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It will be of little avail to the people that the laws are made by men of their own choice, if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood. —James Madison, Federalist 62

Recently we brought to your attention Utah’s new effort at criminal justice reform. This effort is designed to decrease prison populations in order to decrease public expenditures—to achieve a more efficient administration of justice. In other words, to be “smart on crime.” An article in The Economist gives one reason for growing prison populations: too many laws. This led us to wonder just how many laws there are in our state. While Utah code has over ten million words of laws and regulations, the master table of criminal offenses adds up to 10,403 crimes you can be charged with at the state and local level. With that many laws it is nearly impossible for any person to know what is and is not illegal. Some have even suggested that an average person could easily commit three felonies a day without even realizing it.

Winston Churchill said it best: “if you make ten thousand regulations you destroy all respect for the law.” Well, we have over ten thousand criminal offenses alone—not counting voluminous regulations. The reality is that most people are breaking many of these laws on a regular basis without even knowing it. John Stossel wrote that such extensive rules “paralyze life.” At a minimum, they preclude liberty.

Government legitimately exists to protect the fundamental rights of each individual who comprises it—life, liberty, and property, among other rights. With over 10,000 laws, how many are designed to prohibit offenses against person or property—the most legitimate of all government laws? The answer is only 5%. The rest are mostly regulatory in nature, including traffic and tax offenses, or crimes related to “public order.”

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Editor’s note: Libertas Institute opposes government intervention and regulation in the economy that disadvantages one industry in order to protect another—such has been the case with the agricultural growth of industrial hemp which faced opposition from competing industries with greater lobbying power. Hemp cultivation has been illegal under federal law since 1957 when a combination of interventionist factors effectively ended U.S. domestic hemp production despite centuries of successful use of the crop. This included confusion on the part of the Drug Enforcement Agency between industrial hemp (non-psychoactive variety of cannabis plants grown for their fiber) and “marijuana” (cannabis varieties high in THC grown for psychoactive drug use). The DEA remains confused to this day by including cannabis generally on the controlled substances list despite the recent farm bill which recognized industrial hemp as separate from marijuana and actually legalized research-based growth of the crop (Sec. 7606 of the Farm Bill, HR 2642).

Thus far, 32 states have considered pro-hemp legislation with 20 states enacting their legislation into law. Ten states (California, Colorado, Kentucky, Maine, Montana, North Dakota, Oregon, Vermont, Washington and West Virginia) have passed industrial hemp farming laws and removed barriers to its production.

Colorado’s legalization for the agricultural cultivation of industrial hemp begins this year. Colorado farmer Ryan Loflin of Rocky Mountain Hemp, Inc. jumped out ahead of the regulation last year and in October 2013 he harvested the first domestic, commercial hemp crop in the U.S. in nearly 60 years.

The following is an edited transcription of an interview Libertas Institute conducted with Ryan Loflin about industrial hemp. The comments in this interview do not necessarily reflect the views of Libertas Institute.

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By Sean Brian

Editor’s Note: The issues at heart of the cases described below were the subject of pioneering legislation in Utah that now protects stored and transmitted data on electronic devices such as a cell phone. Of course, federal law—and laws in other states—must still be elevated to the same Fourth Amendment standard.

The following is an abridged version of the author’s 33-page article, available as a free download.

Next week, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in Reily v. California and United States v. Wurie to resolve the deepening division of authority on how the incident to arrest exception should be applied in the context of cell phones. But in such a fast-paced industry, the Court must also consider how the rule will apply as innovators blur the lines between cell phones and other devices that raise the same Fourth Amendment concerns.

The Fourth Amendment guarantees the right to be secure in our persons and possessions by protecting citizens from unreasonable searches and seizures. Usually, this means that police must first obtain a search warrant in order for the search to be considered reasonable. The incident to arrest exception is an exception to the warrant requirement for searches of an arrestee’s person and area within the arrestee’s control (including any containers) by virtue of a lawful arrest. The reasons for this exception were spelled out in Chimel v. California: to ensure officer safety and preserve evidence that the arrestee might destroy, discard, or conceal. However, these justifications are not requirements to be met in order to justify searches on a case-by-case basis, but rather underlying rationales for the exception’s existence. The only requirement for the exception to apply is a lawful arrest.

