Op-Ed

The choice between bureaucratic over-regulation or forward-facing tech policy (Glass op-ed)

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Wednesday, February 15th, 2017

Franklin Center’s Kevin Glass examines how infrastructure regulations hamper technological innovation in a Washington Examiner op-ed:

The next wave in wireless technology rollout is poised to be “small cell” technology, but local regulations have hindered deployment for years. Localities have looked at this kind of infrastructure deployment as a piggy bank. But there are ways forward that governments can take to ease some of the onerous regulatory processes.

Current rules typically force wireless companies to go through regulatory procedures that were put in place for giant cellphone towers for each individual small cell, despite the fact that small cell technology will both supplement and complement the large towers going forward — and the need for dozens, if not more, small cells per each large tower.

Local governments have refused to adapt their regulatory regimes to new technologies, and small cells are no different. The permitting process typically involves mountains of paperwork for both the tech companies and the local bureaucrats. There are, of course, fees for each installation. Too many localities would prefer to keep the status quo in place and continue collecting that money, even if it means a slower rollout.

There are ways to update this. New Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai has praised the 2014 Mobile BILD Act, Georgia’s statewide update of their wireless infrastructure laws. The BILD act streamlined the permitting process for wireless infrastructure and limited the fees that localities could collect from wireless infrastructure companies.

Click here for the full piece in the Washington Examiner.

Overbroad executive order threatens competitive advantage for American companies (Neily Op-Ed)

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Friday, February 10th, 2017

Franklin Center President Nicole Neily examined how the White House’s executive order on immigration could have unintended consequences for American companies. Here’s what she wrote at RedState:

The White House’s executive order on immigration has prompted pushback from numerous American companies because of the implications it will have on their employees. Although the order was meant to protect the country, its haphazard enforcement jeopardizes the competitive advantage of some of the leading American companies – which, in turn, will impact American workers.

Both sides of the aisle have long agreed that the nation’s immigration system is broken and in need of an overhaul (how to do so, of course, is where the parties diverge). In national polls, immigration is regularly in the top 4 or 5 issues listed – and it’s an issue that also motivates voters, as the 2016 presidential election demonstrated. Throughout the campaign, President Trump emphasized strong borders and enforcement, which resonated with the electorate. Unfortunately, the President’s first executive order on the issue has been interpreted in an overbroad way and put our international competitiveness at risk.

Companies based in the United States have led the world in technological innovation for a long time, and our leadership has attracted the best and brightest from other countries to come here; now, some of those tech industry leaders are petitioning the Trump Administration to use its executive enforcement discretion to uphold our competitive advantage by not prohibiting some of its employees from travel to and from the United States.

Facebook, Apple, Google, Microsoft and Amazon – among others, even in traditional manufacturing sectors – have sent an open letter to the Administration urging enforcement discretion for some of their employees who may be affected by the executive order. They argue that their employees who may be affected are those who hold permanent legal status through their visas, and their travel – for leisure, or to see family – could impact their work environment.

Microsoft, in particular, made a more specific and separate case from the general letter. The tech company’s chief legal officer wrote that they have 76 employees whose permanent work location is in the United States who may be impacted by the order, and of some heartbreaking conditions – cases where parents have been separated from their children, or where an employee has a critically ill family member abroad that they may be prohibited from visiting.

Click here to read the full piece at RedState.

Congress overturns some Obama regs, but there’s more to undo (Neily Op-Ed)

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Friday, February 10th, 2017

Franklin Center President Nicole Neily pens an op-ed in The Hill about the need to undo more Obama-era regulations:

It’s always a risk that an outgoing presidential administration and the executive agencies under administration control will issue complicated and partisan rules as a last-ditch effort to preserve the president’s legacy.

In order to combat this, the Congressional Review Act (CRA) was signed into law in 1996 to expedite the process of peeling back last-minute regulations.

Obviously, it’s possible for many executive agencies to unwind some of the Obama-era regulations with standard policymaking; however, CRA review can be used for some of the big regulations that have already been put into effect that may already be hampering businesses and consumers.

