Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Is It Time to Consider the 25th Amendment to the Constitution?

President Trump is reaching the point where he will be unable to do his job. The 25th Amendment to the Constitution, triggered by the Kennedy assassination, spells out what happens when the President can’t do his job. The operative phrase is “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office”. The amendment gives three options – 1) The President can make the decision. 2) The Vice President and the majority of the cabinet can make the decision. 3)The Congress can make the decision. The amendment is short, so please read it for the details.

Section 1. In case of the removal of the President from office or of his death or resignation, the Vice President shall become President.
Section 2. Whenever there is a vacancy in the office of the Vice President, the President shall nominate a Vice President who shall take office upon confirmation by a majority vote of both Houses of Congress.
Section 3. Whenever the President transmits to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives his written declaration that he is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, and until he transmits to them a written declaration to the contrary, such powers and duties shall be discharged by the Vice President as Acting President.
Section 4. Whenever the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President.
Thereafter, when the President transmits to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives his written declaration that no inability exists, he shall resume the powers and duties of his office unless the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive department or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit within four days to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office. Thereupon Congress shall decide the issue, assembling within forty-eight hours for that purpose if not in session. If the Congress, within twenty-one days after receipt of the latter written declaration, or, if Congress is not in session, within twenty-one days after Congress is required to assemble, determines by two-thirds vote of both Houses that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall continue to discharge the same as Acting President; otherwise, the President shall resume the powers and duties of his office.

The President is not physically incapacitated. The President is not mentally incapacitated. He knows what he is doing. He chooses to do it. Nonetheless, by his own actions he is eroding support for his agenda. CEOs have separated from him, people who could have increased jobs here and/or kept them from leaving. Republicans, who control Congress, will separate from him, in the hope that they will be able to retain their seats in and control of Congress. The President is creating a climate and context in which he will be unable to accomplish anything. Even if he governs by executive orders, they will need to be carried out. People he has appointed will increasingly not follow or enforce orders or resign. Government will stop functioning. We can’t have that. The President either doesn’t understand or doesn’t care how the things he chooses to focus on are shredding the moral fiber of this country. Things that need to get done are on hold. The President on his own, the Vice President and a majority of the cabinet, or 2/3rd of both Houses of Congress need to seriously consider using the 25th amendment to right this ship we call the United States of America.

Thank you.

Common Grounder

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Take 2 on the Consolidation Proposal from the Administration on Community Living

Operational Challenges Related to PIII

These comments outline operational challenges that may be anticipated if PIII were to be authorized by Congress.  PIII would eliminate State DD Councils, State Independent Living Councils, and, in 19 states, Advisory Councils on Traumatic Brain Injury. PIII would cut available money from $103 million to $45 million. PIII, if enacted, would establish one disability council in every state.The responsibility will fall mostly to governors in deciding how to address operational challenges.

1      Phasing out of funding to others.  The adverse impact will be substantial in –
a.     States with large funding allocations.
b.     States which disperse a majority of their funding to others.
c.     Situations where sub-grantees have one or more years to go on a sub-grant at the time of the phase out.
d.     Amount of certain types activities conducted. In states where DD Councils, SILCs, and Advisory Boards routinely invest in training on advocacy, whether directly or indirectly, even with renewal of funding through new disability councils, the funding available will be modest, and not provide the amount formerly provided through the three entities. The adverse impact on sponsored systems change and capacity building will be even more pronounced. System change usually involves coordinating people to educate politicians and personnel from agencies to do things differently. There will be much less of that. Capacity building, because of its nature, takes time and money. There will be much less of it as well. Governors will get negative feedback.
 
2      Spending down current funds by a specify date.  Even at the end of a federal fiscal year, grantees have three months to close out finalize financial records from the previous year. Dissolution is more complicated, because it will involve disposing of property and determining how or if to keep files for historical purposes. Employees, probably about to be out of a job, may be assigned to make sure these dissolution processes are done properly. They may just find a new job or retire, and leave these duties unfinished. No governor wants that on his or her watch.

