Welcome to The Senate Site

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Happy Birthday Steve

By Pete Knudson
Utah Senate Majority Leader

Steve Urquhart’s blog is one year old today. Happy Birthday!

For those who came in late, Representative Steve Urquhart is one of the PIONEERS of political blogging in Utah. He wasn’t the first blogger, but he was the first one on our radar screen to post the consistent unvarnished thoughts of an elected official. Luckily, even his unvarnished offerings are lucid, interesting, and fairly persuasive.

Steve is a pioneer in the true sense of the word; he showed the rest of us the way. As we contemplated developing a site for the Utah Senate, Steve’s blog was one we looked to for inspiration.

Some say the cure for democracy’s ills is more democracy. Steve deserves sincere thanks for his contribution to that dynamic. His blog site has enhanced the way citizens understand the legislative process, participate in the discussion, and respond to public officials. It has influenced what citizens expect of us and how they hold us accountable. Steve has generally taken a positive, deliberative, open tone and that has helped improve the quality of Utah’s policy-making dialogue. We bask in reflected glory.

People are never aware of all the implications of their actions or the long range positive impact they have in the world. We may never be fully aware of the extent blogging has changed, and will continue to change, the political landscape in Utah. One thing, however, seems obvious. Democracy in this little mountain republic is healthier and more interesting because of Steve’s efforts.

Well done – and thank you.

Welcome Home

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, Bill Martin was one of several hundred survivors who found themselves on a flight to Utah.

From a Deseret Morning News story by Angie Welling:
What he found, he said, was friendly people in a clean, beautiful city with a healthy respect for architecture — important for a man who made his living in that field. "I was determined that Salt Lake was the right place."
Bill talked to his nephew, Marty Smith, who had found refuge from Hurricane Katrina in Memphis. Smith decided to visit.
"It's absolutely gorgeous," Smith said of Salt Lake City. "The people have been very, very nice."
Both of them have decided to stay.

We sincerely appreciate Bill and Marty - and all visitors who recognize the natural beauty, caliber of our people, healthy economy, and stellar quality of life in Utah.

Welcome home.

Monday, November 28, 2005

The Tax Review Commission

By Senator Lyle Hillyard
District 25: Cache and Rich Counties

Many commissions make a significant impact working to develop public policy in our state. The Tax Review Commission is a good example.

In 1983, Mark Buchi encouraged Governor Matheson to create the Tax Review Commission (Mark was then working for the State Tax Commission and served as Chair of the Recodification Commission). This new commission was charged to begin task of updating the Utah Tax Code. The tax code at that time was out-dated and many provisions were unclear or contradictory. One sentence, for example, was 243 words long.

Rod Brady, past President of Weber State University and then CEO of Bonneville Broadcasting, chaired the Commission. Vice Chair was Jim Lee, a prominent tax attorney. Membership included practitioners, business leaders, and academic leaders. Four legislators served on the 14-member board (two from each house, one from each political party). Mark Buchi and I have served on the commission since its inception, for the past 22 years. Former senators who have served include George Mantes, Ron Allen and now Brent Goodfellow. House members on the commission include current Senate President John Valentine (when he served in the House), Frank Knowlton, Judy Buffmire with Wayne Harper and Roz McGee currently serving.

The format used by the commission has become a model for revising complex and controversial sections of the code. In the past, when groups have addressed controversial areas, they have become bogged down and nothing important has been concluded.

As a commission, we have adhered to a three-step process. First, we went through the code and updated or deleted sections that were clearly wrong. Second, we went through again and addressed areas that needed change but could be resolved without major opposition. At this point, we also redrafted the format of the code so that sections and cross references could more easily be found. We then formed subcommittees comprised of professionals to review each section and give recommendations.

We could never have afforded all the time these professionals volunteered to the state and this cause. As a result, the commission can now focus attention on the more controversial areas and make recommendations to the legislature. We also respond to specific requests.

The commission is currently drafting code changes governing the sales and use tax exemption for isolated and occasional sales. We are considering situations such as the following:

We all know that JC Penney collects sales tax on items they sell. However, what if they are remodeling and sell a cash register, an item that is not part of their inventory and not regularly sold as a part of their business, to an employee? What if someone organizes a garage sale every Saturday?

