“Not Thickness of Chains but Strength of Ideals” Erika Silaco
|Category: Civil Rights Lovefest|
Regional Influence: Eminence Grise
Location: The Vast
The Government of the Republic
Sunset's government consists of an elected Senate that determines the nation's laws. The Senate and the laws it creates are tied to a Constitution. The Senate selects several Secretaries that oversee the various government departments and execute government policy and the law. Laws are enforced by the Department of Justice and rulings on whether those laws have been violated are decided by the Court System.
The Senate is the singular legislative body in Sunset. Consisting of exactly one hundred Senators, it is responsible for shaping both government policy and the legal responsibilities of the government through legislation. It is restrained in its ability to create legislation by the Constitution. Since most of the Senators are average Sunset citizens, it frequently calls on the expert advise of the various Secretaries and their department technocrats when setting policy through legislation.
There are four Secretary-level positions that oversee their related Departments. These are executive positions, responsible for executing government policy within the boundaries of the law. The four departments are State, Commerce, Justice, and Education. Each of these reports directly to the Senate, and often has a number of sub-Departments under them with a number of Under Secretaries that report both to the Secretary and provide advise on specific areas to the Senate.
The Court system serves as the arbiter of whether the law has been violated and whether the law is clear and, more importantly, constitutional. There are two high-level Courts; The Constitutional Court, and the Supreme Court. The Constitutional Court, which is staffed with seven experts on that document, serves as a check on new laws. The Supreme Court is concerned with the arbitration of both civil and criminal law and serves as the court of final appeal.
The Legislative Process
The legislative process in Sunset has been specifically designed so that the creation of new laws and their approval is especially rigorous. It is a distinct part of standing government policy to make sure that the passage of new laws is difficult and carefully considered in order to avoid the creation of ill-considered, reactionary legislation and to avoid the influence of special interests, lobbyists, and corruption. Due to the rigorous nature of this process Sunset has, in comparison to many similar governments, very few laws.
Did You Know?
The Government of Sunset is entirely virtual.
Senate sessions take place via a virtual reality
connection to the CORE VirtuaGov network. An
unlimited number of outside spectators can
observe the Senate in session and communicate
directly with their Senator via the network.
Any legislation that comes before the Senate must find a Sponsor. This is a Senator who is willing to put their name on the bill. Sometimes multiple Senators sponsor a bill, but ultimately all legislation must have a primary Sponsor. The bill's Sponsor is important because they act as the leader of the Senate while that bill is being discussed. They organize debate, get input from the various Secretaries, and call the vote. They also determine when the law expires. All legislation requires a 70% (140 Senators) majority to pass; This is designed to encourage moderation and a wide plurality of agreement to any potential change in policy.
Once a piece of legislation has been passed by the Senate it is then automatically sent to the Secretary-General. They are responsible for making sure that the legislation does not fundamentally endanger the security of the nation. This is usually a formality. The Secretary-General normally advises the Senate on all legislation and typically a bill is only vetoed for security reasons if the security reasons themselves are secret. The Senate can then vote again, and if it meets the 70% threshold after knowing that it was vetoed for security reasons, it then passes to the last stage.
The final stage for any legislation is an automatic review by the Constitutional Court. They check it against the Constitution, determine if it does not violate any of the provisions of that document, and if it does not it then it becomes law. If the Constitutional Court does determine that it violates the Constitution the legislation is completely voided. It cannot be altered to pass muster by the Court, but rather the Senate must re-create it and re-vote on it.
It cannot, under the Constitution, use estimated income or potential funds. It has to allocate the budget based on how much money is currently in its accounts. Based on the estimated needs of the Departments and the available funds, it then allocates that money to the Departments for spending in four years. Since the legislative process takes a significant amount of time, and the law must take effect before the sponsoring Senator leaves office, this usually means that the 'Four Ahead' system is closer to 'Three Ahead.'
This means that budgets are typically very conservative and Departments include a reasonable amount of reserve in their budget estimates for potential changing situations. The Department of Industry also maintains a slush fund for emergencies, though there is yet another law that governs when and why this fund may be accessed.
