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Harlan Edmonds

Harlan Edmonds: Governor Gordon’s on a Roll

in Column/Harlan Edmonds
12023

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By Harlan Edmonds, columnist

We live in a country deeply divided and growing more so every week.

And yet, we are all Americans. We share a common history and partake of inherited blessings that have grown out of long-shared ideals. As such, it’s important to appreciate the good in our political system when we find it.

The American system has allowed men to be free for longer, achieve dreams faster, and pass those freedoms and dreams down to their children and grandchildren for generations.

Of course, no system is perfect.

And those we elect to represent us in it are perfectly human, which is to say, perfectly flawed. This is why we should never forget to applaud good leadership and good policy when we find it, even when it is proposed by those we often disagree with.

As an illustration of this, I wish to congratulate Governor Gordon, who was not the first choice of Wyoming’s conservative majority to become the chief executive of our state.

Even so, he did run as a Republican and has often claimed to be a devotee of conservative principles. And in recent weeks he has demonstrated some courageous conservative leadership worthy of recognition.

First was the announcement that by 2028, Wyoming will be getting its first new nuclear power plant. And it’s not just any old nuclear power plant, but a first of its kind “Natrium” design, featuring a sodium-cooled fast reactor along with a molten salt energy storage system. 

This project was awarded initial funding by the U.S. Department of Energy, which is investing nearly $2 billon to support the licensing and construction of the reactor. Between 2,000 and 3,000 construction jobs will be generated along the way, with 300 to 400 permanent positions to follow once it is built. 

This is a major win for Wyoming and could help to restore America’s energy independence, which was so recently thrown away. Mr. Gordon should be commended for taking the political risk of tackling such a complex, long term initiative.

The next policy point to be applauded was the Governor’s recent attempts to bring the National Rifle Association’s (NRA) national headquarters to Wyoming. The NRA is currently deciding where to move their headquarters after the decision to leave New York.

Wyoming couldn’t be a more fitting place to host them. Wyoming has the third highest gun ownership numbers in the country with 66.2% of citizens owning a gun; only Alaska and Montana are higher. We are a state passionate about our Second Amendment rights.

It may not seem like much to some, but Wyoming would be the perfect place for the oft embattled NRA to defend and expand its generations-long role as America’s foundational gun ownership association.

Mr. Gordon was bold and farsighted to make this ask and we can only hope the NRA has the common sense to seriously consider us.

Even though they may ultimately decide to go somewhere else, Wyoming NRA members should follow Gordon’s lead and voice their support of this move now before the decision is made. Supplementing the Governor’s letter with more Wyoming voices could turn the outcome in our favor.

Last but not least, and very politically impressive, was Governor Gordon’s announcement that he, in collaboration with Wyoming Homeland Security, is considering requests by Texas Governor Abbot and Arizona Governor Ducey to have friendly states provide assistance with the restoration of law and order at the U.S. – Mexico border.

The magnitude of this border crisis unprecedented, and it is wise of Governor Gordon to not dismiss this request out of hand, but rather to take the time to learn the facts and to decide how best Wyoming can help.

Mr. Gordon had previously offered aerial support valued up to $250,000 but found ultimately it did not fit the needs at the border. But the fact he is on record as recognizing the threat to our nation if we do not secure our borders is something he should be congratulated for. It is the right policy position.

Wyoming citizens would do well to write or call Mr. Gordon and let him know they support the use of our National Guardsmen or any other resources to secure our border and thank him for working to provide the right assets to Texas and Arizona. 

While for many it may seem ridiculous to congratulate a politician on doing the right things, it is one of the best ways forward for our nation. Why?

Because our politics have become far too angry, far too personal, and far too ugly. We are a country addicted to outrage, to the point that thanking an elected official seems ridiculous. It shouldn’t be.

Good policy positions should be applauded and more of the same should be encouraged. Outrage will never change someone’s strongly held beliefs on an issue and perhaps kindness won’t either, but it is better for us going forward to focus more on policy and principles, and less on personality.

Being able to thank someone you don’t always agree with is a good lesson in civility. We could use more of that. 