We have asked a group of professionals to redraft the law for income taxation for trusts and estates. There is little statutory law in this area and most practitioners adapt the normal income tax rules in these and other similar situations.

The Tax Review Commission usually meets once a month on the second Friday at 1:00 pm in room W125 at the Capitol. The next meeting, however, is tomorrow
Tuesday, November 29, 2005
Utah State Capitol’s West Building
Room W130
12:00 p.m.
You may want to follow their agenda on the legislative website and possibly even attend some of their meetings.

We would love to hear your input.

"Centralized Solutions to Local Problems Don't Work"

Don't miss today's Deseret News Editorial or Rep. Steve Urquhart's blog on No Child Left Behind.

Tax Reform Task Force Meeting

The Tax Reform Task Force is meeting this morning. Listen to the audio here.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Thankful

In 1621, as the Plymouth colonists brought in their first harvest, Governor Bradford proclaimed a day of thanksgiving and prayer, shared by the colonists and their Native American neighbors. The celebration lasted three days.

On October 3, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln made America's thanksgiving tradition a national holiday. The words of his proclamation still resonate, 142 years later.

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature,that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle, or the ship; the axe had enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years, with large increase of freedom.

No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.

It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and voice by the whole American people. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand, and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the city of Washington, this third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the independence of the United States the eighty-eighth.


Thanksgiving 2005

John Hughes published a thoughtful piece titled Give thanks for bravery, technology, freedom. Whether or not you agree with all the particulars, his essay is worth considering.

He reminds us
... we can all be grateful for the freedoms we enjoy that are nonexistent in some other parts of the world. We may take freedom to follow our respective religious faiths as we will as a matter of course. We may exercise freedom of speech as a given, affording us the right to speak out against our government, our leaders, our politicians. We assume it is normal to travel in our own country without documents and identity cards. We consider it a given right to change jobs and professions without having to gain permission from some bureaucrat. Yet such basic freedoms are unknown, or carefully regulated, and subject to severe punishment if contravened, in various other countries.

In a world overladen with the dark shadows of conflict and disharmony, it is well to remember the goodness, generosity and idealism that pervades much of mankind, and the freedoms that some of us enjoy and seek to extend to those yet to achieve them.
Read his 10-point list for 2005. You may also want to read KSL's Be Thankful, and Governor Huntsman's message.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Citation

One of the commenters on Senator Bramble's blog asks for a citation to a case where, in the absence of a legislative policy, Utah Courts have created a “Reporter’s Privilege.”

Charley Foster answers the question.

Refiner's Fire for Tax Reform

The House and Senate are continuing to discuss tax reform options and refine their proposals. The Revenue and Taxation Interim Committee was scheduled to meet on November 30th, but we think we'll need a little more time to prepare. The meeting has been postponed, possibly until after the end of the year.

Also - Monday's Tax Reform Task Force meeting has been moved back an hour. That meeting now starts at 9:00 a.m.

Read Glen Warchol's article here.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Reporters Privilege Bill

By Senator Curt Bramble
District 16

A discussion with Al Manzi, publisher of the Daily Herald, convinced me to run a bill that provides protections to reporters and their confidential sources. I think the state should allow for a working dynamic similar to attorneys and their clients - or a priest and the parishioner who seeks his help.

I opened the bill file last night. Attorney General Mark Shurtleff and the SPJ have been at the forefront of this issue for some time; I talked to Mark this morning and will work with him to craft the appropriate language.

The press is frequently critical of elected officials, including me. However, I don’t know how to have a free country without putting up with reporters.

While I may not like what they write, media access to information seems indispensable to ensuring government is open and accountable. Capable, incisive, investigative journalism is a hallmark and protector of a free society. It seems wise to protect that tradition. Jefferson, in 1787, said,
“. . . were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”
The existence of our government seems pretty secure at this point, so we may want to make sure reporters have some security as well.

A second motivation for this bill is to address judicial activism. Utah’s policy on Reporters’ Privilege is currently determined by judicial edict and precedent. As a rule, important public policy decisions should be set by elected officials who are directly accountable to the people. The legislature needs to define the rules; I’m not willing to abdicate that responsibility to the courts.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Eagle Mountain Redemption

By Senator Howard Stephenson
District 11

As a frequent critic of waste in government, I feel an obligation to give credit when government gets it right. The City of Eagle Mountain is an example of good government. But it was not always so.

