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Tax The Ski Lift Tickets, Too!

A bill filed by five House Democrats could affect one of New Hampshire’s primary tourist attractions: The skiing industry. The current 9% tourist sales tax already applies to all prepared food, hotels, and rental cars. In an effort to increase sales tax revenue for the State and help fund education for underprivileged children and prison inmates, Democrats are hoping to extend that 9% tax to include skiers and snowboarders visiting New Hampshire’s ski resorts.

House Bill 1652 requires all ski resorts to obtain a license, display the license, and begin to collect a 9% tax on ski lift tickets, which must be given to the state government. Understanding how skiers would react to this new 9% tax, the sponsors of the bill mention that the revenue from the new tax would fund ‘education’ for ‘the poorest children in New Hampshire.’

If this Democrat bill passes the Democrat-controlled House and Senate and is signed into law by Governor Sununu, we can all expect an immediate 9% increase in the cost of our lift tickets.

People alter their behavior when incentives or disincentives change. A 9% increase is a significant change.

New Hampshire ski resorts earn millions of dollars from tourists who ski and snowboard in our state. Once out-of-state residents learn that their lift tickets will be at least 9% more expensive than they were last year, some could decide to not return, thus diminishing the important revenue that ski resorts make. This could force New Hampshire’s fifteen (15) ski resorts to increase their prices in order to make up for lost revenue, a considerable unintended consequence.

If you have an opinion on this bill, make sure to contact the sponsors, the House Ways & Means Committee, and your own legislators.

Selfless Self-Ownership: Reconciling Liberty-Minded Living with a Sense of Community

Libertarian types are as selfish as they come.  All they want is to be left alone. They don’t believe anyone should do anything for anyone else.  They just don’t care…

Heard that before?  Me too; it seems to be a fairly common assumption.  As a liberty lover in what could be called a “statist” job, my work friends seem to default to that notion every time I open my mouth.  But why? Where does it come from? And how true is it?

A lot of it starts with self-ownership.  It is one of the founding tenets of libertarianism, and it gets a very bad rap.  Briefly, it is the idea that individuals have exclusive rights over their persons and their labor, and that no other individual has any rights to another’s person or labor without permission.  Intuitively, this makes a lot of sense to a lot of people. Who should be allowed to tell you how you should spend your efforts or use your body?

The conclusions that arise from this foundational belief are the basic principles of liberty-minded living.  Minimal government, market forces allowed to work unfettered, people free to do, act, buy, and sell as they please.  What is not included in this philosophy is a concept of community goals or duties. If I own my own person and my own labor, how can anyone, the government included, all of a sudden take the fruits of that labor without my consent to use on causes to which I do not subscribe?  Morally, the government cannot force me to involuntarily pay to support, say, the NEA, just as you cannot force me to hand money to you at gunpoint. Under the concept of self-ownership, both are violations of my rights.

For many, this seems as incongruous as self-ownership at first seemed reasonable.  Surely, we owe our fellow man something. Surely we are to love our neighbors, look out for each other, and make this world a better place, right?

It is true that there are no collective duties imposed on individuals by the principle of self-ownership.  Our only moral imperative is to respect the rights of all other individuals. But that does not preclude the liberty-minded individual (or anyone else) from doing something beneficial to those around her.  We do not see each other merely as silos of inviolate individual rights. We are free to to make positive impacts on our communities according to our own means, values, and understanding.

After all, isn’t the essence of those activities that we consider morally “good” the fact that we are not required to do them?  There is nothing “good” about respecting the rights of others. No one gets keys to the city for not killing someone, not stealing cars, not defrauding the elderly.  Doing “good” is doing for others when no one is making you.

Republican or Democrat, left or right, red or blue, I can almost guarantee that there is some cause over which the government has taken ownership that you are angry about supporting with your own taxes.  Be it the military-industrial complex, social services, or the Wall, everyone has a bone to pick. Some overreach is surely stuck in your craw. And so, from either side, you already have a visceral sense of the violation that the government has levied upon you by taking up these causes without your consent.

Take it a little further.  Everyone who can admit that there is a facet of life where the government should not be meddling has the right idea.  The problem is that, once you admit that, you have to face the possibility that many of the things you are happy the government is doing represent violations for someone else.

The conclusion some jump to from this point is that if we stop those violations, and remove all those artificial duties from the government, nothing will get done.  Well, if the government formed the Department of Household Suction tomorrow, would you conclude that no one but the government could ever make or sell a vacuum? Of course you wouldn’t.  Let’s move on.

