Laurel Duggan

The Price Ceiling: NY Govt. Could Decide Consumer Prices By Gender

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Posted by Laurel Duggan on Friday, June 14th, 2019, 11:47 AM PERMALINK

This week the New York Assembly passed a bill which would ban what they call the “pink tax,” which in fact is not a tax at all, but a price difference for goods marketed towards women. According to New York’s Department of Consumer Affairs, for similar products including clothing and personal care, the women’s versions are more expensive 42 percent of the time and the men’s versions are more expensive 18 percent of the time.

Senate Bill 2679 bans price differences on the basis of gender for similar (note: similar, not identical) products. It could be extra confusing for New York City, which recognizes over 30 genders with enforcement of massive fines.

By passing this bill, the New York Assembly has affirmed that it does not believe women are smart enough to decide for themselves whether a pink razor or vanilla-scented deodorant is worth an extra dollar. Rather than letting consumers choose between supposedly equal but inequitably priced goods, the bill would allow the state to enforce price controls, stripping consumers of their right to choose.

The state would mandate the price margins, and consumers would have to choose between the limited array of products that their favorite brands can legally sell. The idea that women cannot decide for themselves whether a product is worth the price is just a sexism-tinged version of the government-knows-best ideology behind socialism.

The New York legislature has made it obvious that some basic clarification on taxes is needed. A tax is collected coercively by the government and carries with it the threat of fines and imprisonment. The “pink tax,” on the other hand, is optional for both men and women. Brands do not have the power to force anyone to buy their pink products, and women are always free to simply buy the products marketed towards men.

In a free market, consumers have considerable power over prices. This is because they have the power of choice; if a store sells two different razors, pink and black but otherwise identical, consumers can simply pick the cheaper option. If a product offers women unique benefits at a higher price, customers can individually decide to pay extra for the superior product or buy a cheaper, gender-neutral alternative.  

Consider a luxury women’s shaving cream. The product is composed of ingredients similar to its masculine counterpart, but with a few key differences. It could contains shea butter to moisturize the skin. Or maybe the brand simply added perfume and glitter in an obvious attempt to market to women and increased the price accordingly. Brands have a right to charge extra for such products and should not be penalized if it is predominantly women who choose to buy them.

To the New York government, the price difference between these products may be arbitrary, even sexist. To some consumers, however, the added features are meaningful, and the aesthetic differences are worth the extra cost. It is the right of the consumer to decide what a product is worth. It is not up to the government to rob whimsical, feminine, sparkly pink products of their rightful place in the free market.

The bill now awaits approval in the Senate. Time will tell whether New York will stand up for consumer freedom. 

Photo Credit: L.D.

States Continue to Pursue Conservative Criminal Justice Reform

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Posted by Laurel Duggan on Wednesday, June 5th, 2019, 12:40 PM PERMALINK

With many state legislative sessions entering crunch time, the action on criminal justice reform has been picking up. Americans are changing the dialogue on second chances, addressing issues from sentencing and reentry to human dignity.

Nevada Hits Jackpot on Reform

Nevada just passed Assembly Bill 236, which addresses both sentencing and post-release issues.

This legislation establishes crisis intervention training and alternatives to jail for those with behavioral health needs. This will ensure that this population receives the help they need to no longer threaten public safety. The bill creates graduated sanctions for parolees, replacing the system in which technical violations result in reflexive imprisonment. It also adjusts penalties for drug and property crimes according to inflation. The resulting decrease in incarceration is projected to save taxpayers $543 million over ten years.

The Nevada legislature is considering reforms to their asset forfeiture programs. Criminal forfeiture is a tactic used by law enforcement to investigate criminal activity and promote public safety. Unfortunately, bad policy has allowed the practice to be abused. Due process is evaded, and innocent people have their property confiscated. Worse yet, the practice has generated a perverse incentive system that undermines the goals of law enforcement.

When forfeitures fund the departments that seize properties in the first place, two things result. Police confiscate property too zealously, to the detriment of civil liberties. They focus their limited resources on the low-level offenses associated with property seizures while neglecting more serious, violent crimes. Nevada’s Assembly Bill 420 proposes several reforms to solve these problems. First, the bill redirects the spoils of forfeiture to the state’s permanent education fund. Forfeitures can only be used by law enforcement to pay outstanding liens and reasonable enforcement expenses, not to include personnel costs. It also creates paths to mitigate forfeitures through petitions and pretrial hearings. The legislation also establishes requirements of clear and convincing evidence for property seizures while reaffirming the rights of law enforcement to conduct appropriate, legal criminal forfeiture.