One interesting stipulation is that all laws in Sunset have an automatic expiration date; A Sunset Clause. All of the effects of that law must take effect before the sponsoring Senator leaves office and they expire when that Senator leaves office. When they expire, they can be re-authorized with a new sponsor and new vote. This re-authorization does not need to pass through either the Secretary-General or the Constitutional Court. However, if a particular piece of legislation has been re-authorized multiple times, it can be perpetually extended with another vote with the provision that it can then be recalled to the Senate for consideration with a minority - thirty percent - vote.
Another uncommon stipulation is that legislation in Sunset cannot have any riders. It cannot make specific determinations about the use of funds. It can set up a program, such as the Young Explorer's program, but it cannot specifically allocate funds to a company or individual to run that program nor state where that program is to be based, headquartered, or offered. All of the details about how a government program is to be run are up to the Secretary or Under Secretary that has been assigned that program by the legislation. Importantly, this means that the various Secretaries and their staff need to be proficient managers and administrators rather than politicians; The rare Secretary or Under-Secretary who has political experience is usually on their second career.
The four Secretaries are citizens of Sunset who have been selected by the Senate to fill that position. They are selected in a nominating process where any Senator can nominate any individual, as long as they are a citizen, and the full Senate votes whether to confirm them or not. A 70% majority is required to confirm any Secretary, and any Secretary can be recalled by the same majority.
Each Secretary is responsible for determining the exact budget for their department, managing its personnel and resources, adherence to the law, maintaining its efficiency and effectiveness, and advising the Senate as to their needs and the effects of any legislation on their department. In practice, much of this is delegated down to the Under Secretaries, who are generally career technocrats who have extensive experience in their department and government in general.
Due to both the high majority needed to confirm and to recall most Secretaries serve until they retire. This makes the selection of a new Secretary a very important process and it is not undertaken lightly. Most Secretaries have either been Under Secretaries or Senators with excellent working knowledge of that department. Rarely are individuals who are not involved in government selected for a Secretary position though there are several notable exceptions.
Departments and Secretaries
Previous to the current Silaco Administration,
the highest office in the Republic was that of
the President. Both the Secretary of State
and the Secretary of Defense reported to the
President, as well as the other various
Secretaries. In order to institute more checks
on the system, the President's office was
eliminated and all of the Secretaries are now
responsible directly to the Senate. While the
Secretary-General's office now combines the
responsibilities of State and Defense, this is
seen as eliminating a fundamental
contradiction where the two would work at
Eric Thorgardson - 2002-2059
Edwin Smytheson - 2059-2109
Fidelo Villanova - 2109-2115
Atef Al-Zeif - 2115-2131
Jon Thorgardson - 2131-2140
The Office of the Secretary-General is responsible for the coordination and implementation of all national diplomacy and defense. For those who interact with Sunset, that makes the Secretary-General the face of the nation. In general the Secretary-General delegates most of their duties downward to either the Ambassadors or to the Grand Admirals and their own subordinates. This leaves them free to be a firefighter, focusing on specific high-profile incidents and working with the other departments to streamline the activities of government.
Because of the mixed nature of the position of Secretary-General, the Office has several sub-departments that operate under it, each with their own Department Head. These departments inter-mix the State and Military concepts even further with such departments as Special Projects and Intelligence Services. The heads of these departments are selected by the Secretary-General and while they are usually technocrats or career bureaucrats, Erika's daughter Katryna is the current Head of Special Projects.
Many might think that because the Triumvirate of Yut is such a large organization with many different member states that it would be the primary focus of the Secretary-General's attention but this is largely incorrect. The Triumvirate is, for the most part, a well-oiled machine that has a top-down policy of active communication and openness among its members. This leaves the Secretary-General free to focus on situations outside of the Triumvirate and thus it is not unusual for her to get involved in what might otherwise be a minor event.
