Welcome to The Senate Site

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Short Attention Span Version

Check out the new search engine on the Archive Page. You can search the entire Utah Blog Community. Depth perception is good.

Community, Depth Perception . . . and a new search engine

By John Valentine
President of the Utah Senate

Back in the stone age (2005) we built The Senate Site to communicate and to engage the public a little better. Stumbling into a thriving, neighborly Utah blog community was a nice surprise. I think one of the most valuable aspects of that community is the perspective it offers.

When something political is discussed here, then maybe by the House Majority, the House Democrats, Steve Urquhart, John Dougall, and Craig Frank, citizens can get a better sense of the dynamics of an issue. Add sites like Utah Amicus, Out of Context, Obiter Dicta, SLCSpin, Capitol Carnage, One Utah, Utah Politics, Utah Democrats, Utah Conservative, Green Jello, etc., and an interesting political depth perception begins to emerge.

Stepping away from the partisan election year fray - just for a moment - we can see that something good is beginning to happen, something unique in history: depth perception. For anyone with the curiosity to look. At the touch of a button. No one blogger has a monopoly on accuracy, but when issues are weighed and explained by independent sources from all points of the political spectrum, ordinary citizens have a better shot at discerning the truth of an issue.

To this end, we just added a feature that allows folks to perform a keyword search strictly within the Utah Blog Community. We included the top forty or so political blogs in the state (let us know if we’ve missed yours).

Check it out.

I am hearing that the emerging Utah blogosphere is unique. We should value the good it offers and do all we can to promote a blog community that continues to be local, healthy, diverse, respectful, and independent.

Monday, October 30, 2006

CNN Poll

Friday, October 27, 2006

Lyle Hillyard the Blogger

Lyle Hillyard is less dependant on technology than any one else in the Utah Senate. Maybe even the entire legislature.

Lyle was the last human being in the free world to live without a cell phone. His wife ultimately bought one for him last summer for HER birthday.

The desk in his law office holds papers, books and a lamp. But no computer. And yet . . . he has become one of the Senate Site's most prolific bloggers.

Go figure.

He blogs, posts PDF files of supporting documentation, and podcasts like . . . well the appropriate analogy escapes me.

A few from the archive:
A million unspent
Streamlined Sales Tax
Extreme Makeover
Dollars and Accountability
Class Size Reduction Proposal
Class Size
Chuck Wagon
Romance & Intrigue
Memorial Day
Site Visit 2006
Projecting Revenue
What if the answer is no?
The Budget: A Refresher Course
Better Interaction = Better Government
Site Visit Recap
Session Perspective
Early Budget Approval?
Retirement Issues
A Few Thoughts
And, of course, the news from his garden:
Garden Work
Harvest
Autumn and the End of the Garden
Senator Lyle Hillyard -- a Cache County original, just like the Festival of the American West and Aggie Ice Cream.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Autumn and the End of the Garden

By Lyle Hillyard
Gardener (and Utah State Senator)

Last Saturday was the final gardening effortof the year. It has been a great one with raspberries, potatoes, and apples being the most productive. My brother-in-law, who is the co-owner of the garden, left with his wife on Monday for an 18 month volunteer mission to Scotland, so we did some things a little early.

I covered my carrots with leaves (to be dug up next January and taste the great sweetening that occurs with this process), put away the wire braces around the tomatoes and dug the onions so they can be put out on screens in the shop to dry. The land is thoroughly tilled. Once the snow is off (around April in Logan) it will begin again.

We still have a bushel or so of beautiful golden delicious apples on the tree next to my house. I will pick them as needed until it get down to about 20 degrees - then put the remaining apples in the refrigerator for eating the next few months.

We have it pretty easy now. I was talking to a neighbor who was raised on a farm - she recalled how her father would dig a pit and fill it with straw and cover the apples, potatoes and carrots for the winter. They would dig into the pit as needed for food during the winter. As with many historical events, I imagine the memories are more enjoyable than the actual experience.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Heat from curious sources

By Curtis S. Bramble
Utah State Senator, District 16

The Tribune published a curiously heated editorial this morning in opposition to dropping the tax credit to those "who fit their homes with solar, wind or other renewable energy systems."

That’s great. The Revenue and Taxation Committee discussed this very thing a week ago. There appeared to be unanimous bipartisan support, not only for the existence of the current renewable energy tax credit, but for its expansion.

The audio is available here. (Agenda Item 2 - 36:40 to 1:02:26)

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Extreme Makeover

By Lyle Hillyard
Utah State Senator

Cache Valley Utah was very pleased this past week to host Extreme Makeover – Home addition. The Pauni Family was the target of a tremendous outpouring of love and attention. They immigrated to Utah from Tonga and the father died about two years ago leaving her with 9 children. She has been trying to make ends met by providing a Polynesian food catering service. They are just loved by their neighbors who nominated them for this honor. It was awe-inspiring to see the spirit of giving and service that has swept the City of Logan for the last week. Those of you who have built a home can appreciate this being done in less than seven days while they were away.