The liberty-minded person is not always a self-absorbed loner in a fortified bunker.  I mean, she can be, if that is her thing. But she can also be passionate about education, concerned for the environment, or sensitive to the needs of the less fortunate.  We are public school teachers, charitable donors, and community volunteers. Some of us believe employees should be better compensated, and pay our employees more or provide more comprehensive benefits.  Some of us believe the environment is valuable and should be protected, and patronize businesses with sustainable practices. We don’t need to wait for laws to force us to make these choices. Believe in the things you value, but acknowledge that you cannot force others to value the same things.  Rather, choose to celebrate each person’s freedom to impact the world in her own way. Your power to effect positive change, in concert with those in your community that share your values, is a wonderful thing that should be treasured. And it will always be greater than a distant group of uninvested bureaucrats with no incentive to succeed.

It is the wish of every liberty-loving citizen to be free.  Not only free to preserve what is hers, but free to shape her community in a positive way according to her own values.  We must stop mistaking moral goods for moral imperatives, and stop imposing those false imperatives on our neighbors. We are using the government to force people to value the same causes that we value, and the result is ineffective, expensive, and a violation of our most basic rights.  Let us instead have the courage and compassion to choose liberty, not only for ourselves but for our fellow man, so that we can all be free to do the good in our hearts.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the view of the New Hampshire Liberty Alliance.

Lobbying, Finger Pointing, and Public Safety

A recent letter to the editor in a local paper sparked my interest.  It concerned HB664, which would have mandated that “No insurance company, agent, or adjuster shall knowingly fail to pay a claim to the claimant or repairer (my emphasis) to the extent the claimant’s vehicle is repaired in conformance with applicable manufacturer’s procedures.”  The writer of the letter complained bitterly about the governor’s veto of this particular bill because it undercut support for “your local auto body shop.”  In other words, it is the job of government to “help” businesses and make sure they “survive.”

No, not really.  The last time I checked the federal and state constitutions, there was nothing in there about helping businesses and guaranteeing their survival.  I don’t always agree with the governor’s decisions, but in this case, he was right in butting out of this issue.  Forcing insurance companies to pay for steps in the repairing process that they deem unnecessary is an intrusion and would only increase insurance costs to consumers.  So, who cares if consumers pay more for car insurance?

Certainly not the hordes of repair shop owners and employees and related repair shop associations that made it a point to lobby in Concord earlier this year in support of the bill. In hours of testimony before legislators, they complained in earnest that they were unfairly getting stuck paying for repairs that were necessary for safety that the insurance companies wouldn’t pay. In other words, greedy BIG INSURANCE was squeezing out little repair shops and not reimbursing them for important repair-related steps that manufacturers deemed necessary for safety. Thus, this David vs. Goliath battle waged at the State House all centers on consumer safety.

Or does it? Let’s look at the big legal case cited the most as the basis for the necessity of HB664. It is Seebachan v. John Eagle Collision Center and came out of Texas. In this tragic car crash, a couple was trapped in their 2010 Honda Fit after being hit by another car, and they suffered severe injuries because the roof collapsed. The roof had been repaired earlier from damage due to hail, and the manufacturer’s procedures spelled out that the roof was supposed to be welded back together, but John Eagle Collision Center used adhesive bonding instead. In sworn testimony in court, a John Eagle Collision Center manager implied that it was due to pressure from the insurance company that corners were cut.  In other words, finger pointing.

A good ambulance-chasing lawyer will never waste a good opportunity to go after BIG _______ (fill in the blank: BUSINESS, CORPORATIONS, TECH, OIL, TOBACCO, PHARMA, INSURANCE, SODA, etc.), so after the Seebachan’s won their $31.5 million lawsuit against John Eagle Collision Center, their lawyer wasted no time in filing suit against State Farm on behalf of the plaintiffs. Had there been any merit to John Eagle Collision Center’s allegations against such big pockets, you would have heard about it. As it turned out though, the lawsuit was withdrawn, and both sides agreed to pay their own legal costs. So, in fact the big case cited as “proof” that “There ought to be a law” was an instance where a repair shop that had been I-CAR certified in proper repairs failed miserably in its obligation to its customer (the Seebachan’s). Ironically, it was these same businesses (repair shops) lobbying against BIG INSURANCE that were nevertheless lobbying now for BIG GOVERNMENT. But I guess it’s different when the government will help your business.

The first question that comes to mind is why any insurance company would take a chance on being responsible for sending unsafe cars back on the road when it could be held liable for any damages, deaths, or injuries that might occur. Of course, as the narrative goes, BIG INSURANCE is only out for BIG PROFITS, but where would the profits be if your company has to pay out millions in claims? This doesn’t make sound business sense. In fact, cost cutting to the point of sacrificing safety would make poor economic sense precisely because it would lead to BIG EXPENSES, not profits.