Current Office Holder: Secretary-General Erika Silaco
- Under-Secretaries (Or Equivalent Position):
- Grand Admiral G'OgraPhi (Exploration Command)
Grand Admiral Jennifer Glafka (Fleet Command)
Grand Admiral Jon Yikorusha (Marine Command)
Grand Admiral David Edge (Planetary Command)
Ambassador Eldrathi (Diplomatic Corps)
Director Turtle (Intelligence Services)
Director Katryna Silaco (Special Projects)
Department of Education
The Secretary of Education is responsible for maintaining proper accreditation for the various educational institutions in Sunset. Inspectors regularly conduct spot checks, surprise audits, and formal and informal testing of both the staff and students to ensure that they are getting a quality education. As in the Secretary-General's office, they delegate much of the regular work in their office to their subordinates and focus on policy. In the case of the Department of Education, this means keeping up with the latest educational trends, scientific advancements and theories, as well as a host of other education-related subjects.
Sunset provides free education to all citizens. This includes everything up to a Doctorate and beyond. The government does not, however, run the schools. It pays for any classes any individual wishes to take through an accredited teacher or institution thus the Department's focus on accreditation and auditing. While there are various unaccredited institutions in Sunset, students must pay their own way.
The Secretary of Education also works with its various sister organizations inside the Triumvirate of Yut to provide exchange services. These are done on a one-for-one basis, money-spent to money-spent. There are a very large number of exchange students in the Triumvirate, and an extensive list of programs for them to participate in. This includes everything from basic education for diplomatic staff to berth swaps on scientific and exploration spaceships.
Current Office Holder: Secretary Ahasai Nyoma
- Under-Secretaries (Or Equivalent Position):
- Under-Secretary Harold 'Harry' Volk (Testing and Accreditation)
Under-Secretary Constant Lu (Auditing)
Director Maximilian Phoebus (Exchange Services)
Department of Justice
The Justice Department is charged with coordinating law enforcement activities across Sunset. Localities maintain their own police departments and Justice serves as a clearing house to pass information about crimes and criminals between the localities. It also serves as a government inspection office with field agents who are charged with looking for examples of government waste, corruption, and inefficiency. If an Inspector finds wrong-doing against the State, rather than between its citizens, they are empowered to gather evidence and bring a case before the courts.
DoJ Inspectors follow the motto of 'Cheap, Fast, Good: Pick Two'. If they find a program or contract that only fulfills one of those conditions, or tries to fulfill all three, it's a red flag that something is seriously wrong. Inspectors have wide leeway to enforce contracts or even end them if they find that there is something wrong or something seems wrong. They often work hand-in-hand with journalists and the media and it is common for a member of the fifth estate to accompany a DoJ Inspector on their work.
The Department of Justice is also responsible for working with the various external law enforcement agencies in the Triumvirate of Yut, MIDAS, and other organizations to which Sunset belongs. In this it often has to work closely with the Secretary-General's office, as Sunset law prohibits the extradition of individuals who are wanted purely for 'moral' crimes, such as prostitution, peaceful protest, and similar. Finally, it also provides legal advice to the Senate and to the other branches of the Secretariat.
Current Office Holder: Secretary Ure Noldo
- Under-Secretaries (Or Equivalent Position):
- Inspector-General Hillary Jiao (Government Accountability)
Under-Secretary Hitoshi Marimoto (Legal Affairs)
Commissioner Kro'Ma'Colr (Law Enforcement Coordination)
Department of Industry
The Department of Industry is responsible for managing the government's investments and for encouraging those which benefit the state, such as various infrastructure projects large and small. It is also responsible for using its investments to encourage responsible corporate behavior, such as healthcare, continuing education, compensation, employment levels, and similar. Lastly, it maintains the government's emergency slush fund. These are funds, both investments and held, that are available for emergency use under the Emergency Funds Act.
As of '176, the Department of Industry is also responsible for the twin UBR (Universal Basic Resources) and PEI (Personal Employment Income) schemes. This responsibility involves a lot of legwork; the UBR stipend is based on an average upper-middle-class income across all Republic market segments and so the Department must determine this and track it. Similarly, maintaining the PEI scheme involves a random audit process to determine whether someone's stated job is actually a job or merely them lounging around.
