National Conference of State Legislatures

Alfred Katzenberger

[A report on the national conference held in Chicago, Illinois,
6-9 August, 2012. Additional comments provided by Don Killoren and Chuck Metalitz,
who also participated. Reprinted from GroundSwell, July 2012]

The National Conference of State Legislatures program in Chicago was “Build Strong States.”

Public Revenue Education Council experienced one good thing after another in Chicago.

The McCormick Center is huge, composed of four buildings and NCSL Exhibit Hall was in McCormick West. The building is excellently designed with a parking garage and easy access for loading and unloading to the exhibit floor. Our booth was 707, three booths from the main entrance. We stood out with a gold apron on our display table. We also had the GIS map Grinch, Connecticut showing land values that was given to us by Bill Batt. Those who stopped by the booth also took interest in our “Three Pan Economic Justice Scale.” Chuck Metalitz put dirt and a rock in one pan to represent LAND, two small plastic toy men working for LABOR and some small tools to represent CAPITAL. We explained that the “chains” on each pan represented money and the three crossbars represented the banks, Wall Street and the Federal Reserve Bank. When we told the public official they were the straight rod holding everything in balance they smiled. They quickly understood that a crocked rod would represent crocked politicians.

Chicago being so close to Missouri we expected to see people from Missouri but were told Missouri officials are not allowed to travel out of state at government expense. There are more and more new faces at the NCSL summit because of term limits.

The hard right folks were well represented at the conference. We learned that there are over 30,000 manufactures of guns, gun parts, gun equipment and supplies. Their booths were richly supplied with give aways and DVDs.

There was one fellow from Pennsylvania who claimed he wrote the Sales Tax Law to Tax All Sales and Services in Pennsylvania but it was defeated by people who wanted to tax real estate. We were nice to him and gave him a lot of samples of our Georgist literature. He said land is a commodity and we were trying to steal his private property.

It seemed that half of the booths were related to Health Care in one form or another. They all claim they were reducing cost and improving services. We did not know if we should believe them or thank President Obama.

Canada, Australia and Nigeria were well represented. Other nations were represented but very few from Spanish speaking countries. We had Spanish literature displayed but very little was given out at this legislative summit.

We need Georgists to present an educational workshop at the next NCSL Summit in Atlanta, GA. We need to sponsor Mayor Steve Reed and others to present a workshop on LVT to those attending the NCSL annual meetings. PREC can not carry the ball alone at this very important annual conference. Please wake up, Georgists. We need to educate these State policy makers.

Next PREC will be at the second booth from the main entrance. Our booth selection number was 39 out of over 300 other exhibitors.

The Chicago Henry George School was very helpful thanks to Chuck Metalitz, Irene Marmi and Bob Jene. They helped PREC’s Al Katzenberger and Don Killoren pass out Georgist literature and explain the importance of LVT to everyone who stopped by.

Don Killoren and Al Katzenberger stopped by the Haymarket Monument in the Haymarket area and saw about a dozen plaques on the base of the monument but none presented by a Georgist organization. Chuck Metalitz was asked to see out how a Georgist plaque could be added to the Haymarket Monument.

The Chicago NCSL was expensive for PREC and we would appreciate any financial support you can send to Public Revenue Education Council at 6228 Pershing Ave., St. Louis, MO 63130.

(Alfred Katzenberger may be emailed at


Thoughts on the NCSL Conference

by Don Killoren, St. Louis, MO

Talking with Legislators and other participating vendors and visitors it became obvious that we Georgists have an opportunity now to sell Land Value Taxation (or Charges) by showing how much of voters’ dollars spent on every retail item, gasoline, rent, hotel bill, and education goes to pay for the cost of land.

We need research to show precisely what part of every Gross Domestic Product dollar is paid to LAND SPECULATION interests. If people understood that rising home values are NOT in their best interests they would demand a change in their local property taxation systems. Presently we talk in generalities about the advantages of our ideas. We need hard facts showing that out of every dollar spent X number of pennies goes to a totally non-productive function (land speculation).

When they receive this kind of information voters will make new demands of the legislators who are now yawning at our message (with some of them even laughing at us as they walk away)…and how they have been conned into thinking that a FLAT LAND PRICE really served them.

(Don Killoren may be emailed at


Public Revenue Education Council helps state officials learn about smart tax policies

by Chuck Metalitz, Chicago, IL

What’s this? No posts for a month? Actually had several things “almost ready” to post, but meanwhile I spent an interesting three days at the National Council of State Legislators’ “Legislative Summit,” what most of us would call their annual convention.

Since about 1996, the Public Revenue Education Council (Missouri chapter of Common Ground-USA) has staffed a booth at the NCSL conference exhibit hall, alerting legislators, their staffs, and other attendees to the existence of a tax option which generates revenue while increasing, rather than discouraging, productive economic activity. Honing the message over the years (and gaining seniority which allows choice of better locations within the exhibit hall), PREC President Al Katzenberger and his colleagues may have gained some ground.

Among Al’s innovations is a custom-made (and unpatented, as far as I know) three-tray scale, used to illustrate the factors of production. Land, labor, and capital (the trays) are all necessary for most production, and usually use money (the chains) to facilitate the process. Banks and other financial institutions (the arms holding the chains) may try to manipulate the system unfairly, and it’s the job of government (the central post) to keep things more or less in balance.

For the 2012 event, which concluded Aug 9, Al was assisted by Don Killoren of St. Louis, Irene Marmi of Chicago, and this blogger. Since two people are generally enough to staff the booth, each of us had time to wander the hall visiting with other exhibitors – and there were many. Why so many? As has been said: “No one’s liberty or property is safe while the legislature is in session,” so everyone wants legislators to do, or refrain from doing, something. Some exhibitors were interesting, and might be the subject of future posts.

Of course each of us has a slightly different view of what geoists want to accomplish, but we tried to present a unified message: If you tax jobs, retail sales, and buildings, you’re likely to get less of those. If you tax the value of land as vacant, you’ll get economic benefits and, hey, let me tell you about much nicer your community will look.

Few people might stop by a booth about public revenue, so Al and Don just call out to passers-by “Where are you from?” They reply, and Al or Don says “Oh, you could use this there.” But they’ve also learned (better than I) to just shut up and listen to each prospect, find out what their concerns are, and provide a helpful response.

Thinking about next year’s NCSL conference (in Atlanta), we might want to seek a cleaner look by having fewer documents on the table. Plastic racks would be suitable for some of them. Other would be “under the counter,” or perhaps even available only on request via email. People will put their business cards in a fish bowl if a prize is offered. What prize? Maybe a $50 RSF gift certificate, along with some suggestions about what to spend it on. Use the business cards to generate an email list. Three days after the conference, everybody gets a “Thank you and call us if we can help” message. If they don’t respond, they won’t hear from us again until a week before the 2014 (Minnesota) conference, when we invite them to stop by our booth.

We need an attention-getting colorful postcard-size piece, highlighting our special web address which we’ll set up for the occasion, and perhaps a phone number. To the extent possible, the look of the documents we distribute should be modernized and made consistent. The Revenue Source is Under Our Feet seriously needs updating, and must include contacts for (not necessarily in) every state.

Across from the PREC booth was ESRI, the dominant geographic information systems software provider, who almost certainly were behind the Greenwich land value map we used to illustrate how straightforward land value assessment is. They suggested some contacts and ideas which may aid geoists in the future.

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