By Greg Peele, Treasurer
The Libertarian Party of Orange County is excited to see significant positive steps taken in Apopka at the December 20th, 2017 City Commission meeting. The Commissioners voted unanimously to reconsider the previous ban on medical cannabis dispensaries in city limits, tasking the city staff to draw up a proposed ordinance to revoke the ban passed a few months ago and develop a plan consistent with neighboring jurisdictions and state law.
Chair Ryan Speaking in Favor of Reconsidering the Ban on Dispensaries -
Previous opposition to medical cannabis dispensaries was primarily based on a combination of frustration at the limited options provided to the city regarding zoning of dispensaries, courtesy of the Florida Legislature's 2017 bill - in a nutshell, cities were legally required either to allow dispensaries under the same zoning requirements as pharmacies, or to ban them entirely, which conflicted with a large number of existing ordinances and plans under consideration by local jurisdictions all across the state. Our Chair, Derek Ryan, spoke passionately in favor of honoring the will of the voters, the free market, and patients seeking treatment, regardless of the issues in the Florida Legislature's approach, by permitting dispensaries under pharmacy zoning rules at the original hearing that resulted in the ban. However, four of the five City Commission members felt that a ban was necessary, especially on the assumption that the Orange County Commission and the neighboring Altamonte Springs City Commission were also likely to approve similar bans and this would potentially overload Apopka as a center of medical cannabis.
Chair Ryan Speaking Against the Original Ban - http://www.wftv.com/video?videoId=593982029&videoVersion=1.0
However, events in late 2017 changed the situation significantly. Significant and passionate multi-partisan opposition to the ban in Orange County, particularly from Florida House Representative Carlos Guilermo Smith (D-49), many local marijuana activists, Republican Candidate for Florida Governor Bruce Nathan, the Libertarian Party of Orange County, the Libertarian Party of Seminole County, and former employees of the Orange County government itself ultimately swayed the Orange County Commission to vote against the ban.
News Reports on Orange County Voting Against Ban, Including Statements From Chair Ryan -
Meanwhile, after the 2017 elections in Altamonte Springs in neighboring Seminole County, the Libertarian Party of Seminole County could celebrate the election of a Libertarian (former Libertarian National Committee Chair, no less) Jim Turney as Altamonte Springs City Commisioner for District 4. Commissioner Turney's first vote after being sworn in was, unanimously with his fellow commissioners, to revoke the prior Altamonte Springs moratorium on medical cannabis dispensaries. Altamonte Springs had previously, in 2015, voted to prepare for dispensaries, but the unexpected direction taken by the Florida Legislature rules in 2017 threw a monkey wrench into the original ordinance.
Altamonte Springs Commission Vote - https://www.clickorlando.com/health/altamonte-springs-to-vote-on-medical-marijuana-dispensaries
Quoting Commissioner Turney: "I'm proud to live in a city where the leaders provided legal status for medical marijuana facilities two years ago in anticipation of the voters approval of a constitutional amendment permitting use last year. My commission vote this week was an amendment to that ordinance to comply with the new state law which required banning as the only other option. After an 11 month moratorium, we can now have legal dispensaries. Altamonte is a great city!"
In light of the neighboring jurisdictions deciding against a ban, Mayor Joe Kilsheimer and Commissioner Kyle Becker quickly moved to revisit the issue and the entire Apopka Commission unanimously agreed.
As a final aside, we are also pleased to see a victory for zoning and business deregulation in Apopka in the same meeting - Mayor Kilsheimer and Commissioner Becker also promoted reducing the restrictions on minimum distance for businesses selling alcohol to promote the development of a downtown craft brewery environment similar to what we've seen in Winter Park and Orlando. While controversial, the measure passed with the additional support of Commissioner Diane Velazquez. As Libertarians we would prefer to see government step out of regulating these things entirely and trust the free market to settle which kinds of businesses Apopka residents would like to patronize. That said, we respect that the Commission considered this carefully and decided to take a measured step forward that balanced multiple concerns.
News Report on Apopka Relaxing Alcohol Restrictions - http://theapopkavoice.com/apopka-city-council-passes-ordinance-relax-alcohol-restrictions/
We look forward to an exciting new year for liberty in Orange County in 2018.
By Greg Peele, Treasurer
This week, the US House and Senate passed significant tax cuts. While we focus mainly on local issues here at the Libertarian Party of Orange County, since we actually have some hope of influencing those at our county commission and city council meetings, I wanted to share a Libertarian analysis on this federal matter since it is a fairly big deal that affects everyone. On the surface, one could be forgiven for assuming that Libertarians automatically approve any and all tax cuts. "Taxation is theft" after all, and we strongly favor getting the government out of our pocketbooks as well as our bedrooms. But like most major federal legislation, the tax cut bill was a fairly complicated piece of work that I believe deserves a deeper dive.
