Washington State Legislature Tries to Tax Vapes to Death

A bill introduced in Washington wants to tax all nicotine vaping products in an effort to ‘price them out’ of the reach of young people. Washington state lawmakers might be exaggerating the data about underage vapers in order to get this legislation passed.

To vape, or not to vape

The bill, known as HB 2165, seeks a massive tax hike on vapes and vaping liquid, saying

“Increasing the price of vapor products will decrease youth access and addiction, just as raising taxes on cigarettes to discourage youth and adult smoking decreased youth access and addiction.”

HB 2165 claims 23% of high school seniors “used an e-cigarette in the last month.” This does not parse out those who tried it once and stopped, nor does it mention how many actually went on to become users of a tobacco-replacement. It simply states the number of teens who have used it at least once in the last month.

The bill’s authors, however, don’t seem to find that data necessary. Instead, they state “these rates are alarming because an overwhelming majority of smokers begin smoking and become addicted to nicotine as teenagers.”

Correlation does not equal causation. Using a vape doesn’t translate to smoking cigarettes, yet the bill doesn’t make that distinction.

Pro-vaping groups advise voters to oppose HB 2165 along with HB 2144. Similar laws passed in other states have forced legitimate small businesses to close under the weight of the tax burden. HB 2144 aims to tax vapor nicotine by 95%.

The test cases show that these bills will do nothing but penalize local business owners.

HB 2165 is on its way to the Appropriations Committee, where it could languish forever. Proponents of the bill, however, are pushing hard to see the bill move from committee to the state legislative floor.

Virginians Continue to Face Rising Tolls on 66

Tolls on I-66, a Northern Virginia route that is infamous for congestion during rush house, have continued to rise.

According to commuters, on January 18th, tolls were projected at $47.25 during rush hour, despite there be nothing abnormal on the route.

Little Choice for Commuters

66 is a major highway into Washington, DC from the Nothern Virginia area. Before tolls were put into place in December, congestion was controlled by legally requiring all cars to contain at least two passengers to commute.

On December 4th, tolls were implemented requiring all drivers to have an EZ-Pass.

HOV compliant cars are still exempt from paying, but cars with less than two passengers face tolls. Depending on when they commute, these fees could be over $40.00 per day.

The new system has been plagued with backlash. For many Virginians, 66 is their most direct route to work in DC proper.

On Tuesday, the website and app that predict the toll price experienced a glitch which caused sticker shock when commuters saw the $39.00 toll on their bills. As of yet, no refunds will be issued for any commuter who chose 66 based on the absent tolling info.

Victory! Oregon Man Fights Unjust Fine on Free Speech and Wins!

Oregon’s automated enforcement program recently made headlines when a resident claimed that the timing mechanisms in the state’s red-light cameras were flawed. Mats Järlström, a Swedish electronics engineer, studied the mathematical formula being used in the timing of yellow lights and deemed it unjust after his wife received a ticket from a red light camera.

He shared his findings with state officials and local media in an attempt to help them improve their traffic cameras, but the Oregon State Board of Examiners for Engineering and Land Surveying accused him of violating a state law that dictates only state-licensed engineers can speak publicly about such technical aspects. Järlström filed a federal lawsuit alleging violations of his First Amendment rights. Oregon’s attorney general sided with Järlström.

Over 1,500 StandUnited activists petitioned the Oregon Board of Examiners to rescind this ridiculous fine on free speech. We are happy to see that as of December 4th, this petition is a victory for StandUnited users AND free speech!

Automated Enforcement: Pros vs. Cons

A number of communities around the US currently use automated tools that help to enforce traffic safety laws. Red light cameras (RLC) work by detecting motor vehicles as they pass over sensors after traffic signals toggle red. High-speed cameras are connected to the sensors in an effort to capture photographs of the front of the vehicle when it enters the intersection in addition to the rear of the vehicle as it passes through the intersection.

The photos are then sent to law enforcement officials for review, and citations are issued to the registered owner of the vehicle. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), as of December 2017, 422 communities have red light camera programs, and 142 communities have speed camera programs.

According to a study conducted by the Federal Highway Administration, automated enforcement systems can be effective and reliable tools to help reduce the number of red light violations and associated crashes. Since patrol officers are often spread too thin across many cities, RLCs can supplement their enforcement efforts. Economic analysts even indicated that RLCs save society $39,000 to $50,000 annually at each intersection where they are installed.

Opponents of automated enforcement are quick to reference their constitutional right for accused persons to confront their accuser, but in the case of RLCs and speed cameras, there is no human being to confront.

Equifax Gets Hacked, IRS Awards them a Contract

Well, this seems almost too dumb to be real. Equifax, the company that announced massive data breaches last month, has received a contract to work for the government.

The IRS awarded Equifax a contract to work on verifying consumer identities. The company has proven itself unable to keep personal data safe. Last month, Equifax announced that hackers had accessed the social security numbers of 145.5 million Americans.