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In addition to seeking an increase in the sales tax to help improve its services, the Utah Transit Authority has doubled the amount of bonuses awarded to its managers since last year.

A total of $1.74 million in bonuses was awarded to 389 employees, for an average of $4,473. Of course, most bonuses fell below that average, because many others were substantially higher: $30,000 to the General Manager, General Counsel, Chief Operating Officer, Chief Communications Officer, Chief Capital Development Officer, Chief Safety Officer, and the Chief Planning Officer. Three other managers received bonuses higher than $20,000, and another 21 were awarded bonuses higher than $10,000. All of this is on top of high base salaries.

The Salt Lake Tribune‘s editorial on this issue focused primarily on the public relations problem that such bonuses has generated. But the problem here is fundamental, not superficial. Throwing so much cash at the upper echelons of a bureaucracy is objectionable not only because it’s allegedly excessive or generates bad press—it’s bad because it’s our money.

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In his 2014 State of the State Address, Utah Governor Gary Herbert said:

Addressing population growth also involves improving our criminal justice system and providing structure for individuals to become productive members of society. There has been a great deal of discussion about relocating the state prison. This is a discussion worth having, but it must be done in the larger context of reforming our criminal justice system as a whole.

I have asked for a full review of our current system to develop a plan to reduce recidivism, maximize offenders’ success in becoming law-abiding citizens, and provide judges with the tools they need to accomplish these goals. The prison gates through which people re-enter society must be a permanent exit, and not just a revolving door.

In light of the Governor’s priority to address criminal justice reform he has instructed Director Ron Gordon and the Utah Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice (CCJJ) to make reforms by the end of the calendar year. This will include reviewing and changing policy as well as proposing legislative reforms for next year’s session. CCJJ has adopted this review project as its priority study item for this year and has been conducting town-hall style public hearings around the state to obtain feedback and suggestions from the public on criminal justice reform.

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Today, April 15, is known as “tax day”—the deadline to file one’s income taxes. We are compelled by the government to furnish detailed, personal information regarding our economic activities for the year 2013, 100 years after the passage of the 16th amendment.

That’s right: this country has had a constitutionally authorized federal income tax for less than half the duration of its existence. Despite its now longstanding existence in America, its ideological proponents include folks like Karl Marx who, in his Communist Manifesto, listed “a heavy progressive or graduated income tax” as one of the central planks of his central planning philosophy.

It’s no surprise that his sympathizers in the progressive era of the early 20th century acted earnestly to see this policy adopted in America. It began, like most new government programs, in modest fashion; the income tax was only a small part of total government revenue. That changed after World War I, when the income tax furnished a significant portion of total taxes. Within a matter of years, it became an irreplaceable and largely accepted method of financing the federal government’s operations.

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Libertas Institute continues to grow—earlier this year we hired our policy analyst, and I’m excited to announce that beginning today, we have a new development manager: Holly Jensen!

Holly grew up in the Washington, D.C. area, where she learned to love politics and American history. She studied political science at Brigham Young University, focusing on political philosophy and international relations. Holly participated in BYU’s Washington Seminar program where she had direct interaction with government and industry leaders on national issues and current political events. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in 2013, just three years after she started her undergraduate studies.

Holly has internship and employment experience within the federal government, political campaigns, and Utah business. Her work with Libertas Institute will focus on donor relations, events, fundraising, marketing, and communication. Holly’s passion for freedom, combined with her educational background and talents, will be an effective and exciting combination for our work.

Curious to know more? Send Holly an email at hjensen@libertasutah.org.

