The public’s business should be open to the public. And under Rhode Island law, it is. Yet when mom Nicole Solas sought to attend the meeting of a publicly funded committee that meets weekly to discuss and make recommendations on policies that apply across her daughter’s school district, she was told that the meeting was closed and parents were not welcome.
Now, the Goldwater Institute is pushing back: We’ve joined with the Stephen Hopkins Center for Civil Rights in Rhode Island to represent Nicole in a complaint before the state attorney general asserting that the school district has violated Rhode Island’s Open Meetings Act (OMA) by closing these meetings to the public.
Rhode Island’s OMA was enacted to ensure that “public business be performed in an open and public manner and that the citizens be advised of and aware of the performance of public officials and the deliberations and decisions that go into the making of public policy.” The presumption under that law is always in favor of public access.
Yet in March 2021, the South Kingstown School Committee signed an agreement with the South Kingstown BIPOC Advisory Board to hold weekly meetings where district policies ranging from student discipline to coaching to hiring would be discussed and where recommendations would be made on those issues by the Board to the School Committee. In other words, the Board was charged with advisory power by the School Committee over matters of significant public interest—the education of South Kingstown’s youth. The Board is also publicly funded with taxpayer dollars by the School Committee, and two members of the School Committee’s subcommittee on policy sit on the Board.
By Christina Sandefur of the Goldwater Institute |
Representing the owners of more than 50 properties, the Goldwater Institute has filed over $23 million in claims against the city of Flagstaff, Arizona, over an ordinance that went into effect in March that deprives residents of their property rights. That could be just the tip of the iceberg, as thousands more may have claims under state law.
In March, Flagstaff adopted a High Occupancy Housing Plan supposedly designed to address an increase in student housing. In actuality, the plan imposes sweeping regulations that deprive a wide variety of property owners, including families and small businesses, of their right to decide what to do with their land.
In too many of our nation’s classrooms, children are being taught that everything should be seen through the lens of race—a divisive and damaging worldview that negates the value of the individual. Instead of reading our country’s founding documents, students are being told that America was founded on fundamentally hateful and intolerant ideas. And they’re learning that the American Dream isn’t really for everyone. What is a parent to do?
In a new paper released by the American Enterprise Institute, Goldwater Institute Director of Education Policy Matt Beienburg shows that in order to truly put parents—and not bureaucrats—in control of kids’ education, more sunlight is the answer. And Goldwater is leading the effort to bring that sunlight to school districts across America, in the form of academic transparency.
To date, state lawmakers have dealt with the issue of politically charged classroom content by either doing nothing or banning certain curricula or materials. But neither path is sufficient to proactively root out political content in our schools. And neither path gives parents the power they need to make the best possible decisions regarding their children’s education.
The Arizona Legislature just approved the Goldwater Institute’s plan to dramatically reduce income taxes and simplify the state’s tax code, making Arizona one of the lowest-tax states in the country. This historic reform will restore Arizona’s competitive advantage as a low-tax state and provide a boost for small business owners still struggling to recover from the COVID pandemic.
This plan collapses Arizona’s pre-Prop. 208 tax rates into a single, low 2.5% rate, and it caps the maximum tax rate at 4.5%. This means that no one’s taxes will increase because of Prop. 208. In fact, everyone’s income taxes will go down as a result of this victory.
Additionally, the Goldwater Institute has challenged the constitutionality of Prop. 208, and we’re now awaiting a decision from the Arizona Supreme Court. Fortunately, this new tax reform measure will mitigate the negative effects of Prop. 208—which otherwise would have decimated our economy—and help ensure the state’s future economic success.
With states still feeling the economic damage done by the COVID-19 pandemic, President Joe Biden signed the “American Rescue Plan Act” to give states billions of federal dollars to help them recover. But there’s a catch: The Act effectively prohibits states that take the money from cutting taxes through 2024. That’s unconstitutional—and the Goldwater Institute is joining one legal challenge to it.
Congress can sometimes put conditions on grants to states, but it can’t take advantage of an emergency to coerce states into giving up control of such an important issue of state policy, and it can’t impose a condition on a grant that has nothing to do with the grant’s purpose. That’s why many state attorneys general have filed federal lawsuits challenging this “Tax Mandate”—and it’s why the Goldwater Institute has filed a brief supporting the state of Ohio’s challenge.
THE TAX MANDATE
A provision in the Act says that states cannot use federal grant money to “directly or indirectly offset” a loss of revenue resulting from a tax cut enacted between March 2021 and the end of 2024. If they do, the U.S. Secretary of the Treasury will take the federal money back, up to the amount of revenue the state lost. That appears to mean that states that cut taxes between now and 2024 will have to pay back some or all their grant money.
The Tax Mandate’s defenders say this is just to make sure states actually use federal money for COVID relief. But the Tax Mandate doesn’t actually do that. The Act lists four broad categories of things a state can spend federal grant money on. After states spend the money, they have to report how they spent it to the Treasury Secretary. If the Secretary determines that a state spent money on something that doesn’t fall into one of those categories, she can take that money back.
So if a state receives a grant of, say, $5 billion, it has to show that it spent $5 billion on things the Act allows. If some things it reports weren’t appropriate uses of the money, the Secretary can recoup that portion of the grant. That alone ensures that states spend their federal grants for the purposes Congress intended.
The Tax Mandate, on the other hand, does not help ensure that states spend their grant money properly. Instead, it focuses on whether a state indirectly used federal funds to offset revenue lost as a result of tax cuts. That might make sense if the Act were otherwise designed to deny federal money to states that could afford to pay for their own COVID relief (if they put other policy priorities aside). But the Act doesn’t do that.