The mainstream media is bringing out the hatchets and going all out in propaganda pieces against the bill and trying to say it's electoral doom for the Republicans, so clearly there must be something good in it right? Well, sort of. In the final analysis, it's not perfect, and does nothing to solve our deficit or debt issues, but there's definitely plenty for Libertarians to like despite those issues.
Corporate Tax Cuts
Loud cheers for cutting the corporate income tax rate! And furthermore, for converting the corporate income tax to a territorial tax! The United States of America has long been a completely insane outlier compared to literally every other country in the world regarding corporate income taxes. The prior 35% rate was among the highest in the world, and the assertion that we can tax any US-based corporate income in the world was absurd. Reducing the rate to 21% and restricting it to earnings on US territory puts us right about average by world standards, and thus no longer leaves our corporations at a severe operational disadvantage compared to European and Asian corporations. I'd prefer to see it go to 0%, but... baby steps, I guess?
While many corporations had used deductions and "loopholes" to avoid paying that full rate, that's hardly a ringing endorsement of taxing more than large-government European Union rates. Some of those deductions were closed, more were not, but at the end of the day, the reality is that corporations never paid that income tax anyways - it's always employees and consumers that pay the real cost of corporate taxes. To drive that point home, upon announcement of the passage of this tax bill, a number of large corporations including AT&T, Wells Fargo, and Fifth-Third Bank announced employee bonuses and increasing hourly wages. Political stunt? Sure. But warranted all the same. This move should lead to significant onshoring effort for US jobs, increases in employee take-home pay, and possibly even reduction in US prices for goods and services.
Ending the Affordable Care Act Mandate
The Affordable Care Act was such an amazing affront to individual liberty on so many grounds. But the biggest affront was the individual mandate - that people are forced to purchase a product on penalty of tax, regardless of whether they need it or not, much less whether they can afford it. Mandating that "free" people purchase a product under threat of taxation is literally the opposite of everything Libertarians believe. Repealing the individual mandate is a rare instance of politicians (finally, and at great difficulty to be sure) keeping their promises, so kudos to the Republicans for that - you won't hear me say that often. While those in the most dire of need could (in theory) obtain subsidies to offset the cost, the mandate tax and all-too-expected insurance unaffordibility fell hardest on young Millennial working families struggling to make ends meet.
Of course, the reality is that the rest of the Affordable Care Act can't stand without the mandate. Monopolized insurance pools at unaffordable rates will enter a death spiral, and insurance companies will either collapse or be forced to compete on affordable prices. It doesn't solve the rest of our health care issues, but maybe we can finally start the real discussion we need to have - that health insurance and health care aren't the same thing, and that we desperately need a free market in health care to make it affordable. This isn't a new problem, either: we haven't had a free market in health care since arguably the 1920s. It's going to be a long road, but without the mandate it's at least a road we can hope to travel.
Tax Rate Reduction for Working Families
The largest percentage reductions were in the second, third, and fourth lowest tax brackets. These are the brackets that the vast majority of working class and middle class families fall into, and they'll see a real benefit in having less of their money stolen at gunpoint to fund the collective waste dump we call government. The lowest bracket stays at 10%, but the next bracket is reduced from 15% to 12% which is a huge difference for folks in that bracket. The next level reduces rates from 25% to 22%, a similarly large change, and the next level reduces from 28% to 24%. Comparatively, the top brackets get less percentage reductions, though you'd never know it from all the screeching about tax cuts for the wealthy.
The only down side is that the reduced rates expire in 2025 unless a future Congress takes action. Really, guys?
Reduce Applicability of Alternative Minimum Tax
Most people don't have to deal with the Alternative Minimum Tax. It's basically a "rules patch" to deal with all the shenanigans the wealthy can do in the normal tax code, without actually fixing the normal tax code. The problem is that it was never indexed to inflation, so average people started having to deal with that hot mess. It wasn't repealed entirely, which I'd have preferred, but at least the limits of applicability were raised,
Doubling the Standard Deduction
Libertarians have interested principled arguments regarding targeted tax deductions. Some say any tax deduction is good regardless of how narrowly targeted. My own opinion is that this has to be balanced against how the tax deduction distorts the free market in whatever it is related to. A tax deduction for solar panels, for example, unfairly favors solar companies. Mortgage interest deductions, while I personally heavily benefit from them, unfairly favor home owners over renters.
For people like me with lots of itemized deductions, it probably doesn't matter much one way or the other. But the average person runs with the standard deduction. And making it easier for everyone to claim more via the standard deduction without itemization is unequivocally a good thing. Everyone benefits from it, it's fair, and for those who take advantage of it, it simplifies their taxes.
