservative, hawkish Marilinda Garcia also lost in the second congressional district, my district and the more left-leaning one in the state. The governor’s race was close, but first-term incumbent Maggie Hassan pulled it out. That result was not surprising, since first-term governors in New Hampshire rarely lose (a term is just two years), and her opponent Walt Havenstein had low name recognition and also faced carpetbagging accusations, having just moved back to New Hampshire from Maryland.

At the state legislative level, however, the GOP did much better. They took over the executive council and state house and extended their lead in the senate. Lacking veto-proof majorities, however, they will need to work with Governor Hassan to accomplish anything.

Libertarians did rather well in this election as well. Of the 116 New Hampshire Liberty Alliance-endorsed candidates in this election, 86 won. Not all of those 86 are real libertarians. The NHLA has a mechanistic scoring system for endorsements: as long as you vote 80% pro-liberty on the roll-call votes they track (or for challengers, are 80% pro-liberty in your questionnaire answers), you are endorsed. Since most roll-call votes are economic liberty issues rather than personal liberty issues, traditional conservatives often do extremely well on NHLA ratings. Still, a very sizeable chunk of the next state house – around 20% – will be quite liberty-friendly.

Unfortunately, four very solid libertarian incumbents lost: three by extremely narrow margins and one by a wide margin because of a Republican wave in his district (he is a Democrat). One metric some people are interested in is the number of Free State Project early movers who won races. I can say that the number is more than half of those who made it past their primaries, and a new record. I can also say that this list is both wrong and too short (warning: click link only if you have a strong stomach for paranoia and/or enjoy schadenfreude).

Other interesting stories from the election… There is a rather unhinged (and I don’t use that term lightly) Free Stater hater in Bedford, a wealthy restauranteur and sometime Republican bigshot, who did everything he could to defeat a Republican incumbent state senator, Andy Sanborn, because he was friendly with Free Staters. In the end, Sanborn defeated his opponent by a far wider margin than he had in 2012 (the 2014 was a rematch of the two).

The Dems sent out last-minute mailers to just about every competitive house district (judging from reports), accusing all the Republican candidates of supporting the “ultra-extreme Free State Project.” That didn’t work out too well for them: the GOP has at least 235 seats in the new state house (out of 400), with three ties (yes, ties) still to be resolved.

In a slightly Republican-leaning state senate district that had gone to a Democrat in ’12, an insurgent candidate, Kevin Avard, who spent only about $6000 on the race, upended the incumbent. Avard is a libertarianish conservative, which will make for about three of that breed now in the senate (plus Sanborn and John Reagan).

So what can we expect from the next legislature? The (more…)

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And there’s real money behind it, with more (hopefully) to come:

As for its goal, here is how Day put it in his news release:

“Crushing debt, unfunded entitlements, the government takeover of healthcare, overregulation, the decaying of our public schools, and massive government intrusion into our private lives are a direct assault on our liberty and individual rights.

“What if we could prove that liberty works? What if we could transform the Republican Party into a party of liberty that embraces the millennial generation? What if we could break the cycle of failed Republican candidates who support the expansion of the welfare state and position the country for a Goldwater/Reagan Republican in 2016?”

The PAC first wants to elect “the first pro-liberty, millennial governor (Andrew Hemingway)” and “win a pro-liberty majority for the Republicans in our 424 person state Legislature.”

Day is chair of the Republican Liberty Caucus of New Hampshire, which has endorsed 12 GOP candidates for the state Senate, including five who are taking on sitting GOP Senators in primaries. Hemingway is former chair of the RLCNH.

Stark360 proposes “a statewide, data-driven grassroots campaign that will endure beyond 2014 and address a fundamental structural weakness of the Republican Party,” and then “position New Hampshire to elect a Liberty Republican candidate in our crucial 2016 first-in-the-nation primary.”

“New Hampshire is the single best investment to demonstrate and spread liberty throughout the rest of the country through New Hampshire’s critical first-in-the-nation primary status,” said Philips.

“The people of New Hampshire inherently embrace liberty” and in the state, “elected officials are accountable,” he and Day said.

Quoting former Gov. John H. Sununu that, “Iowa picks corn; New Hampshire picks Presidents,” Day said that in recent primaries the state has actually picked “losing presidential candidates.”

“A small, elite group of the New Hampshire Republican establishment, corrupted by D.C. interest groups, has disenfranchised New Hampshire voters, alienated the youth vote, and manipulated party rules for personal advantage. In particular, the treatment of Ron Paul in New Hampshire and the egregious manipulation of the rules aimed at harming Ron Paul delegates in the 2012 Presidential race, needs to end now. Our data-driven grassroots infrastructure will restore the Republican Party back to the liberty loving citizens of New Hampshire and serve as a model for the rest of the nation,” Day said in a statement.

