STATES IN THE GLOBAL TRADE POLICY REALM--IMPACT, INTEGRATION AND ACTION
Peter Cunningham, International Trade Director for the North Carolina Commerce Director (who has advised several states including Pennsylvania on trade issues), told how North Carolina officials considered trade issues a Federal matter until trade decisions led to a one day job loss of 4,500 jobs. Officials then realized the state's economy was part of a dynamic global economy. A state economic plan was developed that focused on sustaining its existing industries. North Carolina had invested heavily in biotechnologies that were drifting towards other countries. $64.5 million was appropriated from their Tobacco Fund to retrain workers in biotechnological employment in attempts to stabilize that industry. A Science Board was created to develop a long term policy on science and technology including nanotechnologies among other developing industries. North Carolina officials also work on developing and expanding innovations that will assist existing industries, such as furniture enterprises and textiles companies. These efforts will support new technologies that attach fibers on molecular levels and will thus expand production. The Board also is assisting with hydrogen technologies that can bolster the American automobile industry. North Carolina officials have assisted its state manufacturers create investment and distribution partnerships with Japanese investors in furniture and upholstery concerns.
Cunningham urged there should be more focus on workers. More needs to be done to assist workers dislocated from their jobs due to economic shifts. Job retraining should be immediately after job loss. Programs that wait six months after job loss to start retraining are far less effective. More wage insurance is needed. Current wage insurance exists for employees whose job losses result from trade. Under this insurance, they may receive half the difference between their lower pay and their previous pay up to a maximum of $10,000 per year.
A HONG KONG PRIMER: MAJOR ISSUES OF CONCERN TO STATE AT THE WTO MINISTERIAL
Peter Riggs, Executive Director of the Forum on Democracy and Trade, stated that few expect major new trade agreements to be achieved at the upcoming ministerial. This is the second ministerial, of which they are scheduled to be held once ever two years. The United States is seeing that services are a fast growing part of its trades. In 1985, the services industries’ employees worked in jobs providing 20% of the value of American trade production. Today, this percent is 30%. State and local governments may wish to see their laws regarding services and businesses are safeguarded from trade agreements. State licensing of professional services can be affected by trade agreements.
Agriculture trade policies have changed little since 1957, according to Riggs. Then, it was the goal of these policies to encourage agricultural self-sufficiency in other countries. Many countries are now not only self-sufficient but they find themselves with an over-production of agricultural goods. New concerns are involved around food safety and security issues. Many developing nations seek to negotiate greater access for getting their products to markets. Riggs notes that many divergent developing countries have acted and continue to act as a negotiating block. Many developing nations believe American food assistance is really America dumping its over-production. What they prefer is assistance towards increasing their own production capacity.
China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan are free standing WTO members. Riggs believes China will become more open to greater involvement in the international community as it increase trade interactions.
STRUCTURAL CHANGES IN THE GLOBAL ECONOMY: HOW DO AMERICAN CITIZENS, COMMUNITIES, AND STATES ADJUST?
State Rep. Rick Glazier told how North Carolina has created a new House Committee on Federal Relations and Trade Issues. He is the committee's vice chair. Among issues the committee considers includes assisting dislocated workers and expanding the mechanisms to provide such assistance.
Howard Rosen, Executive Director of the Trade Adjustment Assistance Coalition, has observed the frustrations of state and local government officials in not being heard on trade issues. The consequences of Federal trade policies are negatively impacting state and local governments, according to Rosen. The burden of unemployment from trade policies is draining state and local government resources. In the past, unemployment was structural and a cyclical economy would eventually create jobs for those who lose jobs. Now, job losses are structural and new jobs are not being created that could hire many who are unemployed now.
It is easier to find a job than it is to keep a job, Rosen explained. 30% of people employed will leave their current jobs over the next year. About half will move to better jobs and about half will lose their jobs. The labor market is very dynamic. While 200,000 new jobs were added in November, 2005, that was the result of 2.8 million new jobs being created and 2.6 million jobs disappearing.
