Monday, June 22, 2009

Save Us From Canada-care

Many of us know Canadians who have chosen to come to the U.S. for health procedures. And no wonder. Canwest News Service notes that a report from the a group of organizations including Canadian Medical Association, found:

  • nine hour average waits to be seen in an Emergency Room;
  • 24 hour waits to be admitted to the hospital; and
  • “For cancer patients, the study found that the median wait time for radiation therapy was almost seven weeks, exceeding the benchmark of four weeks.” (Emphasis added.)

If seven weeks was the median wait time for radiation therapy, that means half the cancer patients had to wait even longer than seven weeks. These are people who are fighting for their lives. This is not a system that we want to import here.

Exempt School Construction From Prevailing Wage

Dilapidated schools in Kentucky may get funds for repair and new construction from the Special Session, now that the House has passed H.B. 2, which would provide $1.3 billion for education facilities.

The Kentucky Opportunity Coalition is correct to demand that school construction be exempted from the prevailing wage. Whatever amount of money is ultimately appropriated to school facilities, repeal of the prevailing wage will allow that amount to go ten percent further.

In a press release today, the Coalition chair Kristin Webb Hill noted

The Kentucky Legislative Research Commission (LRC) has reported that the wage portion of prevailing wage projects is more than 20% higher than if area market-based wages were utilized. That translates into an estimated 10% of total project costs that are underutilized due to the prevailing wage requirement.

"If we are going to make the commitment, let's maximize our investment dollar," Hill added. "Instead of potentially directing nearly $130 million toward artificially inflated wages, let's invest that money in the next generation of Kentucky's minds.

I don't see an extra $130 million laying around for politicians in Frankfort to squander. Let's do right by those Kentucky children who are forced to attend schools so run down that they should be condemned and repeal the prevailing wage. That will ensure that whatever money Frankfort can dedicate to school construction does not get wasted.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Thayer Asks Beshear to Add Prevailing Wage to Special Session Call

Sen. Damon Thayer (R-Georgetown) has requested Gov. Steve Beshear to add repeal of the prevailing wage (as applied to schools) to the list of topics called for in the upcoming Special Session.

Thayer's press release notes that as a first priority, we must "dedicate ourselves to maximizing every dollar we invest in Kentucky’s future." The prevailing wage, according to Thayer, is one area in which Kentuckians are not getting the maximum possible return on their taxes spent:

According to a report by the Legislative Research Commission, Kentucky’s prevailing wage laws artificially inflate school construction labor costs by 21 percent. That means that 21 cents of those dollars are directed at inflated wages as opposed to going toward investments in larger schools, enhanced technology, more energy efficient facilities and an overall better environment for Kentucky’s children to learn in.

In 2004, KDE estimated that between 1999 and 2004, the prevailing wage law artificially increased the cost of school construction by more than $480 million. To put this in perspective, the total resource requirements in 2005 to meet the reported “needs assessment” of Category 4 and 5 schools, schools in the worst physical shape, was just under $500 million. Had the dollars that were directed toward inflated prevailing wages during that period been invested in our schools –nearly every child in Kentucky would have been attending an adequate school.

This is why I filed legislation to repeal “prevailing wage” during the 2009 Session and it is my intent to do so again.

Kentucky has too many children attending schools that are no more than hovels. There is no extra money to give to education this year, so at the very least, let's make sure that what little we can spend goes as far as possible.

Thayer is to be congratulated for this sensible requesst to stop padding the cost of school construction. Again, this is not a proposal to spend more -- just to spend more wisely. Beshear should add it to the Special Session call.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Dems Try to Railroad Sotomayor Hearings

The networks reported last night that the the Senate judiciary hearings on the confirmation of Judge Sonia Sotomayor are scheduled to start July 13. But what ABC, at least, neglected to note is that Democrats set the date without even the courtesy of running the schedule by their Republican counterparts. (Classy!)

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell noted that the scheduling move diminishes bipartisan collegiality and threatens the confirmation process itself, by making the hearings less informative: According to McConnell, Democrats'

decision to rush Judge Sotomayor’s confirmation hearing is puzzling. It risks resulting in a less-informed hearing, and it breaks with years of tradition in which bipartisan agreements were reached and honored over the scheduling of hearings for Supreme Court nominees. And it damages the cordiality and good will the Senate relies on to do its business. These kinds of partisan maneuvers have always come with consequences.”

