Welcome to The Senate Site

Friday, June 30, 2006

Perspective

Thursday, June 29, 2006

More on Transportation

LaVarr Webb responds to Senator Hillyard's blog about the transportation initiative being "too broad, too complex, and in danger of failing at the polls."

Look for it in the left-hand column of today’s UPD.

Green Jello also lends candlepower to the subject.

Weighty issues.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

What if the answer is no?

By Lyle Hillyard
Senate Chair of Executive Appropriations

A great political axiom states, “Don’t ask the question until you are ready for the answer."

It appears to me that the greatest risk of rushing a complex issue - such as the recent mass transit initiatiove - to a sudden public vote this fall, is the likelihood people will just say “No.” It takes time to educate the general population about why they should vote for such a large tax increase (and that will probably be the focus of the vote, not that our transportation system needs additional money).

The citizens of our state know we have record surpluses. We have just taken a percentage of the sales tax off food and are trying to decide how to cut income tax. A constant theme I am hearing is, “Don’t raise taxes.” and “Use the current surplus to address urgent state needs.”

How are proponents going to overcome public skepticism on such short notice? I doubt they will get much help from those running re-election campaigns. I believe the resistance will be so great, they can’t sell it.

The danger is that once the people vote no, the answer is no.

A former mayor of Logan lost his bid for reelection, in part, because the city put the issue of funding a new golf course on the ballot and it failed. When he found another way to build the course, public reaction was, “How dare he fund this when the voters said no?” People vote “no” for many different reasons, but the cloud it creates over a project is dark and homogenous.

After reading the material sent by the 2015 Transportation Alliance, I was left with so many questions that I could not vote for the ballot initiative as proposed (if I lived in one of the affected counties). There has to be time to discuss, analyze, and shape the proposal so that instead of losing a year (there are local elections in 2007), we do not lose 10 years with the sting of a negative vote in one (or all) of the affected counties.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Election Returns

Most of us will be up late tonight, tracking the primary election returns. Watch the numbers pour in at the Lt. Governor's site: http://electionresults.utah.gov/election/.

KSL has a good election results site as well.

Come Inside

By John Valentine
President of the Utah Senate

You can now visit the Senate Offices via our new web cam.

The camera is currently located on top of the clock on the west wall of my office, but we’ll move it around. These are your offices too - so make yourself at home.
Login: life
Password: elevated
The idea here is simple: You own the government. You pay for it. You elect us and pay us and you live with the consequences of what we do. Yet, many citizens are fundamentally detached from the policy work of the legislature. That can be dangerous.

The new SenateCam is one more little tool to try to bridge that gap -- to try and break down a little of the “inner-corridors-of-power” mystique. It seemed like a good idea at the time.

We’ll see.

Let me know what you think.

Bicameral Behavior

Sometimes we see eye to eye with our compatriots in the other half of the Legislature. Sometimes we don’t.

Ever wonder if the U.S. House and Senate have similar challenges? Judy Holland wrote this interesting piece for Hearst Newspapers.

It isn’t an exact reflection of the situation in Utah, but there are a few parallels.

(Just an FYI for the organizational behavioralists, political science majors, psychologists and clergymen among us.)

Monday, June 26, 2006

Unmasked

By Sheldon Killpack
Utah State Senator, District 21

Since Representative Urquhart has seen fit to unmask me in public, I think it’s fair to do the same for my angelic colleague in the House…


When the devil sits on one shoulder, you should be fully aware of the entity on the other. The fact that he looks more like a fairy than an angel is strictly coincidental . . . . I think.

Tomorrow's Senate Primaries

Future senators face primaries in three races tomorrow.

District 9 (Parts of Sandy and Draper)
Wayne Niederhauser and Bryson Garbett

The winner will go up against Trish Beck on November 7th.
District 18 (Ogden, South Ogden, Washington Terrace, and South Weber)
Dave Thomas and Jon Greiner

The winner will face Stuart Reid in the November election.
District 26 (Uintah Basin, Heber City, and Park City)
David Ure and Kevin VanTassell

Read an article in the Park Record here. The winner will face Sonya Ray and Roland Uresk in the November election.

