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In Action

Appeals Court Reinstates Challenge to Florida's Tort-Reform Law
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Appeals Court Reinstates Challenge to Florida's Tort-Reform Law

A trial court in Florida erred in declaring unconstitutional a series of tort-reform initiatives enacted by the state, an appeals court has held, saying there was no live controversy between the parties. State of Florida et al. v. Florida Consumer Action Network et al., No. 1D01-787 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App., 1st Dist., Oct. 9, 2002).The lower court had ruled that the laws ran afoul of the "single-subject" requirement of Article III, Section 6, of the Florida Constitution.The dispute arose after a group of organizational plaintiffs filed a challenge to the enactment of a comprehensive tort-reform law. The new package of laws includes requirements that the parties mediate certain types of actions and that the state create trial-resolution judges. The laws also placed caps on punitive damages and imposed sanctions for unsupported claims or defenses.The plaintiffs sought a declaration against the state of Florida, alleging in 16 counts why they considered the law unconstitutional. Among the grounds raised, the plaintiffs claimed the law violated the single-subject requirement of the Florida Constitution "by embracing a myriad of subjects and thereby becoming a vehicle for logrolling by a variety of special interests that sought specific and unrelated protections from liability concerns," the appeals court said.The defendants filed a motion to dismiss, claiming there was no live controversy between the parties.The trial court denied the motion and subsequently entered summary final judgment for the plaintiffs, finding the law to be a violation of the state constitution's single-subject requirement. In reversing that decision, the Florida First District Court of Appeal said the plaintiffs' asserted claims of injury were "nonspecific and hypothetical," and did no more than question the constitutionality of the tort- reform legislation based on "vague, general fears of possible future harm."Further, the court said, the plaintiffs failed to identify how any particular provision of the legislation would directly affect or harm them, nor did they dispute the meaning or impact of any individual provision or law.Instead, the appeals court said, the plaintiffs apparently only want the tort-reform law struck because they oppose its substantive content."The sole doubt they expressed was whether they have to obey the laws that they contend affect them, because, in their opinion, the legislation is unconstitutional," the court said. "Obviously, such allegations cannot make out a proper case for the exercise of a court's declaratory judgment power."Based on this analysis, the appeals court reversed the grant of summary judgment in favor of the plaintiffs and remanded with instructions that the trial court should dismiss the case with prejudice.The court then certified for appeal to the state supreme court the question of whether a justiciable issue exists as pleaded by the plaintiffs.The plaintiffs include the Florida Consumer Action Network, the Coalition for Family Safety Inc., the Florida League of Conservation Voters, the Florida AFL-CIO, the Association of Flight Attendants, DES Action USA, the Academy of Florida Trial Lawyers, the Florida State Conference of NAACP Branches, the Florida National Organization of Women, the Children's Advocacy Foundation Inc. and the Florida State Council of Senior Citizens.In addition to the state, the defendants include Publix Supermarkets, Citizens for a Sound Economy, the Associated Florida Chamber of Commerce, the Florida Institute of CPAs, the Florida Retail Federation, the Florida United Business Association, the National Federation of Independent Business, the Association of Community Hospitals and Health System of Florida, the city of Orlando, Dade County, the Florida Association of Counties, the Florida League of Cities, the Florida Sheriffs Association, Tort Reform United Effort, the Florida Farm Bureau Federation, Usher Land & Timber Inc., M.A. Rigatoni Inc., Dietrich Brothers Inc. (also known as Flying "D" Ranch), and H. Fred Dietrich III.

11/01/2002
Candidacy: Choice and a Chance
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Candidacy: Choice and a Chance

