All posts by Lili Carneglia

What the Atlanta Highway Collapse Signals about American Infrastructure

Atlanta is already known for having some of the worst traffic in the world, and the recent collapse along a major interstate will only make congestion worse. On March 30, in the middle of rush hour traffic, a fire began under the I-85 Northbound that quickly erupted into a massive blaze, eventually causing a section of the bridge to collapse.

Less than 24-hours later, with the rubble still smoldering, the US Department of Transportation announced a $10 million award to begin emergency repairs. Despite the quick response from the DOT, it will take millions more dollars before I-85 can resume carrying 400,000 vehicles daily.

With the nation’s Highway Trust Fund rapidly approaching insolvency, the I-85 collapse and the subsequent Atlanta traffic chaos exemplify the overwhelming cost and inefficiency of public infrastructure in America.

Why So Expensive?

In the United States, transit projects are chronically expensive and time-consuming. The country’s outdated method of allowing most highways to fall under federal care, and cumbersome regulatory obstacles, is part of the reason that we continue to lag behind when it comes to international standards. Regulatory burdens also contribute to other countries’ outranking the US when it comes to securing construction permits, making new projects and maintenance even more complicated.

Read more at FEE

Alabama’s ‘Amazon Tax’ is illegal and ineffective

This holiday season, online shoppers from Alabama can expect a higher price at checkout due to the state’s new tax policy. Alabama’s Simplified Sellers Use Tax, colloquially known as the ‘Amazon tax,’ is the latest in a series of state laws seeking to get around the Constitution in order to force out-of-state retailers to collect state taxes, in the name of protecting small businesses.

Amazon, despite being the tax’s popular namesake and one of its primary targets, has yet to challenge the tax.  This complacency seems to undermine Alabama’s justification that the tax will protect local business from Amazon. Instead, it is more likely that the new program serves to boost the bankrupt state’s waning General Fund, rather than promote fair competition for local businesses.

Unfortunately for Alabama, there are constitutional limitations on state taxation. Over a century of case law recognize that a state cannot regulate business outside its jurisdiction, or pass laws which discriminate against interstate commerce.

States can only constitutionally tax businesses having a “substantial nexus,” or connection, with the state. For years, “substantial nexus” has been understood to require some sort of physical presence inside the state, and following Scripto, Inc. v. Carson, the “furthest constitutional reach”is the presence of ten independent contractors acting as local salespeople.

Continue reading at Watchdog.

Dept. of Education rule hurts poor students, private institutions

As Obama enters his “lame duck” period with Congress, executive agencies are hurrying to push through some final regulations to fulfill the president’s agenda before Inauguration Day. Among the whirlwind of last-minute regulations, the Department of Education (ED) proposed a rule currently under review to protect students against corrupt educational institutions. The final regulation should slip into the Federal Register Nov. 1, just as media and public attention shifts toward the coming administration. Unfortunately, the motivations of this regulation are highly political and, if promulgated, would reduce education options for the most vulnerable members of society.

The proposed regulation is supposed to improve debt repayment programs for students who were taken advantage of by corrupt institutions (Trump University, anyone?). Secretary of Education John King stated, “We won’t sit idly by while dodgy schools leave students with piles of debt and taxpayers holding the bag.”

Student debt forgiveness has been a popular staple of left-leaning political platforms this election season, and it seems that the Obama administration is taking advantage of this idea to push a political agenda that unfairly punishes private institutions.

The new regulation has certain provisions that strictly affect the for-profit sector. The most misleading discriminatory standard includes expanding the circumstances under which borrowers can file a claim against their university. Particularly, a borrower can bring a case through ED if the school “misled” a student about the benefits or costs of a given education program. The tricky part is that under the new rule, “misleading” does not require intent. The regulation even spells out an example in which an advisor tells a student inquiring about financial aid that “most of our students receive scholarships,” which could be considered misleading if the student made a decision based on that information.

Continue reading at The Hill.