Bill HB 2608- Third Party Ballot Access in Arizona

 

person dropping paper on box
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Bill HB 2608 is nothing more than a thinly veiled ploy to keep third-party candidates off the ballot. The bill passed back in 2015 greatly increased the required of signatures for nomination. Meeting the qualifying numbers would surely be a breeze for Republican and even Democratic contenders. What about Libertarians or even aspiring candidates in the Green Party? This measure effectively narrows the scope of options to the two main parties.

 

The greater of two evils is still evil. Overall, this bill was a calculated move by the Republican party. Some pundits have even pointed to this piece legislation as a countermeasure addressing Libertarians siphoning votes from the GOP. Clearly demonstrating the incentives behind passing HB 2608, retaining power. The Republicans have their tentacles firmly wrapped around the populated central region of the state. Democrats have their strongholds in Flagstaff and Tucson. Apparently, there isn’t any room in Arizona for a third option. Not necessarily by choice by rather by design. Making the whole notion of “democracy” questionable at best. For the Republican party to feel threatened by Libertarians is absurd and bordering on paranoia.

 

For an effective democracy to exist we need more than two questionable choices on the ballot.  Granted, most political parties on the fringes are about as organized a clown car traffic accident. Let these candidates fail on their own merits versus being stopped by institutional barriers. Especially when the motives for erecting these barriers are shamelessly opportunistic.

Writing to Local Politicians- Qualified Immunity

 

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Author’s Note: This will be the last blog entry concerning Qualified Immunity for awhile. I don’t want my blog to become too stagnate so I will reconvene on this topic at a later date.  If you wish to learn more about  Qualified Immunity or stay on top of the latest developments I would recommend visiting the Unjust Shield blog.  This essay was a letter sent to several Arizona representatives requesting that they assist in the effort to abolish QI. This political luminaries included: Mark Finchem, Vince Leach, Martha McSally, and Kyrsten Sinema.

 

June 25th, 2020

Peter Clark

peterclark7979@gmail.com

The Honorable (Insert name here).

 

 

Dear Representative (Insert name here)

 

 

The death of George Floyd has ignited a renewed interest in policing reform.  Purposed reform measures have ranged from increasing training requirements to dissolving police departments. I would personally suggest eliminating one of the institutional protections that shield negligent police officers from accountability, Qualified Immunity. A legal doctrine originally intended to protect government employees from being sued for performing essential job functions, providing their actions do not violate any well-established rights. Unfortunately, this protection is slowly starting to become a form of absolute immunity. Per the 2018 paper by the University of Chicago legal professor William Baude the Supreme Court general overturns instances where the lower courts deny Qualified Immunity to police officers. Demonstrating the failure of the checks-and-balances on this legal privilege. This matter is only exasperated by the Supreme Court’s decision last week to refuse to reconsider this legal doctrine.

 

 

The innumerable examples of officers that have clearly violated the rights of American citizens and are still granted Qualified Immunity are horrifying. In the case of Baxter V. Bracey (2014) a suspect was attacked by a police dog after having surrendered to the arresting officers. There was the case of Jessop v. Fresno where officers stole rare coins and cash totaling over $225,000.00 during a search of a private residence.  In the case of Mullenix v. Luna (2010) where the officer performed a dangerous maneuver that he had no previous training to stop a high-speed chase. In any other occupation not only would the employee be fired, but in most cases be held liable for damages in the event of a lawsuit. If arresting officers were cognizant of the fact that they could be sued, wouldn’t they be less inclined to take risks? To adequately tackle such examples of negligence incentives, need to be realigned.  Qualified Immunity creates such a sturdy safety net for police officers that either consciously or subconsciously take this legal protection for granted. This leads to the above-described examples of malfeasance.