No Alternatives Considered

Despite the company’s recent security failures, the IRS awarded it the contract without considering any other bids. The IRS claims that no other company can perform this sort of work. However, Equifax has competitors that may have better data security practices.

Tax Money to Equifax

The government has decided to send millions of our tax dollars to a company with dire security flaws. Not only that, but several Equifax executives may have profited from the scandal. Three of the company’s leaders sold $1.8 million in stock before the data breach became public. The three are under investigation for potential insider trading.

After Las Vegas, NFL Protests Continue

Following the deadly mass shooting in Las Vegas, Americans rallied around treasured symbols. The White House lowered its flag to half-staff. The Empire State Building dimmed its lights in memory of the 59 people who died at the hands of Stephen Paddock. Country music stars and fans alike gathered at an amphitheater in Nashville for a vigil.

Several NFL players, however, continued to protest during the national anthem. Three Kansas City Chiefs players sat out the anthem before their game against the Washington Redskins. All of the Redskins players stood during the anthem.

Chiefs cornerback Marcus Peters remained sitting on the bench while the anthem played. Television cameras picked up his protest, and fans booed the decision to sit after a national tragedy. Linebackers Ukeme Eligwe and Justin Houston also did not stand, but neither were shown on television. Eligwe sat on the bench; Houston seemed to pray while kneeling at the bench.

Protests against law enforcement have taken on a new tone following the Las Vegas shooting. Police officers ran towards the bullets to save lives and evacuate people from the Mandalay Bay venue. Several NFL players suspended their protests, at least while the nation grieves. These three players, however, continue to protest the anthem.

Victory! Justice Clarence Thomas Gets Spot in Smithsonian

The National Museum of African American History and Culture will finally include an exhibit about our nation’s first African American Supreme Court Justices.

One year after its opening, the NMAAHC has announced a new exhibit on Justice Thurgood Marshall and Justice Clarence Thomas. Thomas has served on the nation’s highest court for over 26 years. In 1991, President George H.W. Bush appointed Thomas to fill Justice Thurgood Marshall’s seat on the Supreme Court.

Thomas’ confirmation hearings included national controversy regarding the testimony of Anita Hill. Hill’s testimony had its own place in the museum, but not Justice Thomas – until now.

Conservative Exclusion?

When the museum first opened in Fall of 2016, visitors noticed that several prominent black conservatives were missing. Famed economist Thomas Sowell received no mention, nor did former GOP Chairman Michael Steele.

Some saw the oversight as intentional. A petition on StandUnited to include conservatives, including Thomas, in the museum garnered over 17,000 signatures.

One Year Later

Smithsonian’s exhibit on Justices Marshall and Thomas opened on September 24th – the museum’s first anniversary. 1.7 million people visit the NMAAHC every year. Starting this week, they’ll learn from the life story and achievement of Justice Thomas, too.

Net Neutrality: What You Need to Know

“Net neutrality” is the current government policy that keeps the internet open. The internet you are using now has net neutrality. Net neutrality means that any internet service provider must allow its customers to see the whole internet, and cannot block specific sites. In short, net neutrality is a government policy that keeps the internet open.

Without net neutrality, your internet service provider could choose to block or slow down certain sites. Internet companies could threaten to slow down Google and Netflix, for instance, unless those companies pay a hefty fee. Companies could stop you from reading certain news sites, too.

One of the most significant advantages of net neutrality for consumers is that it enables an array of protections such as freedom of expression. Thus, any legal content can be published online without fear of being blocked by internet service providers. Some additional protections provided via net neutrality regulations are:

• Extra Fees: Thanks to net neutrality, companies cannot charge you more for using vital services like email or online banking.

• Internet Fast Lanes – Some internet service providers want to establish two different types of broadband speed lanes. The fast lane would charge technology companies a premium in order to access it. If a small business or startup cannot afford the fast lane fees, internet companies will slow down their sites. This makes it harder for the “little guys” to compete with big web companies. The regulations within net neutrality help to ensure that the internet remains a level playing field.


The Internet Association is one of the main proponents of the current regulations because they believe that ISPs should not be allowed to slow internet traffic down in an effort to showcase their own content. Opponents of the current rules argue that they make it too easy to access objectionable material that is also age-sensitive.


Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai views net neutrality regulations unfavorably. He blames them for reducing investment in network expansion and slowing consumer access to the internet. Earlier this year, the FCC introduced legislation that would pave the way for internet companies to charge internet companies a premium in order to make their sites work faster.

What does this mean for you? If the FCC adopts the proposed rules, then streaming services would inevitably look for ways to recoup these costs. They would likely pass on the costs to consumer by raising subscription fees. Without net neutrality, you might be paying more for an internet connection that only lets you see “approved” parts of the web.

Next Steps

The proposed net neutrality rollback may come up for a vote at the FCC later this year. Until then, the battle on both sides of net neutrality continues.