Find contact info on all the candidates here.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Small School Districts Update

By Carlene Walker
Utah State Senator, District 8

Our Small School District Ad Hoc Committee has now grown to 22 attendees.

In our last meeting we discussed the services that need to be provided such as bussing, school lunches and IT services. Two members went away with assignments to sketch out proposals on the creation of an Interim School Board for a new district and how to address various bonding questions posed by the committee.

One idea that we are floating is to mandate mediation (or arbitration) as a final solution to problems rather than taking them to court.

We continue to come up with new questions but we all want to proceed with this venture with our eyes wide open.

Our next meeting is July 14th.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Transportation Initiative

In caucus yesterday, we discussed the Transportation Alliance tax proposal in some detail.

Read the press release and fact sheet.

If their warnings sound familiar, it's because they parallel what many in the state legislature have been saying for years – which is why we tend to fund transportation at such a high level, even when critics charge that we are “paving over [insert a funding request here].”

The strong feeling in the Senate Majority is this initiative is appropriate for debate in a General Legislative Session. We appreciate the Alliance's research and reality check.

It is really not appropriate, however, for a Special Session. "Special" Sessions work nicely for less-complex, consensus items, or bills that have already been fully vetted.

This initiative promises to be a challenging policy discussion attached to a jaw-dropping price tag.

Why the sudden, urgent need to bond for a billion dollars? Proponents say this transit initiative will help avert a looming transportation crisis. There is at least an equal crisis, however, in road funding – and the urgent need to secure transportation corridors before land prices skyrocket. In fact, the same sense of urgency could be attached to any of a number of funding crises (roads, education, Medicaid . . . the list goes on).

Hypothetically speaking, if we were to allow for an increased sales tax on our citizens – would this initiative be the best place to spend that money? Obviously, we need in-depth evaluation, and well rounded debate before we can commit to the kind of funding contemplated by this transit initiative.

That decision is not without controversy. In today’s UPD, LaVarr Webb penned his hope that we will reconsider.
". . . senators acted without even giving the business coalition a chance to make its case that a comprehensive, regional approach to mass transit expansion needs to occur and citizens need a chance to vote this year to ensure good mobility and a strong economy."
Lane Beattie also responded with impressive - characteristic - diplomacy:
"Information is awfully powerful, and there's a reason why the business community is moving forward with this.... Lawmakers just haven't seen that, and we haven't had a chance to lay that out in front of them. We just need to make sure the case is understood. Once it is, we're confident that they will make the right decision."
On the other side of the issue, the Utah Taxpayers' Association noted that we are currently the 4th highest taxed state in the nation. This proposal would bump us up to number 3.

Read their press release here.

This is an important policy question – and the answer will impact every single family in Utah. At this point we are unlikely to change our position on a Special Session.

Consequential decisions.

We would certainly welcome your thoughts.

Federalism . . . just because it's old fashioned doesn't mean it's wrong

Senator Howard Stephenson, in today’s Trib:
"When the federal government gets involved, education becomes more expensive and less effective."
It's not just education. Common sense would indicate that nearly everything becomes more expensive and less effective when dictated from a remote site, deficient in local experience or expertise.

Read the full article here.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Today's Confirmations

The Utah Senate voted to confirm the following appointments today:

Board of Pardons and Parole
Clark Harms
Real Estate Commission
Kay Ashton
Radiation Control Board
Dr. John Thomson
Elizabeth Goryunova
Peter A. Jenkins
Health Data Committee
Kim Bateman (reappointment)
Leslie Francis (reappointment)
Robert Huefner (reappointment)
Gary W. Nordhoff
Stephen J. Kroes
Douglas James Hasbrouck
Utah Athletic Foundation Board of Directors:
John Bennion
Department of Community and Culture
Palmer DePaulis as the new Executive Director
Department of Administrative Services
Richard Ellis as the new Executive Director
Utah Science Technology and Research Governing Authority
Dan Olsen
Dinesh Patel
Charlie Precourt
Jack Sunderlage
Jim Dreyfus
Scott Anderson
Hunter Jackson
Cathy A. Petti
Utah State University Board of Trustees
David Johnson III
Real Estate Appraiser Licensing and Certification Board
Ronald M. Smith
Ambria Spencer
Judicial Conduct Commission
Elaine E. Englehardt
Securities Advisory Board
Craig Skidmore
Mark Pugsley
Tim Bangerter
Committee of Consumer Services
Andrew Riggle
Robert McMullin
Congratulations to each of the new appointees and to their families! We appreciate your willingess to serve and look forward to working with you.

