The Unions Won at the Supreme Court. Here’s What That Means for Free Speech

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The Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld the agency fees that public workers must pay to unions to fund collective bargaining negotiations. At the heart of the case, Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, was a question of whether those agency fees violate public employees’ First Amendment rights to free speech.

The Daily Signal’s Melissa Quinn explains:

Public-sector workers can opt out of paying full union dues, but they must pay agency fees to fund collective bargaining negotiations. [Rebecca] Friedrichs and her fellow educators argue that collective bargaining is inherently political, since many of the positions unions take during negotiations with school administrators reflect their political choices.

“This case is about protecting the individual rights that each of us are guaranteed in the Constitution, and that includes the right to not fund political positions with which we disagree,” said Friedrichs, the California teacher who initiated the challenge.

“I just also believe that I deserve to have the freedom to choose, as do other public sector employees across the nation.”

The late Justice Antonin Scalia would likely have been the tie-breaker on the court, which would have ruled in favor of Friedrichs. Such a decision could have delivered a blow to public-sector unions, making union dues optional for all public employees.

What do you think of this ruling? Is this an obstruction of free speech?

Did You Know It’s a Crime to Write a Check For Less Than $1?

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Our federal criminal code contains more than 4,000 criminal laws, many of which are completely irrelevant and absurd. According to Heritage Foundation legal expert Paul Larkin, here are some examples of the more ridiculous federal criminal statutes:

  • It is a crime to make unauthorized use of the 4-H club emblem, the Swiss Confederation coat of arms, and the “Smokey Bear” or “Woodsy Owl” characters;
  • It is a crime to misuse the slogan “Give a Hoot, Don’t Pollute”;
  • It is a crime to poll a service member before an election;
  • It is a crime to transport dentures across state lines;
  • It is a crime to sell malt liquor labeled “pre-war strength”;
  • It is a crime to write a check for an amount less than $1;
  • It is a crime to install a toilet that uses too much water per flush.

As amusing as these obsolete crimes are, they represent a larger problem with America’s criminal justice system. Overcriminalization — the overuse and misuse of the criminal law which threatens the liberty of ordinary citizens — results from the sheer number of unnecessary amount of criminal laws. Larkin points out that so long as a criminal law is contained in the U.S. Code, it will likely be there forever:

A criminal law enacted by the First Congress that still can be found in the United States Code continues to outlaw and punish the same defined conduct today, regardless of whether the reason why that act was adopted has become unimportant or has been long forgotten. The statute may have fallen into desuetude, but it remains good law.

Larkin recommends a thorough “pruning” of the code to remove archaic laws. England, which has 44,000 pieces of criminal legislation, has begun this process. Across the pond, it is no longer illegal to “handle a salmon under suspicious circumstances.”

What do you think? Should we prune these obsolete criminal laws?

A Mistaken Ruling Could Threaten Your Gun Rights

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Last August, the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit upheld a prohibition on gun ownership by illegal immigrants. But the ruling’s logic — which applies a complex “balancing” approach rather than declaring categorically that illegal immigrants cannot own firearms — could threaten your Second Amendment rights.

Heritage Foundation legal expert Andrew Kloster explains:

The Seventh Circuit decision in United States v. Mariano A. Meza-Rodriguez continues an unbroken appeals court trend of upholding prohibitions on gun ownership by illegal aliens. Regrettably, the court reached its decision by applying a flawed “balancing” approach that threatens Second Amendment rights in other contexts. It is to be hoped that to minimize uncertainty, future courts will eschew applying a Fourteenth Amendment “balancing” approach and hold conclusively either that illegal aliens are not included among “the people” protected by the Second Amendment or that prohibitions on the ownership of firearms by illegal aliens fall within a category of presumptively justifiable restrictions on gun ownership.

A balancing approach, Kloster argues, “is inherently uncertain in application, complicated, and often counterproductive.”

What do you think? Should a misreading like this affect your constitutional rights?

‘The People Must Have a Choice’ on the Supreme Court, Ed Meese Says

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The next Supreme Court Justice should be decided by the American people through their vote for the next U.S. president, Heritage scholar and former Attorney General Ed Meese writes on FoxNews.com. The decision should not be left up to President Obama.

The people should decide the next justice, Meese argues. When they vote for the next president, they will “not only determine where the American people want their country to go but the direction they want their court to take.”

