Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Natural Constituency For Libertarians

As many of you know, I enjoy playing poker. I also play online- only the free games. I really don't like the idea playing for cash online, because it's not the full game. If I'm going to play for cash, I want to be able to see real, live human beings in front of me, so that I can read them. It's a big component of the game.

But, if people want to play poker online for cash, they should have that right in America. It's your money. It's your life.

Online poker sites have sadly been located offshore, as they are banned from operation in the US. Imagine the tax revenue they could be bringing to our country! Now there is increased talk of extending the bans on online poker to include playing, not just operation, in the United States.

A new lobbying group, the Poker Players Alliance, has emerged to oppose any bans on online poker. There are some familiar faces leading the lobbying. From a Poker Players Alliance press release:
Three of the biggest names in poker-Howard Lederer, Chris Ferguson and Greg Raymer-and Radley Balko of the Cato Institute joined Bolcerek on the panel, each explaining why efforts to ban online gambling are misguided.

"We are here today to speak about the growing threat to poker as it relates to the online game," said Bolcerek. "We are here to defend the game and express our opposition to Congress' efforts to kill the sport and restrict our civil liberties."

This is a natural constituency for the Libertarian Party to pick up nationally. The timing is good- Texas Hold 'Em is an enormous fad nationally.

At the same time, it is of interest to me is that the various state governments are very happy to have lottery gambling which they control. The state lotteries tend to take about 60-70% as their cut. They advertise on TV & radio encouraging people to play. I haven't heard any calls from Congress to the states to give up their lotteries. Internet gambling sites, on the other hand, take about 10% as their cut. If nothing else, the state lotteries are guilty of a sort of price gouging.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Municipal Micromanagement

Two new municipal ordinances make me glad I'm out of the business of rental properties.

Speedway's new ordinance is especially awful. Do you really want landlords to be police? This is what they will have to become if fines to landlords result from tenant misbehavior. From WIBC's report:
The Speedway Town Council has approved some tough, new apartment regulations, despite protests from apartment dwellers and landlords alike.

The ordinance requires owners of rental properties to pay an annual licensing fee as well as a permit fee, per rental unit. The licensing fees were set at $25 for a landlord with five or fewer units. Those with more than five units will pay a $125 fee.

The ordinance also allows the Speedway Town Council to revoke the operating license of rental properties if those addresses see a lot of police runs.

Opponents say the fees are too high, and say they’ll just give landlords an excuse to raise rents.

And to become extra nosy. It isn't worth it to a landlord to lose his license just because a tenant does a lot of loud late-night partying. So, higher rent is just the beginning of the landlord protecting himself all the way to the expense of the tenant.

Greenwood recently passed an ordinance prohibiting the rental of a home within three years of its' construction. From an Indy Star report:
Mayor Charles Henderson says his plan, motivated by what he describes as a sour housing development deal, is designed to help maintain property values.

"I want to send a message that people deserve some protection and that anybody that buys into an addition can feel comfortable it isn't going to be turned into a rental community," said Henderson, whose idea could also face an up-or-down vote tonight. "It would help protect folks that get crossed up."

The Mayor also sends the message that if you bought thinking you would be there for a while, but got transferred to LA or Chicago within three years, you have to sell and take a major loss in sales commissions to the realtor. After all, the first several years of any mortgage payments are mainly interest, with little equity being built. I guess these people who get crossed up aren't in the Mayor's 'protection' plan. And it does little to help property values. If you can't rent it, you have to sell it fast, which means you sell at a lower price, which reflects poorly on the neighborhood.

It also prevents newer, nicer housing from entering the rental market in Greenwood. Is this a sort of plan to keep renters in older, deteriorating houses?

Local governments sure are making it harder to be a landlord in Central Indiana- and a tenant!

Monday, June 12, 2006

Oh, It's Soooo Hard To Do!

Pity the poor state Republicans. They had to be told not to get all excited and begin making plans to spend revenues that came in above forecast. It's tough because on the one hand you have a governor who promised to eliminate the budget by a certain date. On the other, you have little other than tax-and-spend Republicans in the Statehouse. From Mike Smith's AP report, found in the Fort Wayne News Sentinel:
When state tax collections came in far above the April target, Gov. Mitch Daniels made a big deal of it.

He brought state Budget Director Chuck Schalliol to a weekly meeting with reporters and touted the fact that revenue for the month was $206 million more than projected in December.

It's a tough spot for Daniels, who has pledged to eliminate what was a $600 million deficit in early 2005 by the end of this fiscal year on June 30. He said in March that the state likely would be able to afford statewide full-day kindergarten next year. He even hoped it could be implemented by the start of the 2007-2008 school year.

Many Democrats, including state Sen. Vi Simpson of Bloomington, say it's time to get that done. The price tag would be about $140 million a year, according to the Legislative Services Agency.

Senate Appropriations Chairman Robert Meeks, R-LaGrange, said the state's first obligation should be eliminating the back payments. He said he was open to discussing full-day kindergarten, "but do we do that at the sacrifice of everything else?"

Meeks sent a letter to all Republicans, issuing a cautionary note about spending.

"I think it's way too early to talk about new programs," he said.

But, when the time is right, Republicans will be there to spend, spend, spend. Maybe sometime after June 30, when the Guv is in the clear.

Libertarians in the Statehouse wouldn't need a cautionary letter advising them not to go crazy on the spending.

It's an interesting article in other ways. Check out this item featuring Brian Bosma:
Republican House Speaker Brian Bosma said recently that "now that the state has balanced its budget," Indiana was in a position to move forward on new education opportunities. They could include a strong kindergarten program, state-funded textbooks for every child, remediation for struggling students.

It was just shown that the budget is not balanced. Could it be that he doesn't know the difference between red & black? Or, is that as Sen. Dirksen once famously said, "a billion here, a billion there, pretty soon you're talking about real money". We're only in the millions on this deficit, so maybe it isn't real money to Bosma yet, or to sadly unnamed State Senators. Again, from Smith:
The December forecast predicted that by the end of the two-year budget cycle in July 2007, revenues would exceed expenditures by $265 million. As fiscal leaders in the Senate note, that's not a lot of money distance between a deficit and a surplus when it comes to a current annual budget of about $12 billion.

This is how they think about your tax dollars. Had enough yet?