There were fund raising efforts everywhere to raise the money to build the new home and utilities and other needs for a year. I understand the students at USU raised $12,000. People came from all over the intermountain area to volunteer time and effort.

I was told that when this occurs in more populated areas, large businesses contribute money. In a small community like Cache Valley, it means a true sacrifice of people to give.

You can see the YouTube video on the Herald Journal site.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Class Size Reduction Proposal

By Lyle Hillyard
Senate Chair of Executive Appropriations

Here's a proposal in answer to commenters on my blog about funding a reduction in class size.

In discussing my concern about ensuring that money invested for class size reduction is really used for that purpose, a good friend in public education suggested the following:
1. Fund class size reduction state wide in 2007.

2. Sunset the appropriations in, say, 3 years.

3. At the end of that time, those school districts that had achieved appropriate goals for class size reductions would continue to receive the funding. Districts that diverted that money to something else would see that funding end.
Districts would have to be serious about class size reductions. They would have to execute a realistic plan to keep classes within appropriate limits, prioritizing their resources accordingly.

Do the job and they keep the money to continue that job. Abandon it and they lose the funding.

Do you think this idea has merit?

Thanks Patty, Deb, Marie, Daniel, tinytim, Tom, Anonymous, and everyone else involved in the discussion for the insight you added to the previous blog. Please keep it coming.

KCPW

We don't love everything they say, but honest observers appreciate KCPW as a reliable independent source of information on the Utah Legislature.

Today is the last day of their 2006 pledge drive.

Click here to listen. Click here to donate.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

$49.2 Million Extra

"I'm always impressed when government does something right."

- Bill Hickman

Read the full text of the Tribune article: Lights, camera, windfall!

Warren Miller: Off the Grid

Yep. That's Utah. Our deep, clean, dry powder and stunning mountains are sponsoring this year’s Warren Miller.

Here’s Ray Grass in today’s Deseret Morning News:
"We came into the game late in the season," recalled Rafferty. "It turned out we had to shoot our ski segments in March and April. Only in Utah. Other resorts are starting to close, but we got some of the most incredible powder skiing shots imaginable. They were great, as those who attend the movie will see. Like I said, only in Utah."

Miller is without question the czar of the ski-movie industry, and his movies have become the pre-season catalyst to winter skiing American viewers have come to expect over the years.

Involvement in the Miller production was made possible through the increased travel/tourism budget pushed and approved by Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. and overseen by Leigh von der Esch, managing director of the Utah Office of Tourism.

The sponsorship was made possible, said von der Esch, because of "an increase in our advertising budget due to the generous support of the Utah Legislature, (which) has allowed us to partner with Warren Miller for the first time."

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Resignation

By Bev Evans
Utah State Senator, District 26

I will be submitting my letter of resignation today.

Many of you know this was to be my last year in the legislature. It has turned out to be a difficult one. My husband passed away unexpectedly and then several other serious challenges have arisen since that time. For many reasons, I needed to find a job and/or a meaningful cause with which to be active and engaged.

I found both.

An opportunity came up to work for rural economic development in the executive branch. I can’t work in both branches of government at the same time so I need to say goodbye to my legislative family two months early.

Serving in the Utah State Legislature was one of my life’s great experiences. My colleagues and the many people with whom I have shared work, time, and memories have been wonderful. My constituents are among the best people on earth and I have represented them as well as I know how.

I've asked the Senate President to accept my letter of resignation, effective Wednesday, November 1st.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Devil’s Dozen

In today’s Friday Buzz, LaVarr Webb mentioned the unsavory characters with 13 letters in their name: Jack the Ripper, Charles Manson, Jeffrey Dahmer, Theodore Bundy and Albert De Salvo.

He missed a few.
John Valentine

Peter C. Knudson

Daniel Eastman

Beverly T. Evans

Lyle W. Hillyard

Curtis Bramble

Mike G. Waddoups
Also . . .
Golden Boy Webb

UT Policy Daily

House Democrat

Jon Huntsman Jr.

The Utah Amicus

LaVarr The Webb

Curtis in China
Word to the wise: steer clear of these dubious characters.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Class Size

By Lyle Hillyard
Utah State Senator, District 25

I appreciate all the responses to my recent blog on Dollars and Accountability but let me add something for Daniel,Tom, Marie, and Anonymous who emphasized the need for smaller class sizes.

Several years ago when Rep. Kevin Garn and I co-chaired the Educational Strategic Planning Commission, we were told by education leaders that if we were to fund $30.0 M of on-going money into class size reduction that it would really impact the class sizes for K-3rd Grade. I remember being told that for that sum, they would guarantee that there would be no Kindergarten of more that 18 students and that would carry over into most grades up to 3rd. We worked hard that next session to secure that funding for such a worthy goal.

