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Rowland Isn't Being Tough Enough On Unions
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Press Release

Rowland Isn't Being Tough Enough On Unions

This op-ed was originally published in the Hartford-Courant on December 19, 2002 When Connecticut's tax receipts were booming, it was easy to ignore the stranglehold that state employee unions have on the state budget process. Now that revenues have fallen dramatically, this is no longer the case. Given the state's $1.5 billion shortfall next fiscal year, the legislature can no longer shirk its responsibility to address out-of-control spending, particularly on government salaries, health care and pensions.

01/02/2003
New force in the fray on state's textbooks
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New force in the fray on state's textbooks

BY Melissa Ludwig

As summer activities chase flagella and mitochondria from the minds of Texas schoolchildren, parents and interest groups are preparing to battle over biology textbooks. Today brings the State Board of Education's first public hearing on the new books, continuing a decades-long battle over how Texas public school children are taught about the science of life on Earth.

01/01/2003
Senate Slices Reconciliation Figure to $350 Billion
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Senate Slices Reconciliation Figure to $350 Billion

BY Warren Rojas

Weeks of Republican budget solidarity began to unravel March 25 as Senate centrists capped the reconciliation growth package at $350 billion and siphoned another $137 billion away from President Bush's $630 billion tax cut permanency allocation.

01/01/2003
Texas Business Lobby Urges Selling Future Earnings on Tobacco Settlement
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Texas Business Lobby Urges Selling Future Earnings on Tobacco Settlement

BY John Moritz

Mar. 16-AUSTIN, Texas-With Texas facing a $9.9 billion budget shortfall, the head of the state's largest business lobby is pushing what he calls a sure-fire way to pay the bills without raising taxes. Sell the future earnings on the state's $17.3 billion settlement with the nation's largest tobacco companies for a lump-sum payment of up to $5 billion, said Bill Hammond, president of the Texas Association of Business.

01/01/2003
New force in the fray on state's textbooks
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New force in the fray on state's textbooks

BY Melissa Ludwig

As summer activities chase flagella and mitochondria from the minds of Texas schoolchildren, parents and interest groups are preparing to battle over biology textbooks. Today brings the State Board of Education's first public hearing on the new books, continuing a decades-long battle over how Texas public school children are taught about the science of life on Earth.

01/01/2003
Edwards Campaigns Town Hall Style
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Edwards Campaigns Town Hall Style

PORTSMOUTH, N.H. - Democratic presidential hopeful John Edwards met friend and foe alike during the second of 12 scheduled town hall style meetings his campaign has planned for New Hampshire voters this summer. More than 200 people attended the two-hour event Tuesday night, which the North Carolina senator said he hopes will give voters a fuller picture of who he is.

01/01/2003
Halt Cuts in Budget, Education Chiefs Ask
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Halt Cuts in Budget, Education Chiefs Ask

BY Dan Kane

The Senate gave educators and economic development experts an opportunity Monday to plead for no more budget cuts in the next two years, but they had to share the floor with about 60 people from an anti-tax group who showed up to oppose any tax hikes. Senate budget writers allowed several members from North Carolina Citizens for a Sound Economy to make their case that the state should rein in spending, instead of adopting a lottery or raising taxes. About 25 school superintendents joined an equal number of community college presidents and several UNC chancellors to impress upon legislators that further budget cuts would reverse the gains they have made in student performance and in training workers in a tough economy. All three systems are seeing rising numbers of students, but the money they get for enrollment growth is ending up supplanting budget cuts. "We cannot sustain cuts at this magnitude and provide for the increased numbers of students who are coming here," said UNC President Molly Broad. But Dennis Riddell, a member of the anti-tax group, said that the state has yet to get serious about curbing spending in tough times. Riddell, 46, a father of eight from Alamance County, said he has had to cut his expenses to get by, and the state should too. "If that's proper for a family, I don't think it's foolish for the state," Riddell said. Others contended that raising taxes would hurt an economic recovery. They said a lottery for education, as Gov. Mike Easley has advocated, would send the wrong message to children. One speaker, Andrea Harris, president of the N.C. Institute of Minority Economic Development, said the Senate should eliminate corporate tax breaks. The hearing came as Senate and House budget writers remain deadlocked over passing a budget. The House's latest $ 14.8 billion plan includes cuts to health and human services, education and other services that senators say would cause too much harm. The Senate has produced a $ 15.1 billion plan that doesn't cut as deeply, but doesn't cover what Senate budget analysts project as a $ 628 million shortfall in revenues for the fiscal year that begins July 1. Those analysts say the Senate could need to plug a $ 1.5 billion hole in the budget's second year. Senate Democratic leaders have suggested that a lottery or an increase in the tobacco or alcoholic beverage taxes would help solve the problem. But House leaders say they can't raise more revenues, and they are using $ 510 million in one-time federal budget relief money to get by. Only a few House members trickled in to listen in on the hearing. Two said what they heard wasn't going to help break the impasse. "It didn't change my mind," said House Republican Leader Joe Kiser, who sits on a committee of House and Senate members negotiating a compromise budget. "We just don't have the votes in the House to do what the Senate wants us to do, and we keep telling them that." About half of the Senate showed up for the hearing. Those who spoke tended to challenge the viewpoints of the anti-tax advocates. One speaker noted that she received a sound education in the 1960s though she sat in classrooms of 30 or more students. Sen. Walter Dalton, a Rutherfordton Democrat and Appropriations co-chairman, responded that education took up 70 percent of the state budget then, compared with 58 percent today. Dalton closed the hearing with a history lesson about one of his district's favorite sons, the late Gov. O. Max Gardner. Dalton credited Gardner for helping create the state's first sales tax, which Dalton said helped keep the schools open during the Depression. "I hope we keep the same kind of priorities he had, because education and economic development go hand in hand," Dalton said. "As I said before, we're not doing a two-year budget. We're doing a 20-year budget."

