Welcome to The Senate Site

Friday, December 29, 2006

Warhol: In the future, everyone will have 15 Kilobytes of Fame

It was a slow news week.

Brock Vergakis’ story on legislative blogging (featuring Lyle Hillyard the Blogger) was picked up in the Daily Herald, the Trib, KUTV.com, and mentioned by Stateline.org and Utah Policy Daily.

Then Rep. Craig Frank at The Dome, Tracy Medley at New West, and the UC expanded and added their insight to the discussion. Thanks amigos.

Navel gazing aside, we hope political blogging offers something valuable to the citizens who own the government (and, ultimately, own this site). We appreciate how readers develop the discussion and offer thoughtful comments. We love how Utah bloggers have formed a community that is unique in the nation.

A multitude of perspectives with divergent viewpoints and varying degrees of credibility offer depth perception, which means citizens have a better shot at discerning the truth of an issue. That's helpful.

Someone wrote, "The best cure for the ills of democracy is more democracy." Blogging is more democracy.

Stay tuned, it only gets better from here.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

A Look Toward 2010

What would congressional reapportionment look like if it were based on this year’s population estimates?

This table shows the numbers. You can see what the congressional apportionment would be based on current population estimates and then based on projections of what the population will be in 2010. The table and analysis are done by Election Data Services, a D.C. based consulting firm that specializes in redistricting.

The numbers are interesting: Based on the 2006 estimates, Utah would gain a fourth seat and do so at seat number 411 (based on a total of 435 apportioned). In other words, there would still be 24 seats left to dole out after Utah received seat number four.

Our staff points out that the EDS reports over the last several years make an interesting trend: In 2000, of course, Utah was bureaucratized out of a fourth seat and was next in line at (nonexistent) seat number 436. But the 2001 estimates showed Utah receiving the fourth seat at seat number 435, in 2002 at seat number 432, in 2003 at seat number 428, in 2005 at seat number 417, and now in 2006 at seat number 411 (we couldn't find 04 numbers). Utah's population growth since 2000 has significantly solidified its position to receive the fourth seat.

Another question that comes up occasionally is if Utah might be in line for two seats after the 2010 census. The numbers tells the story, and the answer is no. EDS numbers also project when the next seat for each state would be given -- in other words, how many seats would there have to be in Congress for an additional seat for each state. Based on 06 estimates, Utah's fifth seat wouldn't happen until seat number 524; 89 seats beyond the actual 435.

Bottom line: Utah's fourth seat looks solid after the 2010 census, but a fifth seat is not in the cards this time around.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Ahhh, the Christmas Quiet

By Lyle Hillyard
Utah State Senator, District 25

It’s nice to enjoy a little Christmas quiet just before the session’s uproar. This week there is much less contact being made by people and groups interested in legislative support. Things used to be different. When the session began on the second Monday in January (instead of our current third Monday), it seemed that there was a lot of legislative activity taking place during this twilight week between Christmas and the New Year.

Two other changes have helped reserve this as a quiet time. First, agency bills must be submitted prior to December 1st. Much of that work was pushed to just prior to that deadline. Second, we try to avoid official meetings in December. This gives our staff the chance to prepare legislation for the upcoming session.

Alice and I still receive many Christmas cards and I am impressed with the beauty and simplicity of the messages. My wife and I had to give up sending cards many years ago simply because our list of people to whom we should send got beyond the time available to send them. So if you wanted a Christmas card from me and did not get one, just wait until I have time because you will be on the "list." We owe everyone a thanks and a good wish for a great time of the year.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Merry Christmas

May we remember and enjoy the blessings of the day with gratitude.

May we internalize the kinship, the hope and the very best of this wonderful season.

Merry Christmas Utah!



Adoration of the Shepards, 1622 by Gerard van Honthorst, Wallraf-Richartz-Museum, Cologne. Hat tip to Martha's classy Art History Blog.

Naughty or Nice?

This just in: Senators Carlene Walker and St. Curtis Brambo achieved the Voice of Utah’s highest honor – the coveted Nice award. Representative Craig Frank also scored a Nice, as did the residents of Bluffdale, Utah. The Utah Senate got a fat lump of coal.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Merry Christmas from our old Fremont neighbors

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Ain't gonna happen

Taxation & Economics 101: If you want income that remains stable through the ups and downs, you should impose a very tiny tax on a wide variety of items. I.E.: broaden the base and lower the rates. A higher tax on a very few items results in a revenue stream with wild mood swings.

