August 4, 2007 [LINK / comment]

Judges reject "abuser fees"

In the past few days, judges from Henrico County and Richmond General District Court issued rulings that the "abuser fees" which went into effect on July 1 are unconstitutional because they discriminate against Virginia residents. (Out-of-staters don't have to pay them.) As a result, some Republican leaders are beginning to disavow the controversial measure, implying it was all Governor Kaine's doing. See AP. Here in Staunton, Public Defender Peter Boatner filed an appeal after his client was ordered to pay a $750 "civil fee" on top of the $541 fine for drunk driving. See News Leader.

Since the new law went into effect, there has been a huge outpouring of criticism of the "abuser fees," which were part of the (admittedly awkward and messy) compromise transportation funding package passed by the General Assembly earlier this year; see March 1. Well, what did people expect? With so many of our legislators having sworn never to raise taxes, in allegiance with Grover Norquist, the money's got to come from somewhere, and this is better than using lottery money at least. On a more serious note, this case is a perfect illustration of the point made by Sen. Emmett Hanger and other traditional conservatives: Just because a legislator says he won't raise taxes doesn't mean that he won't find some other way of reaching his or her hand into your wallet.

Tip-toeing toward socialism

Indeed, that's what the proposed State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) would be. As the August recess is about to begin, Democrats in Congress are appealing to sentiment in a bold move to get the foot in the door on government-paid health coverage. As they visit with their constituents across the Fruited Plain for the next few weeks, you can be sure they will spare no effort to muster popular support for this measure. And you thought HillaryCare was dead? Not by a long shot. For details, see

On the other hand, if U.S. public policy is to "leave no child behind" in the education system, why not apply the same criterion to health? This illustrates one of the big pitfalls behind President Bush's "compassionate conservative" agenda -- by attempting to attract more voters to the GOP side, it unwittingly provides justification for the Big Government schemes of the Democratic Left.

In a somewhat more perfect world, the Republican Party would have more leaders like Newt Gingrich who are aware of our nation's gradual creep toward economic statism. Instead of just opposing the Democrats, I wish more Republicans would propose real market-oriented reforms in the health care sector, abolishing the implicit government subsidies (such as tax deductability) and market restrictions (licensing, etc.), giving consumers more choice and more incentive to save.

Romney's religion

Is it a factor? Some people think Gov. Mitt Romney's Mormon affilation is comparable to the role played by John F. Kennedy's Catholicism in the 1960 election. In the Washington Post, Michael Gershon explained why he thinks Romney's religion matters, mostly downplaying it. The problem for me is that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (as the Mormons are known formally) is not just another church, it is a religion with a very distinct theology and scripture. The Mormon religion stands in relation to mainstream Christianity as Christianity does to Judaism. I'm not saying Romney should be excluded from consideration, I'm just saying we need to pay a lot more attention to what he says about the role of religion in public life, and what his church leaders say.