01/01/2003
Educators Upset Over Cuts
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Educators Upset Over Cuts

BY David Rice

Education leaders told state senators yesterday that they can't handle more cuts in public education. Anti-tax activists told them that taxpayers can't handle more tax increases. The senators charged with balancing the state budget said that they don't have an easy answer for the state's budget troubles. Without an increase in cigarette or alcohol taxes or a state lottery, Senate leaders say they must cut an additional $600 million from the state's $15 billion budget - $300 million of it from education - to meet worsening revenue projections for 2003-04 and 2004-05. "We've still got to cut around $600 million out of that," said Senate Majority Leader Tony Rand, D-Cumberland. After three consecutive years of budget cuts, education leaders said they can't keep additional cuts from affecting classrooms. Jim Causby, the superintendent of the Johnston County schools, said that a $25 million cut in the Senate's version of the budget would eliminate more than 1,000 teacher assistants, and a $25 million cut in the House budget would eliminate more than 500 vocational education teachers. Dr. Stuart Fountain, a member of the state community-college board, said that faculty salaries are already abysmal at community colleges. "If these new cuts do take place, we're talking about 3,400 additional (class) sections that will not be offered," Fountain said. Molly Broad, the president of the University of North Carolina system, said that the system has had an enrollment increase of 14,200 students over the past two years, with 5,500 more students expected this fall. "That is bigger than the entire enrollment of 10 of our 16 campuses. This is unprecedented enrollment growth," Broad said. "It is no longer achievable for us to protect classroom instruction. Each round of cuts has made it more difficult." Cynthia McKinney, the president of the N.C. Association of Educators, told the senators that the 70,000-teacher group supports the call for more revenues. "It is not OK to cut $600 million from the general fund, or $300 million from education," McKinney said. "We should not pit teacher assistants against vocational teachers.... We need more revenue for public education." Legislators face a June 30 deadline to extend $384 million worth of sales and income taxes that are already part of both the House and Senate budgets. Both those taxes are currently scheduled to expire with the end of the fiscal year. But 70 activists from Citizens for a Sound Economy, a statewide anti-tax group, told the Senate members that they oppose any new taxes and a state lottery. Members of the group wore stickers that said "Kids Yes, Lottery No" and "Don't Raise My Taxes." "My budget was cut last year, too," said Jonathan Hill, the group's state director. "When you raised taxes, my budget was cut." "If you don't have it, don't spend it," said Lynnelle Alsup, a member from Surry County. "And stop asking the citizens of North Carolina for more and more and more." Members of the group voiced their opposition to a lottery as well. "I smell the lottery rat around here somewhere," said Dennis Riddell of Alamance County. "A lottery sends the wrong signal to the children of North Carolina.... It would be a disservice for the state of North Carolina to resort to a numbers racket." Roy Cordato of the conservative John Locke Foundation challenged legislators to put a tax increase to a vote of the public as they have proposed to do with a lottery. "Offer voters the same courtesy with respect to any tax increases you may propose," Cordato said. But the Rev. Mark Creech of the N.C. Christian Action League said that he could support higher taxes on cigarettes and alcohol instead of a lottery, saying that alcohol-related accidents cost the state $3.7 billion a year. "Cigarette smoking and alcohol cost us all a great deal of money," he said. "If people are going to participate in the vice, they ought to have to pay the price." Sen. Walter Dalton, D-Rutherford, a co-chairman of the Senate budget committee, said he hopes legislators have the courage that Gov. O. Max Gardner did during the Depression, when he implemented North Carolina's sales tax. "That wouldn't be popular with many people. But in doing that, he kept the schools of North Carolina open," Dalton said. Still, Republican budget and finance leaders in the state House continued to insist that the House would not support increased taxes or a lottery. "We've told them and our speakers have told them that we don't have the votes to do additional revenue," said Rep. Julia Howard, R-Davie, a co-chairwoman of the Finance Committee. "There is no will to do sin taxes, and I don't know that the numbers are there to do a lottery."