One caveat on this one is that it also repeals personal exemptions. So in some circumstances this can be less of a benefit than one might think. But from a simplification standpoint I find that acceptable.
Reducing State and Local Tax Deduction
On a related vein to the previous item, not every Libertarian agrees on how to process removing the state and local tax deduction. Some say that all deductions should be preserved, expanded, and generalized. I can respect that view. But personally? I think it's a good move to reduce or even eliminate the state and local deduction. This deduction insulated state government officials from the electoral penalties of increasing state taxes in high-tax states like California, Massachusetts, and New York. Without the deduction, they have to answer to their own electorate on whether their state and local taxes are justified and reasonable, and their high taxes did not come at the expense of taxpayers in lower tax states like Florida.
Note that many high-tax states are also net federal taxpayers (pay more in federal taxes than they receive back in benefits) which this change will only exacerbate. But in large part this is precisely because they are high-tax states with high costs of living, and thus pay more in federal taxes to begin with.
The end result is that you can deduct a combination of state income, sales, and property tax up to $10,000. If your state is taxing you more than $10,000 per year, the problem is your state.
Mortgage Interest Deduction Cap
On the theme of deductions, the bill also caps mortgage interest deductions to only apply to loans of $750,000 or less. Needless to say, residents of Southern California, Northern Virginia, and New York City are screaming. I'd prefer to see the mortgage deduction eliminated entirely since it's a flagrant distortion of the free market in housing favoring homeowners over renters. But this particular change is only really a pain to those whose governments have already driven up the cost of housing to an unaffordable level and, otherwise, the very wealthy. Hard for me to get riled up one way or the other on it.
Deficit and Debt - Where's the Spending Cuts?
The elephant in the room is that this tax bill is by no means budget neutral - and we're not exactly big fans of elephants, don't you know. The federal government is already on a totally unsustainable trajectory on spending, and this bill does absolutely nothing to solve that. If anything, it makes it worse. The corporate tax cuts MIGHT partially pay for themselves with onshoring and increased tax base (hard to say) but the overall impact is to increase the deficit. But this bill makes no pretense of fiscal responsibility and does absolutely nothing to avert our pending debt spiral. It's not really a tax cut if we end up having to pay more taxes later to cover the interest and principle payments.
The silver lining is that it has the chance, however small, of forcing a future discussion on spending cuts. I won't hold my breath on that one, since in my lifetime Republicans have shown very little willingness to cut spending on big ticket items like military or even welfare entitlements. But I hope they prove me wrong.
Taxes are Complicated - A Missed Opportunity
Libertarians, of course, would ideally prefer to see people pay no income taxes at all and abolish the IRS and repeal the 16th amendment in the process. However, failing that, we'd at least prefer to simplify it down to the point where the average person could file their taxes on a postcard, so that it's not horrible unfair in favor of the wealthy who can buy the complicated accounting to get all the deductions or those who sit on welfare and don't pay taxes at all. The original House version of the tax bill did actually remove some deductions, "loopholes," and made some effort to simplify the tax code. But most of that was sold down the river to secure Senate votes, so the end result is that the tax code is as complicated as ever. The tax bill also didn't decrease the number of tax brackets, so that's not any simpler either.
Florida Senator Marco Rubio deserves special mention on this, since he held his own party hostage on the tax bill for his desired child tax credit. No doubt he will tout this as a major achievement, but a tax credit based on procreation such that folks can even get a larger refund than what they paid into the system is not a tax cut, but rather a disguised form of welfare and wealth redistribution. There's nothing Libertarian about refundable tax credits that can actually give you other people's money.
All in all, some steps forward, and a lot to like. The main problem is that it doesn't solve any underlying issues regarding cash flow or tax complexity. But the steps it does take are otherwise mostly positive, if limited and temporary.
We're still on an unsustainable debt spiral though.
July 19, 2017
By Greg Peele, Treasurer
I have a particular point of pride in our affiliate. Last night's business meeting at Orlando Brewing was, I believe, an inflection point in our progress.
Our Membership Chair Zach Detwiler presented a three-phase membership recruiting plan with the goal to triple active EC members, streamline volunteer placement and tasking, and greatly broaden our wider voter registration and support base so we can reach sustainable five-figure donations in a year. We also welcomed a new member at this meeting!
Our Candidates Chair Denise Wissmueller highlighted that we now know and can recruit for all 135 positions in Orange County, with a goal to have Libertarians running for at least 1/3 of them, and a local candidates plan that reaches to 2020. We also had our first local candidate indicate an interest in running - Frank Severino for Urban Orlando Community Development District.