These past few weeks Governor Gordon has made some excellent policy points. He’s had to make tough, unpopular decisions during the pandemic, but now, as we come out the mess of Covid-19 there is no reason not to recognize these good initiatives, especially those that could bring much needed jobs and resources and heightened morale to our state and to some of our communities that need it the most.  

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Harlan Edmonds: Legislature Fails on Education Again

in Column/Harlan Edmonds
10449

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By Harlan Edmonds, guest columnist

As usual, the Wyoming legislature has adjourned without doing much to stabilize education funding in the Cowboy State. They may have tried with House Bill (HB)173, but as is so often the case with critical budget reforms, the House of Representatives and the Senate couldn’t come to an agreement.  And so, our decades-long education funding boondoggle remains in place, eating up funds better directed elsewhere.

Sure, it’s hard to make hard decisions in the face of a $300 million-dollar shortfall, but our local education establishment has proven it would rather sue the state for more funding in place of considering doing things more efficiently. I’m referring to the string of lawsuits brought first by Washakie and then several times by Campbell County starting in 1980 and ending in 2008.

Even though Wyoming incurs some of the highest per-student costs in the region and has done so for years and years, our student outcomes remain fairly average. Meanwhile, our spending outcomes have risen at alarming rates because some lawmakers believe that any decrease in spending, even if equitably done, is unconstitutional. This is not a universal opinion, but it’s apparently prevalent enough to prevent any serious progress on stopping this run-away train.

But now the years of wine and roses are over. Coal production, the backbone of education funding in Wyoming, is in serious decline. And in another huge hit to Wyoming education funding, the Biden Administration has put a stop to oil and gas leases on federal lands. These things impact not only school funding, but school construction, which is also funded by federal coal lease bonuses.  Wyoming has spent several billion dollars on school construction in the past decade, but it is not a trend that has any realistic means of continuing into the future.

Facing all this, one would think the two bodies, the House and Senate, could have come to some agreement. Sadly, they could not. And now, in a strange twist of fate, Joe Biden rescued them from making any really tough decisions and helped them back away from some of the actual spending cuts they had dared to consider. Thanks to the America Rescue Plan Act—the eye-watering $1.9 trillion COVID “rescue” plan that our great, great grandchildren will still be paying for—the Wyoming education establishment has been saved from making any serious cuts.

To its credit, the Wyoming Senate did try to get serious. Taking a more conservative position, its majority sought to ensure that spending cuts did not include teachers. This is because it is well known that one of the great political games many school districts play (to enrage parents about cuts and bring about angry voices to bear on state lawmakers) is to cut the best teacher or the most popular program in the district and then point to state leaders, even when the lawmakers don’t specify those direct decisions.

The Wyoming House on the other hand, did not want to stop these kinds of games being played by school administrators, and even worse than that, in HB 173 they wanted to continue to give the districts cart blanche to spend the Biden bucks any way they wish, including spending outside of the school funding model. What has happened to the formerly more conservative chamber?

But this year, the Senate wanted school districts to place 75% of the $273M “Biden bucks” into savings. First, to protect against future funding shortfalls, and second, to ensure the money isn’t used to grow programs the state may not be able to afford into the future. This was a position the House found unacceptable.  Again, what has happened to them?

Sure, conservatives are all for local control, but conservatives are also for strong accountability and that includes fiscal accountability.  The state of our education system’s spending is the direct result of the leadership in our communities at the school board and school administration levels.  And these folks should never be considered so untouchable they can’t be held accountable for the out-of-control spending that they’ve been lobbying for in our state, where all of the other taxpayer funded agencies and departments have been asked again and again to make serious cuts.

One of the many ways our legislature could make our education system secure is to offer a robust school choice program including opportunity scholarships at half the price we pay per child in public education. That would amount to an almost $8,000 savings for each child who took the scholarship and went to a private school.  If our private schools, many of whom offer exceptional educational programs, can educate at half the cost of public schools, why in the world wouldn’t we do just that? 

Parents would have options, taxpayers would have savings, and public education would have a healthy dose of competition, just the shot of strong accountability they sorely need. Every child in our state would benefit from robust school choice, which would be a win—win outcome for all. Maybe next year our lawmakers will cowboy-up and do their jobs.