Utah is stable. Our economy is healthy. We have a highly coveted triple-A bond rating, and are consistently regarded as one of the best financially-managed states in the nation. The senate is going to favor policies that enhance that status, not detract from it.

The senate approved reducing the tax on food (to take effect next year) because that will lower the rate while it keeps the base constant. As a group, we're not okay with doing away with it altogether. That would be shrinking the base, making our revenue stream incrementally more volatile.

Anyone who is serious about cutting taxes will find a different place to cut them.

KSL Editorial

Duane Cardall likes the governor's budget proposal.

We're inclined to support most of it anyway.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Apples and Oranges

The funniest thing about last week was the déjà vu.

The House Majority met in caucus and established some sweeping budget goals, just like they did last year.

The Senate Majority also met to start digging into the budget, like we did a year ago.

Once again, following those meetings, reporters peppered us with questions like, "The House proposed a $300 million tax cut, what is YOUR proposal?" A few seemed to anticipate - almost hope for - a punch and counterpunch.

The reality, I hope, is a bit more nuanced than Rocky Balboa vs. Apollo Creed.

The House proposal was just the beginning of their internal decision-making process. There are few details; it can't be regarded as a fully-developed policy proposal. But it's a beginning. Given their numbers and the nature of their team they have a greater need to drive their members and sketch out a directional framework early in the game.

The Senate goes through a much different decision-making process. We started with a Wednesday caucus where we spent a few hours discussing
  • The amount of (and sources of) Utah's tax revenue;
  • How the Spending Cap will effect this year's budget;
  • Last year's budget numbers;
  • This year's new Committee Allocations;
  • A detailed overview of the Governor's budget proposal;
  • Etc.
Our members walked out of there with an education. They have more of the tools they will need to make some incredibly complicated and consequential decisions.

We'll meet again on January 9th, and dozens of times during the 2007 Session.

At this point, our thinking is probably more aligned with the Governor's proposal than the road map sketched out in the House. We appreciate the Governor's attention to detail and we are comfortable with the underlying philosophy. But it would be premature to make final judgements.

We'll do our homework first.

Friday, December 15, 2006

You're Welcome!

Senator Al Mansell's SB75 (USTAR) is the visionary
"far-reaching effort to bolster Utah's economy with high-paying jobs and keep the state vibrant by recruiting world-class research teams in carefully targeted disciplines that have the potential to grow the economy through innovation and incubation."
Read the progress report here (left-hand column). Thanks, UPD, for the heads-up.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Legislative Audits

The Legislative Audit Subcommittee released two new reports today.

Some audit reports cure insomnia. Some don't. These don't. Here are the PDFs:
Utah Department of Corrections

Post-Retirement Re-employment

Delta Air Lines

Legislative leaders released this letter today.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Take a Walk on the Senate Side

In a few weeks, Pat Jones, Margaret Dayton, and Ross Romero will move from the Utah House to the Utah Senate. In fact, of the 29 senators who will serve in the 2007 Session, 12 of them started their legislative service in the House.

Do new senators experience culture shock? Julie Rose at KCPW explores the issue.

Governor's Proposal

LaVarr says:
"Gov. Jon Huntsman unveils his fiscal 2008 budget today, and it is quite remarkable. It will make for one of the more interesting legislative sessions ever."
The Guv will unveil his budget proposal at a press conference today at 11:00 a.m.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Op-ed: Health-care panel met its goals

By Michael Waddoups
Utah State Senator, District 6

This past week* marked a milestone in Utah's health-care system. The Privately Owned Health Care Organization Task Force packed up and headed home.

The 14-member task force, which I co-chaired with Rep. David Clark, was formed two years ago to study issues relating to competition and business practices in Utah's health-care market.

Specifically, it was asked to assess whether or not Intermountain Healthcare, the state's largest provider of health care and commercial health insurance plans, uses its size and dominance to restrict competition.

Task force members found that the answer depends on one's perspective. We studied the issue extensively. We asked questions, demanded answers and took some important steps to ensure Utah's health-care system operates with fairness.