BY Kathy Hartkopf

I am Kathy Hartkopf, candidate for North Carolina House. I believe my candidacy represents both a choice and a chance for the people of our new district. I live with my husband and two daughters in Hillsborough. I am employed by Calvary United Methodist Church as the director of their Parents Morning Out program and am involved in a great number of volunteer and civic organization including being the chair of my older daughter's PTA Fundraising Committee and the president of my younger daughter's school Parent Council. My candidacy represents the first chance northern Orange County has had to have their voices heard in the General Assembly. Those same citizens deserve a representative who will work to help them have a voice on the Orange County Board of Commissioners. Equally, Person County citizens deserve a representative who will be responsive to their needs and wishes. We all deserve a representative whose chief concern is the constituents of their district as opposed to the leadership of their party or the lobbyists who visit their office. North Carolinians deserve: The best schools in the nation. A balanced budget without the additional burden of new tax increases A return to our AAA bond rating A taxpayer protection act. Our farmers, our teachers, and our state employees deserve our protection and our support! I believe that I am the best candidate to represent the people of northern Orange and Person counties because I have the values, the experience and the passion necessary to do the job. For the past six years, I have been a presence at the General Assembly. Not because it is my job, but because I care, I go to Raleigh to make a difference. My legislative experience shows that I am effective with both legislators and legislation. I have been called instrumental in building diverse coalitions, across the aisle for the greater good of North Carolina. I am known as a fiscal conservative. I am known as an advocate for families and taxpayers. I am known as an advocate for the average Joe Taxpayer. I was instrumental in forming the Orange County chapter of Citizens for a Sound Economy and I have proudly signed their no new tax pledge for the 2003-2004 legislative session. I was the spokesperson for Citizens for a Better Way, a group that opposed Orange County's 2001 bond package. While there were some very needed and worthwhile elements included in the package, there was waste, inequitable distribution of monies, and a $ 75 million price tag for a county whose tax rate was already among the highest in the state. In principle, I am neither anti-tax nor anti-bond. I do however, believe that tax increases need to be wisely considered and carefully implemented. I have been in Rep. Gordon Allen's office in Raleigh. I believe that he is a very nice man. He has not, however, been a friend to the average citizens of his district. He has not been a friend to farmers. He has not been a friend to state employees. He has not been a friend to taxpayers. Although Mr. Allen has bombarded you with mailings, he has not bothered to visit us and get to know the good people of Orange County. In fact, while Mr. Allen's mailings decry the excesses of big corporations, he has accepted tens-of-thousands of dollars for his campaign from out-of-state corporations and their political action committees. How can he possibly understand our needs and wishes? Next week, please make the choice for a representative who will listen. Please make the choice to return North Carolina to a state with a balanced budget and a premium bond rating. Please make the choice to cut wasteful spending and put families first. Please vote - Kathy Hartkopf for N.C. House.

11/01/2002
Fort Worth's Taxpayers To Underwrite $120 Million Hotel?
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Press Release

Fort Worth's Taxpayers To Underwrite $120 Million Hotel?

You have probably read about it. The City of Fort Worth is in the process of building a 600-room, $120 million hotel downtown complete with a restaurant, health club and 500 parking spaces. But city taxpayers have had no input into the project nor have they been provided opportunity to vote on the taxpayer-subsidized project.

10/31/2002
New Hampshire Ad Blitz: “Jeanne Shaheen is a Taxing Machine!”
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Press Release

New Hampshire Ad Blitz: “Jeanne Shaheen is a Taxing Machine!”

CSE is spending tens of thousands of dollars in a state-wide campaign to let Granite State voters know Jeanne Shaheen’s terrible record on taxes, which includes past support for: The creation of state sales and income taxes "Last year, Shaheen proposed a 2.5 percent sales tax that would have lowered the statewide property tax but increased some business taxes. After the sales tax failed, she agreed to sign an income tax, which failed as well." "Shaheen May Leave Fighting to Rivals," -The Concord Monitor, 2/10/02

10/31/2002
North Carolina Ad Blitz: “Seniors Trust Dole on Social Security!”
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Press Release

North Carolina Ad Blitz: “Seniors Trust Dole on Social Security!”

CSE is running a state-wide campaign to let North Carolina voters know that they can trust Elizabeth Dole on Social Security. On this issue alone, in North Carolina CSE is: • Running a state-wide radio spot “Dole Will Protect Social Security” • Going door-to-door to deliver 25,000 cards on Social Security • Placing 1,250 outdoor Social Security signs across the state • Making 100,000 targeted telephone calls to NC voters • Mailing out 25,000 color brochures on Dole’s record on Social Security

10/31/2002
Texas CSE Calls for Vote on Subsidized Downtown Fort Worth Hotel
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Press Release

Texas CSE Calls for Vote on Subsidized Downtown Fort Worth Hotel

Texas Citizens for a Sound Economy today endorsed the efforts of the citizens group, Citizens for Taxpayer Rights, to collect enough signatures to ensure that the City holds a public referendum on plans to issue $130,000,000 in Certificates of Obligation to fund a proposed downtown Fort Worth Convention Center hotel.

