Welcome to The Senate Site

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Lightning Rod

Senator Waddoups’ blog on the Health Care Task Force elicited a bit of a firestorm in the comments section.

Julie Rose interviewed Michael Waddoups the same day he posted.

Listen to the KCPW report here.

A republic in action

Salt Lake and Utah County Republicans held their conventions today.

Here’s the report from the Tribune.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Deja Vu


The press conference starts at noon. One Utah has details.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

NO.

By Peter Knudson
Utah Senate Majority Leader, and

Mike Dmitrich
Utah Senate Minority Leader


One of the important things about being American is the opportunity to shape your own destiny and the destiny of the community in which you live.

Utah is faced with a moment of decision, and you could play a pivotal role in the outcome.

A few months ago, the Utah Senate passed a resolution in opposition to the transportation of radioactive waste across public land on its way to a proposed repository in Skull Valley. The vote was unanimous. Even with the mountains that can sometimes divide us - religious, racial, political philosophy, location - we can at least be united on this ONE thing:

It is not right, effective, efficient, reasonable, legal, healthy, safe or fair for the beautiful state of Utah to be forced into becoming a litter box for toxic nuclear waste that originates far beyond our borders.

Freedom means making choices, then living with, and learning from, the consequences. Nuclear power and nuclear waste? Utah doesn’t produce any. No lucid construction of reality will demand that the people Utah should bear the burden of its aftermath.

We need you to write a simple letter.

Let the BLM know how you feel about nuclear waste being unloaded and transported across your public lands. Let them know that allowing construction of a rail spur is unconditionally inconsistent with the mission and responsibility of the BLM.

Send it to
Pam Schuller
Bureau of Land Management
Salt Lake Field Office
2370 South 2300 West
Salt Lake City, UT 84119

E-mail: pam_schuller@blm.gov
Fax: (801) 977-4397
This upcoming decision will impact you, your state and your posterity for generations to come. You can help the BLM avoid a big mistake. Please write your letter today.

Information to get you started:
Utah DEQ Fact Sheet

BLM: Comment period ends May 8

More state concerns


Wednesday, April 26, 2006

In Defense of the Health Care Task Force

By Senator Michael Waddoups
Senate Chair of the Privately Owned Health Care Organization Task Force

The local news has started to report on some of my actions relating to a looming health care problem in Utah and the United States.

The Deseret Morning News story tried to spin them into some kind of end run - a condemnation of the work of the Privately Owned Health Care Organization Task Force. That is not how I see it.

The KSL story was even worse - they reported Senator Davis and I feel the task force is failing.

That is not accurate.

The task force is meeting the challenge of gathering information, and dealing with it in a responsible, deliberative manner. When the facts are in, rational decisions will be made and we'll propose legislation that will result in better healthcare for our communities. My actions were no condemnation of the task force. The task force is doing its job.

That said, we need to be clear that we are on the verge of a serious national crisis and we all need to do what we can to find solutions. My actions are warranted, absolutely necessary, and probably overdue. They in no way circumvent the work of our task force.

I felt Linda Fantin’s story was straightforward and substantially accurate.

Local Self Government: "Eyes widened and jaws dropped"

From the Tooele Transcript Bulletin:
The Tooele County Republican Party Convention reminds us that our democratic system can usher in dramatic and swift changes . . . .
County delegates made some decisive decisions last Friday, knocking three incumbents off of the ballot. Again, from the TTB , some points worth remembering:
By design, not accident, these huge powers are not normally held by convention delegates. Vigilant participation ensures that your voice will be heard when these swift actions are made.

Events like these remind us that each vote does count and each election impacts numerous lives. We lose site of these facts at the peril of our system that thrives only when citizens participate.
Related Article: “Eyes widened and jaws dropped

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Tax Cut ?

By Peter Knudson
Utah Senate Majority Leader

If you are following the epic saga of tax reform in Utah, you’ll want to read Representative Steve Urquhart’s blog on tax cuts. Substantive, as usual.

Steve is right – I don’t think we are very far from the position he enunciates.

