Shutting down Alaska

“Imagine if we broke out of these tired old patterns.  Imagine if we did something different.”  That wasn’t John Lennon speaking from the grave, it was the President delivering his State of the Union.  And he even continued, “I commit to every Republican here tonight that I will not only seek out your ideas, I will seek to work with you to make this country stronger.”  Well, at least we know he wasn’t talking about people living in Alaska.  Or people in the lower 48 who drive cars.  It’s not exactly conciliatory to come out swinging with a unilateral proposal to lock up over 12 million energy-rich acres of Alaska.  Alaska is a state where cooperation works:  Democrats and Republicans, union bosses and boss bosses, and blue collar and white collar workers share a belief that the arctic can and should be developed — carefully yes, responsibly yes, but still developed.

Of course, anyone who took solace in the President’s conciliatory language should  first have paid attention  to these two contradictory sentences:  “And that’s why, over the past six years, we’ve done more than ever to combat climate change, from the way we produce energy to the way we use it.  That’s why we’ve set aside more public lands and waters than any administration in history.”  Say what?  How does locking up public lands do anything to combat climate change, or produce energy?

Alaska has 222 million acres of federal lands, almost 60% of the state – a state where less than 1% is privately owned.  222 million acres is larger than 15 Eastern states combined. Since Prudhoe Bay went into production, it has produced 16 billion barrels of oil – nearly a fifth of the nation’s supply.  But that field is now declining.  If it isn’t replaced, the pipeline may cease delivering oil.  The coastal plain of Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is estimated to have 10 billion barrels more.  Drilling for that oil with modern technology would cover about 2000 acres – about the size of Dulles Airport in a refuge of 19 million acres – 42% of which is already permanently sealed off as Wilderness.  The Chukchi and Beaufort Seas are estimated to contain another 27 billion barrels of oil – barrels that might never be drilled if the Department of Interior imposes new restrictions as expected later this week. Continue reading

Montana to consider amending its Competitor’s Veto Law

I’ll be testifying in front of the Montana House of Representatives Transportation Committee this Friday at 3 pm to talk about Competitor’s Veto laws and the right to earn a living.  You can stream that hearing live on Friday here.

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National School Choice Week: School Choice stories in North Carolina

Lawyers love to talk to other lawyers about the law. Non-lawyers are usually more interested in how the law will affect them. Here at Liberty Blog, I’ve discussed the legal arguments in two important school choice cases before the North Carolina Supreme Court. PLF filed a brief in support of school choice in those cases: Hart v. North Carolina and Richardson v. North Carolina. But it’s not just the legal arguments that are important, there are also significant real world implications for North Carolina families.

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Upcoming talks in Alabama, Kentucky, and California

I’ll be speaking at to the Mobile, Ala., lawyer’s chapter of the Federalist Society tomorrow evening about my book The Conscience of The Constitution. Then on Thursday, I’ll be speaking at the law school at the University of Kentucky about our continuing legal challenges to Obamacare. Then on Feb. 18 I’ll be speaking to the Placer County Tea Party and on Feb. 28 at the California Republican Convention.

If you’d like to have a PLF speaker at your event, please let us know!

Welcome to National School Choice Week 2015

For the fourth year in a row, PLF is celebrating National School Choice Week. You can see some of our previous celebrations of National School Choice Week here.  PLF is happy to join with so many scholars, organizations, schools, teachers, students, and parents around the country to get the word out in support of school choice.  School choice is the beautiful idea that parents and students have the right to choose the best education for their needs — that the government doesn’t get to dictate a one-size-fits-all model of public education. School choice can take many forms, and PLF is out there defending educational freedom in courts nationwide.

This year, PLF is going to be doing some very exciting things for National School Choice Week. Check us out on Twitter and Facebook for some fun School Choice Week Activities. In addition, all week the Liberty Blog will be highlighting PLF’s school choice cases, and on Wednesday, we expect to release a podcast with Andrew Coulson, director of the Cato Institute’s Center for Educational Freedom.