10/31/2002
New Hampshire: Chamber of Retired People Debate
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New Hampshire: Chamber of Retired People Debate

Campaign Tip SheetPrimary/Filing Dates, Latest Polls, Latest Ads...Gov. Jeanne Shaheen (D) and Rep. John Sununu (R-01) met for a "lively exchange" in a suburb of Manchester 10/30 "to debate the best way to shore up Social Security" at an AARP forum before some 500 seniors. Sununu demanded: "What kind of proposals would you support to strengthen Social Security? ... Let's not talk about what we're against; let's talk about what we're for." Shaheen "fired back" that there is no crisis: "The trust fund is in good shape for the next 40 years" (Schweitzer, Boston Globe, 10/31). The two "also rehashed their oft-debated arguments on prescription drug benefits (Levinthal, Lawrence Eagle-Tribune, 10/31). Shaheen and Sununu also squared off at a Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce debate before the AARP forum. In "each contest, they wasted no time going on the attack" (Kepple, Manchester Union Leader, 10/31). RUDMAN STILL A REPUBLICAN, PRINCIPI STILL ... PRINCIPI Ex-Sen. Warren Rudman "delivered a strong endorsement" for Sununu 10/30, "praising Sununu's leadership in the areas of national defense and homeland security" (Kepple, Manchester Union Leader, 10/31). US Sec. Vet. Affairs Anthony Principi will join Sununu today, 10/31, at VFW Post 483 in Nashua. In Boscawen, Sununu and Principi "will tour the state Veterans Cemetery" (Manchester Union Leader, 10/31). DAMNED UNDECIDEDS GET TO DECIDE YET ANOTEHR SENATE RACE Manchester Union Leader's DiStaso reports, "They are neither ghosts nor vampires. Call them The Undecided. But soon they will rise and they will decide the" NH Senate race. Most "polls show The Undecided in the 6 percent range. They matter" (10/31). SOFT NEGATIVE WATCH Sununu has this positive ad up: SUNUNU: "You've seen all the attack ads. Had your fill of mail distorting my record. The truth is, I'll always support a guaranteed social security benefit. I voted twice to punish companies that go to Bermuda to avoid taxes. Jeanne Shaheen knows it. Attacks won't stop me from talking about reforming the tax code, adding a real prescription drug benefit to Medicare or strengthening social security for future generations. In the Senate, I'll always stand up for what's right for New Hampshire families and for America" (CMAG Data, 10/31). MAKING A LIST The Shaheen campaign released a top ten list of third-party groups who have come into to NH to air TV or radio ads benefitting Sununu. 10. Nat'l Right-to-Life Cmte. 9. Club for Growth. 8. United Seniors Assn [Shaheen camp notes, "Funded by Pharmaceutical Researchers and Manufacturers of America"]. 7. Citizens for a Sound Economy ["Funded by the oil, tobacco & pharmaceutical industries]. 6. U.S. Chamber of Commerce. 5. Americans for Tax Reform. 4. Small Business Survival Cmte. 3. 60-plus Association. 2. C.O.M.P.A.S.S. 1. Americans for Job Security. (release, 10/31). ENDORSEMENT ALERT! Lawrence Eagle-Tribune endorses Shaheen (10/29).

10/31/2002
Allen, Seeking 4th Term, Opposed by Hartkopf
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Allen, Seeking 4th Term, Opposed by Hartkopf