The American workforce has high productivity increases, which requires much retraining in new skills. Job losses are occurring in all economic sectors. From 1994 to 2003, the services industry eliminated 23.5 million jobs while the manufacturing sector lost 7.8 million jobs, according to Rosen. The average person who lost a job collects unemployment insurance for 26 weeks, and does so at an average of $250 per week without health benefits, meaning the average person does not find a new job before unemployment benefits are exhausted. Rosen criticizes the lack of links between unemployment insurance and reemployment assistance. Many are placed into job retraining programs after their 26 weeks of unemployment benefits expire. Still, programs for one stop career centers, job searches, job banks, and gateway training programs are under-funded. The Trade Adjustment Assistance provide up to 78 additional weeks of income support while enrolled in a job training program for employees whose jobs were displaced by trade. This was enacted as a political means to assist in getting trade policies enacted. Unfortunately, this program is only for employees whose jobs are lost because of trade policies. Even still, about two thirds of states are running out of funds for the Trade Adjustment Assistance programs before the end of the fiscal year due to insufficient funds. Further, only a weak link has been shown between these programs and new employment. The Federal government will assist communities facing job losses from Defense Department job losses, and they should do so for other job loss reasons as well, Rosen argued. There declared that rapid responses to job losses are the most effective in finding new jobs. At present, only below 40% of unemployed receive even unemployment insurance.
A U.S. Labor Department Regional Director stated the department has streamlined paperwork, including online filing, to make it easier for applications to be determined for their eligibility for and for enrolling in Labor Department programs.
IMPACT OF INVESTOR-STATE ISSUES
State Rep. Terri Austin of Indiana told how General Motors employed, at its peak, 30,000 people in her district, and now only 1,000 are so employed.
Luke Peterson, Editorial Director of the Investment Treaty News in Canada, told how 2,400 protections from American laws have been negotiated in treaties while American businesses have received 40 protections from foreign laws. In 1995, there was only one law suit regarding such protections. So far this year 40 such lawsuits have been filed, and this does not count unpublicized or undisclosed arbitrations regarding treaty protections from laws.
Law firms are becoming astute and are advising American companies to create a foreign nexus so they may sue under treaty agreements to circumvent state and local laws. International Tribunals are to consider only the written agreement and not the laws of the country. The bias is to construe rulings to protect international trade.
Many companies threaten lawsuits to seek exemptions from state and local laws. Peterson warned that America may someday find itself with a being required to pay a large judgment from an obscure and long ignored treaty.
Tara Mueller, Deputy Attorney General from California, stated how California successfully defended against one $1 billion claim against its gas laws. California is currently litigating against a foreign investor seeking to mine on sacred Native American land that is environmentally sensitive. The state government is not allowed to be a party in these suits and must rely upon the State Department to handle the litigation before Tribunals. She notes that a current suit seeks disclosure of documents, including legislative, Department, and lawyer-client communications that are considered privileged under American law.
Warren Waren, Policy Director of the Forum on Democracy and Trade, warned that even State Supreme Court decisions can be overruled by Tribunal decisions. States potentially face uncapped compensation claims from losses to foreign investors for their laws. Yet, they will not have standing as only the Federal government has standing before Tribunals. Constitutions have no basis before Tribunals. Tribunals do not use precedence, and Waren recommended that America should seek for Tribunals to codify their decisions. Waren warned that American companies are using Tribunals as a means to circumvent the American legal system.
IMPROVING FEDERAL STATE CONSULTATION AND TRADE POLICY CAPACITY
Michelle Sager explained how the U.S. Government Accountability Office conducts nonpartisan research at the request of Congress. They operate in priority of research requested by Congressional mandates, then by requests from senior Congressional leaders, committee chairs, and then subcommittee chairs, and then by individual members. Should NCSL wish her office to request impacts of trade agreements on state laws, they should convince appropriate members of Congress to request such a study.
James Pertula, Senior Policy Advisor for the Ontario Ministry of Economic Development and Trade told how provincial trade officials regularly discuss with national trade officials regarding how Canadian trade agreements will impact provincial laws. He noted that American state governments could similarly learn to insist on having roles on international trade policies.
