A Closer Look

by Courtney C Horne @FireezDragon

After reading other states policies, crafting a petition on change.org, arguing on facebook a little, and tweeting links at various people more followed than I am on twitter, I decided I wanted to write a closer look at the list of things Louisiana says certain state workers can not do. The list I am using is from the Louisiana Dept of State Civil Service website. 

It applies to all classified state employees and they explain on the website that “The Louisiana State Constitution defines the classified service as all employees of state agencies, except those specifically listed in Article X, Part 1, Section 2(B).  There is also a provision authorizing the State Civil Service Commission to add positions to the unclassified service.  The last provision of that section states: “additional positions may be added to the unclassified service and those positions may be revoked by rules adopted by a commission.” 

That is a bit unclear so I looked at the job listings on their site. They list around 380 positions and around 60 of those are listed as unclassified. For those other 320 jobs, people have a very real concern when they look at that job listing as to how it will effect their freedom to express their beliefs.

Now to the list..

(and a bonus chart link of all states policies on this)

Classified employees shall NOT do the following:

Become a candidate for nomination or election to public office.

This seems reasonable compared to the others and there are some obvious hypotheticals in support of this rule. If you worked for the state’s education department and wanted to run for your local school board that could certainly be a conflict. On the other hand, if you were an administrative assistant for the state and wanted to run for city council of your small town, would there be a realistic problem? Perhaps this one could be better addressed with a conflict of interest based rule so as to not suppress freedom in the name of preventing abuses.

Become a member of any committee of a political party or faction.

I fail to see how political committee membership if done in one’s spare time and not mentioned in the course of one’s work is likely to cause problems. There is a slight chance that people whom one serves as a state worker could discover such a membership but unless the state worker is engaging in unfair practices related to politics that seems irrelevant.

Make or solicit contributions for any candidate or political party or faction.

I can imagine no way in which making a contribution to a candidate can be an issue. If I was a state worker and sent Obama $3 to enter to eat dinner with him, I would be doing something illegal in Louisiana even if no one besides me, the campaign, and my bank knew about it. No way for it to influence anyone but still illegal.

As for soliciting contributions, obviously one should not be permitted to do so at work or through work channels. Asking someone you supervise to make a contribution even if its outside of work would clearly be a problem. On the other hand asking someone you know from college, don’t work with, don’t serve at your work doesn’t seem like an issue.

Some people may argue “OH but you could serve them some day and so they may be buying later favor.” A huge flaw in that reasoning is that its logical extension is that anyone who ever got people to donate to a campaign would then be ineligible for public service as they may look back to that past donation.

Common sense dictates did they do it at work? No? Did they offer influence or incentives related to work? No? Then it has nothing to do with work

Take an active part in the management of the affairs of a political party, faction or campaign

Like committee membership, managing the affairs of a party seems unlikely to just spring up as a work issue out of nowhere. We can guard against abuses without forbidding hundreds upon hundreds of citizens from getting involved in the political process.

Attend any fund raising function of a candidate or political party or faction even if someone gives you a free ticket. A function will be considered a fundraiser if it is advertised that anything – including food – will be sold at the function – even if you do not plan to buy anything.

So if there is a candidates rally and they are selling T-shirts, and you don’t plan to buy one, maybe you even dislike the candidate, you can’t attend the event to listen to the speech if you are a Louisiana state worker. This seems incredibly broad. The implication that being at an event where stuff is sold somehow implies your endorsement is incredibly presumptuous.  By this logic, any reporter is somehow endorsing any event they cover if there happens to be a guy selling hats and bumper stickers for the candidate.

Solicit votes for or against a candidate or political party or faction.

At work? No you shouldn’t be soliciting votes. In connection to your work? That is a problem too.

To your sister? Cousin? High school buddy? Who cares if you tell them how you think it is wise to vote? Not me and the state shouldn’t care either.

Publicly announce, in writing or otherwise, support of or opposition to a candidate or political party or faction.

I have a lot of the same – not at work, yes in private issues with this as with the other points already covered. I am also concerned as to what they might consider a support announcement. Could you offer an opinion on the vice presidential debate performance on Facebook or would that be too close to a support statement?

Prepare or distribute campaign material for or against a candidate or political party or faction.

Yet again with the “was it done at work or in a work related way?” question. That is the essential theme I am coming to with my problems with these regulations.

Also like with making a donation, how would people know if you privately and discreetly helped prepare campaign material? And if very few people knew how could there be a related abuse?

Contribute or volunteer time, effort, property, or any other thing of value in support of or opposition to a candidate or political party or faction.

Phone banking in your free time calling individuals in a different state? That somehow will magically involve a problem with a state worker job according to Louisiana. Even if no one you talk to is in Louisiana and no one at your work knows. Still illegal. You gave your time and that is evidently not an okay thing to do as a state worker.

Display a bumper sticker on the vehicle you drive in support of or opposition to a candidate or political party or faction.

Really? A bumper sticker? Do we seriously as a state believe that individuals are inspecting the cars in the parking lot at the state library to see who people who work there vote for?

Place a sign on your property supporting or opposing a candidate or political party or faction or allow anyone else to do so, unless it is your spouse or someone other co-owner who is not a classified employee.

Do we think that people are driving by their child welfare officer’s house trying to check out who they vote for? Why would they have the address? If they are doing that, aren’t they crazy enough that the sign is kinda irrelevant at this point?

Contribute or loan money in support of or opposition to a candidate or political party or faction.

They oppose you giving a candidate cash so much they listed it twice. At this point I can’t help but wonder why corporations get to give cash but state worker’s don’t deserve that option. Are corporations people and the state workers the faceless entities in the mind of the state?

Vote at the caucus or convention of a candidate or political party or faction.

I can’t name a list of people who voted at the state convention for nominating for the presidency. Can you? I wouldn’t know if a random state auditor I met next week had been part of the Ron Paul riot group at our state GOP convention and quite frankly if I found out he was it wouldn’t change anything beyond making me chuckle a bit when I saw him.

Wear, use, display, or distribute T-shirts, hats, stickers, pins, fans, water bottles, or any other material in support of or opposition to a candidate or political party or faction.

At work? Obvious issue.

Wearing it to a fancy dinner party not involving people you have work authority over? Kinda weird but not an issue.

…………………………………..

In short I propose a simple concept. No activity at work or involved with work. Any activity that has a conflict of interest or abuse of power will be disciplined. The rest should be fair game.

We should err on the side of free speech not on the side of restriction.

 

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