Friday, September 20, 2019
Hawai'i Free Press

Current Articles | Archives

Sunday, November 23, 2014
Who’s the Boss, Anyway?
By Tom Yamachika @ 4:01 AM :: 2317 Views :: Taxes

Who’s the Boss, Anyway?

by Tom Yamachika, President, Tax Foundation Hawaii

Recently there was some news from the State of Colorado. Voters there had passed a Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights (TBOR) as an amendment to the Colorado Constitution. Under the TBOR, tax increases and significant government borrowing had to be presented to the voters before they could take effect. Some of the Colorado legislators, however, sued in federal court. Their argument was that the U.S. Constitution guarantees Colorado a “republican form of government,” and because the voters severely limited the power of the legislature to tax and spend, “core functions” of government, Colorado now falls short of that standard. The key defendant in that suit, Governor Hickenlooper, asked the court to toss out the suit. The court thought the case worthy of a trial, and let the suit go forward. The Governor went to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, which came to the same conclusion.

Other federal courts, including the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals that hears cases from Hawaii, said that this kind of case involves a “political question” and deserves to be thrown out of court. Typically, the courts hear cases where someone or some company is accused of breaching some duty or some contract. Rules of law are applied, and those rules give rise to the outcome. Political question suits are those in an area where there are few or no rules, so the question presented for decision is a policy choice. Generally, legislators make policy choices, and judges apply rules of law. Legislators vote on policy choices and aren’t supposed to come crying to the court system when their votes are not with the majority. Here, we really don’t know details of what a “republican form of government” is. We do know that a monarchy, which is what we used to have in Hawaii, doesn’t qualify but we’re not sure how republican the government has to be. In particular, there aren’t established rules about how much freedom to tax and spend a legislature needs to have. In any event, we now have different federal appeals courts reaching different conclusions, so it may be time for the U.S. Supreme Court to step in.

To me the underlying question is simpler: Who’s the Boss? Does the government exist to serve the people, or do the people exist to serve the government? One hallmark of the government we have in the United States is that there are limitations so government doesn’t run roughshod over the people. We have courts to uphold these limits and strike down any attempts by our government to seize too much power. Think of the federal Bill of Rights. Those amendments to the U.S. Constitution contain limits on governmental power that must be respected by federal and all state governments. TBOR in Colorado is aptly named because it also is a limitation on governmental power.

Here in Hawaii, we haven’t gone as far as Colorado voters have gone, but our constitution contains a balanced budget requirement, as well as a spending limit. Our legislators are certainly not free to tax and spend as much as they want. If the Supreme Court comes out and rules against the TBOR, then those limitations may be invalid; but the question remains: Who’s the Boss?

The Tenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution says, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” Article I, section 1 of the Hawaii Constitution says: “All political power of this State is inherent in the people and the responsibility for the exercise thereof rests with the people.  All government is founded on this authority.” If we believe these statements, then we know who the boss is.

- 30 -


TEXT "follow HawaiiFreePress" to 40404

Register to Vote


808 Silent Majority

808 State Update AM940


ACA Signups Hawaii



Alliance Defending Freedom

Aloha Conservative Alliance

Aloha Life Advocates

Aloha Pregnancy Care Center

American Council of Trustees and Alumni

American Mothers of Hawaii



Antonio Gramsci Reading List

A Place for Women in Waipio

Audit The Rail

Ballotpedia Hawaii

Better Hawaii 

Blaisdell Memorial Project

Broken Trust

CAFR Hawaii

Castaway Conservative

Children's Alliance Hawaii

Children's Rights Institute

Christian Homeschoolers of Hawaii

Citizens for Recall

Cliff Slater's Second Opinion

Coffee Break

Conservative Forum for Hawaii

CSIS Pacific Forum

DAR Hawaii

DVids Hawaii

E Hana Kakou Kelii Akina

E Māua Ola i Moku o Keawe

Farmers For Choice Hawaii


Fix Oahu!

Follow the Money Hawaii

Frank in Hawaii

Front Page Magazine

Frontline: The Fixers

Genetic Literacy Project

Get Off Your Butts!

