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Wednesday, November 11, 2015

CLT Represented at National Coalition Leaders' Summit
By Chip Faulkner

For three days last month, I attended a Coalition Leaders’ Summit at the Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs. I went to this conference as a guest of Grover Norquist’s organization, Americans for Tax Reform, based in Washington, DC. ATR covers travel and hotel expenses for its conferences held every couple of years in cities around the country for a number of conservative activists — I was one of the lucky ones. 

This particular conference was not held as usual, in conjunction with an American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) conference, but rather convened specifically for the leaders of Center-Right meetings throughout the United States. They are patterned after the Wednesday Morning Meetings held by Grover in Washington, DC. There are about 60 such regional meetings convening in almost all 50 states. Believe it or not, in one of the bluest of states, the Bay State has one of the most successful: The Massachusetts meeting, which I host, is called the Friday Morning Group (FMG).  It has the fifth- or sixth-highest attendance in the nation and has been meeting every month since December of 2001.

Two topics at the conference focused on Over-criminalization and Civil Asset Forfeiture. 

Grover Norquist

In the case of Over-criminalization a Criminal Justice Panel session cited cases where the punishment did not fit the crime, just overkill on the part of law enforcement. Minimum mandatory sentencing came under attack. Oklahoma passed a bill in May called the Safety Valve Act allowing judges the discretion to give low-level offenders less severe sentences. ATR has cited the “growing chorus of Red states reforming their prison systems.”  Texas passed prison reforms in 2007, which led to prison population decline, a lower crime rate and savings of $2 billion. As one panelist pointed out, the problem is with politicians who seize upon an outbreak of crime, e.g., carjacking.  They then demand and get adopted mandatory minimum sentences for that particular crime. The minimum may be a far more severe than the punishment for more serious offenses. Grover (photo right) pointed out that Red states have far more credibility carrying out prison reform than a liberal state like Vermont, which most observers would consider “soft on crime.” 

Civil Asset Forfeiture came under attack at this conference. This process allows law enforcement to seize and forfeit someone’s property even if they have not been charged — much less convicted — of a crime. Numerous examples were cited of people paying thousands of dollars and waiting months to get their cars back after police seized the vehicle upon suspicion of a crime. As the Mackinac Center for Public Policy pointed out, “… the state should disallow law enforcement from taking money and property from citizens who are not first convicted of a crime.” 

Highlighting the conference were the meetings that took place among the twenty-five or so Center-Right leaders from states around the country. During over five hours in two separate sessions, each leader gave an accounting of their respective meetings, hot issues, scandals, political machinations, etc. particular to the state and their prospects of political gain in the 2016 election. Surprisingly little was said about the presidential candidates. Maybe everyone at this point had heard everything they wanted to hear from the political pundits.  It was frustrating to hear many of them talking about how just a few elections in their state would change party control in the legislature. For example the Colorado House contains 34 Democrats and 31 Republicans — only two switches needed — and Kentucky’s House with 54 Ds and 46 Rs — a switch of just 5! 

I pointed out during my presentation that Massachusetts had the longest streak — among the 50 states — of Republican governors in the years 1991 to 2006, a statistic that astonished many at the conference. Also mentioned was the fact that my state had rejected the graduated income tax five times at the ballot box. I had to admit, however, that the grad tax somehow has a life of its own, because petition signatures were being collected, as we speak, for its re-appearance on the 2018 ballot. CLT is gearing-up now for a three-year fight.  The liberals and big-spenders seem determined to keep Citizens for Limited Taxation busy as the counter-balance — the crucial taxpayers’ advocate.

Chip Faulkner


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