 

In a throwback to English feudalism, the United States Government currently claims ownership of over 60% of Utah’s land mass and even higher portions of land in many other western states. The vast ownership and retention of land by the federal government is an aberration in the history of the United States where the general policy for public land was one of disposal and settlement rather than retention and federal management. In Utah, lawmakers have sought to assert Utah’s claim for such lands to be disposed of as promised by the federal government when Utah was created as a state.

In 2012 the Governor signed HB 148: The Transfer of Public Lands Act (TPLA), sponsored by Representative Ken Ivory whom we interviewed about this subject last year. The bill passed with healthy majorities in both chambers and was also ranked in our Libertas Legislator Index for 2012. The new law directs the United States Government to transfer title for public lands back to Utah as promised in the Utah Enabling Act. Under TPLA, this transfer is called for by December 31st, 2014. The bill also called for a study which was subsequently released by the Utah Constitutional Defense Council. Earlier this year, a BYU Law Review Article evaluated the legal issues surrounding the TPLA.

We agree with The American Lands Council and other groups calling for such transfers. The transfer of public lands is critical to ensuring the state sovereignty envisioned by the founders for our federal system. The retention of land by the federal government is an inappropriate and unjust arrogation of power—a power not based in constitutional principles, but the loose and broad interpretation, or outright violation, of them.

The following are some of the key legal arguments for the transfer of public lands:

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“What [government does] is either hurtful or profitless, injurious or ineffectual.  It never can bring any useful result.” —Frederic Bastiat

The Salt Lake City Council is proposing to increase the scope of government interference in private property rights and free market commerce. According to their website, they propose to require that businesses with drive-through services accommodate all potential customers (whether on foot, bicycle, motor vehicle or other mode of transportation) to the same extent that they accommodate motor vehicle drive-through customers. The Council proposes to require that, during the hours in which any business offers drive-through services, they must also offer a walk-up window and/or walk-in services.

The proposal also includes new design standards for future development, including direct entry through the front of the building, paths leading to the entrance, well-established pedestrian routes, decorative paving, etc.

These requirements clearly violate basic private property rights.   We have discussed these general rights in previous posts, and we have discussed specific violations of these rights as other government entities, such as Highland City, San Juan County, Sandy City, the State of Utah, Woods Cross, and Cedar Hills, have violated or considered violating these rights.

Private property can only be so called if the owner has the right to determine what he or she will or will not do with that property.  So long as the property owner does not use the property to violate the rights of others, then no other individual or group of individuals (even under the guise of government) can rightly interfere.

We urge Salt Lake City residents and all Utahns to oppose the Council’s proposal.  They request your feedback here.

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Part Two in the “Dollars and Nonsense” Series. Click here for part one.

In part one of this series we brought to your attention the state appropriations process and the expenditure of state funds in the form of earmarks to subsidize various activities across the state. In this second part we will discuss the inappropriateness of these subsidization activities as violative of liberty because they socialize costs using the coercion of government force.

A recent audit of the Utah State Fair Corporation calls into question the level of state funding that has subsidized the fair since 2004. This comes after legislation in 1995 that required the fair to work toward self-sufficiency as a non-profit corporation. Driven by the publication of this particular audit, the media has covered the topic moderately. We, however, have been paying attention to more than just the level of subsidization for the state fair. While the audit recommends that the fair should seek revenue sources or reduce costs in order “to reduce or eliminate the need for government subsidies,” the same could be said for a host of other programs that receive state subsidies as well. Our previous article and data sheet in this series covered some of the programs that received earmarked subsidies from state budget appropriations this past legislative session. Subsidized programs ranged from funds for “economic development” to funds for music and museums. We feel public subsidies in general are problematic.

Depending on your views—and access to the taxation trough—public subsidies are either wonderful or awful. While some love government subsidized film festivals and museums, others might prefer subsidies for corporations and local employers. Meanwhile, many might decry subsidies that transfer dollars to the economically disadvantaged while others oppose the transfer of dollars to chosen industries or particular energy sources. The reason people both love and hate subsidies are actually quite simple.

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