WTO AGREEMENTS, ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT, AND THE STATES
Kay Alison Wilkie, International Policy Analyst for the New York Economic Development Department, observed that the Federal government provides no resources to state governments so they may analyze and advise the Federal government on trade matters. Many state government officials have a very limited understanding of trade policies. Each state is required to have a person to be a point of contact to receive information from the Federal government on trade issues. Yet, most states are very passive in participating in recommendations on trade issues and very few told officials are even aware such a contact person exists. There needs to be better data sharing from the Federal government and state analysis of this data, according to Wilkie.
Among issues that may concern some state governments are sharp increases in fees for exporters that may make it too expensive for some exporters to continue operating their businesses as well as determining which industries should receive government supports.
WTO ISSUES IN DETAIL: SERVICES AND DOMESTIC REGULATION
Canadian federal Senator Jerry Grafstein told how most Canadian trade issues occur at their provincial level and rise to national concern. Canada actively engages provincial governments in developing its national trade policies. Trade is important to Canadians, and the US-Canada trade of nearly one trillion dollars a year is the most trade between two governments in the world.
The biggest block in foreign trade is the European Market that is using farm subsidies to protect European agricultural goods from allowing foreign competition, according to Senator Grafstein. 49% of the European Union budget is used for farm subsidies. Developing countries are particularly frustrated at the difficulties they face in entering European markets.
Robert Stumberg, Professor of Law at Georgetown University, explained how states’ laws are being overruled by Tribunals as detrimental to foreign trade. Antigua was allowed to operate internet gambling over objections from state laws that prohibited such gambling. The United States is not insisting on creating an exemption to disallow Internet gambling as it would then have to concede another economic sector in trade negotiations, and this would disrupt the entire American negotiating strategy.
Trade agreements do not consider state's environmental laws, according to Stumberg. The only state law that Tribunals consider are those regarding the quality of a product. Requiring a product to adhere to state environmental standards is considered a burdensome restriction of access to our markets.
States face difficulties in advising Federal trade negotiators on which exemptions they seek to protect in trade agreements. American state officials are usually not kept current on negotiating situations and have one month to provide Federal trade negotiators with information on how negotiations will affect their state laws and to further advise Federal trade officials. Canadian provincial officials are usually provided six to eight months to provide their input. Canada also seeks inputs from lobbyists and industry representatives who usually are most familiar with how trade agreements will affect their products.
HOLDING ELECTIONS IN THE WAKE OF A DISASTER
Mindy Morette, a researcher for electionline.org told how there is very little information on what should be done should elections be disrupted by disasters, especially when the disasters may affect not the elections themselves but election process deadlines. States have to decide whether deadlines or even elections could be postponed. Few states have considered these possibilities and she advised states to make plans ahead of time. Cost will be a major concern, as many county governments, especially if they face costly measures due to the disaster itself, may have difficulty funding changes in their elections process.
Glenn Koepp, Louisiana Secretary of the Senate, told how Louisiana passed laws in 1997 creating emergency provisions for elections during emergencies. These laws helped guide election officials during the Hurricane Katrina disruptions. The Secretary of State determines if there is an emergency requiring changes in the elections process and notifies the Governor who then must certify any postponement to elections to a specific date. The Secretary of State may modify elections procedures with the approval of the legislature. Noting there are still 25,000 living in FEMA trailers following Hurricane Andrew in Florida in 1992 and that six times the number of people were displaced by Hurricane Andrew were displaced by Hurricane Katrina, Koepp expects the elections process to be disrupted for several years.
In Louisiana, 366 polling places, or about 10% of the state's total, as well as 728 voting machines were destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. In addition, over 1,200 election machines were damaged and need to be repaired and recertified. 488,000 voters, or about 20% of all of Louisiana's voters, were displaced by the hurricane. This will create huge difficulties with absentee voting. In addition, FEMA refuses due to privacy laws to mail voter information to displaced people, thus making it difficult to notify voters of elections procedures or notices of changes in election dates. Koepp argued there needs to be a Federal law to cope with this problem. In addition, this will likely create problems with redistricting and with America Vote programs.
