Saturday, September 10, 2016

Bill Crawford: More federal overeach

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 was passed to eliminate unjustified discrimination based on disability. It provides protections against discrimination to disabled Americans, requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to disabled employees, and imposes accessibility requirements on public accommodations.

Now, the U.S. Department of Justice is telling Mississippi the ADA provides mentally ill adults an unconstrained constitutional right to community-based services.

Forced school desegregation was implemented by federal courts to eliminate illegal discrimination based on race. States that had passed laws requiring segregation by race have seen their school districts face decades of court ordered desegregation plans.

Now, in Cleveland, Mississippi, the U.S. Department of Justice has gotten a new federal judge to rule that students have a “constitutionally-guaranteed right of an integrated education.”

Both of these cases represent overreach by the federal government, particularly by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). Hopefully, seasoned federal judges will see fit to rein in such excess.

In 1999 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that “unjustified isolation” of mentally ill individuals “is properly regarded as discrimination based on disability.”  The Olmstead ruling further said the state must provide community-based mental health services when they “can be reasonably accommodated, taking into account the resources available to the entity and the needs of other persons with disabilities.” The key words here are “unjustified” and “resources available.”

Since 2011 the DOJ has been pushing the state to shift its emphasis and funding from state mental institutions to community-based services. While the state has built a system of community-based mental health services, most of its limited funding still goes for institutional care. The Legislature’s PEER Committee has reported several times the state would need to do more to comply with Olmstead.

In August, DOJ filed suit to force the state to comply. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch proclaimed that “Mississippi has failed people with mental illness, violating their civil rights by confining them in isolating institutions.”

Notably, the lawsuit avoids addressing the “resources available” requirement. Instead it argues that since the state provides a lower proportion of funding to community-based care than other states, it is discriminating against the mentally ill.

The Cleveland desegregation case came before U.S. District Judge Debra M. Brown who was appointed to the federal bench in 2013 after 16 years practicing commercial law. In her ruling, Judge Brown forthrightly ignored prior orders by distinguished judges William C. Keady, Glen H. Davidson, and L.T. Senter to determine that Cleveland’s freedom of choice school desegregation plans were unconstitutional. She showed great deference to the arguments of DOJ expert Clare Smrekar, but little to the local school district or its expert Christine Rossell, despite guidance by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals that she should as much as possible “defer to the District’s plans.”

Should Judge Brown’s new constitutional right take root, many schools and some universities face consolidation. Cleveland has appealed her ruling.

While Mississippi needs to do better in many ways, federal overreach is not the answer.

Crawford is a syndicated columnist from Meridian (


Anonymous said...

Every state has similar situations like Cleveland and with mental health care. Mississippi is just an easier target because of its past.

All Federal Judges Must Be Equally Liberal said...

"Instead it the ruling) argues that since the state provides a lower proportion of funding to community-based care than other states, it is discriminating against the mentally ill."

Another example of inappropriate and meaningless 'averaging'. Each citizen should have the same income, housing and transportation. Each demographic group should live among all other demographic groups in equal facilities with the same rent or payment. Students should paddled in direct parity and proportion to the number of paddlings administered to every other demographic group. Employers must have equal numbers of men, women, disabled, age groups and religious groups. Each state should mimic each of the other states in services, road conditions, availability of the arts and grocery store distance from citizens, including mental health services. The service levels available in Oregon and Massachusetts must also be available equally in Mississippi and Utah.

Anonymous said...

If you take federal dollars, the feds get a say in whether or not you are spending those dollars effectively.
We may argue about what is or isn't the most effective use, but if we do, we need to be able to back that up with facts and figures.
I don't object to oversight in how my tax dollars are spent. And, after the meat packing plant and other fiascos that have led MS to be designated as the "most corrupt" State in the Union, I would suggest it's up to us to change that so that federal intervention isn't necessary!

Put A Pencil Tuit said...

7:06 - I understand that some people like you only have surface knowledge of how grant and gifting programs work, but, please consider that every federal agency that disperses this sort of funding has the right and obligation to audit the expenditure of the funds. We deserve no less. That is NOT intervention.