Last week, Congress voted to strike down three Obama-era regulations, including environmental and gun control regulations, and they’ll use the CRA in more votes this week on education and labor rules.

But there are more executive regulations passed in the waning days of the Obama administration that Republicans could target — and ones that may be even more important.

Click her for the full piece in The Hill.

How the Left can win the culture war: Abandon their tactics (Glass op-ed)

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Friday, February 10th, 2017

Franklin Center’s Kevin Glass weighs into the debate over free speech issues on college campuses with an op-ed in the Washington Examiner:

The culture war has turned from cold to hot in the past month on college campuses, all because of Milo Yiannopoulos, a subpar provocateur whose performance art consists of deportation jokes. At the University of Washington, a supporter shot a protester in the streets outside the performance. At the University of California, Berkeley, protesters destroyed multiple businesses in a riot against his invitation and speech.

Behind the headlines is a story of how to win the culture war without turning to violence.

Sarah Gamble and the rest of the College Republicans of the University of Washington, who invited Yiannopoulos to speak, are not the provocateur’s target audience. As the Chronicle of Higher Education reported on the affair at Washington, Gamble “had supported Rand Paul in the primaries,” and “[v]ery few of the Republican club members were fans of Mr. Trump.” But Gamble felt backed into a corner: the atmosphere on campus was one of complete social sanction for non-progressive viewpoints.

“You’re put into that position were you’re either quiet, or you fight back,” she says. And when you fight back, “It’s a bit more conservative than you intend to, and it’s a bit more rash than you intend to.”

College is a formative time for anyone, and an interesting time for those who are politically conservative. It means years spent in close quarters with people likely to be several degrees more liberal than the general population, and under authority figures on the faculty and in the administrative offices who are overwhelmingly politically left-wing. For conservatives, it can feel like a constant struggle merely to justify their existence.

Click here for the full piece in the Washington Examiner.

Global businessman Trump challenges globalism’s conventional wisdom (Ward Op-ed)

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Tuesday, February 7th, 2017

Watchdog.org reporter Kenric Ward analyzed the political backlash over President Donald Trump’s executive order on refugees and immigration in an op-ed that appeared in the Houston Chronicle, San Antonio Express-News, and other Texas newspapers:

Can we all take a breath and calm down?

The political backlash over President Donald Trump’s refugee and immigrant “ban” has gone beyond knee-jerk partisanship. The furor has abandoned reason.

It’s not clear if that’s because Trump’s opponents have yet to figure out he is not going to kowtow to their cherished conventional wisdom, or because they have figured it out.

Whichever is the case, they should prepare themselves for more of the same.

Two years ago, President Barack Obama designated seven countries as a security threat for U.S. travelers. Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen were cited, based on the threat of terrorism there.

The global situation has not improved, and Trump is not convinced U.S. border security is up to the task. So he directed that individuals from the terrorist-sponsoring countries not be admitted until they can be fully vetted.

Trump’s order is temporary, with security policies being reviewed and updated over the next 90 days.

More could follow. What that is will be determined by the outcome of the review.

But rather than wait and see what evolves, the opposition went immediately into full panic mode.

Could the new administration — in its whirlwind of executive orders, initiatives and appointments — have done a better job implementing the order? Certainly. More clarity on the status of green-card holders would have helped.

But Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly on Tuesday denied news reports that he was blindsided by Trump’s order (which, by the way, is consistently identified as “controversial” in media accounts, a word never applied to Medicaid, for example, which has been just as controversial and for a lot longer).

“We knew the executive order was coming,” Kelly said. “We had people involved in the general drafting of it. Clearly this whole approach was part of what then-candidate Trump talked about for a year or two. So we knew all this was coming.”

Kelly may as well have been talking to the wind. The false narrative that the president cut corners gave his opponents all the ammunition they needed to blast the policy and point to fictional fissures inside the new administration.