Most of us believe that tax reform, while more complex than a simple tax cut, offers long-term protection for education and the promise of a shot in the arm to Utah’s economy.

We need that.

However, if we don’t have the votes in the House for true tax reform, we can at least cut everyone's income taxes as per The Agreement of February 23rd and 24th.

Of course, it's the governor's prerogative to call a Special Session.

If reform advocates continue to educate, and budget surpluses continue, maybe the vision will catch on and we'll be able to reform the tax system next year.

April 19th, 1775

The inscription on the monument near the Concord Bridge reminds us

HERE

On the 19 of April 1775 was made the first forcible resistance to British aggression

On the opposite Bank stood the American Militia

Here stood the Invading Army and on this spot the first of the Enemy fell in the War of that Revolution which gave Independence to these United States

In gratitude to GOD and In the love of Freedom this Monument was erected
AD 1836


From the Federalist Patriot:

By the Spring of 1775, the Massachusetts Colony was preparing for conflict with the Royal authority over taxation without representation. The colonial authorities had become oppressive, and American Patriots were prepared to cast off their masters.

On the eve of 18 April, 1775, General Thomas Gage, military governor of Massachusetts, dispatched a force from Boston to confiscate weapons stored in the village of Concord, and to capture Patriot rebels Samuel Adams and John Hancock, reported to be in Lexington. But Patriots had anticipated this raid.

Paul Revere had arranged for advance warning, and though he was captured, Patriot allies William Dawes and Samuel Prescott continued their midnight ride for twenty-two miles from Boston's Old North Church to Concord and warned militiamen along the way.

As dawn arrived on 19 April 1775, between 50 and 70 militiamen came to the town green at Lexington to confront the British column. When a few links away from the militia column, the British officer swung his sword, and said, "Lay down your arms, you damned rebels, or you are all dead men. Fire!" Several Patriots were killed and wounded, but none had been ordered to return fire.

However, when the British arrived at Concord's Old North Bridge, American "Minutemen" fired the "shot heard round the world" as Emerson notes [below].

That was the beginning of an eight-year struggle for American independence . . . .
Concord Hymn
By Ralph Waldo Emerson

By the rude bridge that arched the flood,
Their flag to April's breeze unfurled,
Here once the embattled farmers stood
And fired the shot heard round the world.

The foe long since in silence slept;
Alike the conqueror silent sleeps;
And Time the ruined bridge has swept
Down the dark stream which seaward creeps.

On this green bank, by this soft stream,
We set to-day a votive stone;
That memory may their deed redeem,
When, like our sires, are sons are gone.

Spirit, that made those heroes dare
To die and leave their children free,
Bid Time and Nature gently spare
The shaft we raise to them and thee.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Cache Valley Spring

By Senator Lyle Hillyard

I really love Spring.

As a young boy growing up in Smithfield, Utah (that is just north of Logan for those of you who aren’t lucky enough to visit Cache Valley often), spring meant the chance to get out again.

I lived close to the mountains and foothills east of Smithfield, so hiking the area with my BB gun was almost a daily activity. On Easter weekend - or as soon as the wet weather allowed - I would hike with my friends to Crow Mountain just north of the city. As I got older we would go up the “pyramids” between Main Canyon on the north and Birch Canyon on the south to the seven points just west of Flat Top. Later, it would be horse back riding over the same areas as we could look back and view the valley and the farm land.

Now it is the time to get the garden planted, watch the lawn turn green and witness the sudden appearance of leaves on the trees. A welcome miracle every year.

I love the change in seasons. Each part of the year brings something special - it seems like the seasons change so fast that nothing ever gets very monotonous. I often walk in our neighborhood early in the morning, and it is fun to see the sun come over the east mountains and feel the fresh breeze. It feels good to be able to walk outside again, minus the heavy coat, and see the well kept lawns and visit with those friends who are also out.

When fall comes, you feel the touch of cold and see the leaves change. No place is prettier than Sardine Canyon when the leaves are turning. The Labor Day drive over to Bear Lake for a shake lets you see the many changes there with the housing and development.