At the end of 2001, this new city northwest of Utah Lake was under suffocating debt. State-required audits had been neglected for years, and city owned utilities were awash in red ink with citizens paying sky high user rates.

Investors and developers were fleeing the town, and parts of the municipality had discussed de-annexation. But four years later the booming city west of Utah Lake is getting attention for its conversion into a model of sound management and better government.

In four years the city’s debt was reduced by over $12 million: from $63.5 million down to $51.5 million. It has also moved towards privatizing utilities and is currently waiting for FCC approval of the sale of the telecommunications system, which will reduce the city’s debt by another $4.3 million.

By adopting a pay as you go philosophy, Eagle Mountain keeps taxes lower while providing essential government services. With sound spending and budgeting policies in place, Eagle Mountain officials have avoided disaster and created conditions for success.

Congratulations and thanks to the Eagle Mountain officials who put the town back on the right track.
Utah Taxpayer’s Association’s November newsletter (see page four).

Daily Herald Article

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Reed Bullen

By Senator Lyle Hillyard
District 25: Cache and Rich Counties

Reed Bullen served as a Utah State Senator for 22 years and held most of the leadership positions in the Senate. He passed away October 9th, 2005, just one month short of reaching his 99th birthday. His wife, Kathryn, died in 1990 so he has basically lived alone since that time. He served a rich full life and has had a tremendous impact on this valley and the state. He had 5 children all of whom have had successful lives. He began the radio business in Cache Valley in 1938 with the opening of KVNU radio. That was later expanded to bring in cable TV as well. With his retirement a number of years ago, these businesses were sold but are still doing well and continuing to serve the area. Reed also has served as a Bishop, the first Stake President of the USU Stake, which he helped to organize and he served in that position for 15 years. He later served as a Patriarch and President of the Logan Temple.

I worked closely with him in a number of ways but I thought two experiences tied in with politics should be shared. We once had a good discussion about campaigning for election and he told me that his way of campaigning was to print up small business cards with his name on the front and on the back that he was running for the State Senate. He gave them out as he went about his business and he never came close to losing. He had no lawn signs, radio or newspaper ads, mailers, or door hangers. He didn’t even go door to door. He said that people ran because they were well known in the community and campaign managers were not needed.

Several years ago, we were enjoying refreshments at a wedding reception and he turned to me and said: “Lyle, I am sure glad it is you serving now and not me.” He told me how he could not believe all the pressure and criticism we received in the press. He shared what their days were like while in session and things they did with their spare time. As we discussed the differences between his era and mine, we came to a conclusion about what has caused the stark contrast: Today we rely too much on government to solve our problems.

As co-chair of Executive Appropriations, I see it first hand as group after group comes to see me for more money. Their programs face growing demands; they can see how much more they could do if they had more money. In some cases the feds have cut off some of their funding and the program is in danger of being lost. Utah must make tough decisions because we are required to balance our budget. It really bothers me that the Federal Government has no such safeguard. Be it the war in Iraq, damages to the Gulf area, or even the massive Highway Bill, I wonder what the Congress would do if they had to actually fund each program with current money. What if they had to cut other programs to make money available or raise taxes? That is the only way government gets money to spend. I have often heard the saying,
“Don’t tax me and don’t tax thee. Tax that fella behind the tree.”
As I watch what Congress is doing, I think they have found that fella behind the tree. It is our grandchildren who will have to pay for all this spending.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Cutting the Tax on Food (audio)

Jennifer Napier-Pierce hosts an informative, friendly discussion on cutting the food tax in Utah. Participants include Senate President John Valentine, House Minority Leader Ralph Becker, and Chamber of Commerce President Lane Beattie.

You can listen in at www.InsideUtah.com.

Also - Jennifer's site offers a brief, easy-to-understand introduction to podcasts for those of you wondering what they are or how to get started. The Senate Site just started using iTunes and it is working well so far.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Teaching Evolution

By Chris Buttars
Senate District 10

I’m asked on an ongoing basis if I plan to introduce a bill concerning the Utah State Board of Education’s position on teaching evolution. The answer to that question is yes. I’ve opened a bill file and I’m currently working on the language. The bill text is not yet public and will remain private until I’m satisfied that 1) the intent of the bill is clear, 2) how it will be administered is also clear, and 3) it can withstand a court challenge.