01/01/2003
U.S. Representative Spencer Bachus (R-AL) Holds Hearing on the Fair Credit Reporting Act
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U.S. Representative Spencer Bachus (R-AL) Holds Hearing on the Fair Credit Reporting Act

01/01/2003
Numerous Groups Back Verizon In Appeal of RIAA DMCA Subpoena
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Numerous Groups Back Verizon In Appeal of RIAA DMCA Subpoena

BY Dugie Standeford

The U.S. Appeals Court, D.C. should either strike down Sec. 512(h) of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) as unconstitutional or read it to permit subpoenas forcing disclosure of the identity of alleged Internet infringers only in the course of a pending copyright case, 45 business and consumer groups said May 16. In an amicus brief filed in RIAA v. Verizon Internet Services, the groups -- which included ISPs, privacy advocates and consumer organizations - - said the key issue in the bitterly contested litigation between RIAA and Verizon was "whether fundamental First Amendment anonymity and privacy rights can be trampled with an unreviewed subpoena that is issued based on hastily generated paperwork and rests merely on a 'good-faith' allegation of copyright infringement." Although Verizon at first attacked Sec. 512(h) on other grounds, most recently it has insisted that the statute is unconstitutional on 2 grounds: (1) It authorizes federal courts to issue process in the absence of a case or controversy, in violation of Article III. (2) It abridges Internet users' free speech rights. However, the U.S. Dist. Court, D.C., ruled last month that neither argument had merit (WID April 25 p1). The court stayed both its order requiring Verizon to provide information on the subscriber named in the first subpoena and another order denying the ISP's motion to quash the 2nd subpoena, allowing the company to seek relief from the appellate court. The 45 amici criticized the lower court decision on several grounds. First, they said, there was no basis for the First Amendment analysis that because alleged copyright infringement was the expression targeted by Sec. 512(h), the First Amendment provided minimal protection: "Proven infringement of copyrights is not protected by the First Amendment, but allegations of copyright infringement are inherently no more reliable than allegations of obscenity, defamation or other types of unprotected speech." Copyright law necessarily implicates free speech, amici said, because it places significant restrictions on public debate and expression of ideas. The groups said, the court was wrong to suggest that Sec. 512(h) didn't directly affect political and other speech entitled to First Amendment protection by forcing disclosure of someone's identity and to "bless" the statute's "supposed procedural safeguards" as adequate to protect a user's speech and rights of association. The DMCA subpoena violates the Fifth Amendments's Due Process Clause, the groups said, because it: (1) Substantially affects private interests such as privacy and the right to anonymous speech. (2) Carries a substantial risk of being either misused or mistakenly applied to Internet users who aren't involved in infringement. (3) Wouldn't offend the legitimate interests of the govt. and content owners if additional safeguards were put in place. (4) Fails to require notice to individuals whose personal information is subpoenaed, give them an opportunity to be heard and to require prior judicial determination before process is issued. "After canvassing the area, the consumer amici cannot find a single state of federal statute or rule that permits a court subpoena to impinge upon First Amendment rights without either a lawsuit being filed (also required by Article III) or prior court approval," the groups wrote. To sidestep the "case or controversy" problem, they said, the appeals court should interpret Sec. 512(h) as "creating a supplemental subpoena procedure" that applies only in pending copyright infringement suits. Last week, Public Citizen urged the appeals court to make RIAA and Verizon follow the same procedures to protect Internet anonymous speech that courts had required in other cases (WID May 19 p8). On May 16 the D.C. Circuit gave RIAA until June 13 to file its brief and until June 20 to file its amici. Verizon's reply is due July 3, final briefs July 11. The case is set for oral argument Sept. 16 at 9:30 a.m. Business and consumer groups signing the joint filing include the Alliance for Public Technology, American Assn. of Law Libraries, American Civil Liberties Union, American Civil Liberties Union Capital Area, American Legislative Exchange Council, American Library Assn., Assn. of Research Libraries, Caprica Internet Services, Citizens for a Sound Economy Foundation, Competitive Enterprise Institute, Computer & Communications Industry Assn., Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility, Consumer Action, Consumer Federation of America, Consumers Union, DigitalConsumer.org, Digital Future Coalition, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Electronic Privacy Information Center, European Internet Industry Assn., Frontier & Citizens Communications Cos., InKeeper Co., Media Access Project, Mercury Network Corp., National Assn. of Consumer Agency Administrators, National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, National Consumers League, National Grange of the Order of Patrons of Husbandry, N.Y. State Telecommunications Assn. Inc.,e Pacific Research Institute, Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, Privacyactivism, Progressive Internet Action, Public Knowledge, SBC Internet Services, Southern Star, SticNet LP, Tex. Internet Service Providers Assn., U.S. Internet Industry Assn., U.S. Internet Service Provider Assn., U.S. Telecom Assn., Utility Consumers Action Network, Wash. Assn. of Internet Service Providers, WiredSafety.Org, and ZZAPP Internet Services.

01/01/2003

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