This article has been prepared to provide a list of resources for listeners of the Friday, February 4, 2011, radio broadcast.
Kaye Beach’s website: Axxiom Amuse
Homeschooling Legislation in Oklahoma:
As we discussed on the air, there was an effort in Nebraska in the last few years to further insert the State in the affairs of homeschooling families. Homeschoolers statewide responded through a very well organized effort on the bill’s hearing day; 1200 homeschoolers descended on the State Capitol with stacks of written statements urging their representatives to drop the bill.
SB 393 –
An act relating to school attendance; removing exception for children
being home schooled. Effective date. Emergency
SB 394 –
An act relating to school attendance; establishing notification requirements for certain students; removing exception for certain students. Effective date. Emergency
Sen. Wilson’s contact information below.
Email/call him to withdraw these bills.
REAL ID and RFID (Radio Frequency Identification):
"The REAL ID Act of 2005 creates a de facto national identification card. Ostensibly voluntary, it would become mandatory as those without the card would face suspicion and increased scrutiny. It is a law imposing federal technological standards and verification procedures on state driver's licenses and identification cards, many of which are beyond the current capacity of the federal government, and mandating state compliance by May 2008." From EPIC (Electronic Privacy Information Center)
At the time this law was passed, States made a lot of noise at the Federal intrusion and some even passed legislation prohibiting its implementation. Others engaged in what came to be called "passive nullification", which means that they did nothing. See the "nullification" section, below, for a brief explanation of how that ultimately turned out.
Kaye has a great deal of information on her website on this whole topic, as this is her primary field of interest. My favorite articles to date (high marks for clever and substantive!):
Mannalis, a young lady keeping an eye on her elected officials, called in to let people know about a bill introduced in the Oklahoma Legislature by State Rep. Wesselhoft, HB1399:
Amends existing law to prohibit the use of RFID tags in driver licenses or identification cards. It also prohibits RFID ink in or on licenses or cards.
WHAT on earth is RFID ink?! Mannalis didn't mention this on the air, so I went looking for a bit of information. I see articles dating back to 2007, including this one. I can see some interesting commercial applications, but when I think about the potential for use on people, it's disturbing. If that idea seem far fetched, it's not. PC Magazine's Lance Ulanoff's opinion piece on the topic is worth the read.
Identification, Electronic Monitoring and Connections to Immigration:
In addition to REAL ID and RFID technology, we discussed biometrics. Howard explained that biometrics are sets of data that are measurements of your body, including facial recognition, iris scans, finger prints, etc. Some identification efforts are geared towards the use of biometric technology. For instance, there have been proposals to embed biometric data into all drivers licenses and blatant calls for a National ID card using some of this technology.
RFID technology is already being used at the Canadian and Mexican borders for frequent travelers.
We're going to be publishing much more information on this issue in the coming weeks. I had to curtail my research on Nebraska's status in this area when we learned that the CIR hearings had been scheduled for Monday, February 7.
I had only begun to dive into the Washington Post's two year research project "Top Secret America", which details a number of disturbing trends and activities in every part of the country associated with data aggregation, surveillance, and more.
Valid concerns about the large number of illegal immigrants in Nebraska must be addressed. According to the Nebraska page of the Washington Post report, our state is #10 out of 50 in number of illegal immigrants .
The question that I and others at GiN have been asking: is Senator Janssen's LB48 a substantive solution?
As I noted on the radio show, it doesn't look that way. More research is needed. I have some information that indicates the immigration bill hearing will not be conducted until early March, although I cannot absolutely verify absent any such information having been posted on the bill's page on the Nebraska Legislature website.
During our discussion of REAL ID, etc., and the health care law, the concept of nullification arose briefly. I mentioned that the REAL ID issue is a good example of how nullification simply does not work, whatever particular philosophy one holds on the topic.
I've had to change my mind on this over the past year for several reasons, not the least of which is that it does not work. Kaye loaded up a map to her site showing how most states are in some stage of implementing it. Nebraska has nearly completed its implementation.
This is another topic about which we intend to write, as there are a couple of nullification measures on health care introduced in Nebraska.
Howard explained how, believe it or not, health care and concerns about how much of your information is collected and by whom are very closely related.
He recently went to the doctor to get his semi-annual allergy shot, a long running tradition, and therefore the routine was well known to him. This time the doctor's office wanted to take a photo of him and include it in the file. He refused due to his concerns about the new medical records technology and the increasing efforts to collect information and aggregate it.
Howard was clear to point out how digitization of medical records could be a very useful tool in providing care and it would not concern him if his information were only shared with medical professionals. His refusal to agree is related to how the information collected will be used and by whom. It will not simply stay in his doctor's office, it will be sent into the new government-managed database mandated by Congress in the February 2009 Stimulus Bill.
It's very important to understand, as Howard pointed out, that the Stimulus bill, with the medical records technology provisions, creation of the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, and other elements, was the key set-up for the health care reform law.
I say "health care reform law" now, but the first draft of the summary language about the Stimulus bill written by Rep. David Obey included the statement "to prepare our country for universal health care", as discussed here .
Medical records technology is a perfect example of data collection and aggregation by government that will have a direct impact on our lives. This is the mechanism by which that rationing of the health care that everyone talked about for over a year, will be implemented. Records will be reviewed and physicians will be told if they are inefficiently using resources. Do you want the government looking over your doctor's shoulder in this manner?
It's important to note that no one is talking about medical records coordination and its impact on the transformation of our health care system; no measures introduced by legislators or discussed by Congressmen or Senators propose to repeal this aspect of the plan.
