Friday, April 25, 2003

Today's Santorum comment

... is a bit of a stretch, but it's peripherally related to a unanimous U.S. Supreme Court decision handed down Wednesday involving a dispute over tax collection methods between California and Nevada.

Computer whiz Gilbert Hyatt owned several valuable patents. He moved from California to Nevada (where there's no state income tax) in September 1991. California revenuers claimed Hyatt didn't really relocate until 1992, and that he fled owing millions in state taxes. They went to extraordinary lengths to collect that money, including -- Hyatt alleged -- rummaging through his mail and disclosing proprietary secrets to his competitors.

Hyatt sued California under a Nevada law which lets residents charge state officials with "intentional misconduct." California claimed Hyatt had no standing since it was merely enforcing its tax laws and the "full faith and credit" clause of the Constitution gives the Golden State carte blanche to pursue Hyatt in any other state.

The Nevada Supreme Court disagreed, saying Nevada had a right to enforce its laws and Hyatt should have his day in court. By a 9-0 vote, the U.S. Supremes sided with Nevada.

As this editorial by me explains, the ruling is a strong defense of the principle that states should be "laboratories of democracy," and it has serious potential to be a check on grass-roots tyranny, since it should protect the rights of refugees from oppressive actions by state governments.

The Santorum link? OK, it's a big reach, but ... If Texas, say, were to aggressively enforce sodomy laws, Texans might decide to move to states that pride themselves on defending individuals' privacy. And, according to the logic of the court's decision, Lone Star cops would be SOL. At some point, it might not be good public policy to continue such by-the-book enforcement of the law, giving lawmakers an incentive to get rid of it.

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