Current Office Holder: Secretary Tormakk Jin
- Under-Secretaries (Or Equivalent Position):
- Director Smith (National Investment)
Director White (Industrial Investment)
The Court System
There are no 'Hate Crimes' in Sunset.
Intent and motivation are not to be
considered when deciding whether the
law has been violated or not. While an
individual can decide not to press
charges, once charges have been filed
the decision must come down to a
finding of facts regardless of the
opinions of either side.
In the vast majority of cases, both the victim and the criminal start and end their encounter with the court system in the form of the everyday police officer. These law enforcement officers - typically contracted by the corporation that owns or operates the city the offense took place in - are empowered to detain criminals and issue fines up to 1% of an individual's PEI (Personal Employment Income). They can also serve as a technical witness as well, working out the details of how and when a crime occurred in the rare case where there is no direct recording of the event. Thanks to the prevalence of Augmented Reality cybernetic implants, most crimes are recorded and the proceedings are as simple as a viewing and the issuing of an appropriate fine.
When the amount of the fine or the complexity of a case exceeds a certain point - typically when there is no recording or there is some question as to the veracity of those recordings - the officer's superior is then involved. These Police Lieutenants can call on outside experts, call witnesses, and issue and enforce fines up to 10% of an individual's PEI. Even this is a speedy process as the officer can contact them directly, present witnesses through a virtual connection, get lawyers involved, and have the whole thing resolved right there on the street. Because of the ubiquitous nature of individual recording as well as corporate and business surveillance, most crimes stop at about that level.
Past this level the courts are involved and the focus shifts to contract law. Was the wife cheating on the husband? Was it cheating according to the terms of their cohabitation contract? What is the penalty if that contract is violated? What compensation is the employee owed? Is their idea in fact their idea? Is an idea worthy of a patent? Was it stolen from someone else? As with many things in Sunset, most of these interactions are handled through the Internet and specifically through the VirtuaGov interface. In most cases individuals either represent themselves or 'hire' an expert system to do it for them. Because of the virtual nature of the court system there are only specific regional or local courts when there is no outside connection. And generally when an issue arises that requires anything more than a local sheriff and their deputies that signals the arrival of a connection.
If an individual decides to appeal a court ruling, they direct that appeal to the next level which then decides whether they will receive that appeal. Both parties can make an appeal with the process moving through from Lieutenant to Judge to Planetary Court to System Court and finally to the Supreme Court. If an appeal is rejected, the ruling stands and must be executed immediately. To complement the process the Department of Justice typically reviews all appeals and DoJ Inspectors will randomly audit criminal proceedings to assure the quality of service provided by the contracted law enforcement entity.
While the street-level law enforcement officer is typically a contract employee, the Judges and higher court authorities are not. Instead, Judges are elected by the locale they serve with the Department of Justice reviewing the various applicants and providing an anonymous resume in the same manner as Senate elections. Most Judges start off as lawyers, though there are a significant number of AI who have either been purpose-built for the bench or who have been elected and have never been replaced. Typically Judges then work their way up with all of the current Supreme Court Justices having served as local Judges at one point in their career.
Elections in Sunset
Independence Day is the only recognized
holiday in Sunset. It is the longest day of
the Martian year and the first day of the
official new year!
- Day One: Three days before Independence Day.
All eligible voters in the twenty-five Senate Districts to be filled are sent a questionnaire. This contains ten questions that have been randomly selected from a pool of one hundred, which are themselves crafted by the members of the Constitutional Court. Answers can be as long or as short as desired but must not contain any personally identifiable information; No names, locations, employers, political affiliations, pets, etc. All of the questions asked are about the functions of government, though the answers may be either opinion or fact. If a voter does not want to put themselves in for a potential Senate seat they can opt-out of this questionnaire and will not receive additional questionnaires but will be able to participate in the continuing voting process.
This part of the process is highly interactive and sets the tone for the next two days. For the next day, the various answers are shown (but not who supplied them) and individuals can score them, selecting their personal top five answers for the questions they received. A running total is kept, and those who received the ten highest scores when all questions are totaled up move on to the next round of voting. This is designed so that the voter will - hopefully - study the issue in question and vote for the individual who gives the best answer - both factually and with regards to their opinion as to any proposed changes.