Celebrate National School Choice Week with Pacific Legal Foundation. Let us know on Facebook why you support school choice.  To get you started, here’s a video of PLF employees telling you why they support school choice. Enjoy!

National School Choice Week: A primer on school choice

Do you know all there is to know about school choice?  As PLF begins its celebration of National School Choice Week, here is a short orientation to explain what school choice encompasses.

Growing up long ago in a low-income family, school choice to me was whether I walked or rode my bike to my local neighborhood public school.  Much to my distress, even that choice was eventually taken away when city officials implemented forced busing and rezoned my neighborhood for a school far away across town.  Parents in my neighborhood could not afford to send their children to private schools, and thus had no choice.

For many parents, things are different today.  The school choice movement today includes things like charter schools, homeschooling, and school vouchers.  PLF celebrates all of those options this week.  Do you know what they are, the legal issues they each involve, and where you stand?

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President’s weekly report — January 23, 2015

Property Rights — New Jersey rejects takings claim

The New Jersey Supreme Court issued this adverse ruling in Griepenburg v. Township of Ocean.  In that case the New Jersey Supreme Court held that a local government can zone a property in a manner to benefit everyone else but the property owners, and those property owners can do little other than afterwards ask their government to ignore the very zoning it imposed specifically to limit their property in the first place, and grant them a variance.  For more, see our blog on the case.

Equality Under the Law — Argument held in case against State Department

PLF attorney Joshua Thompson argued Shea v. Kerry this week before the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.  In this case we are challenging the State Department’s affirmative action program that restricted entry into mid-level career paths based on an employee’s race.  You can listen to the argument here and read more about the case and arguments here.

Dormant Commerce Clause and electricity wars

We filed this amicus brief amicus in North Dakota v. Heydinger on behalf of PLF and the NFIB Small Business Legal Center.  In Heydinger, North Dakota is challenging Michigan’s Continue reading

Like a good neighbor…

In 2007, Minnesota passed a law to regulate emissions from power plants. But, because the increased costs of complying with this law would lead to more of the electricity consumed in the state to be generated elsewhere, Minnesota asserted the authority to regulate beyond its own borders. This week, PLF and the NFIB Small Business Legal Center filed an amicus brief explaining that Minnesota’s attempt to regulate its neighbors is an affront to the Constitution.

The Constitution creates a federal system, meaning that there are two levels of government: the national government, which has limited powers, and state governments, which have more powers but must compete with each other. This structural protection is one of the key securities for individual liberty. If a state adopts laws that it’s residents, taxpayers, and industries don’t like, they can flee for greener pastures. This has played out many times and, invariably, the state that loses will want to frustrate this competition. Recently, it has played out in a sharp competition between high-regulation states, like California, and economically-freer states, like Texas. In the past, it made it possible for African-Americans in the South to flee Jim Crow for a better life in the Northeast. The key is: people must be able to escape state regulations they don’t like so that the politicians who enact them are accountable to someone. If there is no means to escape, the government has no incentive to care about consequences.

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Oral argument held in Shea v. Kerry

On Tuesday of this week I was in Washington, D.C. arguing Shea v. Kerry before the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.  This case involves a challenge to the State Department’s discriminatory affirmative action program for Foreign Service officers.  The facts of the case are, unfortunately, fairly common.  The Foreign Service was giving preferential treatment to individuals from certain racial groups, which allowed those individuals to be hired directly into mid-level positions.  However, if you were a white male, you were not permitted to apply for mid-level placement through the affirmative action program.  Continue reading

Sacramento Bee publishes PLF op-ed on disparate impact and the Fair Housing Act

Today’s Sacramento Bee carries this op-ed by PLF attorneys Ralph Kasarda and Wen Fa on Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. The Inclusive Communities Project, the Supreme Court case on whether disparate impact claims are cognizable under the Fair Housing Act. We say “no” in our amicus brief to the Supreme Court and in our op-ed. Here’s a snippet:

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