The Tax on Food

By John Valentine
President of the Utah Senate

The headline read “Lawmakers squabble over food tax plans.” I think that is a bit of a stretch. However, there are three different ideas on the table and we haven’t yet come to consensus on the best policy direction.

Options on the table:
1. Cut the tax on food and increase taxes in other areas;

2. Cut the tax on food and shrink government to match revenues;

3. Keep the tax on food but refund it to those under a certain income level (see the op-ed piece in the Daily Herald).
While I’m certainly willing to cut taxes, I’m hesitant to raise them. I believe most in my caucus feel the same way.

Disagreement is as American as apple pie. I expect we'll work out the details in a rational, deliberative, collegial manner through the normal legislative process.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Legislators of the Year

Senator Dan Eastman, Senator Sheldon Killpack, and Speaker Curtis were recognized as Legislators of the Year by the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce.

The press release on the Chamber’s 103rd Annual Meeting contains the following:
Legislators of the Year
The Legislators of the Year 2005 are those legislators who recognize business as a positive and essential element of Utah’s continuing growth and success. They are more interested in solutions than posturing. They respect the voice of business while being responsible to their constituents. Their tireless efforts are appreciated and are worthy of emulation by other legislators.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Chief Clerk of the House

By John Valentine
President of the Utah Senate

Carole Peterson announced her retirement yesterday after 30 years of service to the Utah House of Representatives. Many of us began our legislative careers in the House, and had the good fortune to work with Carole while we were there.

In 1988 I was a freshman state representative. Carole took me under her wing and showed me the ropes. She is bright, funny, has an excellent memory, and knows parliamentary procedure like the back of her hand. She is a good counselor and confidante. She holds a deep respect for the legislature as an institution; we will all miss her memory and expertise.

As the Utah House remodels their staff organization, people invariably ask me if the Senate will move toward a similar structure. The short answer is no.

The Senate Office has six year-round staffers. Four of the six are non-partisan, including the Secretary of the Senate. In addition, the majority and minority leadership teams each have one staff person assigned to them.

I am satisfied with both the structure and personnel in our office. I like the natural balance of our partisan / non-partisan mix. Our staff do excellent work, are substantially cross-trained, and interact effectively. I sincerely appreciate the dynamic of a winning team that knows their positions and plays together well.

Best of luck to the House as they search for the right person to replace Carole Peterson.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

What A Long Strange Trip It's Been

The Utah Senate just approved the Legacy Parkway Settlement Agreement. The final vote was 22 to 5, with two members absent. The House approved the same agreement about an hour ago by a vote of 50 to 21.
House Vote

Senate Vote
Next steps . . .
  • Early January: Complete the environmental approval process
  • January: Finish the design work
  • February: Begin Construction
  • March / April: Call for bids for the next three construction packages
  • Fall of 2008: Hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony
Thank you to all involved - for or against the settlement - for your participation in the process.

PFS Lawsuit

In his opening comments tonight President Valentine announced that Governor Huntsman had filed suit in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit to protect Utah from being forced to receive high level nuclear waste that we did not produce and don't want. Here's the link.

Carole Peterson

One piece of special session legislation we neglected to mention was the House Resolution honoring Carole Peterson, who is retiring after 30 years of service as Chief Clerk of the House of Representatives.

You can read that resolution here.

Halftime in the Senate

The Senate is in recess until the House votes the Legacy Resolution up or down. You can listen to the House procedings here. You can watch here. (Both options require RealPlayer.)

Governor's Nominees Confirmed

The Utah Senate just confirmed the governor's appointees to the following boards and committees:

Gerald J. Blackburn - Board of Child and Family Services
St
erling Ray Church - Board of Child and Family Services
Art Hunter - Private Activity Bond Review Board
Lee Gardner - Private Activity Bond Review Board
Tom Hardy - Private Activity Bond Review Board
Jill Andrews - Health Facility Committee Member
Keith Tintle - Health Facility Committee
Mary Peterson - Health Facility Committee
Galen K. Ewer - Health Facility Committee
We appreciate these individuals for their areas of expertise and willingness to serve.

Congratulations, and good luck!

Truckin'

The bill defining and limiting trucks on the Legacy Parkway until 2020 just passed the Senate. This bill gives the Utah Department of Transportation authority to restrict certain trucks on the Legacy Parkway until the year 2020.