But let’s suppose for argument’s sake that an insurance company behaves foolishly and refuses to pay for repairs the manufacturer recommends that are safety-related. What can and should be done? The bill’s proponents have one simple solution: mandate the repair and make the insurance company pay for it, whether it likes it or not. A better solution of how the free market would (and does) correct the situation actually came from one of the comments I read from a repair shop employee who was very critical of insurance companies. She remarked that when her repair shop informed the car’s owner that their insurance company refused to pay for repairs the shop felt were necessary, the consumer took issue with their insurance company and sometimes changed insurance companies after the incident. Thus, unscrupulous and non-profit minded insurance companies would lose business, and if they do this often enough to their customers, they’d soon run out of customers and go out of business.

This clarifies the proper relationship between the three parties. The consumer pays a premium to his/her insurance company to restore their car back to its former state after an accident, and the insurance company fulfills its obligations by paying for repairs following an accident. The contract is between the consumer and his/her insurance company. The only proper role for the repair shop is to follow generally accepted repair standards and repair the car—not to race to the State House to rally for more laws on the books, which by the way would absolutely guarantee more revenue for repair shops. If the insurance company is unwilling to pay for repairs the shop deems necessary for safety, it should simply refuse to do the job—or at the very least inform the consumer what repairs it recommends and then let the consumer decide how to proceed. As the lady from the repair shop who complained bitterly about the insurance companies noted, consumers when informed are not shy about taking matters in their own hands and don’t need BIG GOVERNMENT to protect them like children.

By the way, a footnote to the vetoed bill says, “The (Insurance) Department is unable to predict the volume of additional queries and complaints, but believes it could be large enough to require an additional staff position.” So, between the vagueness of some of the language in the bill and the eagerness of repair shops to secure as many repairs as possible, that’s a virtual guarantee of yet another useless government bureaucrat with which taxpayers would be forever burdened.

I also checked how Milton’s reps voted on this bill. Sadly, Senator Bradley was a co-sponsor of the bill, but fortunately Abigail Rooney and Peter Hayward voted against it. The next legislative session is just around the corner, and you can be sure we haven’t heard the last of this bill. Pressuring politicians to pass a mandate and guarantee more business in the name of “public safety” never goes of style.

References:

Court Listener. (2018, October 3). In the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas Sherman Division: Seebachan v. State Farm. Retrieved from https://www.courtlistener.com/recap/gov.uscourts.txed.178606/gov.uscourts.txed.178606.16.0.pdf

Legiscan. (2019, September 18). NH HB 664. Retrieved from  legiscan.com/NH/bill/HB664/2019

Manchester Union Leader. (2019, August 30). Your Turn, NH – John Elias:  Hijacking consumer protection. Retrieved from https://www.unionleader.com/opinion/columnists/your-turn-nh—john-elias-hijacking-consumer-protection/article_e8580f94-fb5e-5039-8e63-b3f43ead0393.html

NH Governor. (2019, August 15). Governor’s Veto Message Regarding House Bill 664. Retrieved from https://www.governor.nh.gov/news-media/press-2019/documents/hb-664-veto-message.pdf

Repairer Driven News. (2017, August 23). Update:  Couple in $1M Texas body shop lawsuit drop case against State Farm – but only temporarily. Retrieved from https://www.repairerdrivennews.com/2017/08/23/seebachans-drop-case-against-state-farm/

Repairer Driven News. (2019, September 5). AASP, ASA, SCRS respond to N.H. insurance commissioner’s op-ed. Retrieved from https://www.repairerdrivennews.com/2019/09/05/aasp-asa-scrs-respond-to-n-h-insurance-commissioners-op-ed/

Repairer Driven News. (2019, September 19). N.H. Legislature fails to override Sununu veto of OEM auto repair procedures bill. Retrieved from https://www.repairerdrivennews.com/2019/09/19/n-h-legislature-fails-to-override-sununu-veto-of-oem-repair-procedures-bill/

Repairer Driven News. (2019, September 20). Insurers skip required test to help consumers, and other arguments made against N.H. OEM procedures bill. Retrieved from https://www.repairerdrivennews.com/2019/09/20/n-h-veto-supporter-insurers-skip-required-oem-tests-to-save-cars-from-totaling/

2019 Mid-Term Legislator Scores

The following data is a mid-term score for each representative and senator based on pro-liberty and anti-liberty roll call votes through crossover. It represents a simplified version of the scoring that is completed at the end of the session. Votes in this report are unweighted with regard to the liberty impact of each bill and no adjustments have been made for pro- or anti-liberty bill sponsorship. As is the case with the final Liberty Rating, missed roll call votes negatively impact the score regardless of whether an absence was excused or not.

