Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Fine. I'll write about the stripper bill.

My State Senator was the most quoted voice in opposition when the bill to regulate adult-oriented businesses, brought to the legislature after petitions were circulated by Citizens for Community Values, after the bill was voted upon in the senate. His opposition mainly centered upon the continuing erosion of home-rule and the ability of communities to determine community standards. That's a defensible position to take, and I made sure to mention my support of Mr. Goodman's willingness to do the politically unpopular.

I have to admit, I'm still persuadable on the issue of how much home rule is most appropriate for Ohio's local governments. Although I tend to come down on the side of communities, I can imagine situations where doing so might make me uncomfortable. So, it's kind of a cop-out for me to dismiss all encroachments on home rule out of hand simply because they are encroachments on home rule.

I also have to admit that although I'm pretty damn strident in defense of the First Amendment, I have a difficult time making the case that prohibiting lap dancing is an encroachment on free speech rights. What can you not effectively express from the stage?

Finally, there's a sort of constraint-of-commerce argument floating around out there, with folks bemoaning the job loss that might accompany this law. Pho made a related point, but as a liberal, I believe in things like the Minimum Wage, Environmental Protection, Workman's Compensation, Child Labor Laws, etc. There is a common good which sometimes outweighs the sacrifices in economic efficiency that come with regulating commerce.

So, what I'm left with after all of that, is whether or not the small 'd' democratic state of Ohio believes that the proposed regulations promote or defend a common good that outweighs the constraints on trade, expression, privacy, and liberty that the bill would be imposing. The supporters say yes, that the restrictions will decrease crime. The common good is safety.

To which I say bullshit. There is no evidence that crime depends on the distance between a dancer and a patron. There is no evidence that adult oriented businesses create crime, at best there is evidence that criminal activity is more common near adult-oriented businesses. I have yet to see evidence that there is more crime associated with bars that provide nude entertainment than with bars that provide other forms of live entertainment.

Some people don't like the idea of strippers. They don't like the idea of sexually themed entertainment. That's not good enough for a law, and they know it, so they use safety as the issue.

Most smoking bans, including Ohio's, are justified as protections for employees who are exposed to hazardous chemicals in their place of employment. I don't think any other similar workplace safety issue would have passed. Rather than simply not patronize smoking establishments, many people who could care less about workplace safety voted for the measure so that they would not have to avoid second-hand smoke. Many people think homosexuality is disgusting. That's not good enough to codify discrimination.

I don't like handguns. That's not good enough to overcome the second amendment.

I get really really sick of people looking to pass laws based on "I approve of/like this activity" vs. "I disapprove of/dislike this activity." Democracy has some ground rules, and if I may be permitted a moment of holier-than-thou pique, it would be nice if folks actually thought about that.


ohdave said...

Well done, my friend.

Paul said...

As you know, my battlefield these days is the public education system. What I've come to realize as I've become more immersed in the situation is that in many (maybe most) cases, the politicians push one theme in public, but their real interest is something beneath the surface.

For example, the rhetoric about the proposed school funding amendment is that by turning over more of the funding responsibility to the State of Ohio, school systems gain a more stable funding source, which is essential to satify the standard established in the Ohio Constitution.

But if one does the old 'follow the money' exercise, you discover that 85% or more of school funds go to pay for the salaries and benefits of the administrators, teachers and staff. Because salaries (and consequently benefits) increase steadily every year as the employees work their way up the seniority steps in the collective bargaining agreements, more and more money is needed each year to fund the system.

Therein lies the problem, at least from the perspective of school employees. Their salaries and benefits go up every year, but property taxes don't. In fact, current Ohio law (sponsored by Geo Voinovich when he was in the General Assy) makes it so that even if your property is reassessed at a higher value, your property taxes stay the same. This law was enacted to protect senior citizens who were being taxed out of their homes -- it's not a new concept as supporters of the amendment would have you believe.

The school employees want to get us off a local property tax basis, because the current system requires having to go periodically before the public and explaining why we should keep increasing our property taxes to pay for their generous benefits (of course, they never say it quite that way).

The point is that teachers and administrators are pushing this amendment (via the unions) because it goes a long way toward protecting their way of life. It's not really about the kids.

And if we want to understand the motivations behind this stripper bill, or any other legislation, you have to ask the question "which businesses/unions win, and which ones lose if this is enacted?"

Sometimes you can figure that out by seeing who lines up on either side of the argument. But often the real players are hidden behind a couple of front organizations (e.g. "Citizens for Decent Neighborhoods"). The politicians don't go out of their way to make it easy to break through these facades because such organizations are important sources of money for them too.

You are so right saying democracy has ground rules that we all have to agree to follow even at times when it's annoying. But we also have to be active participants. Our collective vote is the way we hold politicians accountable and in check. Half of the eligible voters don't bother, and most of the rest pull the lever without investing as much time into the decision as they do when buying a new TV.

openmind said...


So it is your proposal that teachers make too much money and have too many benefits?

As far as the school funding issue goes, I am obviously not as well informed as you are. I thought it was the Ohio Supremem Court who is forcing action on this. Is this not the case?

Paul said...

The problem with school funding isn't the mechanism, it's that the General Assy has consistently failed to fund the full formula amount. If they had, there might never have been a DeRolph case in the first place. But they didn’t, and there is a DeRolph case, and it made it to the Ohio Supreme Court. The problem is that the Supreme Court can’t just order the General Assy to allocate more money.

The core purpose of the proposed amendment is to convert from a system based primarily on property taxes, which do not automatically increase, to one based on income taxes, which do. This is because 85% or more of the cost of running a school system is the salaries and benefits of the employees, which also increase automatically.

I don’t question that there was a time when teachers were underpaid. But I don’t believe that to be true any longer. The average salary for a teacher in Ohio is now about $50,000, plus generous benefits including defined-benefit pension plans. In the Hilliard School District, a teacher with a Masters + 15 and 23 years service is paid $82,000. That teacher can retire at 30 years and receive 66% ($54,000) of their final salary for the rest of their lives, along with health coverage. That seems pretty generous to me. My retirement is funded entirely by what I socked away in IRAs and 401(k)s, and I have no health coverage unless I work.

I had breakfast this morning with a retired Navy Senior Chief Petty Officer, who spent 30 years as a corpsman (medic) attached to the Marines, including numerous combat tours. His final pay was about $53,000/yr, or less than the retirement pay of the teacher. In retirement, he gets 75% of his final pay, or $39,750.

I don’t care how tough that teacher’s job may seem, it’s unlikely that the teacher had to patch up major trauma victims while being shot at.

openmind said...

Your funding argument makes a lot of sense.

As far as you Senior Chief Petty Office, that's an enlisted rank, meaning he likely joined right out of high school, no college needed. It's your basic blue collar armed forces job. I used to be an NCO myself (albeit in the Army), so I know a little bit about this. To be a teacher you have to have a bachelor's. There has always been a pay discrepancy between the college-educated and those who are not (or work in jobs where they are not needed). I guess I just don’t understand your argument.