 

As any reasonable person can tell you defunding the police or dissolving police departments is not a realistic solution. It is practically infeasible and tantamount to political suicide. Instead of abolishing the institution, it is best to implement checks-and-balances. Rather than construct bureaucratic and legal safeguards that insulate civil servants from the consequences of gross ineptitude. Whether that be through criminal prosecution or Tort law. The best way to start would be by eliminating Qualified Immunity. I respectfully ask that you support any initiative on the state level to help abolish this problematic legal privilege. Qualified Immunity is recognized in Arizona law under ARS 36-738.

 

Sincerely,

 

Peter Clark

 

 

 

 

Bootleggers and Baptists Part V: Occupational Licensing- Arizona Edition

 

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Introduction:

 

The policy of requiring occupational licensing for various jobs is billed by consumer protection advocates as a matter of health and safety. This perspective ignores the economic consequence of occupational licensing. The fact that in most cases such a restriction does not improve consumer safety, but merely operates as a barrier to entry in the market. Too often disproportionately impacting employees of lower socioeconomic status. Even preventing start-up businesses from laying any roots in industries that have licensing requirements that favor established enterprises. It is estimated that approximately 25 %of all jobs require some form of licensing. Is it really necessary to require barbers to obtain licensing to competently do their jobs?

 

It is always important to question who stands to benefit from the consequences of a specific policy.  This imperative inquiry illustrated in Bruce Yandle’s economic theory of  Bootleggers and Baptists. This conceptualization demonstrates the contrarian dynamics of advocacy for regulation. Frequently unlikely alliances are forged for the sake of regulation advocacy. Generally, one interest group has a moral or ethical agenda (the baptists). The other half of this coalition tends to utilize the moral agenda as a smoke-screen to obscure how the policy benefits them (the bootleggers). Detailing the irony of how seemingly opposing forces can often come together on a single issue.

 

Occupational licensing much like other issues that bring together unlike factions creates a similar dynamic. The moral advocates are concerned about protecting the average consumer from dangerous products and services. As well as the self-interested bootleggers who strive to reduce competition.

 

The Story of Dr. Carol Gandolfo:

 

Psychologist Carol Gandolfo moved to Arizona from California back in 2007. Due to her lack of in-state licensing, she continued to manage her California-based practice remotely.  She also served as an expert volunteer for various in-state organizations, such as the Northern Arizona Critical Incident Stress Management team. The same organization that provided therapeutic services for the surviving first-responders present at the 2013 Yarnell Hill Fire.  Dr. Gandolfo was a 20-year veteran of the field of psychology and had extensive training and experience working with prisoners, homeless shelters, private practice, and even those with developmental challenges. The only obstacle preventing her from practicing in Arizona was the state’s psychology licensing board.

 

In 2019, there appeared to be light at the end of the tunnel. Governor Doug Ducey working with the Goldwater Institute developed a bill that would universally recognize out-of-state licensing. The bill that went into effect August of 2019 was HB2569. While the bill does not automatically recognize out-of-state licensing, it still eliminates many of the steps required to start the process from scratch. HB2569 makes Arizona the first state to recognize out of state licensing. Anyone familiar with Arizona’s demographics can see why licensing reciprocity is crucial for the state economy. The population of Arizona is primarily comprised of out-of-state transplants. Most of the domestic migrants coming from western coastal states or the economically depressed Midwestern rust-belt. It was estimated back in 2014, that only 38% of Arizona residents were born in-state. That 15 % of all Arizona residents were born in foreign countries. Considering the number of people moving to Arizona, a universal recognition bill would be sensible.

 

However, even after the bill passed Dr. Gandolfo still was struggling with the licensing board. In November 2019, the board rejected Gandolfo’s application for licensing. The board cited two reasons for this 5 to 1 vote to deny Gandolfo the right to practice in Arizona. The first reason was she had lived in the state for too long. Even though no such constraints were specified in HB2569. Governor Ducey even criticized the board’s decision to reject her application on these grounds.

This gamesmanship by some Board members falls far below the standard expected of Board members,” Ducey wrote.

 

The second issue was the institution from which Gandolfo earned her PsyD back in 1998. Ryokan College which was determined by the board to not be regionally accredited. The board even suggested that it would be reasonable to investigate whether her volunteer work and practice in California violated state law.