Our Platform Chair Wayne Jackman recruited his committee members and started work to develop the LP Orange Platform derived from the LPF Platform.
Compared to the rest of them, I'm slacking off as Finance Committee Chair since I'm merely working on budgeting and setting up online donations. But we did raise the highest donations in a single event since my record keeping has begun, a phrase I hope to keep using often in the future.
We reauthorized the funding for our communications infrastructure, including this website, our Facebook advertising, and to upgrade our Meetup Group, which has grown spectacularly and hit the limit of the lower tier plan we started with.
At a structural level, we also instituted official written committee and officer reports (available to affiliate members) and committed to publicly posting the official business meeting minutes on our web site for transparency.
Press Release: 8/14/2017 @ 4:00pm
The Libertarian Party of Orange County FL unequivocally condemns the violence, racism, and bigotry on full display at the "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville, Virginia this weekend. Hate and violence have no place in a civil society, and we condemn bigotry as irrational and repugnant, as stated in the Libertarian Party's Platform, Section 3.5. We fully believe that all people are born with the Inalienable Right to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness, and that those rights should never be infringed upon due to race, gender, religion, or sexual orientation. Groups who advocate for hatred or violence against any individual based on those factors go against the core beliefs of the Libertarian Party, and Libertarianism as a whole.
As Libertarians, we respect an absolute right to Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Peaceful Assembly, including the right to express unpopular or controversial views. Defending the First Amendment should not be controversial to any American. However, this event was not peaceful. Two groups of small-but-vocal violent authoritarians clashed, resulting in the deaths of three people and injuries of many more. No one deserved to die over this. The Libertarian Party of Orange County FL opposes the initiation of force to achieve political or social goals in all circumstances. The movement towards this type of violent protest in America only highlights why it is important for individuals not to stray so far to the fringes of an ideal that all civility is lost.
We are particularly appalled by the invited presence of white supremacist and national socialist groups at the Charlottesville event, whose racist, anti-Semitic, and pro-authoritarian views have nothing to do with Libertarian philosophy of individual rights for all. While it appears that not everyone at that rally were members of such overt hate groups, we also condemn individuals who willingly and knowingly march in solidarity with them. We defend free speech as a matter of First Amendment principle, but we find it unacceptable to actively encourage the worst of free speech and embrace and promote violent ideologies.
We do caution everyone to take a calm and measured view, and not chase sensational headlines. Both the "Unite the Right" protesters and the Left-wing counter-protesters were clearly prepared and willing to commit violence against each other, abetted by the City of Charlottesville's poor planning and inadequate response for security of the event. We believe it is hypocritical to condemn one group of violent authoritarians while ignoring or even praising another. Violent authoritarian ideologies should have no place in America whether of the left or the right, and they certainly have no place in the Libertarian Party of Orange County FL.
For the record, no active members of the Orange County affiliate or leadership in the Libertarian Party were in attendance or helped in its planning, nor do we condone the actions or message of the “Unite the Right” rally in whole or in part. While it is true that at one point, Augustus Invictus (one of the speakers and organizers of the rally) was a member of the Libertarian Party, and as a registered Libertarian ran for a US Senate seat, his actions as an individual are his own and are not a reflection of the Libertarian Party or its members. While media sources may prefer to draw a lurid link between his actions and Libertarians, the fact of the matter is that Augustus is no longer an active member in the party, and has very publicly switched over to the Republican Party: a party he believes has a base that more aligns with his views, and politically is able to accomplish his goals as an individual.
When we, the current officers, came to the affiliate in June 2016, we saw a nascent political voice in Orange County that needed hard work and careful guidance to grow, particularly during the historic opportunity offered during the Johnson/Weld 2016 presidential campaign. We worked to peacefully transition the affiliate to new leadership so we can build a serious alternative to the established duopoly for Orange County voters, providing them with a voice that is concerned with the well-being and prosperity of all the people in our community. Since that time, we believe we have cultivated an organization with respect for all individuals, to defend all of our rights, all of the time.
The Libertarian Party of Orange County, FL stands for self-ownership, self-determination, and individual liberty for all.
Libertarian Party of Orange County
Calling all West Orange Libertarians - the Apopka City Council will be voting on whether to extend their red light camera contract for another 5 years. Let's make sure the Libertarian voices against this are heard!
ATTENTION: Our regular Libertarian Party of Orange County business meeting has been moved forward to Tuesday so that party members can speak at this city council meeting. Please mark your calendar accordingly.
Apopka residents: please call, email and fax the city council stating your feelings about the Red Light Cameras.
Vice Mayor/Commissioner - Seat 1
Commissioner - Seat 2
Commissioner - Seat 3
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