Let’s be clear. Amid their reactionary harangues, left-wing ideologues — including an increasingly desperate Democratic Party that was left by the November elections without a seat at either the executive or legislative tables — have demonstrated no firm allegiance to national security. They may not wish America ill when they mouth the glib diversity-is-our-strength mantra, but their agenda sows disunity and disrespect in this country, where we all bleed red.

Trump’s robust brand of nationalism also chafes global businesses, which see international travel as a borderless right.

But entering the United States is a privilege, and the executive branch has a legal duty to safeguard this country.

While the global economy has opened new opportunities for economic growth and prosperity, we live in an era in which commercial worship of that global economy has also opened the gates to global terror and made the world a more dangerous place.

In the irony of ironies, a businessman with global connections challenges the conventional wisdom that open borders are an inevitable good. Battered by a loss of jobs and growing insecurity, Americans elected Trump to break America’s dysfunctional political duopoly.

The country wants prosperity and safety. Trump is working for both those objectives. His detractors offer only shrill objections.

Here’s why Enterprise Florida is a bad investment for state taxpayers (Bicknell Op-Ed)

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Tuesday, February 7th, 2017

Watchdog.org executive editor John Bicknell wrote the following op-ed, published in the Orlando Sentinel, explaining why Florida’s economic incentive agency, Enterprise Florida, isn’t a good investment of tax dollars:

The battle over the future of Enterprise Florida is, in microcosm, the battle over the role of government – what should it be doing, and who should it be doing it for?

Republican Gov. Rick Scott wants $85 million this year to fund Enterprise Florida, the state’s primary provider of incentives intended to lure new business to the state and keep existing ones.

But Enterprise Florida and other state economic development programs are not producing enough jobs or return on investment to justify the expense.

A review of Enterprise Florida Inc. and the Department of Economic Opportunity — the state’s major incentive providers – by the Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability looked at a decade of data on those two criteria, the most-often cited justifications for giving taxpayer money to private businesses, judging Florida against seven other states.

Florida didn’t fare so well, trailing in overall job growth as well as high-wage job creation.

The agencies are also failing as producers of revenue for the state government.

According to Amy Baker, Florida’s chief economist and legislative coordinator for the Office of Economic and Demographic Research, of the state’s 26 incentive programs, 18 failed to produce enough tax revenue to break even. 

Click here for the full op-ed in the Orlando Sentinel.

The next battlegrounds for school choice: Stubborn red states (Glass Op-Ed)

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Tuesday, January 31st, 2017

Where can school choice advance in 2017? Franklin Center’s Kevin Glass takes a closer look at the education landscape in red states:

The sweeping successes of Republicans nationwide in the 2016 elections presents a huge opportunity for the school choice movement. Republicans have historically been more friendly to school choice than Democrats, and they now have 33 governorships and full control of 32 state legislatures.

Unfortunately, Republican control doesn’t always equal the best outcomes for students. In places like Texas and Mississippi, hundreds of thousands of students sit on waitlists for choice programs despite Republican control in both of those states.

“Mississippi is a little late to the school choice dance,” education activist Kevin Chavrous said, according to Mississippi Watchdog. The state has a choice program, but that “only a small percentage of Mississippi students are able to take advantage, and opportunities need to be expanded.” Reformers there are working with legislators.

Watchdog Texas reported that the state “remains a laggard” in this important area, and that the Republican speaker of the house has been an opponent of expansion of school choice programs. The status quo policies are what keep a reported 120,000 students on waitlists to get out of failing public schools.

Click here for the full op-ed in the Washington Examiner. 

Neily Op-Ed at RedState

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Wednesday, January 11th, 2017

The Eyes Of Texas Are Upon You: The Franklin Center’s Amicus Brief In Hall V. McRaven

The Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity filed an amicus brief in a case before the Texas Supreme Court. President Nicole Neily explains why at RedState:

For years, well-connected applicants to the University of Texas benefitted from a secret admissions process; hundreds of applicants who would otherwise have been denied admission to the school were accepted due to the influence of powerful legislators, friends, or family members. But thanks to strong-willed whistleblowers and dedicated journalists, the scandal was uncovered in 2013, culminating in the resignation of UT-Austin President Bill Powers.

