Welcome to The Senate Site

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Live Streaming Legislature

When you get tired of messing with the Senate Cam, you can check out the live audio and video on our official site (requires RealPlayer).

President's Eye View

The Senate Cam will be stationed on the President's desk in front of the Senate Chamber for the final hours of the Session. Click here to watch.

You can click on the direction arrows to move the camera. Someone asked - what happens if people try to go different directions? Just like the legislature, I guess. Some folks want to go right, some want to go left. In the end you wrestle it out and hope to find a spot with which everyone can live.

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Today will be lived in crescendo. Joint leadership will meet in the early morning to make final plans. The Senate will work on House Bills. The House will work on Senate Bills. The Senate will concur (or not) to House amendments to Senate Bills. The House will concur (or not) to Senate amendments to House Bills.

Watch for conference committees throughout the day. A conference committee is the negotiating team that attempts to resolve differences between House and Senate versions of a bill. If you don’t know where they're meeting just follow the sound of shouting.

Senator Hickman, Chair of the Senate Rules Committee, was always cool, but today he becomes a rock star. Everyone wants their bills out of the Rules Committee.

Bills are debated and acted on much faster than earlier in the session. You’ll see hopes (and tensions and tempers) rise and fall as the clock hurtles toward midnight. All interested parties will realize the temporary success or failure of their bills and budget items.

At exactly midnight our voting machine shuts down and the 2007 Legislative Session will end.


0 Days, 0 Hours 00:00

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Budget Discussion



Lt. Governor Gary Herbert discusses Executive Branch priorities with Senate Executive Approps Chair Lyle Hillyard and Senator Stowell.

9th Inning

"The last three days will be very active and very intense," said Rep. Wayne Harper (R-West Jordan).

Senate President John Valentine (R-Orem) said lawmakers set six legislative priorities at the beginning of the session. The priorities include issues in higher education, public education, ethics of state employees, tax reform, not incurring new debt and transportation.

- From BYU's NewsNet

Purple Mountains Majesty

We're going to fund the Western States Primary to the tune of $3.5 million.

This won't be just a straw poll run by the parties, but an offical, all-out primary. The hope, of course, is to give the American West equal footing with other regions in selecting our country's president.

Deseret Morning News

Salt Lake Tribune

Utah Valley University!

Senate Bill 70, which gives university status to the college formerly known as UVSC, just passed the House (72-0) and comes back to the Senate for concurrence. University status ensures Utah Valley's education needs will be met by a "lean, mean educatin' machine!" (Rep. Dave Clark's words from the House floor.)

New Judge

The Senate just confirmed Douglas B. Thomas, as a judge on the Utah Seventh District Court.

A Haiku for the 2007 Session:

A Big Fat Tax Cut
Bricks of gold for Public Ed
On Thursday we''ll sleep.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Family Home Evening

We ended up adjourning at 7:00 p.m. But not before Jenny the Senate Podcaster captured unvarnished insight on being family to a Senator or Senate staffer. (Click here for the MP3.)

It's worth a listen, if only to hear Patti Valentine call her dad a goofball.

"The greatest education budget in the history of Utah."

On Friday evening Senators Valentine, Bramble, Hillyard, and Knudson - tired, but glad - gathered in Senator Eastman's office and gave some insight on this year’s historic funding for public education.

Listen here or on Senate Radio.

Then listen to Representative Brad Dee give excellent in-depth coverage of the same decision on the House Majority Site.

The Big One

Statistic

Over the last two sessions the Legislature has increased Public Education funding by 36.9 percent.

Watch the Watchdogs

The Senate Cam is back in action and perched near the gallery so you can watch your reporters at work. Their editors requested it.

Good Question

Rep. Urquhart asks a good political question. Several of his readers have chimed in but none of the answers satisfy. Looking for less diatribe; more authenticity....

Record Tax Cuts / Record Funding

Yesterday’s Pignanelli & Webb:

"For years, political and business leaders have said that the only possible way to have enough money to pay the state's enormous education, transportation and social services obligations is to have a strong economy that generates phenomenal tax revenue.

"Well, guess what? They were right. It works. This year is proof. A booming economy is the magic potion that soothes all sorts of challenges. Thanks to a roaring economy, this is the year the state was able to play catch-up. Lawmakers approved the biggest budget ever, by far, easily topping $10 billion. They dished out a mind-boggling increase for public education, the biggest boost ever for transportation, and a nice pay boost for public employees.

"Even with all of that, legislators have remained true to their conservative roots, approving the biggest tax cut in history. They are funding natural growth in agencies but not boosting base budgets (except for public education) by a great deal. They have socked away large amounts of revenue in one-time expenditures.

"It's worth noting that while nearly every other sector of the economy is ringing up record increases in jobs growth, the government sector is growing by a very small margin.

"Obviously, the good times can't last forever and we don't completely control our destiny. Our fortunes will rise or fall based on national and international economic trends.

"But we have a solid, diversified economy, and Utah's leaders are positioning the state as best they can to keep the boom alive by investing in quality education, research and innovation in higher education, highway and water infrastructure, even while reducing taxes on the private sector."

The last three days

Get a calendar for the final three days here. For those who are scrapbooking the legislative session, you can find the entire calendar collection here. (Soon to be available as a boxed set.)