BY Rob Shapard

HILLSBOROUGH - The race for House District 55 pits challenger Kathy Hartkopf, a Republican from Hillsborough, against Democrat incumbent Gordon Allen of Roxboro. Allen is seeking his fourth term in the state House of Representatives, although he currently represents District 22. Allen also was a North Carolina senator for three terms in the 1970s. The General Assembly created the new District 55 this year as part of the redistricting that changed the house districts in Orange County and also cost the county one of its two seats in the North Carolina Senate. District 55 includes all of Person County and 12 precincts in central and northern Orange: Hillsborough, West Hillsborough, Grady Brown, Cameron Park, Eno, Cedar Grove, Caldwell, Cheeks, Efland, St. Marys, Tolars and Carr. Allen easily defeated Democrat challenger Kenneth Rothrock, a lawyer in Hillsborough and northern Orange resident, in the Primary Election earlier this fall. Rothrock got about 600 more votes than Allen in the Orange precincts, but Allen swamped Rothrock by nearly 4-1 in his home county of Person. Rothrock made a push for district representation for the Orange County Commissioners one of his campaign themes, and Hartkopf has sounded that same theme. She contends that many northern Orange voters feel they don't really have a voice among the county commissioners, who are elected at-large rather than by districts. In particular, she says that northern Orange residents are more fiscally conservative than the current commissioners, on questions such as property taxes and spending. "I do not believe that the majority of people of northern Orange County believe that the commissioners who happen to live in [unincorporated] Orange County are representing their needs," she said. "That is the thing that I hear continually when I talk to people in the county. "District representation for Orange County would not be reinventing the wheel," she said. "There are counties all across the country that do elect their commissioners by districts. It's not like the people of northern Orange are asking for something that's never been done before." In general, Hartkopf said that a taxpayer protection act is something she would work for if elected. Such an act would put a percentage limit, based on inflation, on the amount that state taxes could be raised each year. "I believe that North Carolinians deserve the best schools in the nation, a balanced budget without the added burden of new tax increases, a return to our triple-A bond rating, a taxpayer protection act, and a representative who will really listen," she said. "We all deserve a representative whose chief concerns are the needs of their district, as opposed to the leadership of their party or the lobbyists who visit their office," she said. Hartkopf herself has visited North Carolina legislators' offices in recent years to talk about various issues, although Hartkopf said she's done so as a concerned volunteer, and not a paid lobbyist. Hartkopf, 35, grew up in Pamlico County, graduated from Peace College and was a fellow at the Institute of Political Leadership at UNC-Wilmington. She lives on Uphill Court in the Cornwallis Hills subdivision with her husband, Al, and two daughters. She has been the spokesperson for Citizens for A Better Way, which formed last year in opposition to the $ 75 million bond referenda, and she helped establish a local chapter of the Citizens for a Sound Economy, a group based in Washington, D.C., that calls for lower taxes and limited government. Allen, 73, lives on Crestwood Drive in Roxboro and was principal owner of the family insurance business, Thompson-Allen, until recently when his son took over ownership. He and his wife, Betsy, have five children and 17 grandchildren. Allen is co-chairman of the House Finance Committee and serves on the Education, Environment and Natural Resources, Legislative Redistricting, Rules and Transportation committees. He also is a member of the subcommittee on community colleges and a trustee of Piedmont Community College in Roxboro, which he helped create about 30 years ago. Education has been a focus in Allen's campaign over the past few months. "I'll keep fighting for education funding and the best teachers in our classrooms," he said Wednesday. "Budget crises come and go, but our children only have one chance at a quality education. I have voted to increase teacher salaries and lower class size. I was the founding chairman and got the first appropriation for Piedmont Community College." Allen said he strongly supports the effort by Durham Technical Community College and the Orange County Commissioners to create a satellite campus in Orange for Durham Tech. In general, he has argued that northern Orange and Person face many of the same challenges, and that he therefore is well qualified to represent that part of Orange. He also touted his ranking as the seventh-most effective legislator, and his co-sponsorship of a bill that Gov. Mike Easley was expected to sign into law on Thursday, providing incentives to attract employers to the state. "We've lost our competitive edge to states like South Carolina and Alabama," Allen said. "This new act will hopefully put us back in business. "You've got to be competitive," he said. "Everybody's trying to attract industry." Allen was a platoon leader during the Korean War as an Army lieutenant, and he received the Bronze Star. Asked Wednesday about a defining moment in his life, he mentioned his realization, while in Korea in 1953 as a 24-year-old, that he wanted to settle down for good in Roxboro and raise his family there. He was born in Roxboro and came back there in 1944, after moving with his family to Wilmington and Sanford. But Allen said it was during the war that his attachment to Roxboro really hit him.

10/31/2002
A Brotherhood of Taxes
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Press Release

A Brotherhood of Taxes

Starting with a warmed-over Clinton-era tax proposal, the Internal Revenue Service is gearing up a regulation that would threaten financial privacy, further the goals of an international tax cartel, and deal a blow to the U.S. economy, all in one fell swoop. The proposal, which is unnecessary for U.S. tax policy, expands the operational requirements of the IRS even as it scrambles to ensure compliance with the overly complex and inefficient federal tax code.

10/30/2002
Nine Things to Really Fear This Halloween
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Press Release

Nine Things to Really Fear This Halloween

Politics can be frightening, and while we’re optimists about America, there are certainly some troubling problems that need to be solved. So, in the spirit of Halloween, here’s a look at the nine scariest monsters now haunting the political and economic scene:

10/30/2002

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