3      Ability to continue work on priorities set in existing multi-year plans. Each state entity, under existing laws, must set priorities in plans based on input from stakeholders. The PIII concept runs the risk of pitting distinct stakeholder groups against each other, since they will be attempting to “save” their priorities in the new scheme of things. There will be less money to pursue priorities even if a particular stakeholder group is successful. Governors will experience negative feedback.
 
4      Relinquishing physical space. Office space is a prize commodity in most states. It affects state budgets. It can be a symbol of status. It can represent either easy access or not to the public who needs to conduct business or get information or help. Governors will experience pressure from other state actors to acquire newly released space. Governors, who resolve some space issues as the result of PIIII, may not rush to implement a new council.

5      Terminating or reassigning staff. Some states have strong unions. Whatever contracts are in place will play a role in how and if many people are released from DD Councils, SILCs, and Advisory Boards. If bumping is an option, that means more senior employees from these three state entities, in states with strong employee contracts, could take the jobs of other employees less senior. That could have a domino effect causing disruption in the ranks. No governor wants that.

6      Firing existing council and board members.  Governors appoint members of DD Councils, SILCs, and Advisory Boards. They get recommendations from other who have political power or influence about appointments. Governors will not appreciate having to undo political appointments of 30-50 people.

7      How and when to provide public notification of the dissolution of councils or an advisory board.  Given how big and potentially pervasive the impact of PIII will be, especially in large states, a governor’s spokesperson will need to be involved. Messaging will be critical. The message must be clear, credible, and defensible. It must be able to counter “if it’s not broke…”; “how are you going to make up for what is lost”; or “how can you guarantee what was available before with 1/3 of the money”? No governor will relish this task.

8      Gap between the closing down DD Councils, SILCs, and Advisory Boards, and the starting up of new disability councils.  PIII is described as something that will continue the advocacy, systems change, and capacity building activities of DD Councils, SILCs, and Advisory Boards. Implied in such functions, right now being carried out by entities that have been in place from 20 to 40 plus years, is a place to go. People can stop by an office or check out a website to get information or help. The numbers are substantial. What will happen if there a gap between what is available now and a fully functioning new council? There are 54 million people with disabilities. They have families, friends, advocates, teachers, employers, and others who celebrate their achievements and independence and assume government will not undermine either. A lot of votes are among all these people. Faced with a possible gap or maintaining the status quo, we need not guess where governors will come down on this.

9      Getting governors to respond in a timely manner to new responsibilities associated with new councils:
a.     Selecting council members
b.     Assigning staff to prepare/submit first application
c.     Hiring staff
d.     Determining where the new council will be located organizationally
e.     Determining where the council will be located physically
f.      Determining the roles, if any, for staff of DD Councils, SILCs, and Advisory Boards, in the new council staffing structure
g.     Enacting state legislation to recognize the new council and its functions (this is usually required to allow state dollars to be spent on an entity to complement or match federal funds).

Nothing happens with lightning speed if it involves government. Creating new offices and appointing new members of an advisory body are probably the most notoriously slow examples of how governments operate.

10   Being able to plan for new councils with the uncertainty around how much money to anticipate or how many years for which to plan. Current appropriations for DD Councils, SILCs, and Advisory Boards is about a total of $103 million. Under PIII the total for a new council in each state would be $ 45 million. That would mean, if a formula based on population were used, most states would get less than $500,000 annually. Reducing what states receive by 57 percent will change what they will be able to do or offer under a new council. An added complication is that the Traumatic Brain Injury Advisory Boards, unlike DD Councils and SILCs that are in all states and some territories, are only in 19 states. Will that fact be considered in any funding formula? Governors will be reluctant to act unless they are promised serious money.


11   The impact on people with the transition from three entities to one council. They will perceive that their collective voice will be weakened and their ability to bring about needed change in their communities and states will be undermined. It will probably be five to ten years before any credible results will be seen coming from a single council option.

Thank you.
common Grounder