The Senate runs on Legislative Standard Time (LST) which is closely related, but not perfectly comparable to Mountain Standard time (MST). All scheduling is approximate, except for Sine Die, Wednesday at Midnight. That deadline will be surgically exact.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Budget Bill

By Lyle Hillyard
Senate Chair of Executive Appropriations

After a tremendous amount of work, we were able to release the budget by Friday afternoon so it could be approved and printed. We hope to have a copy on each legislator’s desk first thing on Monday morning, so we can begin working on all the fiscal note bills as soon as possible.

There is a lot of coordination to be done to make sure that everything is completed by Wednesday night at midnight when the clock strikes twelve and we all turn into pumpkins. Since we have moved up this process, it has avoided the last minute running between chambers to get final approval of the budget (at least not as much). I was pleasantly surprised at how much of the committee priorities we were able to fund and still hold on to the $220.0 M tax cut and the large infusion of money into public and higher ed.

I have heard lots of compliments and, while some will grumble no matter how much we do, I felt impressed to answer a reporter’s question as to whether UEA is happy by saying "I believe we are all pleased but no one is satisfied because the importance of providing an excellent education for our children cannot be over emphasized." With this much money, we were able to fund changes that should get us out of the old way of doing things because times have changed. I feel confident to predict that in 10 years, educators and the general public will remember this session's funding and changes in education and see 2007 as a historic year. Now let’s hope the local school boards and superintendents can catch the vision and follow through with improvements made this year.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

One last deep breath...

The Senate floor was quiet Saturday morning while House and Senate leadership met upstairs to work on the budget.

Today the lobby is serene. Monday it will be filled to capacity as the final sprint to the end ensues.

Good day to park at the Capitol!

Friday, February 23, 2007

Session Snapshots, 2/23/07 - Part II

Senator Niederhauser and stellar intern Ben Beutler in the Senate Chamber.

Stormy day. This shot was taken outside the Senate Chamber, looking north toward Ensign Peak. The sun broke through later in the afternoon, lighting up the snow and the ice in the trees. Beautiful.

Governor Jon Huntsman, Jr. and Senate President John Valentine

Truckload of Gold for Public Ed

Kids that can't even read our blog site yet will benefit from the 2007 Session. House and Senate Leaders had a good discussion with the press after our caucus meetings today. We're excited to make a little history.

Here are 2 PDFs of supporting information (highlights and historical perspective) and the press release:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 23, 2007

A RECORD $527.9 MILLION FOR UTAH EDUCATION

SALT LAKE CITY – Legislative Republicans have agreed to fund an unprecedented $527.9 million budget for education in Utah. Public education will receive $459.5 million and higher education will receive $68.4 million. Combined, education in Utah will receive about one-third of the states $1.6 billion surplus.

“This level of funding for education is both historic and necessary,” said Senate President John Valentine. “Both students and teachers win. When the session began we made education our number one priority and we have followed through and put education first.”

“Funding education has long been a priority of the legislature,” said House Speaker Greg Curtis, “We believe this increase will significantly improve the quality of education and the quality of life in Utah.”

Early goals to fund education at around $300 million were labeled by some as idealistic and unachievable. This year, the legislature will surpass that goal by an additional $227 million.

Public education will receive $279.9 million in ongoing funds and $179.5 million in one time. In addition, $7.5 million will be appropriated for Extended-day Kindergarten. Growth in public schools was funded earlier in the session at $72.8 million.

Higher Education will receive $56.2 million in ongoing funds and $12.2 million in one time money.

The education package includes the equivalent of a 7% WPU increase:
  • $1,000 one-time bonus for all Utah teachers
  • $2,500 permanent pay raise for all Utah teachers
  • Plus 4% more as a general per pupil increase
Over the last two years, public education has received a 36.9 percent increase. Higher education and public education, together, have increased by 19.3 percent.

# # #

Animal Cruelty Bill

Senator Gene Davis’ Animal Cruelty bill just passed the Senate.


Senate Snapshots: 2/23/07

Snowy morning at the Capitol.

Inside, Senator Chris Buttars speaks to a bill on the Senate Floor.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Tax Reform: End Game?

Rumors and discussion about the latest income tax reform proposal are circulating through the Capitol like a desert whirlwind. The proposal . . .
  • Lowers the income rate to five percent;
  • Returns $110 Million to taxpayers;
  • Preserves a tax credit for federal deductions like mortgage interest, family size and charitable contributions; and
  • Brings 100 percent of Utahns back under a single system.
It broadens the tax base and lowers the rate. It reduces volatility.

And it is simple.

Here is an info sheet (PDF).

What do you think?

Disclosure Rules

The Senate will probably discuss Senator Killpack’s Ethics and Disclosure bill tomorrow.
Deseret Morning News - Tribune - KCPW - Daily Herald
The Senate is ready to amend the original bill so it includes sports events like Jazz tickets and golf games within the disclosure requirements. It will provide more transparency and prohibit lobbying conflicts of interest.

Is it perfect? Probably not. Welcome to the legislative process. It's not good enough to have an idea that's good enough. Your idea has to tumble the magic numbers.

We've been working on this bill since before session started and we think it is a step in the right direction. We know folks have lots of ideas about new rules. But this is the bill that can pass.

The day in pictures

Sunrise at the Capitol.

Senate tough guys.

Welcome to the Senate lobby!

Familiar face, former Senate President Al Mansell.

A visit from the Woods Cross AP Government Class.

Divine Strake Struck

Salt Lake Tribune

Deseret Morning News

Senator Davis' resolution
, passed by the Utah Senate and submitted on the final day of the public comment period.

Some stories have happy endings. Kudos to everyone who worked to oppose this test. From the DNews article:
"Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr., who received word of the cancellation this morning, credited the large number of public comments from Utahns for playing a role in the Pentagon's decision.