THE ECONOMIC OUTLOOK IN UNCERTAIN TIMES
William Strauss, Senior Economist for the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, stated the economy generally is doing well. Economic growth is currently slightly above average. The economy has been expanding for the past four years at about 3.2% annually. Even in the quarter when Hurricane Katrina hit, the economy kept growing at a 4.3% rate. The national standard of living has improved due to productivity gains. Productivity growth is not at the top end of its historic growth rate. America is now producing more agriculture and more manufacturing goods than any point in its history, and is doing so with relatively far fewer employees. Adjusted for inflation, oil prices are less than they were in the early 1980s. Energy is being used more efficiently than it ever has been in the past 50 years. Employment has increased by almost two million jobs in the last two months. Corporate profits have been growing since the first quarter of 2002.
America has a trade deficit and the dollar's exchange rate has weakened over the last three years, according to Strauss. The Federal budget deficit is at an all time high. Yet, as a share of Gross Domestic Product, the Federal trade deficit is no worse than it has been in the past.
ENERGENCY PREPAREDNESS: LESSONS LEARNED FROM HURRICANE KATRINA
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Stephen Johnson told how Hurricane Katrina caused one of the largest natural disasters in U.S. history. This posed unusual responses, even for the EPA, who transformed their 60 watercraft used for water monitoring into rescue boats that saved 800 people. The EPA continues to monitor water and soil deposited in the wake of the hurricane for 200 harmful chemical and bacteria. In addition, they are determining whether 54 Superfund priority sites in the damaged area have been compromised. Fortunately for EPA, except for rescuing people, EPA is doing what they usually do, although not at this scale.
Johnson stated how there is a misperception that EPA can declare an area as being safe. That is a determination that is to be made by local officials. What EPA does is provide as much information regarding the safety of the water, air, and soil. Local administrators also need to consider factors outside what EPA provides, such as building safety and the availability of electricity.
Hurricane Katrina left a large aftermath of challenges, including debris management where we are faced with 350,000 abandoned automobiles and 1.5 million abandoned refrigerators and their spoiled food.
ELECTION REFORM--AN UNFINISHED AGENDA?
Daniel Calingaert, a Commissioner in the Carter-Baker Commission, noted that the election problems in Florida in 2000 were not a fluke and that they are common problems and that the closeness of the election only focused attention onto the Florida problems. International election experts have observed that American elections are the most flawed elections among the democratic nations. Ironically, it is American elections observers who are noted for providing the most expertise to foreign elections, yet American elections processes lag behind elections processes in other countries. Further, international election observers cannot advise American election processes, as only one state even permits international observers to monitor elections. Most states only permit representatives of political candidates and political parties to observe the elections.
A problem facing election reform efforts is that different proposals appeal to only one political party. Primarily Democrats favor a paper trail accountability of the elections process and primarily Republicans want a voter ID requirement for voting. The Carter-Baker Commission recommended both reforms be adopted.
Calingaert noted that 79% of eligible Americans are registered to vote. It the law is changed to make anyone with a state issued ID automatically eligible to vote, then 88% of eligible Americans would be registered to vote. The Carter-Baker Commission recommends that anyone wishing a photo ID in order to vote be issued a photo ID for free.
Calingaert called for using only voting machines that make a file for every vote so the votes can be tabulated separately from the machine total. If there is fraud in tampering with the machine's voting mechanism, simply having the machine refigure its fraudulent count would be pointless. There needs to be an ability to recount the votes separate from the machine tabulation.
Wendy Weiser, Associate Counsel for the Brennan Center for Justice, argued that requiring a voter ID would be creating an poll tax far more expensive than the poll tax that has already been found unconstitutional. Even if the voter ID were issued for free, there is a cost to obtaining the documents in order to be issued the ID. It can cost up to $200 to get a copy of the naturalization or other papers required to prove eligibility to vote. Further, for many homebound Americans who do not have IDs, such as people in nursing homes or in rural areas, there is a cost to go to issuing centers to obtain the ID.