Click here for information on Utah State boards and commissions.

4 - 3

Good game.

The House Blog has the report.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Snookered?

On KCPW:

(KCPW News) A Utah lawmaker is furious that Congress appears poised to reverse years of work she invested in giving Utahns more control over their credit. State Senator Carlene Walker's bill passed the Utah Legislature this year letting people put a freeze on their credit reports to prevent thieves from using the reports for fraud. Now Congress has a measure that will trump that and only allow people to freeze their credit if they've been robbed.

"It's like putting a deadbolt on your door after the robbers have left," laments Walker.

In passing her measure at the state level, Senator Walker says she made significant concessions to the powerful credit lobby and gave them until Fall 2008 to implement the credit freeze law. Now she believes she was quote "snookered" by the credit industry into giving them time to preempt her efforts on a national level.

The federal legislation could come up for a vote as early as this week.

As noted before, Senator Walker's bill was one of the crown jewels of the 2006 Legislative Session. Here's a little Utah Credit Freeze History:
Indentity Fraud Protection Bill in the Senate

Audio, following the unanimous Senate Vote on her Credit Freeze Bill

Passes in the House

Signed by the Guv

Monday, June 19, 2006

Rematch!

Received this E-mail from the powerhouse in the House, House Staffer Extraordinaire, Kate Bradshaw, a.k.a. the Assistant Coach:
>>> Kate Bradshaw 06/13/06 2:47 PM >>>

Dear Legislators,

The first ever Legislative v. Executive SOFTBALL game is going to be held next week. After the impressive victory of team "Veto-Proof" in the Leg. v. Exec. basketball game, the Executive branch demanded a rematch in a different sport; they obviously fear our basketball skills, or at least our interns, too much to challenge us on the hardwood.

So now onto the baseball diamond....

The game is free and open to the public, so please come cheer on your colleagues.

Game Details:

Game Day: Tuesday June 20, 2006 (the day before Interim!)
Warm-ups: 7:00 PM Game Time: 7:30 PM
Place: Franklin Covey Stadium


Rogers Hornsby: "People ask me what I do in winter when there's no baseball. I'll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring."

Friday, June 16, 2006

Small School District Update

By Carlene Walker
Utah State Senator, District 8

Fifteen stakeholders attended the first meeting of the Ad Hoc Committee for Small School Districts this week. We agreed that we would not discuss IF large school districts should be divided. We’re beyond that. We are now discussing HOW to do it efficiently and fairly.

We divided the issue into four main areas of concern with numerous sub-categories.
  1. Division of Assets

  2. Bonding

  3. Personnel

  4. Other Questions

I opened our first bill file which will address proportionately dividing assets and debt.

We agreed that we need to enable an interim school board to be created for the new district as soon as a vote of the people establishes that the majority want a new district. We also tried to work out a timetable for the transition period

I’ll try to post periodic progress reports so that those who are following this issue will know what’s happening.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

State's Rights My Eye!

By Carlene Walker
Utah State Senator, District 8

I worked for two years with dozens of stakeholders to negotiate a fair but delicate balance with the business community and consumers.

Now the feds are threatening to nullify Utah's Credit Freeze Law before it even takes effect. I’m frustrated that they would take away Utahns ability to protect themselves against identity theft and credit fraud.

I guess Washington D.C. knows best. . . NOT!

County Perspective

The Utah Association of Counties watched as the Medicaid Interim Committee started to
"... grapple with the thorny issue of Medicaid--a service which grows routinely 10 percent a year and which the federal government is cutting year after year as the federal deficit gets larger and larger."
Here is their report (thanks, UPD, for the link).