" 'For me and every other Utahn, we're jubilant,' Huntsman said. 'This should be a message loud and clear that the system does work.' "

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

You're getting a raise

Most state employees have earned a raise and they will get one this year. House and Senate leadership agreed to
  • Fund a 3 ½ percent cost of living increase (COLA),
  • Provide funding for a 1 ½ percent discretionary increase, so the boss can reward stellar performance, and
  • Increase funding for health insurance benefits
The UHP will receive an additional $1.5 M, the Attorney General’s Office an additional $1.6 M, and Corrections an additional $3.1 M. Contract providers will receive a six percent increase. That is one percent above the five percent for traditional state employees (3.5 + 1.5) but it does not include a health insurance increase.

This was one of our original priorities for the session. We need to retain good employees, and we're grateful to be able to fund a modest, but well-deserved increase.

Don't spend it all in one place.

4000 Words

U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch speaks to the Utah Senate.


Utah Tribal Leaders pay a visit to the Senate Chamber.


Family members of Utah soldiers killed in action honored by the Senate.


Aggie Ice Cream! Served up by state FFA officers.

You still have to drive the speed limit

By Scott Jenkins
Utah State Senator, District 20

Many, including international readers, have been watching the status of SB 17.

My bill has run it's course for the year.

The Good
: Drivers can be ticketed for careless driving. And slow cars have to move to the right when a faster vehicle approaches.

The Bad: 80 MPH went out the window.

The Ugly: It doesn't address the reckless use of a cell phone.

A Disarming Quote

Utah Policy Daily's quote of the day:

"I do have a problem with a professor presuming to tell me or any other law abiding citizen that I have to disarm myself and make myself vulnerable before walking into an office paid for by the taxpayers."

-- Sen. Mark Madsen, R-Lehi, commenting on SB251, a compromise bill that passed the Senate, but that neither side likes (Tribune).

Research & Development

A tax credit for Research and Development has been one of our six high priorities from the beginning. The Utah Taxpayer trained his guns on the issue here. Bottom line:
"Research and development activity creates high-wage jobs, improves productivity, and is export-oriented, all of which are critical elements in Utah's economic development."

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

2000 Words

President Valentine on KSL.

Treasures of the Senate Pages

What happened to Extended Day Kindergarten?

The Senate passed it. More info here.

Class Size Accountability

Before we invest another pile of gold into education, we should really find out what happened with the previous piles.

Since 1997 we’ve spent over $705 Million on class size reduction.

Class sizes haven’t really been reduced.

What happened?

Senator Bramble has requested an audit. Here’s Nicole Stricker's report.

University Gun Policy, Episode 17

Senators held their nose and voted to approve a new university gun policy. The bill passed 17 to 12.

[Update:] You can listen to the floor debate here.

Snapshot: February 19, 2007


How is the session going so far?

Mere hours ago Jenny the Intrepid Intern asked Utah Senators that question and caputured an audio snapshot of this moment in history. Here are their answers. Or you can listen on Senate Radio.

Monday, February 19, 2007

"Gun Free Zones"

By Scott Jenkins
Utah State Senator, District 20

The idea of a concealed weapon is that no one knows it is there. Ruthless criminals never know who might be armed, which affords society some extra protection. Posting a No Gun Zone removes that doubt. It sends the wrong message to people who would be violent.

Utah’s concealed weapons program is an excellent one. We have enjoyed a long history of safety with very few infractions.

In light of the killings at Trolley Square (another "gun free zone" targeted by a gunman), it amazes me the University of Utah and its professors want a gun free zone.

They are setting themselves up as targets for the very people from which they want to be protected.

Final Full Week

It's the final full week of the legislative session and things are going smashingly. Legislative leadership is meeting again at 7:00 a.m. tomorrow morning to work on the budget for our Friday deadline. There is a lot to do, but we believe this is a session that will make Utahns proud.

Happy President’s Day. From Lincoln’s blog:
"As we turn the final corner of the 57th Legislature, this week signifies the end to considering a bill from one's own chamber -- After Friday, no more House bills will be heard in the House and no more Senate bills will be heard in the Senate. This week also means the end to committee hearings. Wednesday will be the last day for committee hearings, so if you still have a bill that has not yet been heard by a committee it is certainly "crunch time". As you can see by the events that will unfold this week, the end is near -- This will actually be the last full week of the legislature and we will only spend three days of next week going through theses issues.

"While the end is in sight, the fun is just beginning. Significant debates on Transportation Funding, Tax Cuts (Sales and Income Tax), Telecommunications, and Land Use regulation still need to be conducted. In fact, it is safe to say the most of the work will actually be done in the next 8 days. Late nights and early mornings are now the mantra .... "

Tour the Capitol

Rep. Frank took pictures on a tour of the historic Utah Capitol building - now under renovation.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

The Speaker

By John Valentine
President of the Utah Senate

As usual, Rolly's Sunday column contained trace elements of truth. But it’s often difficult to separate those useful elements from inert gas. Maybe this will help.

This session my friend Greg Curtis, the Speaker of the House, has done some remarkable things he can be proud of.

One of the reasons he has experienced better success this year is that he has been kinder and gentler. Smarter. And I believe he has inspired others in that direction. This is significant to our body because it allows a more deliberative, careful discussion of the policy merits.

Another reason for his success is that he has chosen his battles carefully. Vouchers… the Senate has been on board for years. Greg was the lynchpin of a team that got it done in the House. Soccer... key players agreed with Governor Huntsman that it would be better for Utah to keep our pro team.