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Harlan Edmonds: Can Republicans Learn To Cheat Like Democrats?

in Column/Harlan Edmonds
7873

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By Harlan Edmonds, guest columnists

The U.S. Supreme Court has decided not to intervene in the 2020 election at the behest of a lawsuit brought by Texas. 17 other states had signed on. (Governor Gordon made sure Wyoming didn’t join in.)

This is a much bigger deal than when the Court intervened in the election of 2000, because this time, the issue isn’t confined to the constitutionality of one state’s recount.

In this case, the Court’s inaction will directly (and indirectly) set sweeping precedents about the rules of political engagement for all federal elections to come.

This is because this year’s election was conducted in very new way in some jurisdictions, but not in others.

More specifically, the suit Texas v. Pennsylvania et. al. [Georgia, Michigan, Wisconsin] asserts these four defendant states altered election law to such a degree as to violate the requirements of equal protection, the Due Process Clause, and the Electors Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

Additionally, these changes were imposed contrary to their own state constitutions and laws. As a result, honest and law abiding states have been harmed.

Americans of good will can disagree over how much criminal fraud occurred last month. In a nation as large as ours, it’s a lead pipe certainty some of it goes on in every election.

But it would be foolish to believe it didn’t radically increase in this one. As every law enforcement investigator and student of human nature knows, criminality directly correlates with motive and opportunity. If any previous presidential election in our history had a greater spike in both, good luck finding it.

Consider motive. The U.S. population has never been more polarized. Conservatives and liberals no longer worship the same God, share the same values, honor the same heroes and history, or agree on the meaning of human existence.

This was reflected in the election of Donald Trump, who conservatives warmed to due to his fearless defense of the traditional American way of life, while liberals came to hate him so absolutely they vowed to destroy him no matter what it took. In the face of a motivation so desperate, personal honor and election law don’t stand a chance.

Then there’s opportunity. A black swan event, in the form of a dangerous but manageable ChiCom virus, furnished cover for some jurisdictions to relax or eliminate longstanding voting laws and standards, create new ones, and to ignore or even encourage rabidly partisan interpretations and revisions of them by local authorities without oversight.

U.S. election law has become a joke in any state or locality with judges and elected officials corrupt enough to replace it with ad hoc rules designed to further their personal political objectives.

But does anyone have any moral or legal right to do such things? Especially in a national election? Of course not.

It’s illegal and down-right treasonous. And it can’t be allowed to stand. Otherwise, public confidence in the fairness, legality, constitutionality, and outcomes of this and future federal elections will collapse beyond recovery. Not only will the cheating continue, it will increase.

Democrats will creatively expand their successful operations of ballot manufacturing and tally manipulation. And Republicans will, of necessity, have to begin doing the same.

Plainly put, if it’s really okay to cheat, then it’s really okay to cheat. Is that what we want?

Now that SCOTUS has signaled that every state, county, city, precinct captain, ward heeler, union boss and polling station vigilante can set the rules, methods, and standards of casting and counting votes in federal elections, then that is precisely what’s going to happen from now on.

Need an example? For years, California’s liberals have been pushing to legalize ballot harvesting from illegal aliens, minors, and felons so as to deepen and perpetuate single party (Democrat) control there.

They already do such things in some local elections, but what’s to stop them from openly doing so in federal elections because SCOTUS decided that Texas v. Pennsylvania et. al. is without merit? Nothing.

So imagine what happens in the next Presidential election when California seeks to have its 55 electoral votes (won with the help of millions of non-citizens and other unlawful voters) counted toward the installation of a U.S. President.

What obligation do other states have to honor, and what obligation does Congress have to accept, California’s electors? None whatsoever. It would be treasonous.

Anyone who says otherwise must then accept the right of other states to insure Republican electors by ballot harvesting from non-citizens and other unlawful voters in say, rabidly pro-American countries like Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary.

A golden age of election fraud, not the election of any particular president, is what will most effectively hasten the loss of our democracy and the dissolution of our nation, all courtesy of the Supreme Court of the United States.

Harlan Edmonds is a former Wyoming State Legislator and writes from Cheyenne.  He can be reached at wyedmonds@reagan.com 

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