Read the full text.

It now goes to the House.

Special Session Tonight

This could be a long night. The Special Legislative Session begins at 5:00 p.m.

You can listen or watch on-line.

Live Audio (requires RealPlayer):
House Chambers

Senate Chambers
Live Video (also requires RealPlayer):
House

Senate
Two pieces of legislation will be considered. First is a Concurrent Resolution to approve the Legacy Parkway Settlement Agreement and, second, a bill giving UDOT the authority to restrict truck traffic on the new road until the year 2020.

The Legacy Approval Resolution will start in the House and, if it garners 38 votes, will be passed on to the Senate. The Truck Bill will start here in the Senate. If we have some time between the two, the Senate will work on confirming Governor Huntsman’s most recent appointees.

Reporters can call us for information on media availabilities we plan to hold throughout the evening.

You can find additional links and information at http://www.le.utah.gov/~2005S2/2005S2.htm.

At this point, we don't know when we will adjourn.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

GRAMA Revisions: Setting the Record Straight

By Senator David L. Thomas, and Representative Douglas Aagard
Co -Chairs of the GRAMA Task Force

The recent editorials in Utah’s major newspapers regarding the GRAMA Task Force appear to leave a false impression on the scope and proposals of that working group. The legislation which formed the GRAMA Task Force did not impose limitations. Rather, its charge was to allow the Task Force to conduct the first full review of GRAMA since 1992. That is exactly what our Task Force is doing and what is expected by the public. The Task Force has been meeting since May and has taken over 14 hours of discussion and public input in putting forth its recommendations. This has been a time consuming process involving much public discussion and debate. To the extent that the media’s arguments have not been persuasive, their suggestions have not been incorporated into the Task Force’s findings. However, to insinuate, as many editorial pages have, that the Task Force wants to put a cloak of secrecy on government is yellow journalism in its worst form.

While we appreciate the news media’s opinion, let’s be honest - the purpose of GRAMA is not to provide source material on public officials for the media in order to sell newspapers. GRAMA’s purpose is to give access to information dealing with the conduct of the public's business. To that end, the Task Force is considering a number of changes to GRAMA. Let us address three that have taken center stage in the editorial pages.

E-mail

The Task Force is considering updating GRAMA to include electronic documents, like E-mail. According to our legal counsel, the current status of the law is that unprinted E-mail messages are not documents under GRAMA. Apparently, the news media forgot to tell any of its readers that it has NEVER had access to legislative E-mail. And no, Rocky Anderson is not a legislator so this would not impact his E-mail. The Task Force has indicated a willingness to open up legislative E-mail messages with a caveat. E-mails between legislators and staff would still be protected, and with good reason. Legislators want an open and candid dialogue with their staff - they do not want staff sugar coating something because of fears of release under GRAMA. That leads to bad public policy, which is antithetical to what GRAMA was trying to achieve. By way of comparison, the Freedom of Information Act protects all internal agency documents. Our proposal would allow much broader access than does the federal government's current policy.

Constituent Correspondence

The task force is considering expanding the protections already in GRAMA with respect to legislative correspondence with constituents. Why? Because most of that correspondence is of a personal nature. Many constituents seek advice from their elected representatives on personal matters. For example, a family may be dealing with a child who has a medical problem and wants advice on who to call for assistance. Using GRAMA to pry into private matters is not in the public interest and would make a mockery of the GRAMA statute. Legislators have long had this protection under GRAMA for the public policy reasons described above, and there is no reason why similarly situated constituents should not be accorded the same privacy protections.

Identity Theft

The Task Force is also considering how best to protect Utah citizens from identity theft. A combination of a number of personal identifiers is all a criminal needs to steal your identity. Government should not have to divulge those personal identifiers. One of our recommendations to protect Utahns is to make information, like home addresses, inaccessible. This will not cripple the real estate industry as editorials have suggested. The Task Force has been working with real estate groups to ensure against such an outcome and have been assured that, although it may be inconvenient, it will not have a negative impact.

An important part of our mission in reviewing the GRAMA statute is protecting our citizens from crime.

The GRAMA Task Force has spent many hours reviewing this important part of open government - the ability to access information. However, it demeans the process for the media to make irresponsible attacks when their arguments do not prevail in the course of the normal legislative process.

This op-ed piece appeared in the Salt Lake Tribune and the Daily Herald.