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

First Meeting

By Sheldon Killpack
Utah State Senator, District 21

Today was the first meeting of the Medicaid Interim Committee.

Our task is not easy and likely not pleasant. Several interest groups, including governmental agencies, private providers and advocates, are watching to see what unfolds.

The committee will focus on
1. Cost Management

2. Accountability of Medicaid Recipients.
Over the past few weeks we witnessed Utah’s passion behind providing for a vulnerable population as we stood by decisions made during the general session.

Perhaps unfortunately, the Legislature does not have the luxury of putting on blinders and extolling the virtues of one single program without weighing it against a plethora of other state needs and the risk of losing the very basics of Medicaid. Utah is not the only state taking a careful look at the Medicaid program (as illustrated in the Washington Post article this week).

Here is a sampling of the realities we face:
  • Through the Deficit Reduction Act, the Federal Government will continue to push funding responsibilities back to the States.

  • Utah is seeing a growing trend of providers who no longer accept Medicaid patients because our reimbursement rates are too low.

  • The most expensive populations in Medicaid are the Elderly and Disabled. These populations make up 25 percent of the people in the Medicaid Program but they account for 70 (seventy) percent of the program’s expenditures. Over the next few years we will see a surge in our elderly population.
I’m troubled by the attempt to downplay Medicaid’s challenges by saying a sizable portion of the Medicaid population is in the program for a very short time. The population to which they refer only accounts for (roughly) 30 percent of Medicaid expenses. Simply put, the most expensive population which utilizes Medicaid (Elderly and Disabled) will be in the program for a long, long time.

Maybe I’m crazy, but I look forward to the coming months. I fully expect a spirit of cooperation as we take a realistic look at the future. I look forward to working with my co-chair, Representative Newbold, and the other members of the committee.

All stake holders will need to take an honest and open minded approach to work out funding and options for Utahns who have experienced very few of those things.

Sorenson and IHC

By John Valentine
President of the Utah Senate

Earlier today we joined the Governor and representatives from the House in an announcement re: Medicaid Dental.

It turns out that the anonymous donor who pledged one million dollars is Jim Sorenson. Intermountain Healthcare also stepped forward with an additional million, bringing the total donated monies to $2.0 Million. We sincerely appreciate their generosity, compassion and volunteer spirit.

This is not the perfect solution, but it is groundbreaking. We are aware of no other state in which the public has contributed in this way.

This funding is not a full restoration of Adult Medicaid Dental but will provide emergency care for the blind, disabled and aged. This is a temporary fix. It will buy some time for the Medicaid Task Force to complete a comprehensive review of the issues and complexities related to the Utah’s Medicaid program.

It took some turbulence and creativity to get to this point, but I’m glad we’re here.

However . . . If you think this was turbulent, wait until next year.

And the year after.

And the year after that.

This recent controversy is just the first wave in a storm that is coming.

The Federal Government will continue to slash Medicaid funding. The State of Utah will continue to have a balanced budget. The Governor and the Legislature will be forced to prioritize and make some very difficult choices.

We’ll survive the storm, like we always do, but we need to be smart, compassionate and disciplined to balance competing priorities and meet state needs.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Two from the House

If you want insight on the Medicaid situation in Utah (as opposed to just echoing the obvious sound bite), here are two blogs you'll want to consider:
Rep. Steve Urquhart’s analysis of the Medicaid landscape from the legislative viewpoint,

and

Rep. Jeff Alexander (also here) questioning why – if this is indeed a top priority –the Department of Health doesn’t reallocate within their existing line item. An excellent question.

Transparency and Patient Choice

By Michael Waddoups
Utah State Senator, District 6

I appreciated Linda Fantin’s article highlighting serious concerns about transparency and patient choice. Obviously, the task force has miles to go before our work is complete.

For those who may be interested in the letters she mentions, here are copies:
U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez

Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff

Secretary Michael Leavitt

Commissioner Kent Michie

President Rob Feckner

Cortez on Medicaid

Marjorie Cortez, editorial writer for the DMN, demonstrates a nuanced understanding of the current Medicaid landscape. She doesn’t ignore the dicy political issues but gives the subject a more fair, more complete treatment than most.