The University’s official investigation initially discovered very little wrongdoing; a subsequent report by the independent firm Kroll Associates found more widespread abuse. Watchdog.org’s Jon Cassidy also investigated this scandal, discovering that at least 764 people were admitted to the University of Texas that would not have been under the admissions standards typically applied to applicants. “The Kroll investigation confirmed what had been common knowledge… students were getting into UT at extraordinary rates, despite bad grades,” Cassidy found.

The full extent of the malfeasance, however, remains unknown; many have hypothesized that the Kroll report may have publicly downplayed the scope of the scandal. Accordingly, Wallace Hall, a member of the UT Board of Regents, has repeatedly requested – and been denied – access to the full set of documents compiled by Kroll. Hall was forced to turn to the courts, filing suit against University Chancellor William McRaven in a case that will be heard by the Texas Supreme Court today.

The Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, the publisher of Watchdog.org, filed an amicus brief in support of Hall, because of the implications that Hall’s case has for transparency and oversight of government boards throughout the state of Texas. We have requested some of the same information at issue in this case, and are currently in litigation with the University of Texas system in a Public Information Act case. 

In our brief, we assert that “release of the information at issue in this case is vital for proper government of UT, and the stated grounds for withholding it are symptomatic of institutional drift of governmental bodies in the Texas and the U.S. to insulate themselves from the public they are intended to serve.”

Read more at RedState.

Glass Op-Ed Published in the Washington Examiner

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Thursday, January 5th, 2017

Conservatives may miss an opportunity in the battle against ‘fake news’

The term ‘fake news’ is thrown around a lot these days, but there’s a real problem with fabricated news designed to look real. Franklin Center’s Kevin Glass writes that while conservatives have been skeptical of efforts to crack down on ‘fake news,’ that doesn’t mean they should stand on the sidelines of this debate.

Not long after the conclusion of the 2016 election, leaders at Facebook and Google announced they would be trying to crack down on “fake news” that became common on their sites. They defined “fake news” as stories fabricated wholesale that appeared on legitimate-looking sites designed to trick people into thinking they were reading about something that happened.

Conservatives have been skeptical of these efforts, and rightfully so. Google, Facebook and other tech companies have not exactly engendered trust with conservatives recently. Just in the last year, Facebook was revealed to have been curating its “trending” stories section in an anti-conservative direction, and Google fielded complaints that their platform was biased against then-candidate Donald Trump.

In response, many conservatives claim the fight against “fake news” will end up as a witch-hunt that delegitimizes conservative voices across some of the biggest platforms on the Internet, and that these criticisms of “fake news” could just as easily be applied to what people consider to be mainstream media.

But those criticisms from conservatives miss the mark. Yes, the mainstream media is biased, because most people who work for mainstream outlets are liberals. Yes, the mainstream media gets stories wrong far too often. Yes, the mainstream media credulously reports things that should be more deeply reported. And yes, especially, the mainstream media needs to get their own house in order and rebuild their credibility before tut-tutting everyone else about the news media environment.

Read more in the Washington Examiner.

Neily Op-Ed Published in The Hill

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Tuesday, January 3rd, 2017

US is losing the innovation war — to China

Franklin Center President Nicole Neily writes in The Hill about the decline in American innovation due to a weakening of intellectual property laws:

Over the last decade, government policies and legal rulings are pushing U.S. investment money overseas to China, while here in the United States, key industries that have potential to spur economic growth are paying the price.

This may sound like the sentiments of President-elect Donald Trump, but it’s actually the verdict that former U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Director David Kappos delivered during his closing remarks at a recent Inventing America conference.

“The U.S. no longer provides the kind of patent incentives that are necessary to invest in key industries like biotech and software,” Kappos lamented. “When investment incentives are reduced, you can expect investment to move elsewhere.”

Read more in The Hill.