Davis column on contempt ruling: “Court finesses crisis it created”

In my column today, I examine the state Supreme Court’s decision to find the state in contempt. We blogged about the decision here. The court chose to give lawmakers one more chance before imposing “sanctions and remedies.” It was the smart, face-saving move given the circumstances. But the court never should have forced the issue.

Having placed itself in an untenable position, the court had no good options. The sanctions and remedies proposed by the education activists were neither palatable nor plausible. Their list included levying fines on lawmakers, writing the budget from the bench, and shuttering schools until they were fully funded. During the contempt hearing, justices floated other ideas, including repealing all tax breaks.

How would any of that work? No one knows. Some unexplored territory should remain off limits.

We should be thankful that the court finessed its self-made crisis. Ever since it retained jurisdiction of the case in 2012, the court has resembled an umpire officiating an unfamiliar game. Failing to appreciate the budget process, it called for major revenue increases in a short non-budget legislative session. Musing about repealing all tax breaks betrays an astonishing ignorance of how and why tax policy is enacted.

Please take a look at the column. Ideally, the 2015 Legislature will address the school funding challenge and the court can remove itself from the legislative arena.