The first frost and snow reminds me it is time to take up the garden and arrange to have the apples pressed into cider for the winter. Even the snow brings times of joy. It is fun to turn on the patio light and watch the snow fall on the back lawn while turning up the gas log in the fireplace and enjoying a hot cup of chocolate.

While there are a few “bad” days such as driving through Sardine Canyon in a heavy snow storm – or waiting for a hard rain to stop when there are things in the garden that must be done. These problems, however, are solved by just waiting for a short while.

I feel sorry for those who always see the same season.

Most days, when I round the curve near Wellsville and enter the valley, I say again – I am glad I live here.

Monday, April 17, 2006

April Interim

FYI - from today's Utah Policy Daily:

The Week Ahead

A full slate of legislative interim committees is scheduled this week, mostly on Wednesday. The committees will review legislation passed in the 2006 session and determine work plans for the coming year. Several committees will get into substantive issues. The Transportation Committee, for example, will address the issue of High Occupancy Toll lanes, and get reports on public transit and corridor preservation.

See the legislative calendar for a list of all the meetings. A couple of clicks will get you the meeting notice and agenda.

This is the first set of interim meetings since the session ended. It will be nice to see everyone again.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Tax Reform Perspective

By John Valentine
President of the Utah Senate

Utah’s tax reform debate demands that two essential questions be answered.
1. SHOULD we reform the tax system?

2. HOW should we do it?
The first question considers whether we need a more stable tax system - with a lower rate and broader base - that is easier to calculate.

If the answer is YES, then we move to question number two and chart the exact route by which we can accomplish this. We need to decide which deductions will be eliminated and how much revenue reduction the state can afford.

Sometimes fierce discussion on the second question can eclipse the principles of the first. All of us fall prey to that in some ways. We need to remember that a logistical glitch doesn’t negate the overall principles and need for a better tax system.

Today’s news was that state economists made a “$35 million mistake.”

In other words, they predicted Senator Bramble’s 4.975% flat tax bill would cut income taxes by $70 million, when in reality it would cut your taxes by $105 million. Hardly the end of the tax reform process – but a serious consideration when we are trying to balance so many competing priorities.

This is one of several factors we need to address before tax reform can pass both bodies of the legislature.

Most states take ten years or more to construct meaningful tax reform. The fact that we are so close after only three years of work speaks volumes to the caliber of those who are actively involved in the process.

We need tax reform. We are laying the foundation for the next several decades of tax policy in Utah. If we need a little more time to work out the logistics and ensure that all parties are confident in the numbers and the process, then that will be time well spent.

Tax Reform Postponed

Freedom Forum Audio

Who said democracy was a walk in the park?

The audio of last night's raucus forum on immigration is available on KCPW's site: http://www.kcpw.org/article/356 .

Kudos to Julie Rose for keeping the lid on this event.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Senator Bramble to Address Immigration Issues

Freedom Forum, hosted by SLC Mayor Rocky Anderson
Wednesday, April 12, 2006
7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.
Salt Lake City Library Auditorium
Senator Curtis S. Bramble will speak and answer questions, along with the distinguished Mark Alvarez, Sylvia Haro, Thomas Maloney, and Luz Robles.

Read the mayor's press release.

Deep in the Heart of Texas

Representative Aaron Pena talks about our NCSL presentation on E-Democracy, with links to the Lawmakers site, the NYT & Trib article, and NCSL's list of legislative blogs.

Friday, April 07, 2006

New Media

We were honored to receive an invitation from the National Conference of State Legislators to talk about The Senate Site at their Spring Forum in Washington D.C. Here’s an excerpt from the program this morning:
E-Democracy: Using IT to Connect and Communicate
How are legislatures using new technologies to encourage citizen involvement and participation in the democratic process? This session will highlight innovative new ways for legislators to inform constituents and communicate with the public about pressing policy issues.
First up is a discussion on legislative blog sites. Representative Aaron Pena – the Steve Urquhart of Texas - will speak first, followed by the Utah Senate.