McConnell also contrasted the Democrats' rush to confirm Sotomayor with the Democrats' careful, studied, meticulous review of the records of Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito.

Justice Sotomayor has been prolific: Yet Democrats propose to allow senators only 48 days to review Judge Sotomayor’s 3,625 cases. At that pace, Senators would need to analyze 76 Sotomayor cases per day. Note that Democrats, in contrast, took the leisurely pace of reviewing just six cases per day for the Roberts hearings.

What is it about Sotomayor's record that Democrats are trying to hide? If she's this fabulous nominee of which they claim to be so proud, then why not use her confirmation hearings to showcase her "Latina wisdom" and her "empathy"? It could be a love-fest for identity politics; it's shocking that the Democrats wouldn't want to savor every minute -- rather than cutting it short.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Sotomayor Stumbles

Literally. Judge Sonia Sotomayor broke her ankle this morning at LaGuardia Airport, according to Breitbart. She was heading to Washington for meetings with U.S. Senators regarding her nomination to the Supreme Court.

Sotomayor stopped at the White House before going to get an x-ray. (To find out just when the President plans to tank our health care system?)

Sotomayor will continue her senatorial courtesy calls on crutches, thereby demonstrating that by virture of her life experience, this "wise Latina woman" can "empathize" with at least one white male: Tiny Tim.

We wish the judge a speedy recovery, as ankle injuries are no fun.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

David Williams Wants MORE Taxes?

Ronnie Ellis is reporting that Sen. Pres. David Williams disagrees with Gov. Steve Beshear on the amount of Kentucky's budget shortfall, and has a different idea about how to raise whatever funds we're short. Instead of agreeing to video gambling terminals at Kentucky racetracks, Williams apparently wants to raise taxes. Again.

Everyone seems to agree on one thing – although there are some competing data – the horse industry is in trouble. But Williams says there’s a better way to boost purses and breeders’ incentives than gambling, offering a plan for a 10 percent tax surcharge on lottery tickets, using some sales taxes on horse products, and taxing out of state betting on Kentucky races to boost purses and incentives. Beshear and spokesmen for Stumbo say allowing the VLTs at tracks is the only workable, available option to help the industry.

Let's unpack that.

Williams tax no. 1 would impose a "10 percent tax surcharge on lottery tickets," according to Ellis. Lottery tickets are sold to the poorest of the poor; it is already the most regressive tax we have. The notion of further taxing these desperate people is very troubling.

Williams tax no. 2 would involve "some sales taxes on horse products." Apparently the idea is to reallocate the revenue from these taxes to increase the race purses. However, if everyone agrees that the horse industry is already in trouble, we should be looking at cutting taxes specific to that industry, not raising or even reallocating them.

Williams tax no. 3, Ellis explains, contemplates "taxing out of state betting on Kentucky races." Although I appreciate the effort to sock it to the out-of-staters, this tax may not even be constitutional.

Williams's proposal does not come in a vacuum. Just last session, Williams agreed to a huge tax hike that hurts Kentucky's other signature industry, the Bourbon distilleries. That provided a long-awaited opening to Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, who is said to be aggressively wooing Brown-Forman to move to New Albany.

If Kentucky persists in making its tax structure hostile to those industries that make our Commonwealth unique, we will lose those industries. Take away the horse industry and Bourbon industry from Kentucky and we don't look much different than, say West Virginia. These industries define us. We must protect them. Raising taxes is not a solution and would hurt the very industries that need our help.

GOP Response: Sesssions on Sotomayor

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) gave the Republican address this morning, and crystallized the danger of nominating judges based on empathy (or their status as a "wise Latina woman," like Judge Sonia Sotomayor):

“If a judge is allowed to let his or her feelings for one party in the case sway his decision, hasn’t that judge then demonstrated a bias against the other party?

“And, if a judge is allowed to inject his personal views into the interpretation of the law, does he not then have a license to rewrite the laws to fit his own preferences?

