Tag Archives: idiocy

Games Indiana’s GOP Plays…

Oh, Indiana!

Ours is a state so gerrymandered that control of our legislature remains firmly in the hands of a Republican super-majority. To say that the lack of competition has given us state lawmakers who reflect the party’s ideological extremes would be an understatement.

So what is the “World’s Worst Legislature” (h/t to the late Harrison Ullmann) doing this year?

Well, our lawmakers are no longer trying to change the value of Pi, which I suppose is progress of a sort. What they are trying to do is keep Indiana utilities from phasing out their dependence upon coal;  persisting in their efforts to elevate the rights of fertilized eggs over the rights of women; refusing to fund election security measures; and demonstrating their ignorance of the separation of powers.

There has been a bill protecting religious mental health workers who deny emergency assistance to those they consider “sinners” and another prohibiting athletes who were born male from competing against cis women in sports. Another “protective” measure would prevent employers from implanting chips in their workers (a practice not currently occurring in the state, but hey! It might happen, so let’s talk about that rather than the very real problems we face.)

The majority is also moving new legislation to create a “cross-check” bill to facilitate the purging of (certain) voters, after a previous effort to do so was struck down by the courts as blatantly unconstitutional.

And of course our legislators are continuing to divert resources from the state’s public education system in order to prop up the religious institutions that make up some 95% of “voucher” schools.

But absolutely the most consistent legislative behavior, year after year, is the General Assembly’s adamant refusal to allow cities and towns to do–well, pretty much anything— unless and until their overlords in the legislature deign to give local elected officials their official blessing. (Especially Indianapolis, which the Republicans who represent mostly rural districts irrationally resent.) It took three sessions for Indianapolis to get permission to hold a referendum on whether to tax ourselves to improve public transit, and then only on condition that we not include light rail. Why no light rail? Who knows? And this session, legislators continue to offer roadblocks to planned expansion of the city’s rapid transit lines.

The most recent–and arguably this session’s most egregious–example is the legislature’s move to foreclose Indianapolis’ effort to protect tenants from landlord abuses. Even the Indianapolis Star was offended.

Mayor Joe Hogsett’s proposal to provide more protections to Indianapolis renters now faces an uncertain future.

Indiana lawmakers added language to a bill Monday that would prevent any city from regulating landlord-tenant relations without approval by the General Assembly, including at least two key items in Hogsett’s proposal: requiring landlords to notify renters of their rights and responsibilities, and fining landlords who retaliate against renters for reporting problematic housing.

Senate Bill 340 initially moved through the Indiana Senate as a bill addressing laws about condemned properties. An amendment added at the Republican-controlled House Judiciary Committee, though, would undercut a legislative priority of Hogsett, a Democrat, now in his second term as Indianapolis mayor.

The Hogsett administration saw its proposal as a way to balance the scales against unscrupulous landlords, many out of state, who take advantage of lax government oversight in Indiana to prey on desperate renters.

Any lawyer who has practiced real estate law in Indiana– I am one–is aware that Indiana law is heavily weighted in favor of landlords. (I’m sure this favoritism has nothing to do with the fact that the tenants who are disadvantaged by our legal framework are far less likely to be political contributors than their landlords.)

When this year’s (mercifully short) session comes to an end, we’ll see what passed and what didn’t. But one thing we can predict with confidence: local jurisdictions still won’t have anything that looks remotely like home rule.

 

Automakers Are More Responsible Than Trump

Trump’s war on science and the environment was recently dealt a setback in the form of an agreement between a group of American, Japanese and European automakers and the State of California.

As The Washington Post reported,

Four automakers from three continents have struck a dealwith California to produce fleets that are more fuel-efficient in coming years, undercutting one of the Trump administration’s most aggressive climate policy rollbacks.

The compromise between the California Air Resources Board and Ford, Honda, Volkswagen and BMW of North America came after weeks of secret negotiations and could shape future U.S. vehicle production, even as White House officials aim to relax gas-mileage standards for the nation’s cars, pickups and SUVs.

California’s head air pollution regulator invited the Trump Administration to join the agreement. I don’t know whether she was being tactful or naive. To no one’s surprise, the Administration instead doubled down on its proposal to roll back mileage regulations.

Interestingly, the automobile companies approached California, not the other way around.

In a joint statement, the four automakers said their decision to hash out a deal with California was driven by a need for predictability, as well as desires to reduce compliance costs, keep vehicles affordable for customers and be good environmental stewards.