Removing the sales tax from food is not a battle we are going to fight in the next 10 days - chiefly because the Speaker gave us his word he was not going to push it this year. (That does not mean we can’t do some work on a more uniform statewide rate on food or maybe reduce the general sales tax rate – we like cutting taxes where appropriate). Whatever else people may think of Greg Curtis, our experience has been that he keeps his commitments.

Senate priorities, like Utah Valley University and DORA, win solid support on their own merits. They are good policy. Call us crazy, but we don’t believe House leadership has been playing games with these two bills. The only thing they need to succeed is a level playing field and the support of key players who believe in the policies.

Everyone benefits when legislative politics look more like a boardroom and less like a pep rally. This year’s legislative session, so far, is something Utah citizens can be proud of and we give the Speaker due credit for his share in that development.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Senate Radio: Tax Cuts

Senator Allen Christensen offers a thoughtful synopsis of where he and many of his colleagues find themselves at this point in the session. Listen in.

Next Week's Schedule

Click here. This will be the last full week of the legislative session. We'll run strong until Wednesday, 2/28, at midnight.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Tax Cuts, Episode 49

By Curt Bramble
Utah Senate Majority Leader

The good news is that no one took their little red wagon and went home. The chokepoint to progress on the budget has been the exact size and nature of this year’s tax cut. An obvious route that appeals to both halves of the legislature has been elusive.

But the clock is ticking. We circled our wagons in a conference room, and then in caucus, and finally agreed to reserve $220 Million for tax cuts. We can now move forward with committee priorities, and prepare a state budget down to the amount we’ve taken off the table.

Right now, there is no agreement on the tax cut package that will make up the $220 Million. However, we do have some areas of commonality between both Houses:
1. We both like reducing the Flat Tax down to about five percent. Some call this the Huntsman Tax, because they can’t quite say the words Flat Tax in reference to this system.

2. We both seem to be willing to drop the top rate on Utah’s traditional income tax system from 6.98 to 6.9 percent.

3. Both majority caucuses seem to like the idea of reducing the General Sales Tax rate of the State of Utah. (Dropping the current 4.75 percent to, say, 4.7 percent).
Baby steps. Then, once in a while, a wagon ride forward.

Our Hometown Heroes

By Emily Showgren
Intern for Senator Carlene Walker

On Monday, a tragic shooting unfolded at Trolley Square in Salt Lake City. Hundreds of police officers and emergency personnel responded and helped put an end to the tragedy. This morning I was honored to be in the presence of five officers who are now known as “hometown heroes” as they were recognized by the Utah State Senate.

Officer Ken Hammond from the Ogden Police Department was the off duty officer that first engaged the shooter. He was honored today with a citation from the Senate and given a medal of honor on behalf of the Ogden Police Department. Sergeants Andy Oblad and Josh Scharman and detectives Dustin Marshall and Brett Olsen of the Salt Lake Police Department were also honored with citations. As the reading clerk read the citations, she brought me to tears. It was amazing to see the people that risk their lives for us getting the recognition they deserve.

As a Utah citizen, I put my trust in legislators to represent the voice of our citizens. Today the officers received a thank you from them, on our behalf. We also took a moment to memorialize those who lost their lives during the shooting. They are Kirsten Hinckley, Vanessa Quinn, Jeffery Walker, Teresa Ellis and Brad Frantz. Our thoughts and prayers are also with the wounded who are A.J. Walker, Stacy Hansen, Shawn Munns and Carolyn Tuft.

Amid the tears and standing ovations, today was a day of appreciation and heartfelt thanks. Do not let it be just one day. Tomorrow the men and women of our police forces will risk their lives again to protect us. Let it be known that we appreciate them every day and they always have our support.

Raw Milk

By Margaret Dayton
Utah State Senator, District 15

Let's have a raw discussion about milk.
The issue: Raw Milk
The question: Availability
HB311 was the subject of many emails, interestingly enough, many from around the nation!
As the Senate sponsor of said bill, I would like to give an explanation of the bill which I was pleased to sponsor in my chamber.

In spite of the multiple emails lauding - or criticizing - the effects of raw milk, HB311 does not deal with any of those issues.

HB311 is about making raw milk available to those who want it.

Currently there are 3 ways to obtain raw milk in Utah:
1) go to the dairy and purchase raw milk from the dairyman
2) have someone give you raw milk as a 'gift'
3) join the cow-share program*
* The Cow-Share Program operates this way: you want to buy raw milk and are told that you can only buy milk if you own a part of the cow. You agree to buy a part of the cow. You pay approx. $15 to buy a part of the cow. No designation of what part you own is necessary :) You can now buy raw milk - and you never have to meet your cow or her caretaker. This is the most unregulated part of the raw milk operation in Utah.

HB311 does the following:
  • It makes raw milk more available by allowing dairy operations to sell their raw milk in an outlet which is closer to consumers IF the dairy maintains total control of the milk under very regulated conditions and if the dairy owns at least 51% of the outlet.

  • Wherever raw milk is sold, there must be an obvioius sign that the buyer is getting raw milk lest the consumer get confused that perhaps he is buying pasturized milk.

  • It allows for raw milk to be sold ONLY in places where pasturized milk is not sold

  • There are regulations and annual reports to the legislature required of dairys that sells direct to the consumer

  • It eliminates the cow share program
HB311 has been heard in a House committee, has been voted on in the House of Representative, has been heard in a Senate Committee, and has now been debated on the senate floor. It still needs one more vote to pass - and then needs the signature of the Gov.

