Saturday, May 30, 2015

Last Call For One Last Shot

President Obama and AG Loretta Lynch are preparing one last round of executive actions on gun control, knowing that with the 2016 campaign already underway, the window for congressional action is closed.

The Justice Department plans to move forward this year with more than a dozen new gun-related regulations, according to list of rules the agency has proposed to enact before the end of the Obama administration.

The regulations range from new restrictions on high-powered pistols to gun storage requirements. Chief among them is a renewed effort to keep guns out of the hands of people who are mentally unstable or have been convicted of domestic abuse.

Gun safety advocates have been calling for such reforms since the Sandy Hook school shooting nearly three years ago in Newtown, Conn. They say keeping guns away from dangerous people is of primary importance.

I don't have high hopes for this.  The NRA has already forced President Obama to back down on ammo rules and other measures.  There's no real reason to think any of these new rules will survive at this point, even if there was a chance this wouldn't be tied up in the courts for years.

The Justice Department’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) is looking to revive a rule proposed way back in 1998 that would block domestic abusers from owning guns.

As proposed, the regulation makes it illegal for some who has been convicted of a misdemeanor domestic violence offense to own a gun.

The ATF plans to finalize the rule by November, according to the Unified Agenda. 
But gun rights advocates are concerned the Obama administration will use this rule to unfairly target certain gun owners.

“That could be a person who spanked his kid, or yelled at his wife, or slapped her husband,” warned Michael Hammond, legislative counsel for the Gun Owners of America.

We'll see what happens, but again, the Obama administration has been squishy as hell on gun control, along with congressional Dems.

Like A Kansas Tornado, Con't

The reckoning in Kansas continues as the state's massive budget hole is swallowing up everything it can find, including it seems the options of Kansas Republicans in the state legislature.  GOP Gov. Sam Brownback may have survived his re-election battle last year, but it doesn't mean the state's other Republicans are going to sacrifice their careers for his supply-side tax-cutting lunacy. Now the reckoning is coming, and the GOP has to decide if they want to call out Brownback and his tax cuts, or dump the tax burden on middle-class voters.

Just three years ago, many of these lawmakers passed the largest tax cuts in state history, saying they would lead to economic growth. But that growth did not appear, and after repeatedly trimming spending to close shortfalls, legislators again find themselves in a prolonged budget battle with no easy answers, where both houses of the Republican-controlled Legislature are proposing tax increases.

The reason: even anti-tax Republicans are acknowledging that there is not much more to cut without significantly hurting popular programs, including education.

The fault lines now seem to run along the question of which taxes to raise. Some believe that income taxes are off limits and that they should raise sales taxes to shoulder the entire burden. Others advocate a mixed approach and said income taxes should be on the table. Democrats argue that increasing sales taxes would be another blow to low-income Kansans to the benefit of the business class.

And many worry that the only solution will be to repeal the signature piece of the law they passed in 2012: the elimination of taxes on certain types of small businesses.

You reap what you sow, Kansas.  Of all the agriculture states in the Midwest, you should know this.

Since those changes, Gov. Sam Brownback and lawmakers have found themselves repeatedly tinkering with the budget to fill hundreds of millions of dollars in shortfalls. The governor has cut some state agency budgets by 4 percent, reduced contributions to the state pension system and shifted money between state accounts. Lawmakers have rolled back funding for poorer school districts and changed the way they allocate money to schools. They have slowed funding increases for entitlement programs.

Mr. Donovan said the results of the tax law were “never as good as we hoped.”

“We hoped they would just be a magic lantern and everybody would react to it,” he said. “But, eh, it’s hard to get a company to uproot their business when they’re established and move to another place just because of this difference in tax policy.”

Still, supporters of the tax bills are not necessarily willing to concede that the cuts were the reason for the state’s fiscal problems.

Trickle-down voodoo economics can never fail, they can only be failed.  And now it's the poorest Kansans who will pay the price.

The House plan would tax the nonwage income on small businesses at 2.7 percent and increase the sales tax to 6.45 percent, but reduce it to 5.9 percent for food.

Some Republicans are holding the conservative line, saying cuts to bureaucracy could close most, if not all, of the gap.

“There’s definitely waste in the budget,” Senator Dennis Pyle, a Republican, said in an interview. “It’s my goal to not raise taxes. We have to let the private sector breathe and operate as freely as possible because that is the revenue driver.”

But Democrats called the Republican proposals inadequate for fixing the budget woes. “There’s a lot of things you could do to show that you are concerned about all Kansans,” said Valdenia Winn, a Democratic representative. “But are they doing it? Nope. So your little piecemeal baby steps don’t impress me one bit. They’re desperate because you still have those Tea Party people who cannot go home and say, ‘I had to vote for tax increases.’ ”

And so it goes.  The only question is how much of the state's tax burden will be transferred from businesses and the rich to the poorest people in the state, which was always what the plan was from the beginning.

Carrying All Kinds Of Trouble

The Lone Star State will be packing heat starting in 2016 as open carry legislation passed easily in the state legislature and GOP Gov. Greg Abbott is itching to sign the bill into law.

In a tweet immediately after the bill's passage, Gov. Greg Abbott promised to sign it into law as soon as possible: "Next destination. My pen."

The House gave final approval to the bill by a vote of 102-43; in the Senate it passed 20-11 along party lines.

The law will not include a provision barring police from stopping or detaining someone solely for openly carrying a handgun. That amendment was adopted in both the House and the Senate, but lawmakers agreed to strip it after opposition from law enforcement groups. 
Bill sponsor Craig Estes, R-Wichita Falls, said he was happy with the overall outcome and lauded Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick for pushing a vote on the issue before the last weekend of the session, which ends June 1.

"I don't think that we could have accomplished this without the wisdom and guidance of the lieutenant governor," Estes said ater the bill's passage. He said Patrick made sure the measure got a vote Friday instead of Saturday, when Estes was afraid opponents might be able to kill the bill through a days-long filibuster.

"We think Texas as being a gun happy state," said House sponsor Larry Phillips, R-Sherman, "but we denied citizens the right that most other states afforded them. And so this was the time to do it."

Why, I'm sure open carry will fix a lot of problems in the state.  Also was nice of them to actually allow cops to maybe ask questions about the heavily armed folks running around next year, and how they might be a public safety issue.  Here's the best part:

Under the new law, those with non-Texas concealed handgun licenses recognized by the state will also be allowed to open carry. Texas recognizes the licenses and permits from 41 other states. In Texas, licensees must be at least 21 and must pass a background check and written and range test.

Have a handgun license in another state that doesn't have open carry?  C'mon down to Texas and strap it on. Re-live the glory days of the Wild West, Sam Houston and the Alamo.

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