Grassroot Perspective – March 4, 2003-Request to Connecticut Supreme Court; National Right to Work Foundation; State Standards for Accessible Technology

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IJ to Ask Connecticut Supreme Court to Declare Eminent Domain for Economic Development Unconstitutional and to Protect New London Property Owners

On Dec. 2, 2002, Institute for Justice attorneys will argue before the Connecticut Supreme Court, asking it to decide, for the first time, whether taking property through eminent domain in the name of “economic development” is constitutional.

In March, the New London Superior Court dismissed 11 out of the 15 eminent domain actions filed against IJ’s clients from New London, Connecticut, and stayed the condemnations on the remaining four properties, ensuring that the property owners could stay while IJ appealed their case. The New London Development Corporation, the private entity that issued the condemnations, appealed the trial court’s decision on the 11 properties protected by the decision.

The NLDC wanted to take the homes, bulldoze them and then market the land to developers. The trial court ruled that it was unconstitutional to take homes in the absence of concrete plans, for there was no way for the court to determine if the takings were actually necessary.

CONTACT: Institute for Justice, 1717 Pennsylvania Ave., NW, Suite 200, Washington, DC 20006, 202/955-1300, fax 202/955-1329, email,

– National Right to Work Foundation

Carpenters Union President Pressured to Return Money Gained from Insider Stock Deal

Acting in response to legal pressure as well as embarrassing media coverage, Douglas McCarron, President of the Carpenters’ and Joiners of America union, announced he will return nearly $300,000 in personal profits he made through a notorious insider trading deal while serving as a director of a massive union owned insurance company, increasingly known as “Big Labor’s Enron.” While using his position on the $6 billion Union Labor Life Insurance Company (ULLICO) board to line his own pockets, McCarron also received a $110,000 raise from the Carpenters union, increasing his annual compensation to $356,000 in 2001, according to government disclosure documents obtained by the National Right to Work Foundation. Mr. McCarron still faces possible indictment from a federal grand jury convened to investigate insider trading by union officials on the ULLICO board. Meanwhile, the National Labor Relations Board is investigating charges filed by attorneys with the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation against ULLICO, whose board is composed primarily of former and current union officials.

Above articles are quoted from The Heritage Foundation, The Insider November/December 2002,

”Roots (Food for Thought)”

– State Standards for Accessible Technology

Author: Bartlett D. Cleland Published: The Heartland Institute 11/01/2002

In 1998, President Bill Clinton signed into law amendments to the Rehabilitation Act, which addresses the need for access to federally funded programs and services. The amendments strengthened Section 508 of the Act and require that federal government agencies “purchase, develop and use electronic and information technology products and services that are accessible to people with disabilities, including employees and members of the public.”

As an example, the amendments require that word processors used by the federal government be compatible with “screen readers”–software that turns the written word into a spoken word. Photocopiers must be designed to have an attachment making all controls available to those with mobility challenges.

The law applies to all federal agencies when they develop, procure, maintain, or use electronic and information technology. The agencies must ensure this technology is accessible to employees and members of the public with disabilities to the extent it does not pose an “undue burden.” Section 508 applies not only to federal agencies’ presence on the Internet, but also to other means for disseminating information, including computers, software, and electronic office equipment.

Importantly, the Act does not apply to private industry directly. But Section 508 clearly affects the technology industry. The federal government is the largest customer for industry in general, and the technology industry is no exception. When the federal customer makes decisions as to what it will and will not purchase, companies change their products to please the customer base. Accessibility requirements are no different.

States Consider Accessibility Standards

Several states are also looking at the accessibility issue, and many are seeking to set accessibility standards for the products they buy. The potential for conflict with the federal standards is great.

Illinois has developed standards with which all state agencies must comply when developing Web sites and Internet applications. The standards are based on Section 508 and World Wide Web Consortium accessibility guidelines. Illinois has accepted a standard nearly identical to the federal government’s … but other states, like Texas, have gone much further.

In 1999, Texas adopted a standard that required state agencies to design Internet sites to conform with generally acceptable standards for Internet accessibility for people with disabilities. Texas requires that a Technology Access Clause be included in all contracts entered into by the state or state agencies that involve the acquisition of an automated information system. The required contract clause must read, “The vendor expressly acknowledges that state funds may not be expended in connection with the purchase of an automated information system unless that system meets certain statutory requirements relating to accessibility by persons with visual impairments.”

Texas’s mandatory contract clause essentially places the burden on the vendor to demonstrate its products comply with the law. The federal standard, by contrast, requires the government agencies to bear the burden of making sure the products they use are in compliance.

The nearly impossible challenge for the IT industry, then, is to design products that meet standards set by the federal government, 50 states, and the District of Columbia. Of course, industry will not — and indeed cannot and should not — create 50+ different versions of the same product. Given the influence of the federal government customer, it is likely most products will be designed with its standards in mind. State governments whose rules are more strict will limit their product selection.

The Value of Uniform Standards

State regulators may be well-intended, but the unintended consequences of their stricter rules can have very real … and very harmful … effects. State government officials may chafe at the notion of following the federal government’s lead, but in some cases that just makes sense.

Some may immediately object that “federalism” means states should be able to adopt their own standards. But of course, federalism is not at issue here. This is capitalism at work, not a central authority imposing its will on the states. When customers speak, industry listens … and when an industry’s largest customer speaks, products will be developed to suit that customer’s needs.

Individuals with disabilities, governments at all levels, and the IT industry itself stand to benefit if the states coordinate their standards with those already in place at the federal level. If we want top-notch companies to produce high-quality, innovative products, then accessibility standards should be uniform from government contract to government contract.

Bartlett Cleland is director of the IPI Center for Technology Freedom. He was formerly technology and policy counsel for Americans for Tax Reform, and earlier, counsel to Senator John Ashcroft.

Above article is quoted from The Heartland Institute, Intellectual Ammunition November/December 2002,

”Evergreen (Today’s Quote)”

“The ideas of economist and political philosophers, both when they are right and when they are wrong, are more powerful than is generally understood. Indeed, the world is ruled by little else. Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influences, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist. Madmen in authority, who hear voices in the air, are distilling their frenzy from some academic scribbler of a few years back.” — John Maynard Keynes

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