The American people deserve to have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court justice but President Obama and his liberal allies in Congress want to deny the public that voice.

The risks of simply accepting President Obama’s appointment are tremendous, he continues:

President Obama has already placed two extremely liberal justices on the court, he will no doubt select someone who would ensure liberal domination of the court for the next generation.

As of now, the court is one vote away from restricting or eliminating Second Amendment rights, one vote away from allowing the Environmental Protection Agency to run amok, one vote away from further restricting or eliminating religious freedom altogether, one vote away from legalizing Partial Birth Abortion, one vote away from giving the IRS free rein to persecute innocent Americans for political purposes.

What do you think? Should the Senate confirm President Obama’s appointee to the Supreme Court, Judge Merrick Garland?

Celebrating Nancy Reagan’s Life

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Former first lady Nancy Reagan will be laid to rest today. Her life largely in the public eye, she was “model of dignity, grace, and poise—a first lady for the ages,” according to Heritage expert Lee Edwards.

Edwards had the privilege of meeting the Reagans. The two of them, “perfectly joined heart and mind and soul,” were the team that America needed in the 1980s.

Reagan said he could not imagine life without her. And certainly, our country would not have been the same without her. Edwards explains:

She was his closest and most influential adviser in matters of personnel. When she felt that someone was not serving her husband well or was putting his own interests ahead of the president’s, she pushed—sometimes hard—for his removal.

How are you celebrating Nancy Reagan’s life? Tell us in the comments.

Heritage’s David Azerrad Warns About the Dangers of Progressivism

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Last week, more than one hundred Heritage members from Tucson and Scottsdale, Arizona turned out for two events featuring Heritage’s David Azerrad. The events, hosted by the Heritage Legacy Society, were an opportunity for members to learn more about the evolution of Progressivism, the dangers it poses today, and what conservatives can do about it.

Here’s what Azerrad said:

Sometimes conservatives make it sound as though the battle is about dollars and cents, as if it’s a dispute between actuaries over how much things are going to cost. Other times, we make it sound like this is really a lawyerly legal dispute over how to interpret the Constitution, as if we were expending all of this tremendous capital simply on behalf of a document. Ultimately, the stakes in this battle go much deeper than our debt and how we understand our Constitution. At stake is the soul of America. At stake is how we want the next generation to think—the virtue of character and habits of mind we want to instill in them.

With future generations in mind, members of our Heritage Legacy Society are taking steps to safeguard our founding principles and preserve our founders’ vision for America by remembering Heritage in their estate plans. Click here for more information about how you can join the fight to reclaim America.  

Politico Names Heritage ‘The Right’s Most Influential Think Tank’

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The Heritage Foundation’s solutions and communications strategies are receiving well-deserved attention this week from, of all places, the media.

Heritage’s Blueprint for Balance, the only comprehensive alternative budget plan from outside Congress, has set the terms for the debate on Capitol Hill. This leads Politico to call us “the right’s most influential think tank“:

The House Budget Committee has delayed consideration of a 2017 fiscal blueprint until March, as the panel’s chairman and House leadership try to craft a resolution that passes the muster of conservatives.

Further complicating Speaker Paul Ryan’s effort, the Heritage Foundation — the right’s most influential think-tank — unveiled a budget blueprint that goes far, far beyond anything Ryan is proposing when it comes to slashing government spending.

Heritage’s Blueprint would cut taxes by $1.3 trillion over the next decade, reduce federal spending by $10.5 trillion, and begin to bring down federal debt, all while boosting the Pentagon’s budget.

“The point of the blueprint is both to educate the public but also to influence Congress and the presidential candidates,” Heritage’s Paul Winfree says.

Do you think Congress can do more to rein in the size and scope of the federal government?

Heritage’s Bruce Klingner Is the World’s Go-To Expert on North Korea

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Heritage expert Bruce Klingner is in high demand for his expertise on North Korea.

He testified last month before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, making the case for implementing sanctions against North Korea in response to their provocations (link in PDF).

He appeared on CNN’s Situation Room discussing North Korea’s recent missile launch. Klingner also 

And he’s considered a top advisor by South Korea’s leadership. He was in Seoul recently to work with Chung Doo-un, chairman of the National Defense Committee on how to best deal with North Korea’s missile launches.

Chairman National Defense Committee Chung Doo-un

Heritage’s Bruce Klingner, in gray suit, poses with South Korean leadership.