Day 2: Two Days before Independence Day.
The top ten respondents from the previous day are issued another set of ten questions. In a repeat of the previous day, these answers plus their answers from the previous day are put forward to the voters and again considered by the voters in their district. This time, each candidate is anonymously listed with their complete questionnaire. Typically the best answers have been those that answer in one or two paragraphs and that keep technical details to a minimum. This is also a chance for voters to consider the whole candidate; Those with extreme opinions, even in only one or two areas, are usually eliminated at this point. Again, the totals are added up and the top three move on to the last round.
Day 3: One Day before Independence Day.
On the last day of voting, the top three candidates are listed along with their answers from the previous two days along with 'None of the Above'. If 'None of the Above' receives the most votes, Four through Six from the previous day are presented. Otherwise the highest scoring candidate is elected as the new Senator for that District with a term of four years. They are contacted and provided with a secure connection to CORE VirtuaGov.
Day 4: Independence Day!
Voting is over and it's time for a party! The new Senators are sworn in, and unless there is a matter of dire emergency to attend to, the Senate goes into immediate recess.
Just who is eligible to vote? Any Sunset citizen is eligible to vote in the election for their assigned district. Candidacy is - as discussed - limited by intellectual ability. An individual who cannot reasonably answer the questions will not become a candidate especially as both communications skills and the ability to understand instructions (no personally identifiable information) counts heavily in the selection process.
Over the years the Republic has absorbed a number of governments that have, through existential crisis, natural disaster, or national apathy, fallen into complete disarray. Some of these re-appear from time to time only to disappear again. In order to assure a continuity of life to their citizens, the Republic has created a separate Federal States structure that allows and encourages these entities to maintain their own culture and internal government structures while it maintains responsibility over their defense and presents a unified foreign diplomatic representation.
These various Federal States are not simply separate cultures who have a representative in the Government; Their citizens directly vote in Senate elections, and there is a lot of cross-culture movement between the various entities. Some - notably the people of Ravenspire - have so completely integrated that there is little that distinguishes them from the whole aside from a personal sense of origin while others still maintain a sense of distance due to their strong internal culture.
New ArAreBee: (Head of State: Chairman EKonOhMe - State Capital: Hecatus Tholus, Mars)
Located in what is now the Mare Utopia, the former nation of New ArAreBee was built on what would become several large islands as Martian terraforming took hold. Titanic domes covered most of the islands and inside titanic raised towers sprouted in their thousands. A titanic earthquake ripped through the island chain and this, combined with a resultant stock crash, effectively ended the corporate-run central government.
Imnsvale: (Head of State: Master Theos Ensor - State Capital: Trademeet)
One of the various Triumvirate nations to go quiet over the years, the Imnsvale government was... Well, no one quite remembers what it was. The Republic now manages most of its out-system colonies while leaving those on the Ring to the management of Scolopendra. Imnsvale is still noted for its proficiency in the manufacture of various types of cord and cable.
Khenala: (Head of State: Prime Minister Andrew Seal - State Capital: Khenala Prime, The Ring)
Another old Triumvirate nation, Khenala was more insular than most and as a result, while it is a Federal State, there is little traffic between its out-system colonies and those of the Republic. Both Khenala and Imnsvale were Human origin nations and this has continued to be the case with little change.
The Kinslayers: (Head of State: The Master of the Slayer's Fang - State Capital: The Slayer's Fang, Therian Worldship Fleet)
The end of the Martian nation known as the Kinslayers is another story entirely. Unlike the people of New ArAreBee, the Therians of the Kinslayer decided to voluntarily abandon their Martian territories and return to the stars as wanderers. In many ways, Sunset merely serves as a frequent port-of-call and refuge for their space-borne world ships when they are in need of re-supply or repair.