GRAMA Task Force - Final Meeting

The GRAMA Task Force (you remember, that placid, non-controversial working group) is conducting their final meeting this morning at 9:00 a.m.

Click here to listen.

VOTE TODAY

Freedom requires regular maintenance. Please make time to vote today. Polls will be open from 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Here's some perspective from KSL's editorial:
Contemplate two recent elections, both a world away in the fledging democratic nation of Iraq. Recall what happened last January, when for the first time in most of their lives, Iraqis flocked to the polls to cast ballots in a free election. Many stood in line for hours, defied the threat of personal harm and withstood intense security checks to vote. Then they proudly displayed their ink-stained fingers - a sign they had voted and a symbol of their newly acquired right. It happened again two weeks ago when Iraqi voters approved a new constitution.
You can find your polling place here. More election information is available at www.voterlink.utah.gov .

Monday, November 07, 2005

Legacy: Debunking A Few Myths

By Senator Sheldon L. Killpack and Representative J. Stuart Adams

There exists no shortage of so called facts and opinions floating around regarding the Legacy Parkway Agreement. While we have no qualms with those who oppose the settlement we hope there is good intent to represent the facts accurately.

Many of our constituents have expressed specific concerns and opinions we wish to address. Unfortunately much of their information is a result of listening to recent radio ads and prominent personalities, who may not have all their facts straight. The following is a summary of their statements and our response:

“The parkway will be constructed with three foot, unsafe shoulders.”

This is False.
Nowhere within the agreement can you find this provision. The radio ad by USET making this claim refutes the settlement based on sticking with “principle.” It is misleading rhetoric at best and a ploy to create anxiety. In fact, it states in 5B(2)(c) of the agreement “UDOT retains authority to take steps as necessary and appropriate to assure safety on this and other roadways of the State.” Safety will not be compromised in the design of this road; especially not on the shoulders.

“This agreement sets precedence for future lawsuits.”

We disagree. This agreement will not represent a crossroad in time for precedence. The federal government has already paved a freeway of precedence for environmental groups (and equipped their vehicles with lights and sirens) within the current NEPA process and within the Clean Water Act. Until we change Federal Statute the Courts will continue to give ear to these groups based on the laws of the land. The sad reality is we will be faced with future law suits with or without this settlement unless something changes at the Federal level.

“We are not getting the road we want.”

The road is being built on Alignment E - exactly where we want it.
The road is being designed to carry traffic at freeway speeds as per UDOT standards. Materials used will accommodate all truck traffic. In just over 10 years after the completion of the parkway, all restrictions go away. We will have a road that facilitates traffic at freeway speeds and is capable of carrying all the truck traffic you can shake a stick at.

“This doesn’t help commerce.”

In what world? If I-15 were to shut down tomorrow in South Davis County where would you send the commercial truck traffic? The current answer is nowhere. Within the settlement agreement UDOT and UHP have sole discretion to determine what constitutes an emergency and can move truck traffic onto Legacy, a viable alternate route, allowing commerce to continue. Amazingly enough, if we were adding HOV lanes to I-15 in the same corridor it would be hailed as a good thing yet trucks would not be allowed on the HOV lanes. In fact, you can’t even legally pull a trailer behind your SUV in HOV lanes. Let’s give a true reflection of exactly how much traffic the truck restriction will impact: as a percent of freeway traffic around 4 percent of all vehicles (trucks over with five or more axles or over 80,000 pounds) will be restricted on this parkway until 2020. By moving 30 percent of the traffic flow from I-15 to Legacy however, commerce will have much more road capacity.

“A 55 MPH road does me no good.”

When commuting to the Capitol City in stop and go traffic, our speeds range between 0 and 25 mph. We would give blood to go 55 miles per hour.

There is clearly a lot of pent up frustration over this drawn-out battle. No one understands these emotions more than we do. However, there are some hard realities that cannot be overlooked. The state is already facing a conservative 16.5 Billion dollar shortfall in funding road infrastructure through the year 2030. Once this project becomes too expensive you hand the environmental groups everything they want - no road at all. We have far too many needs throughout the State and we simply don’t have the resources to waste. The delays have already cost the taxpayers over $200 million dollars. One of the clear principles or responsibilities we face is being accountable with the tax payer’s money. It is time to move on and get Legacy built. The settlement is good for commerce. It is good for the taxpayer. It is good for Utah.