“I fear that this ‘empathy standard’ is another step down the path to a cynical, relativistic, results-oriented world:

-- Where words and laws have no fixed meaning;
-- Where unelected judges set policy;
-- And where Constitutional limits on government power are ignored when they are inconvenient to the powerful.

“This standard is deeply troubling because it is so contradictory to our country’s long heritage of a faithful and impartial adherence to the rule of law.

Well said, Sen. Sessions.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Send Trey Your $$$$

In case you did not receive Trey Grayson's email blast yesterday or the direct mail piece that preceded it, click here to (1) tell him to run for U.S. Senate and (2) contribute to his campaign.

Thank God Republicans have a candidate of Trey's talents willing to step up after all of Jim Bunning's stonewalling and crazy antics.

Wise Woman or Broken Record?

It turns out that Judge Sonia Sotomayor did not strut out her status as a "wise Latina woman" just once; it was not, as the Obama administration tried to spin it, an awkward turn of phrase that Sotomayor would express differently, given a chance.

No, the "wise woman" theme is actually Sotomayor's theme song, -- one she has replayed between 1994 and 2003, according to CQ Politics (via Instapundit):

A draft version of a October 2003 speech Sotomayor delivered at Seton Hall University stated, "I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would, more often than not, reach a better conclusion." That is identical to her October 2001 remarks at the University of California, Berkeley that have become the subject of intense criticism by Republican senators and prompted conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh to label her "racist."

In addition, Sotomayor delivered a series of earlier speeches in which she said "a wise woman" would reach a better decision. She delivered the first of those speeches in Puerto Rico in 1994 and then before the Women's Bar Association of the State of New York in April 1999.

The inescapable conclusion is that Sotomayor did not misspeak: she actually believes that she is wiser by virtue of her ethnicity and ovaries. Don't look for this Judge to show much "empathy" to white males. To keep repeating herself over and over demonstrats that Sotomayor is not so wise as she thinks. And she needs a new writer.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

On Judges, Hypocrites and Limp Wrists

We heard lots of righteous indignation last year when Sen. David Williams described now Leut. Gov. Dan Mongiardo as "limp-wristed." That's a code that's no longer a code.

Williams's remark crossed the line from disagreement about political philosophy and public policy -- entirely appropriate for debate -- to casting aspersions based on personal attributes and vague hints of a sexual nature -- not appropriate against anyone.

Yet the Lexington Herald-Leader reprinted a similar allegation that Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell is "limp-wristed" in his opposition to the nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court. In the past, the Herald-Leader correctly denounced the "limp-wristed" label as applied to Mongiardo, but not as to McConnell. (Indeed, the H-L magnified the aspersion by reprinting it.)

On the merits, it is laughable to assert that McConnell's advocacy against judicial activism has been "limp-wristed" as regards Sotomayor or any other nominee. McConnell has stood for judicial restraint and the rule of law more than any other member of the Senate. When other Republicans were preoccupied with running for President, McConnell was a constant presence at Federalist Society meetings (both local and national) where he demanded an up or down vote for all nominees, whether or not they get confirmed in the end. McConnell has been criticized for his relentless focus on the need for judicial restraint and the proper role of unelected Federal judges, an issue that he addressed recently at the University of Louisville's law school graduation.

McConnell will ensure that Sotomayor's record is given the same scrutiny that then Senator Barack Obama demanded for the confirmation hearings of Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito. As a former district court and now appellate judge with a propensity for inflammatory speeches, Sotomayor's record provides much to scrutinize -- including more than 3,000 judicial opinions.

A filibuster would be necessary and appropriate only if Republicans were denied the opportunity to explore the Judge's vast record. Absent a move to railroad her confirmation, however, no filibuster is necessary.

Once the nominee's opinions have been reviewed and the committee testimony taken, McConnell knows that all nominees deserve and up or down vote, including Judge Sotomayor. Perhaps McConnell will vote "nay," as he did when Sotomayor was elevated to the Second Circuit. Or perhaps not: Sotomayor would replace Justice David Souter, simply swapping one liberal with another liberal.

The problem is not that McConnell is not conservative enough, not aggressive enough on activist judges (or anything else for that matter). The problem is that he doesn't have enough troops in the Senate. That's one more reminder for Kentuckians: we cannot afford to let Sen. Jim Bunnings persist in his losing campaign.