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Church State Issues

Using taxes to flush the 1st Amendemnt down the toilet????

Sep 27, 2014

Arizona Republic

US Forest Service uses taxes and permits to flush First Amendment down the toilet. This is why I said that if we are going to legalize marijuana we must make it illegal for the government to tax it. If marijuana is legalized one way for the politicians to do an end run around an initiative to legalize marijuana would be to pass draconian taxes on marijuana that make it illegal.

U.S. Congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema tried to make medical marijuana illegal when she was a member of the Arizona Legislator by attempting to slap a 300% tax on it. That would have been a $900 an ounce tax on medical marijuana based on the current price of about $300 an ounce at Arizona medical marijuana dispensaries. The tax would have raised the cost of medical marijuana to $1,200 an ounce.


Forest Service photo rule could limit news media

Brenna Goth, The Republic | azcentral.com 9:49 p.m. MST September 26, 2014

A vaguely worded U.S. Forest Service proposal to tighten restrictions on commercial photography and video in millions of acres of designated wilderness areas has raised concerns that journalists will be hampered from informing the public about potential wrongdoing.

The rules, which have been in place as a temporary measure but are undergoing review to be finalized, have drawn an outcry from First Amendment defenders, especially in Western states with large areas of land protected by the Wilderness Act. The act limits recreational and commercial activities allowed on other public lands.

First Amendment defenders are concerned that under the wording of the proposed rules, journalists could be treated the same as commercial photographers and videographers and required to apply for permits subject to government approval.

That could limit journalists' ability to investigate abuses or report other stories seen as unfavorable.

Adding to the confusion were conflicting statements about the rules this week by U.S. Forest Service officials.

They first told news outlets that journalists would be required to pay up to $1,500 for the permits or face fines of up to $1,000, except when covering breaking news such as wildfires.

The agency then backtracked and issued a statement saying the rules do not apply to journalists.

"They're getting a lot of well-deserved grief," said Daniel Barr, a lawyer for the First Amendment Coalition of Arizona.

In the statement, the Forest Service clarified that the policy does not apply to "news gathering or activities" and will not affect visitors on recreational trips.

As a result of the confusion, the Forest Service has extended the comment period for the proposal from Nov. 3 to Dec. 3.

Officials did not respond to a request for comment.

In the statement, the Forest Service said the policy is intended only to protect wilderness areas when commercial enterprises are using models, actors or props, going where the public normally can't or increasing administrative costs.

Permits in these instances could cost from $30 a day for a small project to $800 for a large production.

The policy doesn't expressly exclude media, and interpretation could be up to the discretion of forestry officials, Barr said.

"They can say what the intent is all they want, but it's not in the rule," he said.

The proposed rule changes were prompted by an increase in permit requests and are intended to provide clearer guidance for Forest Service officials.

The policy says permits for still photography and commercial video will be issued based on a variety of factors, including whether the project intends to promote "the use and enjoyment of wilderness or its ecological, geological, or other features of scientific, educational, scenic, or historical value."

Arizona has more than 4.5 million acres of wilderness managed by various federal agencies, ranking behind only Alaska, California and Idaho, according to Wilderness.net, a website managed by the University of Montana.

The Forest Service manages more than 40 wilderness areas in the state, including the Superstition Wilderness Area and the Sycamore Canyon Wilderness Area.

Garrett Bennett, owner of CenterFocus Experiences in Sedona, said he has Forest Service permits to lead excursions into such places as the Sierra Ancha Wilderness Area.

While in wilderness areas, he takes photos for promotional purposes and works with television programs that apply for commercial permits to film.

For him, the new rules still need more clarity.

"(The Forest Service) will put out something in D.C. and you call someone locally and get their interpretation," Bennett said. "There can be deviation."


Source

Forest Service says media doesn't need permit

AP 7:02 a.m. MST September 26, 2014

SEATTLE — Faced with increasing criticism of a proposal that would restrict media filming in wilderness areas, the head of the U.S. Forest Service said late Thursday that the rule is not intended to apply to news-gathering activities.

The rule would apply to commercial filming, like a movie production, but reporters and news organizations would not need to get a permit to shoot video or photographs in the nation's wilderness areas, Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell said in a phone interview Thursday.

"The U.S. Forest Service remains committed to the First Amendment," he said, adding: "It does not infringe in any way on First Amendment rights. It does not apply to news-gathering activities, and that includes any part of news."

Forest Service officials had said earlier in the week that news organizations, except in breaking news situations, would be required to obtain a permit and follow a number of criteria if they wanted to film in designated wilderness areas.

At least two public TV stations, in Idaho and Oregon, said they have been asked to obtain a permit before filming their programs in wilderness areas. Press advocates criticized the proposed rules as a violation of the First Amendment, saying it raises concerns about press freedom.

"I understand what he's saying the intent is, but the language doesn't not reflect that intent," Mickey Osterreicher, general counsel for the National Press Photographers Association, said Thursday in response to Tidwell's comments.

"If they're serious about it, they need to craft unambiguous language that exempts news-gathering if that's their alleged intent, so there's no question that someone out on a news story wouldn't have a ranger or other employee saying 'You need a permit'," Osterreicher said.

Osterreicher noted that the proposal clearly refers to permits for still photography, but Tidwell said Thursday that "the intent is not for it to apply to still photography." When this discrepancy was raised to him, Tidwell said: "This is an example of where we need to clarify."

Tidwell said the agency wants feedback to help make sure the rules are clear and consistent.

Professional and amateur photographers will not need a permit unless they use models, actors, props; work in areas where the public is generally not allowed; or cause additional administrative costs, the agency said in a release.

Tidwell acknowledged that fees are applied differently by the agency across the country. He said the goal is to have a consistent approach to permitting commercial filming activities.

Commercial-filming permits currently run anywhere from $30 a day for up to three people to as much as $800 per day for production involving dozens of people.

A separate proposal would charge as much as $1,500 for the bigger film productions involving dozens of people on federal lands.

The plan "is a good faith effort to ensure the fullest protection of America's wild places" and has been in place for more than four years, Forest Service spokesman Larry Chambers said in a statement earlier Thursday.

Tidwell, whose agency manages nearly 190 million acres of public lands in national forests and grasslands, including 439 wilderness areas, said he welcomed feedback from the public at meetings to help craft clearer rules. The comment period has been extended through Dec. 3.

Under the rules, permit applications for commercial filming would be evaluated based on several criteria, including whether it spreads information about the enjoyment or use of wilderness or its ecological, geological, scientific, educational, scenic or historical values; helps preserve the wilderness character; and doesn't advertise products or services. Officials also would consider whether other suitable film sites are available outside the wilderness.