“These terms will provide our companies much-needed regulatory certainty by allowing us to meet both federal and state requirements with a single national fleet, avoiding a patchwork of regulations while continuing to ensure meaningful greenhouse gas emissions reductions,” the group said.

The deal comes as the Trump administration is working to finalize a huge regulatory rollback that would freeze mileage requirements for cars and light trucks next fall at about 37 miles per gallon on average, rather than raising them over time to about 51 mpg for 2025 models — the level the industry and government agreed to during the Obama administration. The proposal also would revoke California’s long-standing authority to set its own rules under the Clean Air Act, a practice the federal government has backed for decades.

It is hard–no it is impossible–to defend the rollback that the Trump Administration is intent on pursuing. Requiring cars to be more fuel-efficient is self-evidently a desirable goal: it would improve public health, combat climate change and save consumers money at the gas pump, all without compromising safety or inordinately burdening manufacturers.

The companies that are party to the agreement with California represent approximately 30% of the market, but that share could grow significantly if other automakers join, as observers anticipate. The Post reports that just last month, Canada pledged to align its gas-mileage targets with California rather than with the Trump administration.

The idiocy of that administration becomes clearer every day.

The transportation sector has emerged as the single-largest source of greenhouse-gas emissions in the United States, and the future gas mileage of the auto fleet will have a profound effect on the nation’s carbon footprint. According to the State Energy and Environmental Impact Center at the New York University School of Law, the Trump administration’s plan to freeze mileage standards between 2020 and 2026 would increase greenhouse-gas emissions by between 16 million and 37 million metric tons in that period. That is the equivalent of adding between 3.4 million and 7.8 million cars on the road.

Trump officials have consistently rejected the idea that the federal government should adopt policies aimed at weaning Americans off fossil fuels. NHTSA’s own analysis of its proposed mileage freeze projected that the increased greenhouse-gas emissions from the move would not make a major difference, because the world was on track to warm by seven degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century anyway. (Emphasis supplied)

We’re dying anyway, so let’s allow our donors to make money now.

Words fail.

 

And Now, Celebrating the Plutocracy

Andy Borowitz said it best: Greed alone is destructive but greed combined with idiocy is catastrophic.

Which brings me to this recent report in the Indianapolis Business Journal.

A House panel on Thursday approved Republican-written legislation that would gut much of the Dodd-Frank law enacted by Democrats and signed by Obama in the wake of the financial crisis and the Great Recession. The party-line vote in the Republican-led House Financial Services Committee was 34-26.

House Republicans based their desire to repeal Dodd-Frank on the “costs of compliance.”

Evidently, they aren’t worried about the economic or human costs of the rampant financial misbehaviors that Dodd-Frank was enacted to control.

President Donald Trump has denounced Dodd-Frank with his usual “eloquence” (cough, cough), promising that his administration would “do a big number” on it. (I think that’s what’s called “thug speak”…)

Vox has also reported on a number of GOP efforts to once-again deregulate Wall Street; it details a bill that “would do more to deregulate the banking industry than any single piece of legislation in a generation.”

Because that worked out so well….

Republicans on the House Finance Committee have hammered away at a mammoth 593-page bill called the Financial Choice Act that the bulk of the GOP caucus is expected to get behind. The committee already moved the bill to the “markup” phase on Wednesday.

“I think this has a very good chance of passing. There are a lot of Democrats who are going to be supporting this,” Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) said in an interview. “Even Democrats have bankers in their districts.”

Of course, Inhofe seems overly optimistic. Congressional Democrats are expected to march in lockstep against the banking bill, which would make it difficult for Republicans to get the 60 votes they’d need to get the Choice Act through the Senate.

Financial experts have called the measure radical.  It eliminates most of the banking oversight passed during the Obama administration, but it goes much further, “rolling back oversight in a way that could dramatically exacerbate the likelihood of another financial crisis, according to experts in financial regulation.”

The Choice Act would also gut the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau, the brainchild of Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). As Mike Konczal wrote for Vox, the CFPB has won millions from big corporations by suing those who use “deceptive practices” for their customers. Hensarling’s bill wouldn’t get rid of CFPB entirely, but advocates say it would effectively render the agency powerless by letting Congress control its funding, allowing the White House to fire the agency’s director at will, and, perhaps most importantly, stripping it of a broad range of rulemaking authority.

There’s much, much more. The bill would split the Federal Reserve in half and prevent it from coordinating financial regulations and monetary policy; that, according to banking experts, would make bubbles more likely — and more dangerous to the economy.

Borowitz is right. Greed and idiocy are a lethal combination.