After we discussed Nebraska's CIR and important hearings on Monday, February 7 (see below), we returned to the subject of health care. Linda has published several brief articles on the topic of the Attorneys General lawsuit, including two about the ruling that came out of Federal Judge Henry Vinson's court, which can be found on our "Legal Limit" feature page.
Linda stressed at the conclusion of her summary about the status of the case, that immediate relief or expedition of the case is possible, but not likely. What we did not have time to add was that means the case will not likely be finally decided until at earliest, sometime in 2012 and perhaps even as late as 2014. Due to the nature in which health care reform will be implemented with its many system transforming elements, it will be very difficult to unravel. In other words, other actions are necessary as we await the results of the case.
I explained, very briefly how the health care law will mostly be implemented through two key structures; an explosive expansion of Medicaid and the setup of new insurance exchanges. This means that the States are largely responsible for health care reform's implementation.
As Linda noted, several states have announced this week that they will cease further implementation steps as a result of Judge Vinson's ruling and one state returned a $1 million Federal grant for studying the setup of the exchanges.
The question for Nebraska, Oklahoma, and other states is...what are YOUR state officials going to do? Are they going to proceed with the implementation? Earlier this week I started a series "10 Untold Truths About Health Care Your State Officials Hope You Miss". (Once the CIR hearings have occurred, this is the other key project I tend to complete.)
For the moment, its important to understand that State budgets are directly related to the fate of health care implementation. State options will be nonexistent absent very deep cuts to budgets.
One core issue for States is the cost of public employees. Personnel compensation, including wages, health care insurance, and retirement benefits, are the #1 administrative cost to any government.
States, counties, and cities everywhere are contending with this issue. It is a particular problem in Nebraska because of long-standing statutes.
Senator Tony Fulton and Nebraska's CIR:
Nebraska Senator Tony Fulton joined us to discuss upcoming hearings at the Nebraska Unicameral on reforming Nebraska's laws associated with how public employee compensation is determined.
Senator Fulton had introduced three measures last legislative session to reform the CIR, but met resistance. This year, due to a number of factors, there has been a lot of momentum generated on the issue and there have been nine pieces of legislation introduced.
Senator Fulton pointed out:
- Nebraska is the only state with a Commission with the power to rule on public employee compensation - the CIR (Commission of Industrial Relations)
- The CIR is comprised of Governor appointees who arbitrate and make final rulings, with quasi-judicial power on what public employees are paid
- The CIR was created in 1947 for public utility employees in 1947 and in 1969, expanded to all public employees in Nebraska. The law has not been changed since.
- One of the biggest problems with the CIR is that the figures that are used for comparable wages have no real relevance to Nebraska's economy; figures from much larger cities are used. This is one key cause for consistently inflating wages, outstripping those received by employees in the private sector.
- People all over the country are recognizing the problems with the cost of public employees. For Nebraska, the many years of dealing with the system means increasing costs that are not sustainable.
Senator Fulton urged Nebraskans to weigh in on the issue by attending the Monday hearings that have been scheduled for all nine bills and to let the members of the Business and Labor Committee and their own Senator know they want reform.
Senator Fulton's bill, LB564, proposes the most significant reforms to the CIR of any of the bills introduced, outside of the two measures proposed by Senator John Nelson, would repeal all statutes associated with the CIR and prohibit collective bargaining by public employees.
Dr. Linda Rohman, J.D. on the CIR
Linda does not "toot her own horn" and so her array of qualifications are not likely widely known by members of GiN. In addition to her education and experience as an attorney, she also has a doctorate in Social Psychology with certification in public policy analysis and program evaluation.
Her legal knowledge is obviously helpful in evaluating cases such as the Attorneys General lawsuit, as mentioned above, but her additional education and experience in the public policy arena is equally important in conducting research and thoroughly evaluating information.
This expertise has come in handy in gathering and analyzing information about the CIR and it will hopeful prove fruitful in particular in presenting evidence to our Nebraska Legislators regarding the CIR's effect on our State.
Linda evaluated the issue early on and recommended, before any such legislation was introduced that prohibiting collective bargaining by public employees was the real solution to the exploding expenses we're dealing with.
Linda pointed out that while Senator Fulton's bill does propose significant reforms to the CIR and it does not do away with nor contend with the inherent problems associated with collective bargaining.
Howard brought up the important point that the members of the CIR are unelected bureaucrats who do not have accountability to the people and that in and of itself causes problems. Howard also reminded us of a statistic I'd shared with him; 16% of the Nebraska workforce is employed by State and local governments.
Linda highlighted a key problem with the CIR that had not been previously discussed. The CIR does not and actually cannot take into account what the government entity can afford when making their decisions about public employee compensation.
Finally, she provided an example of how a public employee union can essentially break its agreement with a government entity; the Omaha fire fighters union agreed to wage concessions at the bargaining table and finalized their contract. Subsequently, they went to the CIR and were granted a raise dating back to 2009. The initial amount the City of Omaha must pay is $2.2 million; when the final figures are calculated, bringing the pay rates up to date, it could be as much as $7 million.
The City of Omaha had already implemented several new taxes, including a wheel tax on commuters from outside the city, in order to meet budget after finalizing a controversial contract with the City's police union.
Side notes...nanny government:
Howard mentioned a bill for texting while driving that has been introduced in Oklahoma, KFOR Ch. 4 had a story, here.
Unfortunately, Nebraska already passed such a law last session. As Howard pointed out, there are distracted driving laws on the books already. Why do we need more? Considering the amount of information in a variety of arenas our government seems so very interested in collecting, he is wondering whether these pieces of legislation are really aimed at getting a look-see at our cell phones.
One final nanny-state note...Legislators in Arkansas and New York are considering banning...texting while walking.