Read her article: State Medicaid panel faces tough balancing act.

Monday, June 12, 2006

People treated like . . . people

By Michael Waddoups
Utah State Senator, District 6

One of my strong impressions after visiting the Riverwoods Surgery Center was that patients should be aware of the wealth of healthcare options available - and have more freedom to choose the best fit for the procedures that impact their lives.

The Riverwoods Surgery Center is an alternative to the typical hospital surgery room. It seemed cleaner, more personal, and much less expensive.

In fact, Riverwoods Surgery Center was more like a hotel than a hospital. People were treated like . . . people. The atmosphere was respectful and personable. This probably doesn’t happen every time, but I saw one doctor walking a patient out to his car after a treatment. That kind of care is refreshing.

ASCs (Ambulatory Surgery Centers) are also less expensive. One surgery that costs $3100 at a local hospital, costs $2100 at an ASC. In addition, ASCs boast a strikingly low infection rate, when compared with traditional health care providers.

I was impressed.

I believe doctors and their patients can and should have enhanced alternatives, more transparency, and more information. Insurance companies and the health care industry should encourage, not impede, this process.

We would serve our constituents well to promote a healthcare system where more choices are made by the patients who's lives and health are at stake - rather than the insurance company, hospitals, and employers.

I believe government can help in two specific ways:
1 - Encourage insurance companies to be more cooperative. They should be less restrictive with those who do the work and pay their premiums. People should have a full spectrum of options available to them in their time of need.

2 - The State should require health care providers to identify their infection rates and make that information available to the public. Perhaps the Health Department could post and publicize those rates on their website.
Watch for upcoming legislation on choice and transparency.

Recovery at Utah Lake

President Valentine spent a long three-day weekend as Operations Commander in the search for three men and the airplane that went down in the storm Thursday night.

He coordinated the work of the fire departments, search and rescue teams, sheriff, and police departments, plus dive teams from Summit County, Wasatch County, and Hildale, Utah.

His wife says he's tired.

Medicaid

Today’s Washington Post discusses the states' role in the evolution of Medicaid (thanks, Grasscatcher, for sending the link):
After winning greater freedom from federal Medicaid rules, states are moving aggressively to transform the nation's largest public health insurance program, adding fees, restricting benefits and creating incentives for patients to take responsibility for their health.

The changes are just beginning in several states that are being watched closely by governors nationwide. Those changes are reshaping Medicaid, which covers 55 million poor and disabled Americans, so that the program more closely resembles private insurance, rather than a social welfare system run with a strong, central government hand.
Utah legislators will carry out an extensive analysis of our Medicaid program this year. The first meeting of the Medicaid Task Force begins Wednesday morning at 8:00 a.m.

Read the agenda here.

Rolly

Who is this guy's source? Paul Rolly focuses beyond the election-year hype and provides his readers with a surprisingly accurate analysis of the unfolding Medicaid Dental story.

Impressive.

Friday, June 09, 2006

The Public Sector Steps Up

By Pete Knudson
Senate Majority Leader

We received an interesting call from the Governor’s office last night. Apparently, an anonymous donor has committed one million dollars to help fund emergency dental care for Medicaid patients - as long as the private sector raises another million to match it. I think that is wonderful.

We support this charitable private-sector approach. In fact, most of us will put our money where our mouth is and make a personal contribution. We hope all Utah citizens will do the same.

(And please consider there are hundreds of programs and organizations with desperate human needs that have not received media attention. Please remember them in your giving as well.)

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Priorities and Process

Medicaid Dental.

Reporters have written the story. The editorial boards have opined and the columnists have weighed in. The E-mail from the advocate community has become angry and bitter. Candidates are rushing to make political hay out of the issue.

This blog posting is not addressed to any of them.

I’m writing this post in case some citizen, somewhere, wants extra perspective on what happened in the Special Session last Wednesday. Maybe a college student, or archeologist, millennia from now, will unearth the hard drive to this computer and use it to reconstruct early 21st Century events.