If the bill passes, people may still obtain raw milk by driving to the dairy and buying from the dairy. This bill is written with the hope that consumers who do not live near a dairy could have the option of buying raw milk from an outlet closer to their homes.

Let's all drink a raw milk toast to HB311. :)

Thursday, February 15, 2007

The Secretary

Remember Mike Leavitt? He was governor of Utah for a long, long time and then just disappeared.

Word on the street is that he will visit the Senate on Friday, around 9:20 a.m., to let us know what he's been up to.

Officer Citation

The Senate will honor some of the heroes of Trolley Square on Friday at 10:00 a.m.

Ogden Police Officer Kenneth Hammond and Salt Lake City Police Officers Sergeant Andy Oblad, Sergeant Josh Scharman, Detective Dustin Marshall, and Detective Brett Olsen will receive an Official Senate Citation for bravery demonstrated during the Trolley Square tragedy last week.

Officer Hammond was off duty having dinner with his pregnant wife, Sarina, at Trolley Square the night of the tragedy. When he heard shots, Officer Hammond acted quickly saving countless lives by engaging the shooter, pinning him down until the Salt Lake City SWAT team arrived.

Sergeant Oblad, Sergeant Scharman, Detective Marshall and Detective Olsen quickly responded to the scene and were also instrumental in bringing the gunman down.

You can join us here at the Capitol, or watch live on-line.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Valentine Report: New Budget Numbers


Happy Valentines Day! Time to cuddle with a loved one next to the computer and check out these numbers. Here are the latest revenue estimates, released yesterday.

Senate Executive Appropriations Chair Lyle Hillyard reviews the documents on Senate Radio.

Tax Cuts, Episode 42

Yesterday afternoon the House Majority Caucus offered a suggestion for tax cut package. It’s not bad, but it’s not a slam-dunk either. Apparently, it is based on an op-ed piece in the Salt Lake Tribune. All parties still need to give the numbers a cautious squint to see if it makes sense. Staffers are working on the analysis right now.

The Senate Majority is going to hold a quick caucus meeting this afternoon to discuss the latest and, perhaps, work on a counter proposal.

Proposal and counter-proposal are steps in the legislative budget dance. We’ll do it over and over until we find a plan that lines up the magic numbers (38, 15, and 1).

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Trolley Square

For those who visit the Senate Site from out-of-state, we experienced a tragedy in our Capital City. Last night an 18-year old man with a shotgun attacked shoppers at a mall close to downtown Salt Lake.

You can read what details are available:
Deseret Morning News
Salt Lake Tribune
Associated Press
KSL
The Legislative Session continues this morning, albeit in a more somber tone. Our heartfelt prayers go out to those who were involved: sympathy for the victims and loved ones, and gratitude for law enforcement who responded so competently and quickly.

We also extend sincere sympathy to our friends in Philadelphia who experienced a similar event.

Monday, February 12, 2007

What happened to the Abortion Bill today in the House?

Vouchers: By the Numbers

By Greg Bell
Utah State Senator, District 22

The following figures are gleaned from Utah Pubic Education Funding: The Fiscal Impact of School Choice, January 2007 by Susan Aud, Ph.D.

Student Revenue Sources / Revenue Per Student - 2005

Revenue from LOCAL sources

$2,220

Revenue from State sources

$3,508

Revenue from Federal sources

$597

Total revenue

$6,325

Of this $6,325 per student, $3,651 varies with enrollment and $2,674 does not. The voucher program we just adopted for Utah creates vouchers of between $500 and $3,000. "As long as the average voucher amount [is] less than $3,652, every child using a voucher would cost the state less money than if he were in the school system." Aud p.15

With our new voucher system, "...the public schools do lose part of the money associated with the student, [but] they also lose the whole student, so on a per-student basis school choice actually leaves the public school system with a better, not worse, fiscal situation." Aud, p.15. [Emphasis added.]

This is the point that most voucher foes do not admit.

Dr. Aud calculates the benefits to the Utah school system as follows: Assuming an average voucher of $2,731 the savings per student would be about $920 in variable costs, for a total of about $9M. (Based on an assumed 9,662 students using vouchers). Moreover, the school district would also retain the $2,674 per student which doesn’t vary with enrollment.

Total Voucher Cost

(9,662 students X $2,731 avge. voucher)

Savings to State in Variable Costs ($3,651 per student)

Net Fiscal Savings to State

Fixed Revenue savings ($2,674 per student)

Total Savings - Fixed and Variable

$24,440,041

$35,277,524

$9,837,483

$25,837,322

$35,000,000+

Under the new voucher program, the Utah system of public education is expected to retain a net of $35M to enhance educational opportunities for Utah public students and teachers. Not only is there no loss to the system, there is a net gain of about $35M.

There are two other major benefits of our new voucher program. Every child who uses a voucher reduces by one the class size at the public school he or she won’t attend. Class sizes are one of the primary focuses of the education community. In light of the fact that 15,000 new students will enter our education system each year for the next 10 years, it certainly behooves us to divert students to private schools.

Secondly, in light of the 150,000 new students (that’s 150,000 new desks) we expect in the next ten years, we would have to build hundreds of schools to house them. Vouchers will stimulate private schools to take some of these students; thus private investment will build, own and operate school buildings, reducing the amount of public dollars iti would take to build new schools.



Reference: Dr. Susan Aud, Utah Pubic Education Funding: The Fiscal Impact of School Choice January 2007. Dr. Aud is a Senior Fellow at the Milton and Rose D. Friedman Foundation and teaches at Johns Hopkins University and George Mason University.