When I followed up in the fall, I was surprised to find no difference in class sizes. In fact, I remember one teacher almost calling me a liar for taking some credit for class size reduction when nothing had happened at her school. She surmised that the funding had not occurred.

To my chagrin, I heard comments like:
  • "We don't have rooms at our schools to put the extra classes."
  • "We don't have teachers to hire."
  • "Teachers during the negotiations said that if we gave the extra money to them in the form of salary increases, they would take the extra students."
This has caused me to wonder if class size reduction is really a priority with the local districts or just a slogan to make the public clamor for more education funding.

We also must be careful that we don't unfairly penalize districts who have made tough decision to reduce class size by cutting money elsewhere (transportation, salaries, etc.). We need to encourage good proactive behavior.

Class size reduction will come up again this year. Those of you with expertise in this area - please help me with suggestions on how to make sure that any new funding really makes a difference and is not lost, as our efforts a few years ago seemed to be.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Killer Bees are at it again

By Howard Stephenson
Utah State Senator, District 11

Just to clarify, I have not endorsed, nor am I campaigning for democrat Stuart Reid in his bid for Utah Senate. Stuart and I are friends but, once again, Paul Rolly at the National Enquirer, er, I mean, Salt Lake Tribune has published misleading information.

Rolly has my phone numbers. As often as I’ve appeared in his column, you would think he and I talk once in a while, even if it’s just so he can verify important facts. I can't recall once in the past five years when he has contacted me to authenticate the negative stories he often writes. Other legislators tell me they have had the same experience with Paul. They wonder too, how he can report so authoritatively on meetings he fails to attend.

Last session, Tribune reporter Matt Canham gave me a can of bee spray for occasions like this.

If that doesn’t work I’ll get a big flyswatter . . . wait, I'll just use these Stuart Reid doorhangers. SPLAT!

For what it's worth

By Pete Knudson
Utah Senate Majority Leader

The Senate Site has been alive for just over a year now and President Valentine's blog yesterday was our 400th post.

I hope we're providing something worthwhile, and that people enjoy the time they spend here. I know we have enjoyed playing a small part in Utah's emerging blog community.

Webalizer tells us we've had 854,341 hits in the past year (average is 2 to 3 thousand hits per day). That seems like an inexplicably large number. We're not that interesting. How many political junkies are out there? Of course, the other way of looking at it is that well over half of the Utah population have never visited the Utah Senate Site.

Most people visit between 11 a.m. and 12 p.m., although traffic is fairly consistant between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. (about 200 visits per hour). Traffic peaks on Tuesdays. So far, our record for hits is 7,176, on the day we received the Politics1 Site of the Day Award. In September we averaged 124 hits per hour between the hours of midnight and 1 a.m. (get some sleep, Rob!).

It's interesting to see from whence our readers hail (see our Webalizer stat sheet for September, below). Last month we had 64 hits from Denmark (where I served a mission, 1958-1960), 851 hits from the Netherlands, 627 from Japan, 59 from Saudi Arabia, and so forth.


As I have said before, this blog site ultimately belongs to YOU, gentle reader. We hope you like it, and we're certainly open for constructive suggestions on how to make it better.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Jeff Alexander

By John Valentine
President of the Utah Senate

The House of Representatives will lose a bright, articulate leader at the end of the year. We'll miss his wit and honesty. I have good memories serving with Jeff when we were colleagues in the House and on dozens of issues with substantial impact to the state and that great little valley we both represent and love.

Utah is a better place to live because of Jeff Alexander.

This isn't an obituary, this is just a good man prioritizing his life as he sees fit. His family misses him. His business needs him. The state will continue to benefit from his talented, tireless advocacy.

We appreciate him and wish him well.

Bueno Street

"One of the great aspects of seeking office is getting to know your community . . ."

House Minority Leader Ralph Becker posted a nice slice of Utah Americana at the House Democrats new site. Check it out.

Best of luck to all candidates (and their families!) in this final month of the campaign.

Daily Dose of Federalism

In today’s UPD:
2006 has not been a happy year for the federal budget process. In a NationalJournal.com column, Stan Collender documents the 2006 federal budget fiasco. The budget paralysis shows the federal government is trying to do too much and it should devolve a lot of responsibilities to the states.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Walk On The Supply Side

It ain't the cover of a Rolling Stone, but the new Utah tax plan is getting some attention. Here are a few excerpts from Stephen Moore in WSJ’s Political Diary:
Utah Takes a Walk on the Supply Side

Last week, during a special session convened by Republican Governor Jon Huntsman, Utah's legislature cut the top tax rate from 7% to 5.35% and raised the income threshold for the top bracket by $2,400 . . . .

Utah now moves overnight from the category of a high-income tax state to a medium-income tax state. Some of the revenue losses from the income tax cut will be recouped through higher sales taxes, but most economic studies indicate that taxing consumption is much wiser than taxing income and savings.

. . . One twist to the Utah cut is that it creates a 5.35% flat tax, which is optional for tax filers.

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