Pennsylvania Sets the Table for More Wins

The Pennsylvania house has introduced legislation to reform parole and help former inmates successfully transition back into society. The litany of technical regulations one can unknowingly violate make it all too easy for those on parole to be sent back to prison. Under House Bill 1555, parolees would not be reincarcerated for technical violations such as traveling outside one’s jurisdiction or associating with another person with a criminal record. It would also end the practice of lengthening parole time for those who cannot afford to pay off their fines. This data-driven approach to reentry will reduce recidivism and help reformed convicts get back on their feet.

State Senator, and Taxpayer Protection Pledge Signer, John DiSanto is sponsoring legislation (SB 637) to enact occupational licensing reforms that will remove unnecessary barriers to employment for people leaving the criminal justice system.

Mississippi Making Rapid Progress

Meanwhile, Mississippi is making strides in alternative sentencing. Too many people are locked away in prison with no opportunity for genuine rehabilitation. Those with mental health and addiction problems may enter and leave prison without receiving the help that they need, their mental states further deteriorating in the process; these people are not evil, they are sick. This Wednesday, Gov. Phil Bryant signed into law House Bill 1352, which authorizes the creation of intervention courts, an alternative to prison time for certain nonviolent offenders. This includes drug courts, mental health courts, veteran courts, and juvenile justice pretrial intervention. These alternatives to prison are a cost-effective way of turning non-violent offenders into healthy, productive members of society. The bill also expands expungement possibilities and makes it less common to have a driver’s license revoked for low-level offenses, two important steps in facilitating successful reentry.

Flurry of Action in Colorado

A flurry of criminal justice bills have passed in Colorado. Former offenders will no longer have to check a box in the initial phase of job applications. Instead, employers will have to consider their criminal records on an individual basis. Several drug crimes will be changed from felonies to misdemeanors, correcting an overly aggressive tough-on-crime streak which did little to advance public safety. The state will also reclassify sexual assault and sexual misconduct by peace officers to reflect the seriousness of the crime.

Wisconsin to Finally Act?

Lastly, the expungement process is being reexamined in Wisconsin. Currently, the state only grants expungements at the time of sentencing. People who are truly rehabilitated while serving their time are automatically denied a chance at a clean slate.

Wisconsin’s Senate Bill 39, cosponsored by Representative Katrina Shankland (D-71) will allow people to file petitions for expungement after completion of a sentence. It also removes the requirement that only crimes commit under the age of 25 are eligible for expungement, an arbitrary regulation which did nothing to promote public safety or rehabilitation. This legislation will remove unnecessary obstacles to employment for reformed offenders. Paving the path to post-release success improves the lives of the formerly incarcerated, reduces recidivism, and saves Americans money on incarceration costs. 

Photo Credit: Adam Quirk

A Second Chance for Licensing Reform in PA

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Posted by Laurel Duggan on Thursday, May 30th, 2019, 2:19 PM PERMALINK

For people leaving the criminal justice system, perhaps the most important step to becoming a contributing member of the community is finding a job. So it is a huge failure when government puts unnecessary barriers in the way of former offenders looking for work.

Yet that is exactly what happens with occupational licensing boards. Currently, the Pennsylvania licensing boards and state agencies can blindly ban former offenders from jobs, regardless of whether their offense is particularly relevant for the job.

Legislators are working to change this, led by Senator John DiSanto (R-15). DiSanto is sponsor of Senate Bill 637, whose companion is House Bill 1477. This legislation will remove arbitrary barriers to employment imposed by government on the formerly incarcerated.

Many licensing and certification boards uniformly reject the formerly incarcerated without consideration of individual circumstances. While violent offenses and those directly related to a profession absolutely should prevent someone from getting a license, broad “good character” provisions go too far.

Additionally, people in prison or leaving the system who are training for jobs should know up front if their conviction will bar them from getting a license. It is important they do not waste time and money pursuing training, only to be blocked from working.

Detractors worry that this legislation could damage public safety by allowing former convicts to work in esteemed positions. In reality, the legislation does not prevent licensing authorities from looking into the criminal backgrounds of applicants. In fact, it makes robust provisions for considering offenses relevant to the job or license at hand. The bills merely end the practice of automatically disqualifying candidates with criminal records.

This effort is especially important in Pennsylvania. Despite the state’s high corrections spending, its recidivism rate remains stubbornly high: 60 percent are rearrested or reenter prison within three years. Offenders leaving prison face a host of obstacles that make successful reentry nearly impossible. It is common for newly released men and women to end up on welfare or back in prison because they are unable to support themselves.

SB 673/HB 1477 would be an important step forward in lowering recidivism and getting reformed convicts back into the workforce.

By eliminating arbitrary discriminations against former offenders, they have a much better chance to live productive, law-abiding lives rather than falling back into crime and poverty. As President Trump stated, “America is a nation that believes in second chances.” Pennsylvania lawmakers have done good work that follows this spirit. They can continue that with occupational licensing reform.

Photo Credit: One Click Group UK