There is little need for a picture voter ID, Weiser argued, as the rate of voter fraud has been estimated at .001%. Far more voters than this would be disenfranchised is there were required to produce a photo ID in order to vote.
There is a double standard in requiring voter ID as voter ID would not be required in order to cast an absentee ballot, Weiser noted. Further, absentee ballots are where most voter fraud has occurred. She faults using signature matches for absentee voters but then requiring it for voting at polling places where fraud is not a problem.
ELECTIONS AND REDISTRICTING CASES AND THE U.S. SUPREME COURT
Doug Chapin, Director of electionline.org, spoke of cases concerning election laws before the U.S. Supreme Court. Several cases are challenging aspects of the McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance law. McCain-Feingold put caps on soft money and restricting electioneering communication just prior to primaries and elections. The Wisconsin Right to Life organization sought to run issue ads urging people to challenge Wisconsin Senator Feingold on votes concerning judicial nominees during the time period such ads were prohibited. They sued and the courts denied their right to run the ads. The Wisconsin Right to Life organization is suing claiming the Act is unconstitutional as it is being applied to them.
Several court cases originating in Vermont are challenging campaign spending limitations. The Circuit Court upheld the law limiting campaign spending but required the lower court to ascertain that the spending limits are tailored to meet the public interest.
There is also a case that may determine what judicial candidates are permitted to say during judicial elections.
REPORT ON ELECTION DAY SURVEY CONDUCTED BY U.S. ELECTION ASSISTANCE COMMISSION
Kim Brace, President of Election Data Services, told of a study conducted from 6,000 jurisdictions. The study found that not all states report voter registration data in the same fashion, as 26 states report only active voters, 20 states report a combination of active and inactive voters, and 4 states leave this determination to the counties. Statewide voter registration lists shows that 11% of listed voters are inactive, while non-statewide registration lists show that 16% of their voters are inactive.
903 jurisdictions, including the entire state of Arkansas, do not report the number of voters who turn out to vote.
Election districts that permit election day voter registration had a 10% higher turnout than election districts that do not permit such registration. Ironically, election districts that permitted early voting had slightly lower voter turnout than districts that do not permit early turnout.
Absentee ballots that do not require an excuse to vote by absentee had three times the turnout by absentee than in districts that required an excuse for an absentee ballot.
16.8 million voters, or 10% of voters, requested absentee ballots. 14.8 million, or 88% of those who requested ballots, returned their absentee ballots. Of the returned ballots, 14.7 million, or 96% of those returned, were counted. Ballots that were not counted were rejected for failing to provide a signature or because they were returned too late. Ironically, absentee ballots that are automatically sent out are returned as a higher rate than are absentee ballots that are requested to be sent.
1.9 million voters, or 2.6% of voters, sought to vote by provisional ballot. 1.2 million, or 65.5% of provisional ballots cast, were counted. Ballots that were rejected were because the voter was not registered or because improper identification was provided.
Of provisional ballots cast and counted, by race, 79.3% of such ballots cast by Hispanics, 62.2% of such ballots cast by Caucasians, 56.6% of such ballots cast by African Americans, and 48.7% of such ballots cast by Native Americans were counted.
39.8% of voters use optical scans, 25.0% use electronic machines, 12.4% use level machines, 9.0% use punch cards, 7.7% use a mix, and 1.8% use paper ballots. While small in the number of people they have, 26% of election districts use paper ballots.
At least 856,962 polling place workers are employed on election day, and it known this number is larger as data is missing from some districts. There are 174,252 voting precincts.
Brace warns of potential difficulties during the 2006 elections. Many jurisdictions will be using new types of voting equipment for the first time, and several states will be using statewide voter lists for the first time. The first time any new system is used generally creates confusion.
DECENNIAL CENSUS CHANGES ARE IN THE WORKS
Cathy McCully, Chief of the Redistricting Data Office of the U.S. Census Bureau, told of issues concerning her office that Congress will decide. Among these are whether non-citizens should be considered in census figures when used for redistricting purposes and how prisoners should be counted. Congress is also debating the use of non-English language assistance to voters and whether more assistance is needed.