To anyone out there that fits that description, I say: Thank you for being curious enough to look for truth beyond the sound bite.

The Utah Legislature put $100 million new dollars into health and human services this year. Of course it’s not enough. Human needs are as endless as they are heartbreaking.

This year we dealt with a long list of worthy requests. Many that were prioritized much higher than Medicaid Dental were unfunded or under funded. Examples:

* Drug Courts
* Adoption caseload growth
* Foster Care growth
* Higher reimbursement rates for medical providers
* Utah Birth Defects Network
* Additional caseworkers for DCFS
* Mental health services

As human beings we are inclined to say yes to every worthy request. As policy makers, we have to make necessary tough decisions. Declining to fund aspects of the Medicaid dental program was one of those tough decisions.

Because of this prioritized waiting list, significant confusion over the funding mechanism and questions over who would actually benefit from the allocation - plus the fact that future federal Medicaid funding is uncertain at best, we felt it would be irresponsible to promise funding to the optional Medicaid dental program.

Our hearts do go out to those who are suffering and will not have state aid for their problems.

A Million Unspent

By Lyle Hillyard
Senate Chair of Executive Appropriations

The Utah Medicaid Adult Dental program will end the fiscal year with one million dollars in the bank. We appropriated $3.8 million from the General Fund; they only expect to spend $2.8 million by June 30, 2006.

Why?

State Medicaid officials say 1) fewer dentists are willing to participate in the program because the reimbursement rates are too low; 2) less people enrolled than they projected; and 3) there is less pent-up demand because of the emergency program instituted for fiscal year 2005.

It’s strange to hear people call for an extension of the program when almost one-third of last year’s money went unused.

To me, it makes more sense to increase the reimbursement rates so more dentists are willing to participate. Medicaid recipients will then have providers available in their time of need.

It makes sense to look at all the programs in context, balance competing priorities, and put the money where it will actually be used. We’ll do that in January.

Apples & Oranges

The obvious sound bite: "They funded a parking structure but couldn't give pocket change to the poor."

Problem is, both sides of the aisle agree, that comparing the two is like comparing apples and oranges. Good for campaign propaganda, perhaps, but that's about it.

Julie Rose gets it right. Listen to her report on the KCPW site.

Support your local blogger

In addition to sagebrush and a tech-savvy workforce, Utah also has a healthy squadron of bloggers. Steve, at Orbita Dicta, posted a pretty good list of Utah’s Blog Community.

Check it out.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Mitt Sighting

From Out of Context:
Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney was spotted yesterday leaving the White House West Wing. We're not sure of the purpose of the visit, but there is apparently no truth to the rumors he was packing a tape measure and some curtain samples.

Memorial Day

By Lyle Hillyard
Utah State Senator, District 25

I thought I might share a few thoughts before last week's holiday completely fades into memory. Memorial Day has special meaning for me.

First, when I was in law school, I always had to study over the holiday to get ready for finals. There were never any quizzes, and my future depended on that final 4 hour exam. I vowed then that I would never do legal work on Memorial Day again, but instead use it for a day of relaxing and decorating graves.

Second, we always raised and cut our own flowers and carefully spent the day delivering to graveyards from Smithfield to Logan to Brigham City. Memorial Day was the 30th of May then, and only occasionally fell on a weekend. The day was a special time to see cousins and family and talk about the people whose graves we spent time decorating.

Now we spend Saturdays in Smithfield with the Hillyards. We all meet at 11:00 a.m. and have a good chance to catch up on what is happening. Other than funerals, it is the only time I see many friends who live quite some distance away. Mondays are spent with my wife's family doing much the same, but I have noticed something the last few years. While the old timers still come, I do not see very many children come with their parents. Maybe that's because it's a weekend holiday and other things seem more important.

As I think about it, I notice that my two brothers married girls from Richmond and Smithfield and my sister married a boy from Lewiston. I had the bravery to marry a girl from the big city of Logan. But when I think of my four married children... one is married to a boy raised in California, one married to a boy raised in Wyoming, one married to a boy raised in Idaho and one married to a girl raised in Washington. Two of them are in Japan and two are in California.