Undoubtedly, the question of competition is critical. It's essential to fostering a health-care system where quality improves, innovation is encouraged and prices are modified as a result of normal market forces. One expert hired to review the situation for the task force concluded that Utah's health-care system provides vigorous competition with good quality care at reasonable prices. Some disagreed. A number of organizations and individuals (including the Utah Medical Association, the Utah Ambulatory Surgery Center Association, competing insurers and hospital systems) provided testimony regarding errors and flaws with the consultant's result.

Probably more significant, we were presented with a petition signed by more than 3,000 members of Utah working families calling for more choice.

The task force's work did little to quell the disparate voices, but it did raise awareness of many important health issues, including
  • rising costs,

  • the uninsured,

  • competition,

  • tax advantages and

  • charity care.
Most important, the legislative oversight provided by the task force resulted in the implementation of several important, positive changes for Utah consumers — most notably:

  • Improved medical billing practices — IHC announced its commitment to refrain from using court proceedings whenever possible to collect unpaid medical bills and reducing interest rates on unpaid bills.

  • Expansion of health insurance networks — IHC announced it will offer a health plan that will allow any qualified physician or health-care facility to participate in the plan's network.

  • Elimination of an anti-competitive activity — the line between hospital and insurance inside IHC has been fuzzy, providing the organization an advantage. The task force compelled IHC to establish organizational systems that formally separated hospital and health insurance functions, especially in contract negotiations with competitors. However, predatory practices are still being alleged.
These important, long-term changes will ease the strain carried by many struggling to pay their medical bills. They'll also provide a measure of equity to the state's physicians and insurance companies.

I commend Intermountain Healthcare for its active cooperation. A number of medical providers, insurance companies and consumer advocates exhibited courage by articulating different viewpoints.

Finally, I honor my fellow task force members for their diligent efforts. Now the Legislature must work to give consumers information on health-care pricing and quality and allow them to choose the best doctor and facility for their care, regardless of insurance coverage.

I plan on introducing legislation to support patient choice. Utah patients feel that the sanctity of the doctor-patient relationship is being violated by "big corporate health interests."

The task force made significant strides toward improving and understanding our state's complex health system. Our committee will carry that invaluable knowledge with us into the legislative session. It will serve us well as we work to ensure that all Utahns have access to the highest quality of health care at the most reasonable prices.

* Note: I wrote this op-ed piece weeks ago; it was finally published in yesterday's Deseret Morning News.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Permission to Participate, Sir?

La libertad no es tad. Es toca. - Freedom is not given. It's taken.

Don’t miss Partisanship and Participation, a dose of realist perspective delivered by a veteran. Partisan cynics will scoff at his viewpoint. Other people - the smart ones - will learn from it.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

December 7

"Sixty-five years ago, more than 2,400 Americans lost their lives in a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. On National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, we think of those who died on December 7, 1941, and honor all those who sacrificed for our liberty during World War II.

"On that peaceful Sunday morning, our country suffered a vicious, unprovoked attack that changed the course of history. Though our Pacific Fleet was nearly destroyed, our citizens were inspired by the great acts of heroism from those who survived and from those who did not. In the days that followed, our grief turned to resolution, and America embarked on a mission to defeat two of the most ruthless regimes the world has ever known. We pledge to always remember the character and sacrifice of the brave individuals at Pearl Harbor. Their selfless service helped deliver a great victory for the cause of freedom and, ultimately, transformed adversaries into the closest of friends.

"After the devastating attacks on Pearl Harbor, President Franklin D. Roosevelt declared, "We are going to win the war and we are going to win the peace that follows." (From the White House, 12/1/06.)
National Geographic has the details on their Attack Map (hat tip to Jeff Nolan's Venture Chronicles).

Tennessee Representative Stacey Campfield posted some striking photographs on his blog site.

See also Tom Bevan'’s "Pear Harbor at 65."

To all Utahns who fought at Pearl Harbor, served in the Second World War, and to all those who sacrificed here at home to win the war and to win the peace that followed:

Thank You.


Tuesday, December 05, 2006

%$*#@.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Redistricted

Senate Bill 5001, a.k.a. Map L, is Utah’s new congressional map, should Congress decide to give Washington D.C. a vote and Utah the representation it deserves.

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