New Revenue Projections

By Lyle Hillyard
Senate Chair of Executive Appropriations

TONIGHT the Governor’s staff and the Legislative staff will meet and arrive at consensus revenue projections. These are the numbers upon which the budget and any tax cuts will be based. They will be given to the Majority and Minority leadership at the same time possibly Monday evening but probably Tuesday Morning.

The numbers will be announced to the public during floor time on Tuesday.

I hope people realize the total lump sum is not very meaningful for budgeting purposes. What is valuable is knowing how the projections in each category, if any, have changed: General Fund, Educational Fund or Transportation Fund, and whether these changes are one-time or on-going. The money has to fit the program being funded.

With this announcement the real work of the legislature will begin.

This Week's Schedule

Click here for the official schedule.

The work of crafting tax reform/tax cut & state government budget will begin in earnest when the new revenue projections are released today or tomorrow. Stay tuned.

Lincoln Day Dinner

By Lyle Hillyard
Utah State Senator, District 25

Saturday night, the Cache County Republican Party held its annual Lincoln Day Dinner. There was a very nice crowd for an off year. I asked for a show of hands on the issue of making state and local school boards partisan in the election and it was resoundly rejected. I also asked about changing the Constitution to make the State Superintendent for Public Education appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the State Board and that was also rejected. As I visited with these hard core Republicans, I heard the concern that we have enough partisanship in the process of government.

I was pleased to hear the comments from the keynote speaker, KSL talk show host Doug Wright. I was impressed with his thoughtfulness and insight. It was nice to hear why we should be proud to be Republicans and not just why the other party is so bad. Insights by Congressman Rob Bishop (who even wore a tie, but I did not have a chance to see about stockings) and Lt. Governor Gary Herbert were excellent.

Everyone left uplifted and excited about the Freedoms we enjoy as Americans.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

U.V.U.

Friday, February 09, 2007

New Paradigm for Education

The Voucher Bill just passed the Senate, 19 to 10.

Splitting the Tax Cut Baby at $105 Million Each?

It’s way too early to call the latest tax cut brainstorm a "soft compromise." Trial balloon would be more accurate. We haven't reached consensus, soft or otherwise.

The Tribune article was accurate.

Utah Valley University

By John Valentine
President of the Utah State Senate

Utah is one step closer to having its fifth University. The institution formerly known as Utah Valley State College will soon be called Utah Valley University. The Senate approved the name change a few minutes ago (29 to 0) along with $10 million to help make the transition.

In a surprise announcement, Ira Fulton appeared on the Senate Floor and pledged to match the state’s funding with an additional $10 Million he has committed to help raise. Mr. Fulton is a visionary and I thank him for his generous commitment to a project that will bless so many in the years to come.

It is a great day to be a Wolverine!

Vouchers on the Senate Floor

The Utah Senate will debate the Voucher Bill this afternoon at 2:15 p.m.

Come visit, or listen live on-line.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Stadium Press Conference

If the House concurs with the Senate Amendment on the Stadium Bill, we'll hold a press conference today in the Capitol Plaza at 4:30 p.m.

The representatives are debating it right now. Listen live at www.le.state.ut.us.

[Update:] The House of Representatives just concurred. 48-24, with three absent. See you at 4:30.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Another newspaper weighs in

Daily Herald Editorial: Don't cut food taxes again


[UPDATE, 2/8/07:] Have fun with tax policy! Here’s a Word Search for the kids. Find the following phrases in the Daily Herald Editorial about removing the rest of our tiny tax on food:
unintended consequences

hurt entities

head is spinning

really bad bill

county in a bind

not having commuter rail service

not what voters expected

getting a headache

should be rejected

throws a monkey wrench

unwisely plows ahead

precipitous concept

raise special taxes higher

fraught with negative consequences
And don't miss this sentence: "It would be better for the Legislature to consider unintended consequences than for the people of Utah to experience them."

;-)

University Gun Policy

By Greg Bell
Utah State Senator, District 22

SB 251 is the result of a working group of Senators (Waddoups, Knudsen, Bell, Madsen, and Mayne), Representatives (Oda, Hunsaker, Wimmer) and, for the Utah System of Higher Education (USHE), Associate Commissioner Dave Buhler, President Ann Milner of Weber State University, and Kim Wirthlin, Vice President of the University of Utah.

Recently, the Utah Supreme Court ruled against the U of U and in favor the State Legislature’s position that the Legislature alone could determine gun policy for Utah’s public colleges and universities. However, the U of U’s claims in its lawsuit in Federal court are still outstanding, to the effect that the U has a right to control its learning environment as a part of academic freedom and other claims. The Working Group was convened to resolve the outstanding Federal claims and the USHE’s expressed desire to have some accommodation of gun policy.

USHE sought to ban weapons from classrooms and academic areas, labs, athletic venues, student union areas, faculty and staff offices, and residence halls. With one exception, the legislators could not accept these requests.

The agreement between the working group members is as follows (and is reflected in SB 251):
1. The USHE and the U of U expressly acknowledge that only the Legislature may determine gun policy on the campuses of Utah’s public colleges and universities.

2. The U of U will dismiss its federal claims against the Legislature.

3. A concealed weapons permit holder may carry a legally permitted weapon anywhere on a campus except specific faculty and staff offices where a notice is posted. Faculty/staff members will have the choice of an office a) in which legally carried weapons are permitted, or b) which is posted with a sign indicating no weapons are allowed inside the office. Convenient safe storage for weapons must be provided near posted offices.