I wonder if any one will even have time to decorate our graves on Memorial Days in the future. I have a son-in-law who is serving in the military as a Chaplin. My brother served in the army. What can I do to instill in my children's lives a commitment to the remembrance of the men and women who gave their lives in defense of this country, and an appreciation of their ancestors who gave up much and made our heritage so rich? Maybe some one out there can offer suggestions?

Marriage Amendment Vote: 49-48

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Chuck Wagon

By Lyle Hillyard
Utah State Senator, District 25

Early in the morning, on Memorial Day, I took my family to Hyde Park for the annual Chuck Wagon Breakfast hosted every year by the local Lions Club. They featured ham, eggs, hashed browns, and pancakes. My son Matt chewed them out a number of years ago because they did not have any brown milk (that’s chocolate to you ordinary people) and they have always had it since then. There is something about being outside and eating such great food. Many former residents come back to decorate graves and stop by to visit. Everyone becomes immediate friends and you quickly remember why it is so great to live in a small community.

I help cook the breakfast in Lewiston for the 4th of July (sponsored this year by the Lewiston Volunteer Fire Department), and in Garden City for Raspberry Days (sponsored by the Boy Scouts and now the Young Women of the ward) on the first Saturday in August. Hyde Park expects 600 people, and Garden City expects 2500. North Logan had their chuck wagon breakfast closed down several years ago by the local health department for not having the proper food handler permits, so they are all more careful now. (I always thought that this kind of food, like Scout Food, had some special blessing so such things as health departments were not needed....)

If you are going to a small town around a holiday this summer, you should check ahead and find out if they or a neighboring town is having a chuck wagon breakfast. The cost is usually nominal, the food plenty, and there will be plenty of people to visit with who will give you the real inside about what to see and do while you’re there.

Call a USU extension office in your area and I would bet that they could find a breakfast in a nearby rural county for you. You may have to get up early, but one great thing about a chuck wagon breakfast is that you won't have to eat again until dinner that night!

Monday, June 05, 2006

Smaller School Districts?

By Carlene Walker
Utah State Senator, District 8

With the 2006 passage of HB77, qualifying municipalities can now create new, smaller school districts.

HB77 allows cities, or a combination of cities, with a minimum population of 65,000 to form a new school district. Citizens of Cottonwood Heights, Holladay, South Salt Lake, Millcreek Township as well as others are studying their options.

Utah has some of the largest school districts in the nation and some feel they would be better served by smaller districts. In addition, Alpine, Jordan and Granite School Districts will probably be proposing large new school bonds in the near future – in anticipation of explosive growth. This has spurred the cities to seriously look at whether their residents would be better served by smaller school districts. Some cities are anticipating increased property taxes to fund new bonds - with most of the new money going outside their city to fund growth elsewhere.

HB77 has found enthusiastic support from some parents but it seems to have raised as many questions as it has answered. Among these are the following:
  1. What questions should be explored in the required feasibility study?

  2. What happens to the assets of the existing school district?

  3. How does the new district deal with existing contract obligations of teachers and vendors?
These, and many other questions will be addressed in the coming months by an ad hoc committee formed by the Political Subdivisions Interim Committee.

I would love to hear what people are thinking about this issue.

The 28th Amendment

Senate Joint Resolution 1, would add this paragraph to the U.S. Constitution:
"Marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman. Neither this Constitution, nor the constitution of any State, shall be construed to require that marriage or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon any union other than the union of a man and a woman."
To voice your opinion, please contact your U.S. Senators, not the Utah Senate (we’ve received some excellent, but misdirected, E-mail messages).

Links:
U.S. Senate Main Page

Senator Bennett

Senator Hatch

Saturday, June 03, 2006

NCLB's Treatment of the States

By Margaret Dayton
Utah State Representative, District 61

At the request of Congressman Rob Bishop and others in our Congressional Delegation, Dr. Patti Harrington set about to distill a Utah perspective on the potential reauthorization of NCLB. I appreciated her asking me for input.

When I scrutinized the options, I felt the Utah State School Board should choose Option A. They did not. They selected Option D. While I am impressed with the Board's optimism, I have serious concerns about whether we as a state and a nation can [or should] adjust ourselves to such confusing centralized planning.