However, when funds go to minority organizations and democrat run cities, too often there is no audit oversight.

Anonymous said...

11:21 It appears you agree with 7:06, but can't get over use of the word "intervention". Your second point is spot on and should also be applied to non-profits, particularly churches, who engage in partisan political activity. Have any African American or Unitarian Universalist churches ever lost their tax exempt status?

Anonymous said...

Thank you 7:53 am, I am 7:06 am and that too was my reaction. I was left wondering how 11:21 am defines the word " intervention".

I do understand how grants and gifting programs work. Spending reports are generated that are available for review and audit. And, no intervention is needed unless monies were not properly spent.

I would however suggest to both of you that churches of any kind, including conservative mega churches lose their tax exempt status. I would also suggest you remember that there was a Democratic organization that supposedly registered voters that did.

I would also suggest that both of you research " proprietary" exemptions. Churches and non-profits aren't the only entities that avoid oversight. What can be audited matters.

Anonymous said...

P.S. It wasn't a Democratically controlled Congress and administration that allowed churches to go into businesses for profit that are also tax exempt.

Y'all really need to realize that looking through a partisan prism is skewing your ability to objectively prioritize information.

F mickns said...

I don't know much or understand what I have read on the Cleveland school district so I'll let theta go, I'll probably read Kingfish's post to get the real deal.

If I have properly read the quotes provided by Crawford above, it appears the Fed say MS is spending a lower PROPORTION of its funds on the target group than other states. No specific funding numbers are set or proposed. Also,no mention of equal spending either.

From previous articles I have read the Feds say that the continued cuts in mental health programs is also legally unacceptable. From my point of view it is morally wrong.

In my opinion these low finding levels and constant cuts is puzzling in a state like Mississippi where the vast majority of citizens are either Christians or other spiritually individuals.

Put A Pencil Tuit 2.. said...

I only made reference to the word 'intervention' because it had been used several times in a pejorative sense to describe the feds taking a look at how funds were being spent.

The suggestion is made above that when the feds hand out grants, they should have no continuing interest in how those public monies are spent. That ain't so. Sorry if you don't like my reference to the word you people are using.

You need not be 'left wondering' how I define intervention. Look it up. But, if it will help you, here's my definition as relates to grants and other hand-outs: To intercede with a heavy hand, meddle with inappropriately, look at closely with a microscope, overly analyze, anally audit, get in the way of, take control of.

Anonymous said...

6:31 am Then you need to get out a dictionary. You also need to read the definition of a grant.
Conditions must be met when you apply for a grant and if you get a grant, you must agree to the grantor's requirements and also spend the money or use the grant as you described you would do in your application.
There is a difference between a grant and a donation.
Also, grants are not made in perpetuity . You have to meet the qualifications specified in the grant and meet those qualifications to be eligible to continue receiving.
If you want total control, raise the funds yourself and get donations.
I would also suggest to you that those who do grant oversight don't want to look for or find problems. They would rather point to success. If their grant program isn't successful, it's not likely to be refunded and they'll be out of a job.

Pencil Tuit said...

7:14 - You are assuming that we disagree. I'm not sure we do. I have a full understanding of the grant process. That includes an understanding of the application process, the awards process and follow-up and review by the grantor. You seem to be arguing with an invisible entity - one who has not surfaced here.

I also understand (and you do too) that grants not spent according to application or that are not judged to be successful will likely not be rewarded with a future grant. And that can only be determined by review, audit and follow-up by either the grantor or its third party reviewer.

There's a wide difference between (1) oversight/audit and (2) federal encroachment/overstep and intervention. I assumed the latter to be the point of the whole conversation here.

Anonymous said...

Fine 8:27 am .Then specifically describe why this is over reach and not oversight. I don't have all the documents,do you?

Exasperated Tuit.. said...

5:31 - I really hate to say this, but, please pay attention. I am NOT the one who claimed this is over reach. I have maintained from the get go that monitoring, audit and followup are NOT over reach and are essential. Has nothing to do with documents. The whole point of this thread is to accuse the feds of sticking their noses where they don't belong. I've advocated that audit is essential to a grant program. I don't know what else to say that will help you understand that position.

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