4. Dorm residents will be allowed to request a roommate(s) who does not carry a concealed weapon, much like they can indicate a preference for a roommate who does not smoke.

Reflected Glory

Found some love for Senator Bell’s refundable tuition credit in Green Jello. And some appreciation for Senators Walker, Buttars and Jenkins in the Voice of Utah. And analysis from the Utah Taxpayer on a tax cut plan that makes a lot of sense to the Senate.

Midwife Amendments

By Margaret Dayton
State
Senate, District 15

SB 243, Direct-Entry Midwife Amendments, has received a lot of attention. Unfortunately, I believe some of the effects of the bill have been misrepresented.

The bill does not eliminate the option of direct-entry midwifery. It does clarify parts of a bill passed two years ago which allows for legal use of a midwife. It defines what is a normal birth and clarifies exactly when a consultation or transfer is required.

When a Family Practice Physician is involved in caring for a pregnant woman, there is a clear protocol which explains when the physician needs to seek consultation from a specialist. SB 243 does the same thing for midwives.

I had a nice talk about this bill with Jenny Black on Senate Radio.

Stadium Vistas

Okay, maybe a little bit more about soccer. Eric Salsbery passes on some pictures of what the stadium could look like. Viva ReAL!

Rolly’s Piece

Paul Rolly wrote something about House Interns not taking phone calls. We don’t know if that’s accurate. We don’t even care what he said. We only like the last line:

On the Senate side, you still can be transferred to the interns.

Senate Interns. Year after year, the coolest people up here.

Funding for Education

Okay, enough about soccer. Back to what we're really working on up here.

We asked Jenny the Intrepid Intern to collect thoughts from senators about our proposed increase to public education funding. She talked to Senators Dayton, Bell, Killpack and Eastman. Listen to the MP3 here.

Yesterday'’s Tribune contained the following:
Although the final budget won't be approved for weeks, education officials are optimistic. The schools budget recommended by the Public Education budget committee totals more than $385 million in ongoing and one-time funds.

"This is as good as I've seen in five sessions," said Patti Harrington, state schools superintendent.

The budget recommendations include an 8.4 percent hike in the money schools would receive on a per-pupil basis, with more than half the increase in the form of salary boosts for teachers. Lawmakers recommend a $2,000 shift in the salary schedule, a one-time $1,000 bonus for all classroom teachers and $30 million for a professional excellence program that would bolster pay for certain teachers.

Sen. Howard Stephenson, R-Draper, said significant education funding increases are more palatable to conservatives when they come in the form of targeted programs such as differential pay for teachers and technology in the classroom.

. . . The Legislature's Executive Appropriations Committee now will consider the funding requests in light of state revenue numbers due next week.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Senate Radio: REAL Salt Lake

Following tonight's 20 - 8 vote, Jenny Black the Intrepid Intern and Senator Sheldon Killpack discussed the newly-passed Stadium Legislation.

Listen in on Senate Radio. Or click here for the MP3.

GOAL!

The ReAL Salt Lake Stadium Bill just passed the Senate, 20 to 8. It will travel back down to the House for concurrence with the Senate amendment, then - hopefully - to the Governor's desk for a signature.

[Update:] Here'’s audio of the floor debates. The second "Senate day 23" link is probably the most interesting so far.

Vouchers: Senate Hearing

The Senate Education Committee will discuss the Voucher Bill tomorrow (Wednesday) at 2:27 p.m. in the West Building, Room W135.

If you can't attend, you can listen on line.

Halftime

At exactly noon today we passed the half way point for the 2007 Legislative Session. Twenty-two and 1/2 days left.

Time flies.

Why the Utah House of Representatives is the safest spot in the state

The Senate may be the state's safety net as far as policy goes, but for sheer firepower, the House is where you should run for protection.

Under the Dome explains why.

Yesterday, I saw Craig Frank handing out key chains saying, "Pedro offers you his protection."

Monday, February 05, 2007

Wall Street Journal looks at Utah

Great opinion piece on vouchers from the Wall Street Journal's Editorial Page.

The entire article is worth printing and reading, but here are a few key paragraphs:
"Utah's plan is modest, and at the same time revolutionary. It would reimburse parents sending their children to private schools between $500 and $3,000 a year based on their family income. Parents whose kids currently attend private school would not be eligible unless their income was low enough. But all new kindergartners would qualify, so that by 2020 all private school students would be eligible for vouchers.

"State Rep. Steve Urquhart, the bill's chief sponsor, says the breakthrough in winning House approval was the realization that it wouldn't harm public education. The bill stipulated that for five years after a voucher student left the public system, the district would get to keep much of the money the state had paid for his education. Given that the average district gets $3,500 from the state and the average voucher is expected to be $2,000, a typical school district would gain some $1,500 every time a student left its system.

"Mr. Urquhart was so confident of his math that he started an interactive Web site modeled after the interactive encyclopedia Wikipedia. He posted his bill on it and invited comments. Thousands of people logged on to www.politicopia.com and participated. "If anyone can show evidence (not just alarmist rhetoric) that public education does not come out financially ahead with this bill, post your arguments and data in the comment section," Mr. Urquhart challenged his readers. No one was able to effectively rebut him.

