Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Law Is The Law

I get a kick out of hearing (Democrat) legislators here in the Commonwealth (and their buddies in the liberal media) whimpering about that.  The law is the law?!  We can't be having that!

Then change it, dumbass.

But don't evade it or pretend that it doesn't exist.

What's this all about?
State charity: Skirting the rules
Richmond Times-Dispatch

Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli's opinion about state contributions to charities has caused considerable trouble. Agency officials have frozen payments while they sort things out, leaving some nonprofits in a tight spot and others concerned.

Responding to a legislator's request, Cuccinelli issued an advisory opinion in January noting that the state constitution forbids the legislature from giving money to charitable institutions "not owned or controlled by the commonwealth." The opinion has drawn some angry responses, but it seems incontrovertible. U.Va. professor A.E. Dick Howard, who led the commission that wrote the current version of the state constitution, says the AG "got it right — the language is pretty plain."

That, did not stop lawmakers from doing as they pleased anyway. They often have skirted the constitution by deeming organizations historical or cultural groups, rather than charities. This sort of contempt for the governing document of the commonwealth invites citizens to view lawmakers in the same low regard.

There is a process for amending the state's constitution. It is used with some regularity. Those who think the state should be supporting private charitable groups are welcome to introduce a constitutional amendment. The hardship visited upon charitable groups is unfortunate, but they should direct the blame where it properly lies: with the legislators who exceeded their authority in the first place. [link]
Here's how Senator R. Edward Houck, Democrat, Spotsylvania, sees it. Or prefers to not see it, as the case may be:

What has set all this into motion is the attorney general’s opinion. I hope that level-headed people would understand that the opinion should not carry the day.”

So what should carry the day?

The law, dude. That's where you come in. And if it requires a constitutional amendment, write it and submit it for our approval.  It ain't rocket science and it ain't about Ken Cuccinelli.  Do your freaking job.

- - -

Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli's office released the following statement on the subject:
I have been asked by several media outlets about the recent articles regarding state agency funding to certain charities being suspended because of the attorney general’s January legal opinion that charities cannot be funded by direct appropriations from the state budget. This email is to clarify this issue.

First, this office was asked for its legal opinion and it provided it based on the plain language of the Virginia Constitution: that charities which are not owned or controlled by the commonwealth cannot be funded by direct appropriations from the budget (see'Bannon.pdf). Legal experts such as A.E. Dick Howard, who led the commission that gave us the current revision of the Virginia Constitution back in 1971 even said that this office was correct in its legal interpretation.

The attorney general’s official opinion merely stated what the law already is; it did not make new law. Official opinions are not the attorney general’s personal opinions. They are his legal analysis of what current law is, based on the law as written and any applicable court decisions. He does not make the law or change the law. In fact, the Supreme Court of Virginia has previously invalidated General Assembly budget appropriations to charities based on the language of the Constitution (these cases are cited in the opinion).

For those legislators who are disparaging the attorney general’s office for its plain reading of the state constitution, they should know they are the only ones who can change laws they don’t like. That power does not rest with this office.

Second, there is a growing misperception that this office is going through lists of charities, stating which ones can receive money and which can’t. That is not the case. When asked, our attorneys have worked with individual state agencies and have provided legal guidance on the scope of the constitutional prohibition, applying the law to specific facts presented to us by agencies without regard to the nature of the charity. But we do not have a master list of charities that we are “approving” or “not approving” for funding. That is not the job of this office.

Finally, although the state cannot donate money directly to charities, if charities are providing a contracted service to the state, they can be paid for that contract work, just like any other vendor. Some news outlets have reported that some agencies are working with charities to create contracts with deliverables that could change their relationships from those of handing out direct donations of taxpayer money to instead contracting for specific services.

Brian Gottstein
Director of Communication
Office of the Attorney General of Virginia
"For those legislators who are disparaging the attorney general’s office for its plain reading of the state constitution, they should know they are the only ones who can change laws they don’t like." (ouch.)   Don't like it? Fix it.