Jim Greenwalt, Evelyn Messinger, and Daniel Bevarly will also speak, exploring computer-mediated communication and on-line communities.

Exciting times. New media has given legislators and legislatures everywhere an unprecedented ability to partner with - and be accountable to - the folks back home.

We thought a few interested attendees might like to see how to write and post a blog. If you can view this posting – then it worked.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Better Interaction = Better Government

By Lyle Hillyard
Utah State Senator, District 25

After the session, it can be fun to read the reports from groups who follow the legislature and see how they view what we have done and why. (It reminds me of when I served my mission in Holland and read their version of history and found out that they were the ones who won World War II. I did not realize that American involvement was so insignificant!) I learn things about the session that I did not know – and am often amused by what impact these groups felt they had asserted.

I believe we need to find new, better ways to keep in contact with the groups that closely follow the legislative session. Some of my constituents make the trip from Cache Valley; many E-mail me during the session. This type of contact enhances the process. It is easier to understand our differences and reach common ground when such interaction takes place. I am sure all legislators would agree that contact from our local voters has a far greater impact than a paid lobbyist (who may see me several times at the Capitol – with various positions that are sometimes in conflict). E-mail and the internet have made that possible.

I try to walk out in the lobby after each day’s sessions just to see who needs to stop and talk with me. I try to hold public meetings back home during the Legislative Session, and send E-mail messages to those who have asked for feedback or session reports. Still, I don’t think that is enough.

Maybe people feel they are too busy to take the time, but they, ultimately, own this government and are responsible for how it operates. They really need to do more than catch a three-minute report on TV or follow the few “sensational” stories picked up by the press. I frequently speak to groups about what we are trying to do; a favorite question is to ask them to name their state senator or state representative. Most can’t. There are elections coming up this year – party conventions, primaries, and the final election. I plead with everyone to take time to get involved.

The Budget: A Refresher Course

By Lyle Hillyard
Senate Chair of Executive Appropriations

If there is a reincarnation after this life, I hope I can come back as a member of a newspaper editorial board. Their criticisms of the legislative process never cease to amaze me. It must be nice to take pot shots at specific issues and never have to worry about the global picture, balancing priorities, and what it takes to reach a consensus with so many strongly held divergent views.

This was brought again to my attention when I received (in an unmarked envelope) a copy of the editorial from the Standard Examiner, dated March 7, 2006. I usually throw away unmarked envelopes but I took the time to read the piece. I was amazed to see that I am called “disingenuous” and was accused of giving the poor the “back of the hand” while allowing the “haves” (whoever they may be) to make out very well. Maybe they feel I am one of their “hard-headed legislators” who allow common sense to crash off me.

These writers seem to blame lobbyists for whatever problem they perceive in the legislative process. They advised me to get away from the crowd of lobbyists and revisit my district. They propose that my constituents do not enjoy frequent Jazz games (neither do I) or expensive dinners on someone else’s tab (neither do I) and so they need additional hand-outs from government to ease their pain.

I understand that Ogden is far from Salt Lake and it may be hard for the editors there to find out what is going on in the Capitol, but we tried very hard during the session to shed light on the budget issues. We met regularly with reporters (even the gentleman from Ogden), and posted valuable information here on the Senate Site.

Let me explain again and hopefully they will begin to understand why the problem with their advice.

First, there are far more demands for state funds than we could ever cover. We tried to tell every group that requested money that they would have to present their requests to the appropriate budget committee and be listed on that committee’s priority list. We took $100.0 M off the table the first week to fund for the growth in public education, plus partially fund Human Service and Health needs, based on growth from last year. When we added money for tax cuts (most editorial boards seem to support tax reform as well as removing the sales tax from food), roads and water, that left insufficient money to even fund a four percent salary increase (after paying the increased costs for health insurance at last year’s benefit level and the shortage in the retirement funds).