"By the time the bill came up for a floor vote, the debate was more philosophical and substantive than demagogic. "The debate was of the highest caliber that I've seen in my 13 years here," said Speaker Greg Curtis. "I find it fascinating that not a single person spread the myth that [choice] would be harmful to public education."
Later, the article addresses what turned the political tide. One factor was Rep. Urquhart's funding formula.
". . . the public also responded to the argument that no school district would be docked money if students left for private schools, and indeed that such districts would actually gain income. He said it was a necessary political concession. "It doesn't make a lot of sense, if [districts] lose a student, to be financially rewarded," he told the Deseret News. But he said it was essential to communicate that the bill was about enhancing opportunity and not taking money from public education."
You can read comments on the article here.

Kudos to the House.

Futbol

Got a mention in Du Nord: News for Futbol Fanaticos, under the headline Some of the Best Ever News:
Utah Senate President John Valentine to his fellow politicians on trying to help build a soccer stadium in Salt Lake City for RSL:

"I'm going to ask you to ask your kids and your grandkids about the issue. These kids all grew up playing soccer. These kids, when they get a chance to go to a soccer game, it's like us going to an American football game. It's different. It's a different generation."

Soccer Caucus

The Senate Majority held a special meeting to discuss funding a REAL Salt Lake stadium in Utah. Viewpoints were mixed. This is a cultural, quality-of-life issue for us and it would be a shame to say goodbye to our pro team. However, we still need to see if we can work out some of the details.

This could go either way. More discussion tomorrow.

Denied!

We were excited to see the House Democrats Blog title, Credit Where Credit is Due, on our newsreader. It's a long shot, we thought, but the minority might be is giving us credit for doing something good – like last year’s unprecedented increase in education funding.

Clicked on the link and got this:
























Ouch. So that’s how it feels . . . .

Classing up the Chamber

Senators Walker and Jones talk in the Senate Chamber.

Come Visit

It's been too long since we've seen you. Come visit the Capitol. When you do, this tip from today's Utah Policy Daily might help:

The biggest complaint about the Utah Legislature has nothing to do with public policy or the character of lawmakers. It’s all about parking. Finding a parking spot near the Capitol complex is simply horrendous, especially with the cold weather. People are walking long distances and filling up side roads.

But there is an alternative to driving and hunting for a parking spot. The Capitol Preservation Board and Utah Transit Authority have collaborated to provide a circulator shuttle bus that runs about ever 15 minutes. Route 23 winds through most of downtown and to the Capitol, starting around 6 a.m. and ending about 6:30 p.m.

On the UTA Web site is found a route map and schedule for Route 23. TRAX riders can pick up the Route 23 bus near the Courthouse TRAX station between 4th and 5th South on Main Street. There are bus stops in various locations downtown.

Drivers can park free all day in the parking lot across from the Triad Building downtown (300 West South Temple) and catch the Route 23 shuttle there. It is the site of the 2002 Olympics Medal Plaza. You should communicate your intention to visit the Capitol to the parking lot attendant.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

The Morning News

We’re starting to enjoy the Saturday editorials.

Last week it was the Trib on sales tax policy. Today it’s the Deseret Morning News on the new legislative calendar honoring Martin Luther King, Jr. & President’s day.

Mmmmm. Can’t wait for next Saturday.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Vouchers, 38 to 37

Vouchers passed in the House of Representatives this afternoon.

Read Majority Leader Dave Clark's pre-debate thoughts at the House Majority Site. (Nice site, by the way. Looks oddly familiar.)

Bookies in Wendover are saying the same bill will get 20 votes in the Senate.

Seat Belt Bill

SB36 , which would make not wearing a seatbelt a primary offense, passed the Senate today with a 16-13 vote. It now goes to the House.

The new law would be effective for three years when the Legislature would review the bill and road fatality numbers to measure the impact.

Week Four

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Starting on Tuesday

The NAACP and other respected members of our community have asked that we change the start date of our legislative session so it doesn’t coincide with Martin Luther King Day.

A majority of the legislature will probably vote to honor that request.

Senate President John Valentine, Senate Minority Leader Mike Dmitrich, Speaker of the House Greg Curtis, and House Minority Leader Ralph Becker will sponsor a resolution that will make the change. A press release is attached as the first comment, below.

Slavery never figured prominently in Utah's economy or culture (unless you go back to the slave trade involving local tribes and lawless kidnappers along the Old Spanish Trail). The Civil War was not the crucible for Utah's early settlers or indigenous people that it was for our sister states back east. Like everywhere, this state has had to come to terms with issues of injustice and race. But we weren’t ground zero for the civil rights upheaval in the 50s and 60s. This is not landscape with which the state, as a whole, is accustomed to traversing.

Western States in general (and Utah in particular) can be resistant to change. We felt we were honoring Dr. King by publicly discussing his work and legacy on the first day of the legislative session. (See here, here and here.) Others felt differently. We decided to listen.

We hope this will be a step in the right direction.

The resolution will not only honor Dr. King for his key role in the struggle for political recognition of the fact that all men are created equal, but also President George Washington and President Abraham Lincoln for their contribution to the same cause.

In practical terms, we’ll start on the Tuesday following Martin Luther King Day and run the Constitutional 45 days, with another mid-session break for President’s Day. Because this resolution proposes to alter the Utah State Constitution, voters will need to approve the change in the next general election.

Family Time

Senator Dayton reviews an upcoming bill presentation with Perry - her son and intern - and her husband, Lynn.

Smoking in Cars

Provo Daily Herald:

Most of the Utah Senate voted Wednesday to ban smoking in cars when a child younger than 5 years is a passenger.

The vote was 20-7 for the bill by Sen. Scott McCoy, D-Salt Lake City. It now goes to the state House of Representatives.

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