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Marc blogged the other day about the New York Times editorial board’s endorsement of repealing federal marijuana prohibition, just months after having rejected that step. Now, this isn’t quite the same as endorsing marijuana legalization – just returning it to the states – but it is a significant step nonetheless. Still, they are well behind the rest of the country. An absolute majority of Americans favor legalizing, taxing, and regulating marijuana more or less like alcohol. Liberal Democrats are overwhelmingly in favor.

Fivethirtyeight recently showed how out-of-step the New York Times is by comparing their position to that of representative Americans with a similar demographic profile. Money quote:

[P]eople with this demographic profile are somewhere around 25 or 30 percentage points more supportive of marijuana legalization than the average American. That implies that back in 2000, when only about 30 percent of Americans supported legalization, perhaps 55 or 60 percent of these people did. The margin of error on this estimate is fairly high — about 10 percent — but not enough to call into question that most people like those on the Times’ editorial board have privately supported legalization for a long time. The question is why it took them so long to take such a stance publicly.

The political class everywhere, regardless of left-right ideology, has been vastly more opposed to marijuana legalization than equivalent Americans. Here in New Hampshire, Democratic governor Maggie Hassan has not only opposed and promised to veto recreational marijuana legalization, she has also opposed and threatened to veto marijuana decriminalization and even allowing terminally ill patients to grow their own medical marijuana plants. Her spineless copartisans in the state senate have gone meekly along. And is anyone really surprised that government bootlicker David Brooks opposes legalization? It’s no accident that the only two states to legalize recreational marijuana so far have been states with the popular ballot initiative. It’s also no accident that medical marijuana started in states with the popular ballot initiative. The people have had to go around the controllers and neurotics in office.

Now the Brookings Institution has come out with a study of marijuana legalization in Colorado. Their quick synopsis? (more…)

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Are libertarians and classical liberals who move to New Hampshire radical extremist anarchist colonizing subversive treasonous subhuman alien life forms?

There’s been some nasty politics in Bedford, New Hampshire, where a member of the local political establishment has been hurling epithets on his cable access show at two locals of libertarian views who moved to New Hampshire as part of the Free State Project and are trying to get active in local government. There’s also been some sort of mailer or flyer going around attacking these candidates for their civic engagement.

Of course, there are anarchists in the FSP, but as far as I know these two are not anarchists at all. Even if they are, if I were a town resident, I’d like to have one or two hardcore, hard-working anarchists on the council and the school board just to keep the rest of the establishment honest. We live in a world where political leaders can smear you as an anarchist just for trying to find efficiencies in government. Don’t we want someone to turn a hard, skeptical eye toward government programs to make sure they are as lean and efficient as possible?

In other news, the FSP is also being covered again in the New Hampshire Union-Leader. A quote from UNH political scientist Dante Scala:

“I do think they have been part of the debate about the direction of the Republican Party,” Scala said.

Scala said Warden’s estimates about the number of Free Staters elected to the Legislature “sounds reasonable.”

“It’s possible even a small group could have an influence that’s out of proportion to its size if we’re talking about people who are kind of elites; by that I mean people who really want to get involved in political activism in New Hampshire,” Scala said.

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  1. Will May has done some really interesting analysis of roll-call voting in the New Hampshire legislature. Recently he did an analysis of where Free Stater legislators fall on the left-right spectrum as revealed by W-NOMINATE data (this procedure places legislators on a dimension of votes as revealed by correlations in voting behavior, not an “objective” standard of liberalism or conservatism) and on the New Hampshire Liberty Alliance’s Liberty Rating(*). What he found revealed that most Free Staters lie solidly to the right. The main interpretation here is that the GOP in N.H. is fairly libertarian, while the Dems are fairly statist. Yet there are subtle deviations as well. Democratic activists picked up on this work to charge Free Staters with voting as a “monolithic bloc.” On a closer look, however, the standard deviation of ideological positions among Free Stater legislators turned out be higher than for non-Free Stater Dems. Oops.
  2. Tonight the Concord City council voted to accept the BEARCAT grant on an 11-4 vote. The lure of federal money is hard to resist. Nevertheless, concerned Concord residents obtained signatures from over 1,500 residents (something like 7-8% of the adult population) in opposition to the BEARCAT. Word is that several city council members justified their votes on the grounds that the grant application had been revised to remove references to the FSP and ONH as “domestic terroris[ts].” However, it’s unclear whether the grant application has actually been so revised, or whether the police chief just claimed it had been. More on this story to follow if anything else emerges.
  3. A few days ago the FSP took the extraordinary step of expunging from its participant rolls a man who blogged that “It’s a terribly unpopular thing to say, but the answer, at some point, is to kill government agents,” and “any level of force necessary for anyone to stop any government agent from furthering said coercion [tax collection in the context of funding the salaries of all government employees] is morally justifiable…” Internet flamewars ensued. Several newbies seemed convinced that the man was expelled for believing in the right to self-defense against government aggression. Of course, murdering government employees is closer to genocide than self-defense, but who’s counting? Oh, Internet macho libertarians, I am glad none of you will ever get a whiff of actual power.