God, Freedom, America

Grassroot Institute

Hawaii Aganst Assisted Suicide

Hawaii Aquarium Fish Report

Hawaii Aviation Preservation Society

Hawaii Catholic TV

Hawaii Christian Coalition

Hawaii Cigar Association

Hawaii Coalition Against Legalized Gambling

Hawaii ConCon Info

Hawaii Credit Union Watch

Hawaii Crime Victims' Rights

Hawaii Crop Improvement Association

Hawaii Debt Clock

Hawaii Defending Marriage

Hawaii Defense Foundation

Hawaii Families for Educational Choice

Hawaii Family Advocates

Hawaii Family Forum

Hawaii Farmers and Ranchers United

Hawaii Farmer's Daughter

Hawaii Federalist Society

Hawaii Federation of Republican Women

Hawaii Firearm Community

Hawaii Fishermen's Alliance

Hawaii Future Project

Hawaii Gathering of Eagles

Hawaii History Blog

Hawaii Homeschool Association

Hawaii Jihadi Trial

Hawaii March for Life

Hawaii Meth Project

Hawaii's Partnership for Appropriate & Compassionate Care

Hawaii Public Charter School Network

Hawaii Rifle Association

Hawaii Right to Life -- Big Island

Hawaii Right to Life -- Oahu

Hawaii Shield Law Coalition

Hawaii Shippers Council

Hawaii Smokers Alliance

Hawaii State Data Lab

Hawaii Together

Heritage Foundation

HI Coalition Against Legalized Gambling



Hiram Fong Papers

Homeschool Legal Defense Hawaii

Honolulu Homeless Crisis

Honolulu Navy League

Honolulu Traffic

Horns of Jericho Blog

House Minority Blog

House Republican Caucus YouTube


Hump Day Report

I Vote Hawaii

If Hawaii News

Imua TMT

Inouye-Kwock, NYT 1992

Inside the Nature Conservancy

Inverse Condemnation

Investigative Project on Terrorism

Iowa Meets Maui

Jackson v Abercrombie

Jihad Watch

Judgepedia Hawaii

July 4 in Hawaii

Kahle v New Hope

Kakaako Cares

Kau TEA Party

Kauai Co GOP

Keep Hawaii's Heroes


Land and Power in Hawaii

Legislative Committee Analysis Tool

Lessons in Firearm Education

Lingle Years

Malulani Foundation

Managed Care Matters -- Hawaii

Malama Pregnancy Center of Maui

Mauna Kea Recreational Users Group

Middle East Forum--The Legal Project

Mililani Conservatives for Change

Military Home Educators' Network Oahu

Missile Defense Advocacy

MIS Veterans Hawaii

Muslim Brotherhood in America

NAMI Hawaii


National Christian Foundation Hawaii

National Parents Org Hawaii

National Wind Watch

New Zeal

NFIB Hawaii News

No GMO Means No Aloha

Northwest Economic Policy Seminar

Not Dead Yet, Hawaii

Now What I Really Think

NRA-ILA Hawaii

Oahu Alternative Transport

ObamaCare Abortion Hawaii


OHA Lies

Opt Out Today

Pacific Aviation Museum

Patients Rights Council Hawaii

PEACE Hawaii

People vs Machine

Pritchett Cartoons 

Pro-GMO Hawaii


Rental by Owner Awareness Assn

Republican Party -- Hawaii State

Research Institute for Hawaii USA

Rick Hamada Show

RJ Rummel

Robotics Organizing Committee

Salvage The Rail

Save the Plastic Bag

School Choice in Hawaii

SIFE Remington

SIFE W. Oahu 

Sink the Jones Act

Smart About Marijuana--Hawaii

St Marianne Cope

State Budget Solutions Hawaii

State Policy Network

Statehood for Guam

Tax Foundation of Hawaii

The Harriet Tubman Agenda

The Long War Journal

The Real Hanabusa

Time Out Honolulu

Truth About Trade & Technology - Hawaii

UCC Truths

Union Members Know Your Rights

US Tax Foundation Hawaii Info

Valor in the Pacific

VAREP Honolulu

West Maui Taxpayers Association

What Natalie Thinks

Whole Life Hawaii