California Political Correctness Endangers BART Passengers

Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) has seen an uptick in robberies and assaults over the summer. On June 28, the public transportation service announced that surveillance cameras had been installed in every single rail car. The Bay Area spent $1.2 million to outfit its public transit with cameras.

BART managers don’t want you to see what gets caught on those cameras.

On April 22, between forty and sixty teens robbed seven passengers and beat up two. On June 28th, four teens assaulted a passenger and stole the victim’s cell phone. On June 30, one of a dozen teens snatched a phone away from a lone woman riding the train. Surveillance cameras captured footage of each of these crimes.

PC: Political Correctness or Prompting Criminals?

BART refuses to release the security footage out of fear that doing so would “unfairly affect and characterize riders of color.” In each of the three cases, the crimes were committed by riders of color.

Debora Allen, a member of the BART Board of Directors, acknowledges that “people are genuinely concerned” and “fearful about…the recent attacks.” However, Allen stands by the Board’s decision. She says that releasing the videos would “create a high level of racially insensitive commentary” and “create racial bias in the riders against minorities on the trains.” 

BART is endangering riders of all races by failing to take basic steps to enforce safety rules. The Board is prioritizing political correctness over passenger safety. The cameras see raw, unedited facts. The crimes themselves should offend people enough to push for expanded safety measures. The demographics of the criminals should not matter at all.

Armed IRS Agents Raid Bridal Shop

The IRS broke its own agency rules by raiding and pillaging a family-owned bridal store. The government is now fighting the couple on technicalities, after it sold away their livelihood without charging them with a crime.

IRS = Internal Raiding Service?

In March of 2015, the Thangsongcharoens, who own Mii’s Bridal & Tuxedo in Dallas, Texas, saw their life savings sold away in front of them. Twenty armed agents of the IRS stormed into the store seizing their entire inventory. They also seized items that didn’t belong to the shop, including video game consoles and other equipment. They even took and auctioned off a war veteran’s hat that was in the shop for alterations. The agents sold dresses for under $4 a dress. While the entire inventory was valued at $615,000, all of it was sold for a total of $17,000. This is less than half the $31,400 alleged tax debt.

The government never charged the Thangsongcharoens for their alleged crime in court. Therefore, the government assumed them guilty without even giving them a chance to prove themselves innocent. The IRS violated their right to due process.

Even if the couple had been charged with a crime, the IRS still violated its policy for seizing and auctioning inventory. A clause in the IRS Code (26 U.S.C § 6336) outlines rules for rapid sale of inventory. The IRS must wait to auction off inventory for at least ten days, unless the goods being sold is “liable to perish or become greatly reduced in price or value by keeping, or that such property cannot be kept without great expense.” It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that wedding dresses and tuxedos aren’t perishable goods.

Fighting the Feds

In spring of 2017, the Thangsongcharoens decided to sue the federal government for the IRS’s improper actions against their store. They are suing for $1.8 million in the Texas Northern U.S. District Court. However, the federal government is fighting them back, not on the claims that the IRS acted properly, but on a technicality. They hold that the Thangsongcharoens do not have standing because they filed the lawsuit in their name, not under the name of their shop, Mii’s Bridal & Tuxedo. This is a clear effort by the government to cover up what they know was a violation of due process and IRS procedure.

The IRS left the Thangsongcharoen’s with nothing and now they are rightfully suing for the actions against them. They will not let the federal government get away with this type of wrongdoing. The Thangsongcharoens are fighting back, and we are too.

TSA Faces Backlash for New Book Rule

This week, the TSA began requiring travelers at some airports to remove books from their luggage before going through the security scanner. The TSA says that thick papers block the view inside scanned bags.

In airports in California and Missouri, passengers are now required to remove books from their bags and send them through the scanner separately. Travelers already have to remove their shoes, send their personal belongings through a scanner, and walk through a metal detector. This new regulation, expanded over every single person in an airport, might means longer wait times at security.

Got a Book? They’re Gonna Look!

The TSA claims books and food make it more difficult for scanners to check bag contents. Even without the book rule, TSA agents have the authority to pull bags aside for further scrutiny when needed.

The TSA already faces criticism for privacy invasions and personal inconveniences, but flipping through travelers’ books reaches a new low. Civil liberties groups, even the left-leaning ACLU, has recognized the government’s overreach with this rule. An ACLU senior analyst cites the “long history of special legal protection for the privacy of one’s reading habits in the United States…through numerous Supreme Court and other court decisions, [and] also through state laws.”

The Right to Read

Travelers have the right to read what they please. They should not be embarrassed by having to turn over their private reading materials to government employees. For example, many individuals read books on self-improvement, coping mechanisms, or other deeply personal matters. They should not have to stand in shame while a stranger flips through their books, with bystanders looking on with judgement.

Increased travel around the July 4th holiday will put this policy to the test. TSA has not yet announced if, and when, the policy will expand nationwide.