As you can see, there’s never a dull moment here.

(*)Of all the organizations in the country promoting liberty, there are few more worthy of your financial support than the NH Liberty Alliance. I don’t have a formal role in that group, but I do give them money.

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A Story of Decline

Fellow Pileus blogger Jason Sorens (along with his collaborator William Ruger) have gained some attention with their “Freedom in the 50 States,” a project that ranks the states based on a number of indicators (see Jason’s blog entry here). Although my state of residence, Connecticut, is number 40 in the rankings, there are some long-term trends that makes one confident that it will soon be in the bottom five.   These trends are presented in Jim Powell’s article on the nutmeg state (in  Forbes) entitled  “How Did Rich Connecticut Morph Into One of America’s Worst Performing Economies.”

Readers might be surprised to learn that Connecticut has been hemorrhaging population and businesses and is currently ranked number 50 in annual economic growth. This should be no great surprise given a few facts. There have been:  dramatic increases in taxation (including a $1.8 billion increase in 2011 alone, a year when 77 tax hikes were pushed through), rapidly expanding government payrolls (between 1970 and 2000, the state payrolls grew 6 times faster than the population), growing debt ($27,540 per capita), combined debt and pension liabilities amounting to 17.1 percent of GDP (the highest of any state), a flow of new regulations, a failed probate court system, and a record of cronyism and political corruption that even shocked the New York Times.

When I moved from Wisconsin to Connecticut in 1989, there was no state income tax. I felt as if I had entered the land of the free. In 1990, however, Lowell Weicker was elected governor and the income tax was enacted as a means of addressing the state’s fiscal imbalances. As Powell explains:

The income tax failed to achieve the wonders Weicker claimed.  By siphoning more money out of the private sector, the Connecticut income tax reduced the amount of money available for private sector hiring and reduced the amount of money available for consumer spending. … Ironically, while Connecticut’s income tax generated more revenue than the state had before, it undermined efforts to control spending.  The last Connecticut annual budget before the income tax was about $7.5 billion, and state spending since then has nearly tripled – not counting all of the state’s spending on Medicaid.

As elected officials discovered that the new revenues only increased their capacity to spend and secure the support of various constituents and transfer seekers, more taxes simply led to more spending, which led to more taxes and more spending. Connecticut entered the long decline that many residents have witnessed.

Jim Powell’s piece provides some useful lessons of how a long series of bad policy decisions can carry significant ramifications for a state’s economy. Given that these same policies have been embraced in Washington DC, there is little evidence that the lessons have been learned.

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All 50 states ban the direct sales of motor vehicles from manufacturers to consumers. The politics of this regrettable policy are clear: auto dealers are powerful political players in every state, while only a few states actually have manufacturing facilities. Banning direct manufacturer sales benefits dealers while hurting manufacturers and consumers.

State governments continue to insert themselves into the contractual relationships between car manufacturers and dealers, typically to the ostensible benefit of the latter. The New Hampshire Senate recently passed a bill regulating the terms and conditions of dealer contracts with manufacturers, prohibiting manufacturers from requiring dealers to alter the appearance of their showrooms, for instance. (Disturbingly, the state director of Americans for Prosperity in New Hampshire supports the bill.) The bill is actually unlikely to change any “balance of power” between automakers and auto dealers. Automakers will simply respond by vetting potential dealerships far more closely and perhaps charging higher franchise fees. The onus of this response is likely to fall more on new dealerships than on incumbents. So the real losers from the bill are going to be potential entrants into the car dealer industry and, of course, consumers.

These are not the only examples of “state protectionism,” in which state governments adopt laws meant to reduce competition from out-of-state businesses for the benefit of local incumbents. Some states still prohibit certain out-of-state direct-to-consumer wine shipments. Regulatory barriers can accomplish the same ends. States have widely varying regulations on insurance products, making regulatory compliance a huge barrier for a company trying to market a standard policy in multiple states. For a long time, major life insurance companies lobbied Congress to adopt a national life insurance regulatory regime, pre-empting state laws. They were opposed by local life insurance agents, for whom knowledge of and compliance with distinctive state regulations were a significant source of competitive advantage. In the end, no national legislation materialized, but Congress authorized the formation of an interstate compact, essentially a contract among consenting states that sets up a single insurance regulator. More than 40 states have joined the Interstate Insurance Product Regulation Commission, which regulates life insurance and annuities.

Such state protectionism potentially runs afoul of the so-called “dormant commerce clause” of the U.S. Constitution. The commerce clause allows Congress to regulate trade among the several states. By implication, then, states are presumptively prohibited from burdening interstate trade, unless authorized by Congress. Unfortunately, courts have been reluctant to scrutinize state economic regulations that have an essentially protectionist character, although especially blatant discrimination against out-of-state imports has been overturned. (more…)

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