Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Conservtive Donerty's call for Big State Government

Conservative libertarian Assemblyman Michael Doherty wants Big State Government to shut down the Golden Parachutes ----the hefty severance packages paid by school districts to retiring school officials.

Such deals are freely negotiated by the two parties, but Doherty wants Big State Government to get involved to nix them ----now, in the past, and for the future.

Is this state involvement in a freely negotiated contract between two parties constitutional?

If it's an Abbott district, maybe---since they get a good portion of their money from the state, maybe a higher level of state scrutiny is warranted. But, what if it's Hunterdon/Warren Counties school districts? Then what?

My good friend Ed Smith of Doherty's office said that 'contracts made by public entities can be nullified for the public good'. But, that still seems like Big Government getting involved in a freely negotiated deal.

I am always amused when so-called “conservative libertarian Republicans” default to the Big Bad Government they usually disdain ---- to help solve a problem in the state. While a strong argument can be made that such a deal may be bad public policy, the question is:

Who gets to decide the solution? Legislators in Trenton ---or the folks who pay the bills and vote for the school boards who cut the raw deal?

The bill, passed by a good sized coalition of Ds and Rs, ---would ban such payments for both current and future top school officials. And that kind of state government involvement in the market place seems OK for Doherty.

This was all spurred on by a retiring school official in Monmouth County who got paid three quarters of a million bucks. That is a nice piece of change to go home with at the end of a school day. He would have to serve in Trenton almost 15 years to make that much.

As much as state taxpayers do not like the idea of such deals, one must question the constitutionality of the state of New Jersey being able to retroactively alter existing contracts.

Some people think the real answer should be political---in the voting booth, and maybe not legislative, in Trenton. Let the local voters in Monmouth County ----the folks who are paying the tab for such deals ----vote to bounce out school board members who negotiate and support such deals.

In the months ahead, keep your eyes pealed for lawsuits from those same top school officials who cut such deals in the past, and now have been nixed. Hope the school districts have budgeted for legal fees to pay their

I am sure that the attorneys for those same retired school officials will have an eye toward Article I, Section 10 of the U.S. Constitution:
No State shall … pass any Bill of Attainder, ex post facto Law, or Law impairing the Obligation of Contracts…
Thomas Jefferson, in a Letter to Isaac McPherson, August 13th, 1813, said this of ex post facto laws:
“The sentiment that ex post facto laws are against natural right is so strong in the United States, that few, if any, of the State constitutions have failed to proscribe them. The federal constitution indeed interdicts them in criminal cases only; but they are equally unjust in civil as in criminal cases, and the omission of a caution which would have been right, does not justify the doing what is wrong. Nor ought it to be presumed that the legislature meant to use a phrase in an unjustifiable sense, if by rules of construction it can be ever strained to what is just.”