Deirdre Bishop, Assistant Chief of the Redistricting Data Office of the U.S. Census Bureau, told how her office is collecting state legislative boundaries and placing this information over census data to receive census information by legislative districts. This has been completed for 12 states and almost 40 states are participating. Pennsylvania is one of the states that did not submit its legislative boundary information, although it is expected this information will be provided later.
Linda Franz, Assistant Chief of the Geography Division of the U.S. Census Bureau, told how GPS technology is being interwoven into census information. In addition, the Post Office is providing postal service delivery points to the Census Bureau. This address list will be kept confidential.
EMINENT DOMAIN: POST KELO FEDERAL LEGISLATION
Thomas Merrill, a Columbia University Law Professor, speaking by phone, observed he has seldom seen such negative reaction opposing a Supreme Court decision then in the Kelo v. New London eminent domain decision. Various polls show that from 92% to 97% of the public opposes the decision. Congress and state legislators have rushed to introduce legislation that will diminish the effects of this Supreme Court decision, which allows eminent domain to be used for purposes of private economic development to increase city tax revenues.
Professor Merrill stated the press has misrepresented the decision. He stated it makes good copy to make readers fear that government can come and take away their homes at any time. The press has created a false perception that the decision is a fundamental change in constitutional law, which he claimed it is not. The Supreme Court has consistently permitted the use of eminent domain for economic development purposes and has yielded to state governments to make their own determinations on what they consider as proper economic development.
Since homeownership is at an all-time high, with 69^ of Americans living in privately owned homes, the fear of losing homes is a more central fear than ever before. Professor Merrill also noted that women have generally been the protectors against condemning homes and the leaders in anti-eminent domain campaigns, noting that women led the protests to Robert Moses’s development plans in New York City. As women have received greater political power, their influence on issues such as this has improved.
The use of eminent domain for economic purposes is slight, according to Professor Merrill. He estimated there are about 20,000 eminent domain condemnations a year and about five to seven a year are for economic development reasons. He observed that the press and public have focused on the costs of eminent domain for economic development purposes without considering the benefits. The issue has been framed in the press in moral terms as the loss of a non-blighted private property for corporate interests. He believes this is an exaggeration.
Professor Merrill stated he would agree with legislation that would prohibit using eminent domain solely to increase local tax revenues. He believes this would create competition between localities that could create social losses.
Rep. Michael Lawlor of Connecticut stated the New London properties that were condemned in the Kelo case looked like a bombed-out neighborhood that had been contaminated by a neighboring sewage treatment plant. Connecticut had spent $28 million to restore the neighboring Fort Trumbull park and historic military fort. Buses, though, could not reach the park and the road needed to be widened beside the Kelo property in order to reach Fort Trumbull. Rep. Lawlor stated the Kelo property could easily have been taken by eminent domain for road purposes. Unfortunately, New London was asked by Governor John Rowland to condemn the properties for a $70 million state project and so the neighboring Pfizer corporation could have a better view. Rep. Lawlor notes that Governor Rowland’s motives are now suspect, adding that the Governor is now in prison for improper economic deals. He notes the city of New London now owns the properties, the new Governor has placed a moratorium on further development in this disputed area, and the end result is the remaining families are living there rent free.
Using eminent domain in the fashion New London did meant that developers could obtain property at lower prices. Rep. Lawlor proposed that higher amounts should be provided for eminent domain and for relocation costs.
Rep. Lynn Smith of Georgia told how the Georgia Senate in 2003, before the Kelo decision, passed a bill permitting the condemnation of private property for private facilities. The public outcry against the bill was so loud that every Senator who cosponsored the bill withdrew their co-sponsorships. Further outrage was expressed when churches in Augusta were slated for condemnation. The National Rifle Association organized protests in fear that hunting lands could be condemned.
Georgia is now considering legislation that would disallow eminent domain primarily for increasing taxes or for private enterprises. It has passed the Senate and is now before the House.
Sen. Steve Rauschenberger of Illinois argued that economic development decisions should be left to the private market. He believes the government can not decide theses matters any better than the will of the market.