In this post, I would like to outline two areas of concern:

1) NCLB was intended to create a uniform system of accountability across the nation. I have yet to meet a teacher, parent, or policy maker who did not think that schools should be accountable. The question is to whom should they be accountable? NCLB requires our neighborhood schools to be accountable to the Federal Government, and NOT to the parents and communities where the schools exist. Obviously, local accountability is preferred.

It concerns me that monies sent to Utah by the US Department of Education (money taxed away from Utah in the first place) makes up only 8% of our state education budget and yet the USDOE presumes to dictate 100 % of what occurs in the classroom. This is inappropriate. The thousands and thousands of pages that compose the guidelines for administering NCLB pose a significant regulatory burden on the state.

In addition, the implementation of the law is not uniform.

Some states have agreements for flexibility with the USDOE that have been made in secret. Some states have flexibility that is open policy.

Some states have a growth model while others do not.

Some states are required to include a very small percentage of their Special Ed students for reporting purposes, while other states are required to include four times that many.

Some states have an N-Size of five. Other states have an N-Size of 200, and there are many variations in between. (N-size refers to the numbers of students that must be reported.) This means that the USDOE has agreed with some states to leave 199 students behind in reporting if the school does not have over 200 students in a particular sub-group.

This seemingly arbitrary patchwork of rigidity and flexibility in the USDOE's treatment of the states makes year-to-year performance comparisons as meaningless and futile as state-to-state comparisons - and undermines the validity of NCLB.

2) Now for some fundamental constitutional concerns.

When Congress wrote the Enabling Act creating statehood for Utah, it utilized language in the enabling acts from other states.

Thus, Article 11 of our Enabling Act states, "education shall forever be under the exclusive control of said state." NCLB is in violation of our Enabling Act, and it is in serious violation of the Constitution of the United States which makes no provision for federal control of local education.
President George Washington, in his farewell address (which used to be taught in public schools) reminded America, "The Constitution is sacredly obligatory upon us all."

Washington's words remind us of our patriotic duty. We need to be responsive to the public's aversion to bureaucratized national solutions to state and local issues.

Friday, June 02, 2006

NCLB - making adequate yearly progress?

Folks are studying up on NCLB’s pros and cons in preparation for a potential reauthorization of the act. To their credit, Utah's congressional delegation has asked the local experts for their perspective and recommendation.

Yesterday morning, Patti Harrington, Utah State Superintendent of Public Instruction, presented a list of options to the State Board of Education. They asked her to send the list to our congressional delegation, designating Option D as their preference.

Here's a copy:
Utah's Perspective on the Potential Reauthorization of No Child Left Behind
(Note: this is just a draft – the final version will be available next week.)

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Visionary!

Speaking of Einstein . . .

We found this old photo in a desk drawer at Princeton.

An MBA for Einstein

Industry is driven by technology, technology is created through research, and research is conducted at Universities.

The USTAR Initiative promises to turn cutting-edge academic research into Utah's next generation of economic engines.

The Guv said,
USTAR represents the future of Utah’s economy and our long-term commitment to capturing our unique competitive advantages as a State.

[The USTAR] board truly represents the finest professionals available to implement this important initiative.
We agree.

Today, Governor Huntsman, Senate President Valentine, and House Speaker Curtis announced their nominees for the USTAR Board.
  • Scott Anderson, CEO, Zions Bank
  • Hunter Jackson, Ph.D., former CEO, NPS Pharmaceuticals
  • Cathy A. Petti, M.D., Medical Director, ARUP Infectious Diseases Laboratory
  • Dan Olsen, Ph.D, Professor, Brigham Young University
  • Dinesh Patel, Ph.D., Partner, Vspring
  • Charlie Precourt, Vice President, Advanced Strategic Programs ATK Launch Systems Group
  • Jack Sunderlage, President and CEO, Contentwatch
  • Jim Dreyfous, Partner, UV Partners
  • Ed Alter, Utah State Treasurer
Short bios of the nominees are attached to the bottom of the official press release.

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