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Legislature must get serious about ATF Backback

By Thomas J. Scovill

ATF payback is important and I know many of you agree. But we need more than mere hand waving.

SB13 as it is proposed to be amended is a modest improvement over HB94 because the Senate bill actually appropriates funds for the payback while the House bill merely suggests a payback schedule. But neither bill is sufficient.

I do not trust the promises of legislators because too many of them and their leaders have already violated my trust.  In the absence of trust more substantial legislation is necessary before I can take the payback legislation seriously.

In particular, I think a dedicated funding source is essential. We do this with bond measures to assure potential buyers of our debt that we are serious about payback and we should do it for the ATF payback for the same reason. Representative Joe Hubbard points in this direction with his HB177, although a  constitutional amendment is not necessary and his proposal delays repayment. But dedicating tobacco taxes to the ATF payback is a good idea.

I also think we need substantial and automatic penalties if the provisions of the payback legislation are not followed. Ongoing shenanigans in the US Congress with respect to deficit reduction illustrate the point.

I am mistrustful of the legislature and the thin gruel being offered is discomforting.

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One reason I am mistrustful is that too many legislators have a history of scoffing at state law and the rules of the legislature. If they do not now comply with current law and rules, why should they be trusted to comply with new law that is intended to convince the people that state government should be trusted in assuring the plunder taken from the ATF is returned?

How are they scofflaws?

For instance,  in the opening week of the current session, the Senate ignored its own rule requiring the Rules Committee to actually meet to approve changes to the agenda. Senators Marsh and Waggoner  acknowledged this after their caucus voted down an objection from the minority.

And many of our legislators and leaders of the legislature are ignoring important aspects of campaign finance law. I pointed out last year and again this month that Senator Marsh is not complying with the Fair Campaign Practices Act and the reforms which he pushed through with much fanfare in the special session of December 2010. In particular, he is misusing campaign funds by making a loan, making contributions  to legal defense funds which are not allowed, and by exceeding the limit on contributions to the party. And no one in the legislature seems interested in encouraging their colleagues to comply with the law or encouraging the Attorney General to enforce the law.

I am mistrustful of the Republicans leaders because of the shameful campaign tactics they used to get the Constitution Amendment approved in September 2012 so they could plunder the ATF. They appealed to special interests hostile to the Republican party. They threatened to put nursing home residents on the street if the amendment was not approved. My trust in Republican leaders to support Republican principles has been damaged.

We need a better bill. We aneed  commitment to paying back the ATF which can be taken seriously. We are not yet there.

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