This op-ed piece was published in today's Deseret Morning News, and highlighted in the Utah Policy Daily.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Decriminalizing Free Speech

By Scott McCoy
Utah State Senator, District 2
Freedom of speech is not only the hallmark of a free people, but is, indeed, an essential attribute of the sovereignty of citizenship.
Cox v. Hatch, Utah Supreme Court, 1988.
A profound sentiment, but did you know that in Utah you can go to jail for exercising your right of free speech? It's true. Utah is one of a minority of states -- fourteen to be exact -- that maintains on its books a law that criminalizes speech. In fact, Utah has two such laws: the criminal libel statute and the criminal defamation statute.

The criminal libel statute was enacted in 1876, well over a hundred years ago. It existed in relative obscurity until 2000 when a Beaver County prosecutor used the statute to prosecute a high school student who published his less-than-flattering opinions about his principal, counselors, and teachers on the internet.

The case sparked by this prosecution made its way to Utah's Supreme Court. They struck it down. Following two precedents from the United States Supreme Court, Utah’s highest court found the statute to be unconstitutional under the First Amendment's guarantee of free speech. Despite this ruling, the now-unenforceable criminal libel statute remains on the books. As a matter of course, it is the Utah Legislature's responsibility to remove from the Utah Code dead wood provisions that have been ruled or rendered unconstitutional by the courts.

The criminal defamation statute was enacted in 1973 and remains in effect. This statute has not been before the Utah Supreme Court, so it remains an open question whether it passes constitutional muster.

I would submit that both of these statutes should be taken out of the Utah Code. Criminal libel laws are archaic. They are relics of a time long gone. Studies have shown that criminal libel prosecutions are very rare, but when they do occur they are generally used as weapons against political enemies. They are used as tools to mute or stifle unpopular sentiments and minority viewpoints. In other words, we tend to use statutes like these very selectively to go after people we don’t like.

I am not suggesting that redress for libelous speech should be totally foreclosed. Instead, our fights over libel and slander should be settled in civil courts through civil actions, not criminal prosecutions.

I have introduced a bill to repeal the criminal libel statute, and am exploring the possibility of repealing the criminal defamation statute as well.

I would appreciate thoughtful feedback.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

License Plates

By Dan Eastman
District 23

It’s time to eliminate the rule requiring a front license plate on our cars and commercial vehicles. I plan to introduce a bill to that effect in the 2006 Legislative Session.

I’ve considered this for several years, but have held off because the law enforcement community tends to prefer the current law. They say a front plate makes it easier for them to do their job. However, they agree that they usually obtain the information they need from vehicles’ rear plates.

The trucking industry has favored this change for many years, mainly because they experience costly, time-consuming delays at our ports of entry when their front plates have been lost or damaged. Current rules require they wait for a new plate to be shipped before they can continue their route.

I’m not sure requiring front plates is worth the price. Many states do not require them. They are constantly getting dirty, banged up and battered. Sometimes – particularly in winter – they are not even legible. I don't think we need them.

This bill would reduce costs and cut plate production in half. At this point, I’m not proposing a reduction in fees.

I think this is a statute that needs to be changed, and I think this is the year we can change it. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Special Session

Governor Huntsman has called the legislature into a Special Session, to be held Wednesday, November 9 at 5:00 p.m. The key item of business, of course, is to approve or reject the newly-minted Legacy Parkway Settlement Agreement.

Special thanks to the UDOT team for their patience, competence, and diplomacy.

We anticipate next week’s interim schedule will be as follows:

Tuesday, November 8, 2005
9:00 a.m.
Executive Appropriations Committee

11:00 a.m.
Legislative Management Committee

1:00 p.m.
Legacy Parkway Briefing for Legislators
Room W135

2:00 p.m.
Caucus Meetings

Wednesday, November 9, 2005
9:00 to 12:00
Regular Interim Committee Meetings

12:00 to 1:30
Caucus Meetings

1:30 to 4:30
Regular Interim Committee Meetings

5:00 p.m.
Special Legislative Session Begins

    Senate Site Feed

Home | Profiles | Archive | Links | Official Information | About | Contact | Government 2.0 Lab | Back to Top
© 2008. All rights reserved. Designed by Jeremy Wright & His Brother-In-Law