Luckily, new revenue forecasts gave us additional money to fund a salary increase and work on our committee’s priority lists. The committees received $500.0 M worth of requests. They prioritized $221.0 M. Of that amount, we were able to fund about $100.0 M. If you look over the work of the Human Services and Health Committee, you will find that we funded quite a few of their priorities. I felt good about how we funded many programs which waited patiently for a better year like this one. People I respect as lobbyists for the poor have thanked me privately for this effort and how well they were treated when considering the total requests and challenges of budget work.

Now let’s look at the Dental and Vision challenge. They did not even make the priority list. That committee heard from all the advocates and decided that there were other needs that were better candidates for tax dollars. Comparing a one-time expenditure like the Western States Presidential Primary to ongoing funding of Dental and Vision is comparing apples to oranges. The editorial board from Ogden should pick one of the programs the Health and Human Services Committee felt was a higher priority for the money – and suggest transferring the on-going funds out of THAT program to Dental and Vision.

As the session was beginning, we learned that the Federal Government was cutting $10.0 M in this year’s budget and $20.0 M on-going from next year’s budget from Health and Human Services. That put additional pressure on us to find money for ongoing programs, rather than establish new ones. With these federal cuts, which will probably increase, we will be forced to cut other discretionary programs.

Despite my desires to fund this, and several other programs that did not make the cut, we are limited by the balanced budget requirement in the state constitution. Utah State can only spend the money it takes away from others –by taxation or by taking money from other government programs. Should we have funded vision and dental with money prioritized for improvements to the freeway west of Ogden? Maybe we could use the money earmarked for desperately needed improvements to the Weber State buildings that only barely made the funding list.

I should not be so critical of editorial board opinions because they do need to weigh competing priorities. They can miss the full perspective. They do not have to spend the intense hours we do meeting with various groups (many without paid lobbyists) and try to determine the best way to allocate taxpayer money. They do not have to meet the voters on the street who are anxious that the taxes they pay do not put them out of business or out of their homes. If Dental and Vision advocates want to be funded they should identify from which program(s) they want to take the money, realizing that each project has equally strong supporters and advocates – and do a better job making their case to their appropriations committee. They need to stand next to all the other projects, state responsibilities and programs, and explain why their need outshines the others.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Ghost Town

March was a quiet month at the Utah State Legislature.

After the frenetic activity of the legislative session, the peace and silence that descended on the place was a sudden, welcome change. Most legislators were more than ready to go back to their families and cleared the building about 2 a.m., the night session ended.

Almost all of the Senate staff have gone home for the year. A skeleton crew remains to sort through the layers of paperwork and carry out quiet interim projects. One or two enterprising senators stop by to call constituents and work on E-mail. A solitary law clerk shows up to listen to old recordings of floor debates from, say, 1989.

The Aggie Ice Cream is gone (although some petrified taffy remains). The Senate Chamber is quiet.

A tumbleweed rolls down the hall.

It’s the boom and bust cycle of a part-time legislature. Elected officials return to the lives and careers they left behind. They live as regular citizens under the laws they helped create.

So, March was quiet.

Last week, however, the legislature showed signs of revival.
* Election campaigns kicked into gear.

* The Senate voted to uphold Governor Huntsman’s vetoes (more action than our fax machine has seen in weeks).

* Three committees met. One started planning legislative work for the rest of the year, another discussed administrative rules, and the last started evaluating a judicial appointment.
And, the conclusive assurance that the post-session doldrums are over. . . Senator Lyle Hillyard just called and said he writing up some new blogs.

It's Spring here in the Senate. Stay tuned for more.


The photo of Grafton, Utah, was taken by Max Bertola.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Stephen Evans

By John Valentine
President of the Utah Senate

Our Senate Family experienced a loss last Friday morning. Stephen Evans, husband of Senator Beverly Evans passed away. His unexpected departure was deeply felt by all senators and staff.

Stephen was a kind, constant presence in the Utah Senate Offices. You may have seen him, quietly reading or talking to staff while he waited for his wife to complete the unending meetings required of an involved legislator and member of Senate Leadership.

He was a good man, and a source of quiet good-humor, patience and strength in the Senate.

We all miss him.

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