Ravenspire: (Head of State: Chairman Kjer Humke - State Capital: Port Sarazan, Phobos, Mars)
The most enigmatic of the Federal States, Ravenspire had mastered many of the technologies of space travel when Sunset was still making it's first steps into space. Access to many of these technologies were lost when the leadership, who were also among its leading scientists, disappeared. The population that remained behind was taken in by many of the Triumvirate nations.
Mangala: (Head of State: Speaker Frank Terrel - State Capital: Dhanista, Mars)
One of the first Martian nations, Mangala played both an instrumental part in setting up the planetary pseudo-government and in fueling the early terraforming efforts. With New ArAreBee, the Mangalan Federal State has had the largest influence on the larger Republic, slowly influencing the government in more progressive directions.
Between the various governed colony worlds, full partner Federal States, and managed holdings, the Republic has a primary government, diplomatic, and military responsibility for many billions of people. Formerly, most of these resided within either the Ares Super-Cluster or the Sol Cluster making these two areas the primary focus of the Republic's government attention but this has expanded galaxy-wide with notable populations across all four Quadrants. Some measures are being taken to re-direct this growth inward and to centralize it in the Ares Cluster but this is expected to take centuries as it is strictly voluntary and only subject to subtle encouragement through lower costs-of-living.
Taxes and Government Income
The Government of Sunset has two different sources of income. The first is a universal transaction tax that is levied against all transactions that occur within its borders. This includes buying an item at a store, paying for a service, or any similar exchange. All transactions are taxed at the same rate and there are no other taxes.
The second is investment in the Sunset economy. In order to encourage certain sectors, such as transportation, education, and similar, the Government directly invests in companies that are considered to be important to the economy and distinctly Sunset in ownership and management. It then receives returns on these investments which are directed into the general fund. This is managed by the Department of Industry and its Under Secretary for Investment.
On a number-by-number basis, the income from investment and the transaction tax is just about evenly split. It is Government policy to attempt to increase the ratio of investment to tax to about Two-to-One. The reasons for this are many-fold, but primarily the Government sees investment as both a good way to keep the economy rolling along and a way to reward sound business practices, such as providing healthcare, competitive wages, and a good working environment. Due to its investment in many key players, it is also able to steer company policy towards these practices.
What if you don't want to collect those taxes or turn them over to the government? A valid question, and it should be noted that tax cheats are subject to the same penalty as other criminals and that is that cheating on your taxes is considered theft, and the punishment is three times the amount stolen. In the case of tax cheats, an individual who uncovers the crime is entitled to one-third and the government receives the other two-thirds. There are several large corporations who specialize in this as a full time pursuit.
This used to be the way government income worked but now this system is a historical point of interest. As of Republic Date '176, the government is fully self-funded by means of internal mechanisms. This has resulted in the elimination of all taxes at all levels. Now the government puts money back into the civil economy rather than pulling it out. Primarily this is done through the UBR-PEI system as mentioned below and in the Facts versus Opinions FactBook but also through direct methods such as construction, services, and employment.
Government Priorities and Public Policy
Broadly speaking, Sunset's government priorities lie in investment. Whenever possible, instead of providing a service for a specific segment of the population it instead invests in the growth of the entire population. This is one of the reasons why education is seen as one of the best possible ways for the government to spend money. Systems like welfare and social security are seen as pulling money out of the economy while education puts money in. It creates a better citizen and a better citizen creates a better economy.
Some of this has changed now that the government is fully self-funded; that is, it generates enough resources internally through extraction and generation that it does not need money from its citizens in order to function. In fact the Republic government now generates so many resources that it has been able to institute a national Universal Basic Resources (UBR) & Personal Employment Income (PEI) scheme available to all citizens. Under this UBR-PEI system an individual is guaranteed an income that satisfies the needs of an upper-middle-class individual under the first and a reasonable-to-luxurious lifestyle under the second. With a universal healthcare system - also funded by the government - there is no such thing as a 'welfare' or 'social security' system.
This doesn't mean the government doesn't invest. Again, education and self-improvement is still seen as the best way for a citizen to stay or become happy, healthy, and successful. Under the PEI scheme the government now pays individuals to be students; taking classes and continuing education can be a full-time or better job for some.