The following items on the Consent Calendar were approved by a voice vote:
2007 Farm Bill. NSL urges Congress to reauthorize the Farm Bill in 2007 in a manner that provides increased farm supports to the broadest number of farms. It is noted that trade agreements call for lower domestic support of agriculture and it is urged that these supports be replaced by direct payments and rural investment programs.
Long Term Care. NCSL supports tax credits for family member caregivers and supports fully funding Medicaid entitlements to states and individuals that allows them to provide home and community based care, nursing facility services, nutrition services, hospice, home health care, adult day care, and supportive services. NCSL also urges for consumer protection measures in long term care insurance, for preferential tax treatment for individuals and employers for purchasing qualified long-term care insurance, for portability laws for long term care, and for repealing the law restricting states from developing asset protection laws.
Low Income Energy Assistance. NCSL urges that all states be provided Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) funds, that LIHEAP be fully funded, and that the law allow the states strong oversight on how these funds are distributed. It also calls for disallowing considering LIHEAP as income when calculating whether a person’s total income qualifies a person for public assistance eligibility.
Nurturing Responsible Families. NCSL supports programs that create employment opportunities for non-custodial parents so they may make support payments. State programs promoting fatherhood should be considered part of states’ Maintenance of Effort requirements under Federal welfare law. Fatherhood programs should be allowed to operate in conjunction with faith based providers.
Nutrition Assistance. NCSL supports sufficient funding for the Food Stamp program. NCSL opposes Federal mandates that would restrict state flexibility and cap administrative funds for administering Food Stamp programs. When the Federal government restricted using TANF for Food Stamp administration, the result was a cut to administrative funding. NCSL further calls for increasing eligibility for Food Stamps through excluding considering $50 of child support as income when making eligibility determinations. NCSL also urges that basic food stamp benefits be increased to 103% of the Thrifty Food Plan. Outreach efforts are also called for to inform potentially eligible people that they may be able to receive Food Stamps and to make it easier for senior citizens and people with disabilities to apply. NCSL also calls for food service programs in for child and adult day care providers and in the summer for school children.
Takings and Land Use Authority. NCSL opposes creating any Federal law or regulation that would define “takings” or restrict the ability of state government to define takings.
Funding for States Under the Help America Vote Act of 2002. NCSL calls for the Help America Vote Act to be fully funded.
Redistricting and Elections. NCSL opposes creating any Federal law that would require a particular method of conducting redistricting.
The following item from the Debate Calendar was adopted by voice vote with dissention:
Financial Information Security. NCSL opposes creating any Federal law that would preempt state laws regarding financial and credit information.
The following item from the Action Calendar was adopted by a unanimous voice vote:
Urge Congress to Maintain the Federal Commitment to Clean Water State Revolving Funds. NCSL calls upon Congress to provide at least $1.342 billion for Clean Water State Revolving Funds.
AMERICAN POLITICS CHICAGO STYLE
Rich Miller, author of the Capitol Facts newsletter, claimed that Chicago and Illinois have a long history of corrupt politics. He told how corporations used to pass legislation in the 19th century by awarding favorable legislators with memberships in their Board of Directors. Legislators would decide public works and then purchase properties in order to profit by their works decisions. One legislator, Abe Lincoln, was one of the few legislators to actually lose money doing this.
Gangsters used to be very politically involved. Al Capone was a major political contributor. Illinois Governors used to sell pardons, even pardoning Capone associates before they went to trial. One U.S. Senator, Frank Smith, was considered so corrupt that the Senate twice refused to seat him.
Illinois politicians have used patronage, favoritism, and looking the other way when mobsters operate gambling and prostitution enterprises for decades, according to Miller. Numerous Illinois politicians are currently under investigation and one former Governor faces a trial. Miller tells how one politician used to require people to purchase a car from his auto dealership in order to get a patronage job. The former Governor facing trial, George Ryan, had the first political action fund indicted under RICO laws.
Miller noted that a large number of state officials are from a ten block radius of each other in north Chicago. He also stated that Senator Obama had a clean reputation and has achieved star status among the voters.