2019 Mid Term Scores

2019-mid-term-scores.pdf

Make Your Activism for Liberty a Habit

Activism for Liberty has a definite purpose. That is to bring about political and societal change in the direction of more individual freedom. It isn’t merely the act of telling people our opinions. It involves action with the intent of influencing others toward greater awareness, understanding, and practice of the principles of Liberty. Here are some suggestions for becoming a more effective liberty activist.

Work to your strengths

Engage in some quiet self-reflection and decide what skills you already possess that you can put to good use. Do you have good writing skills? Consider writing a letter to the editor (LTEs) of the local newspaper, contribute content to the NHLA website, or start a blog. Are you good at analysis? Try reviewing bills with the NHLA’s bill review system. Are you good at software development? Consider working with the NHLA’s IT development team to build new tools for other activists. Do you have good interpersonal communication skills? Perhaps you could work on a phone banking campaign to affect legislation or on a door knocking campaign for a candidate. Are you good at event planning? You could help plan a gathering of activists for a specific purpose, such as a rally, protest, or our annual Liberty Dinner awards event. There are lots of ways to put your existing skills to good use.

Work on skills you’d like to cultivate

Maybe you aren’t naturally good at public speaking but want to become so. Consider joining a Toastmasters group where you can practice your speaking skills among a friendly audience. Perhaps you’d like to understand how the legislative process works in Concord. Try attending a few committee sessions at the State House and observing how citizens or lobbyists structure and frame their testimony or the way a committee deliberates on the merits of a bill. You’ll quickly develop ideas for how to present testimony yourself. If you’d like to develop skills specifically for managing campaigns or issues-based advocacy, consider taking a training course such as the Grassroots Leadership Academy. Think about one or more skills you’d like to build and create a routine that allows you to practice them while learning from mentors who have mastered the skill before you.

“Goldilocks zone” of activity

We see some common patterns among the activist community. Some activists are hard-charging out of the gate but end up becoming disillusioned because they don’t see progress happen as quickly as they might like. Some push their personal limits for too long and experience burnout and so stop all activity. Others may want to be more involved but put off taking the initiative and stay stuck in their current routines.

Try to find your personal “Goldilocks zone” of action; not too little, not too much, but just the right amount. Enough that activism is part of your weekly or monthly routine, but not too much that you’re unable to sustain your desired level of activity. After all, you still have to balance your other responsibilities and personal relationships in order to maintain a healthy lifestyle. How many hours a month can you invest in advancing Liberty in New Hampshire?

Make it fun

Activism doesn’t have to be dull and boring. If you’re engaged in activities that you enjoy, it won’t seem burdensome. Combining social activity with performing a clearly defined task can make the experience more fulfilling. Also, try inviting others to participate with you and make it a group effort with people whose company you enjoy. Employing the buddy system with just one other person can keep you both motivated to be consistent and persistent.

Take initiative

We humans are creatures of habit. Sometimes we get stuck in our routines or within our online echo chambers, and we may feel reluctant to venture out and engage with the wider world. Being a more effective activist requires us to step outside of our comfort zone and engage with members of the legislature and the voting public.

By making our Activism for Liberty a Habit, with small incremental improvements through practice, we’ll all make steady progress in becoming more effective and persuasive activists. Doing this together as a community of like-minded people can have a historic effect on the future of Liberty in New Hampshire.

If you’d like to become more involved with the NHLA, email volunteer@nhliberty.org for more information.

 

One Person CAN Make a Difference

You might think that being just one person in the 400-member New Hampshire House would be a pretty powerless position, but there were at least two examples this past session where the outcome of an issue was changed by just one or two Reps.

The simplest case was a vote that passed by the slimmest possible margin. The governor had vetoed SB 365, which increased subsidies for biomass plants (thus raising electric rates).  Unfortunately, the spenders in the legislature had their way with a 226-113 vote to override the veto, exactly the necessary 2/3rds.

An even better example on the plus side came on HB 1673. This bill was put in by Rep. Scully. The state and the IRS charge delinquent taxpayers a variable interest rate, currently 6%, but towns are allowed to charge 12% or 18% (depending on circumstances) for delinquent property taxes.  This bill would lower those rates to the state rate.  It was rejected by the House Ways and Means Committee 23 to 0.  It was thus put on the consent calendar, which means it would have no debate.  Such bills are usually impossible to rescue because even if they are taken off the consent calendar, the debate gets put at the end of the day when everyone wants to go home. Reps don’t want to waste their time on something that no one thinks has any merit. In this case, Reps. Burt and Bates got together, removed it from the consent calendar, debated it on the floor, and gave such a masterful speeches that the whole House went their way. The bill then passed the Senate and was signed by the Governor.