His recommendations for dealing with North Korea? Stronger sanctions. As he wrote in a recent Daily Signal piece:

In parallel with U.N. Security Council debate, the U.S. Congress is finalizing legislation to impose tougher unilateral measures. The North Korean Sanctions Enforcement Act would expand U.S. authorities for targeted financial measures, impose penalties on secondary violators such as Chinese entities, and make enforcement of some provisions of U.S. law mandatory rather than discretionary.

The congressional action is spurred in part by lawmakers’ frustration over the Obama administration’s timid incrementalism of repeatedly hitting the snooze bar on enforcing U.S. laws and imposing more sanctions on North Korea.

Contrary to President Barack Obama’s assertion that North Korea is the “the most isolated, the most sanctioned, the most cut-off nation on Earth,” there is much more the United States can do to pressure North Korea, as I recommended in my recent congressional testimony.

What do you think? Should Congress place stronger sanctions on North Korea?

32 Lawmakers Outline Their Conservative Vision at Heritage

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Thirty-two lawmakers including Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) outlined their conservative vision for America in an event Wednesday at The Heritage Foundation.

At the Conservative Policy Summit, hosted by our sister organization, Heritage Action for America, lawmakers reviewed the which conservative policies Congress will take up next year, which legislation conservatives should fight to advance, and how Congress can actually advance the conservative agenda.

The event included keynote remarks from Ryan, Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA), Rep. Mark Walker (R-NC),  and Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE).

To rein in government overreach, summit attendees argued that we should work towards a government that provides opportunity for all and favoritism to none. Sasse, for example, blamed bureaucracies like the Environmental Protection Agency for putting a damper on economic freedom and favoring well-connected Washington insiders.

What do you think? Is ever-expanding government the biggest threat to freedom? 

What Heritage Is Focusing on This Week

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The Heritage Foundation is prioritizing the following policy issues this week:

  • Promoting free-market energy policy: The Senate began consideration of a wide-ranging energy bill last week. The measure, S. 2012, is sponsored by Senate Energy and National Resources Committee Chairman Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and touches on issues ranging from energy efficiency to the use of fossil fuels. More than 100 amendments have been filed, but both parties say the 60-vote threshold guarantees eventual final passage. Heritage’s Nick Loris explains why it’s a bipartisan handout to special interests.
  • Explaining the flaws in Obama’s budget: President Obama  unveiled a new initiative on Saturday called “Computer Science for All.” Set to be released on February 9, the New York Times says it will include a “call for spending $4 billion to help states pay for computer science education in the schools.” Heritage expert Romina Boccia will have a piece in The Daily Signal this Friday to prebut the president’s budget working in “Federal Budget in Pictures” content. This all coming on the heels of a recent CBO report saying three decades from now, if current laws remain in place, the debt would reach 155 percent of GDP. Investor’s Business Daily highlights this potential problem saying, “deficits topping $1 trillion will be back before you know it — three years sooner than expected.”
  • Strengthening Iran sanctions: The House is expected to vote on legislation which would prevent the U.S. from lifting sanctions on individuals involved with Iran’s ballistic missile program. The bill, introduced by Rep. Steve Russell (R-OK) in October, was approved by the House Foreign Affairs Committee by voice vote. Heritage expert Jim Phillips says Congress should expand sanctions, focusing on Iran’s nuclear program; support of terrorism; ballistic missile program; interventions in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen and human rights violations.
  • Repealing Obamacare: The House is expected to vote this week to attempt to override President Obama’s veto of legislation that would repeal the Affordable Care Act and defund Planned Parenthood. The override vote is not expected to succeed. Earlier last week, the CBO lowered its estimate of how many people are expected to buy health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. The CBO expects 13 million people will purchase insurance through the Affordable Care Act this year — 8 million fewer that estimated early last year. While people want insurance, NPR’s health correspondent Alison Kodjak said ahead of the deadline that many have been “goosed into buying insurance because of the penalties.” And, “people are really complaining that some of these plans are too expensive, they have high deductibles, they have high co-pays.” Additionally, millionaires are qualifying for Obamacare subsidies meant to assist low-income Americans who are unable to afford health care, thanks to a flaw in the law. A financial advisor told CNBC she has advised at least five of her millionaire clients to enroll in health care plans under the Affordable Care Act because their taxable incomes make them eligible for government subsidies.

What do you think of these issues?

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