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Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Chip Faulkner's Report
The National Conference of State Legislatures 2010 Legislative Summit
Held in Louisville, Kentucky from July 26-28th

Chip Faukner's CLT Commentary

I went to this Conference as a guest of Grover Norquist’s organization, Americans for Tax Reform based in Washington, DC. ATR offers all expense-paid scholarships to a number of conservative activists from all over the country for conferences like those held by the NCSL.

The first meeting attended by scholarship recipients had as subjects the “Internet Gambling Regulation, Consumer Protection and Enforcement Act” and a great presentation by ATR staffer Kelly Cobb on the FCC’s attempt to regulate the Internet.

On Monday night, Grover treated about 40 of us to dinner at a local restaurant. Most of the diners were leaders of their Center-right coalition meetings in states around the country. In Massachusetts the coalition meeting is called the Friday Morning Group (FMG), which I’ve hosted the second Friday of the month for almost nine years. Grover had each of us introduce ourselves and say a few words. This year I stood up, told them I was from Massachusetts and that my name was “SCOTT BROWN”. To much laughter and applause, I said, “I love saying those two words.”

On Tuesday morning, ATR had a working breakfast for scholarship recipients. During this session, Grover went around the room asking for updates on Center-right meetings and the political situations/races in the various states. The updates were quite positive on conservative gains in Congress, and in the Statehouses, from virtually every region in the country.

I enjoyed talking with Bill Felkner from Rhode Island and Maine’s Mary Adams who run the Center -right meetings in their states. My report on the Friday Morning Group surprised a few when I pointed out that we were averaging 56 attendees per meeting, up from 30 as recently as four years ago. Also mentioned was the fact that 106 challenger to incumbents in the MA Legislature have taken the Taxpayer Protection Pledge. This Pledge asks them to “oppose and vote against any and all efforts to increase taxes.”

The Pledge is a major project of Americans for Tax Reform and they’re delighted that so many in Massachusetts, a BLUE state, have signed. I talked about these numbers later with an ATR staffer. He stated that the Massachusetts group may have the highest number in the country when you combine average attendance at coalition meetings and number of Pledge signers.

After this meeting we all attended a debate in one of the rooms at the Conference center. It was between Grover and some wooly-haired liberal on the subject: “Online Sales Taxes: Are they the New taxes?” Grover had a pithy comment or two to say about this attempted grab for more revenues. Particularly memorable was his response to a woman’s question about the revenue being needed for police fire, the children, the handicapped etc. Grover immediately lit into her about the runaway costs on health insurance, pensions, and fat salary increases for the public sector unions. He pointed out that if these costs were in line with the private sector, there’d be plenty of money available to provide for the truly needy.

That afternoon, I attended a session on State Pensions entitled: “Current Issues in State Retirement Policy.” There were lots of figures and theories thrown around at this meeting. However, I heard little if anything, about solutions. Another session I attended was entitled: “2010 Fall Election Preview.” This session previewed key races and ballot issues in the states. The general consensus by the non-partisan NCSL speaker was that, all things being equal, it looks like a good year for the Republicans and puts them in great shape for re-districting.

Oddly enough, for all the political turmoil and unrest this year, the number of ballot questions was only slightly higher than average. Also, Massachusetts was the only state that had more than one ballot question on the same tax, i.e. the state sales tax.

I didn’t spot any Massachusetts legislators at the Conference, but we know some were there because the casino debate was held until they got back.

Chip Faulkner

Citizens for Limited Taxation    PO Box 1147    Marblehead, MA 01945    508-915-3665