 

Bootleggers  and Baptists:

 

The bootleggers in this scenario would be the psychologists who were certified in-state. Advocacy by these individuals for rejecting measures such as HB2569 is nothing more than domestic protectionism. Attempting to keep the flood of psychologists coming from states such as California out of the Arizona market. Any attempt to claim that Arizona has higher standards for licensing is flimsy at best. Arizona has licensing procedures that mirror the standards held in California. The only rational explanation for psychologists in Arizona to pose opposition to HB2569 would be fear of an increase in competition.

 

It is difficult to say who the baptists are in advocating for rejecting universal recognition of out-of-state licensing. Please keep in mind the members of the licensing board are licensed, psychologist. For the sake of argument,  I will assign the role of baptists to the licensing board members. There does seem to be a prevalent argument on their end about the quality of mental health services. To quote one of the board members:

“Arizona has now said that the standards to become a psychologist in this state are now equivalent to the lowest common denominator in the jurisdictions across the country,”

 

This premise is only valid if the practitioner is indeed coming from a state with lower standards. Also, this statement alone provides a moral justification for keeping out-of-state psychologists out of the Arizona market. The residents of Arizona need to be protected from subpar mental health services. At least in the view of the quoted board member. This moral repudiation of  HB2569 does not convey any facts or figures. Nor any search suggesting that the standards of states outside of Arizona lead to inferior results. Making these claims suspect.

 

 

The Unpublished Letter to the Editor (QI)

 

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Author’s Note: I submitted this piece to several local newspaper outlets. It appears as if none of these establishments have elected to publish my brief essay. It is possible that the my writing is a little weak. Even the topic is too technical or controversial.

I still applaud myself for attempting to take this on this issue in only 200-250 words ( Pinal Central: limit of 250 worded. AZCentral: limit of 200 words). This maybe a lesson to avoid issues that are overly complex when writing a letter to the local newspaper. Qualified Immunity requires more than 250 words to be properly addressed. I even had to cut references to William Baude’s 2018 paper on the subject.

That doesn’t  mean I have given up, there is another local publication that publishes longer form editorials.  After that I might give QI a rest, as I don’t want the content on  this blog to become to stagnant.

The top photo has nothing to do with the topic at hand. The free photo application   on WordPress was giving me some issues. So I decided to upload this photo I took back in April. I was walking my dogs around the neighborhood and thought the painted rock was interesting.

 

Editorial:

 

Dear Editor,

The death of George Floyd has left Americans with many questions. How did the police officer that killed Mr. Floyd still have a job after 17 previous complaints? How do we as a country combat police brutality? One potential solution may come from Representative Amash’s proposal to abolish Qualified Immunity. What is Qualified Immunity? It is a legal doctrine that protects government employees from being sued for performing essential job functions. Providing their actions do not violate any well-established rights.

 

The modern application of this legal status was defined by Harlow v. Fitzgerald (1982). Establishing the need for clear “statutory” evidence that the plaintiff’s rights have been violated. Eventually evolving into the requirement for a previous case in which the details of the violation are identical. Leading to instances of constitutional violations with no restitution. One glaring example, Baxter V. Bracey (2014), where the suspect was attacked by a police dog after surrendering. These strict requirements make it nearly impossible to seek proper recourse when our civil rights have been infringed upon.

 

Most police officers are decent and law-abiding. Few would ever dream of using cruel or unnecessary tactics to subdue a suspect. The minority of bad cops need to be held fully accountable for their actions. The best way to do so would be eliminating institutional barriers to punishment.

Arizona Doesn’t Have Any Price Gouging Laws?!

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Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, many have witnessed an economic phenomenon that is synonymous with times crisis. That is the practice known as price gouging. This practice has the proclivity to ignite a universal cascade of outrage and indignation. Superficially such a reaction seems understandable. Considering by definition it is a sharp increase in the price of a good that is in high demand [1]. On the surface, it would seem morally base to take advantage of an emergency situation such as a hurricane. The general consensus would extend to the outbreak of an emergent pathogen such as COVID-19.

 

There is a general consensus on pricing gouging is morally objectionable. However, there isn’t much agreement on what constitutes price gouging. Approximately two-thirds of all states have some sort of price gouging law on the books [2]. It appears as if most states have a different interpretation of what price gouging entails. For instance, the state of Alabama provides clear and concise guidelines for defining price gouging :

Ala. Code §§ 8-31-1 thru 8-31-6

Prohibits “unconscionable prices” for sale or rental of any commodities or rental facilities during a declared state of emergency. A price is prima facie “unconscionable” if it exceeds 25% of the average price during the last 30 days immediately prior to the declared emergency and that increase is not attributable to reasonable costs. [3]

 

In contrast, the state of Texas provides a vague description of what is considered price gouging. Per Texas state law: “exorbitant or excessive” prices in connection with sale or lease of necessities during a declared disaster” would be illegal [4]. What defines “exorbitant” prices? I would not suggest that there should be federal standardization of price gouging laws. That should be left up to the states. At the very least be clear about the parameters defining the criminal act. Too much ambiguity can make enforcement problematic.

I currently reside in the state of Arizona. Arizona does not presently have any price gouging laws enacted. It is speculated that the reason being is that natural disasters are a rare occurrence [5]. Being a mountainous and landlocked state we are insulated from tornadoes and hurricanes. We have the good fortune of not experiencing the seismic activity that afflicts California. The prospect of a natural emergence putting a strain on the supply of essential goods is relatively foreign to Arizona. The one exception being the event of the 2003  Kinder Morgan pipeline burst. Which resulted in fuel shortages [6]. The significant increase in fuel prices passed along to the consumer was viewed as exorbitant [7]. Many residents at the time viewed it as vendors supplying fuel were engaging in some form of price gouging.

Seventeen years later some are now calling for corrective action to price gouging in Arizona[8]. Many vendors have been reacting to the COVID-19 outbreak with higher retail prices on essential goods. These higher prices are due to an increase in demand and the stockpiling of commodities such as toilet paper.

Personally, I am very incredulous when it comes to price gouging laws from an economic standpoint. Being a proponent of states rights’, Arizona can in my view pass price gouging laws. As states should cater their laws to what best suits their economy and culture providing it does not violate the Constitutional. Due to such measures not being pertinent in Arizona prior to COVID-19 is why such laws did not previously exist. I do know of at least one person who has referred to Arizona as “backward” for not having such laws in place. This is a misguided opinion.

As I mentioned earlier Arizona is relatively isolated from circumstances that would make price gouging more prevalent. This isn’t like hurricane-prone Florida or South Carolina not having price gouging laws in place. There is also the implied assumption that more laws and regulations are a net good for society. States and municipalities with fewer laws are unevolved. A law that is  either pointless, ineffective, or unjust is not universally positive due to the fact is merely another constraint.

 

I grew up in New England where there are still a litany of archaic laws and ordinances still on the books. What is colloquially known as “blue laws”. Laws that are no longer culturally or economically relevant. Frequently prohibit actions that most likely victimless crimes. While some history buffs find these laws quaint and harmless, I disagree. Even if these laws are never enforced, philosophically I oppose them. What is the purpose of laws? Depending on your answer to that question, it will shape your perception of what laws are just and reasonable. I feel that most blue laws only reinforce my rejection of legal positivism. The law should not determine what right, but it should protect what’s right. This perspective is codified in our Bill of Rights. Nowhere did I see any guarantee of economic equity or immunity from making bad decisions. The Bill of Rights were  established on the grounds of natural rights. Suppose to government decree and guarantee of positive rights.

 

In my next blog post, I will discuss why price gouging laws are economically illiterate. If lawmakers here in Arizona are persuaded by public outrage, I can only hope that they are reasonable. Provide firm guidelines that define what constitutes price gouging. That they opt for justifiable limitations. Unlike, Connecticut which cites any increase in prices during a  time of an emergency as illegal [9].