Welcome to The Senate Site

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Nightside

Michael Castner, Ethan Millard, Paul McHardy, Matt Stubbs, and Curt Bramble held a lively discussion on teacher salaries, class size reduction, education funding, and the education slogan de jour (No More Excuses!). Then they kept Bramble on for the Throwdown.

Great show. Listen here.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Friday Night on the Radio

Sen. Curt Bramble will be on KSL's Nightside Project tonight around 10:00 p.m.

Topics: legislative mission to China, public education, and ??

On the Nightside Site:
10:00 Hour - Utah Senator Curt "Brambo" Bramble is live in studio to talk China, teacher pay, and referendums then he'll stay on as our guest during the Friday Night Throwdown.

Worth considering

Here's a gem of a paragraph in the LDS Church response to the little furor over the Vice President speaking at BYU:
". . . the [LDS] Church expects its members to engage in the political process in an informed and civil manner, respecting the fact that members of the Church come from a variety of backgrounds and experiences and may have differences of opinion in partisan political matters."
Wise counsel, whatever the religion, or issue of the day happen to be.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Go Wolverines!

Utah Valley State College will soon be Utah Valley University. Here are answers to the top ten questions.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

"We do what we can; we hope for the best"

Holly Mullen shares the story of her visit to Kotwara, India. Sweet and interesting.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Attorney General's Legal Opinion

Governor Huntsman asked the Attorney General's Office for an independent legal analysis of the voucher referendum situation. They released it today.

Legal Analysis

SLCSpin posted an analysis of the voucher referendum complications by Parr Waddoups Brown Gee & Loveless.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Spring Garden

By Lyle Hillyard
Utah State Senator, District 25

I went to my garden on Saturday and was glad to dig the last of the carrots I buried under leaves in the fall. That is something I learned as a child growing up on a small farm in Smithfield where the proper winter storage of our produce meant that we had good things to eat during the winter. Yes we had grocery stores in Smithfield but the produce was not as you would find in them now.

It was a beautiful day to work outside. I was also able to cane the raspberries and till the full garden. Before too long, I will plant some peas and potatoes so we'll have new potatoes and creamed peas as soon as they grow. With the low snow pack, I am concerned about irrigation water this summer. Good news! We are supposed to receive rain and possibly snow this Wednesday.

Voice of Reason

Green Jello approaches something akin to sanity in the voucher debate.

Nationwide Picture

Friday, March 23, 2007

When the rubber hits the road

Utah’s Tax Cuts & Tax Reform will be effective January 1, 2008.

Stellar legislative staff threw a lasso around the details, complete with the multicolored splatter charts that have made this process so enlightening.

New Briefing Paper: Tax Relief & Reform: What does it mean for taxpayers?

The number gurus at the Utah Taxpayer produced a good analysis too: What does tax reform mean to a family of four?

Enjoy!

Huntsman re: the referendum

Great article. We are eager to read the Attorney General's opinion, when it comes out.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Guns, Votes, and Justice Delayed

The right of citizens to elect their government and the right to bear arms just collided in a way that might end our hope of timely equal enfranchisement for the State of Utah.

Here is the news release from the DC Vote crowd:
Washington, DC - Action on the DC Voting Rights Act (H.R. 1433) was postponed in the House earlier today when a group of members attempted to link the bill, which would give Washington, DC, its first ever voting member of Congress, with lifting the city's gun safety laws.
Justice for Utah isn’t even a footnote.

Word from Denver

A Rocky Mountain News writer explores Utah's new program:
This will now give parents of modest means options that the well-to-do have long enjoyed. Their school-age children will no longer be a captive audience. Parents will be empowered as educational consumers, giving them choices and leverage consumers enjoy in all other spheres of our market economy.

. . . Private schools are held to account in the most effective way possible - they're accountable to their customers who are free to take their business elsewhere if they're not satisfied.
Read the full text.

Going Good

A progress report from Nicole Stricker on the referendum effort.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Word from St. George

In The Spectrum: State voucher law will benefit every Utah student and parent
If you are a "public-school parent," vouchers will reduce class size, increase student spending and result in significantly increased academic achievement in public schools. The law requires public schools to continue receiving funding for voucher students who leave the system; this will result in increased per-pupil spending and smaller classes in Utah's public schools.

There is substantial empirical evidence academic achievement significantly increases in public schools when faced with voucher competition. Parents are treated differently. Arizona passed a school choice law after the predictable fight with the teachers unions and education bureaucracy.

When school started the following fall Arizona parents reported a remarkable change in public school attitude. The public schools "rolled out the red carpet" for parents, asking "what could they do for parents, how could they best serve their schoolchildren." Parents and schoolchildren had suddenly become much more important.
Read the rest of the article.

Veto?

So, we may have to wait for the 2010 census to get the number of congressmen/women our population merits.

10 years late. But welcome, nonetheless. Just like parents choice in their kids' education.

Update: More detail in the Trib. And DesNews.

No Veto

No vetoes this year.

The Trib and DNews have the story.

From a nuts & bolts perspective, this is the first year in recent memory that we don’t need fire up the fax machine and poll the senators on whether or not to have a veto override session.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Vertigo

The Utah State Capitol from space.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Intern Report

Miss the interns?

Senate interns do everything from intense research, to scheduling, to fetching Diet Coke. They are a fun, bright, intrepid lot and we could not run the legislative session effectively without them.

What did they think about the experience? We captured it on tape (or whatever it is inside those digital recorders that does the work of tape).

Want info on legislative internships? Give us a call.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Utah: Life Elevated

Crazy World, Episode 498

The Utah Taxpayers Association might actually support the voucher referendum because it would remove the mitigation provisions. In their view, that makes the program better. We disagree. Our intent is that the hold-harmless provisions be an integral part of the school choice program.

Their latest blog:
". . . would a repeal of HB148 be a bad thing for taxpayers? That depends. Repealing HB148 would not repeal vouchers because HB174 supersedes HB148. However, some elements of HB148 would be repealed, particularly so-called mitigation funds for school districts. This would actually make the voucher law better."
Their problem:
"How do we support the repeal of HB148 -- which improves the voucher law by getting rid of the so-called and unnecessary mitigation funds -- without sounding like we oppose vouchers?"

Lunacy.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

New Neighbors

Senator Margaret Dayton, co-chair of the newly-formed, bi-partisan Utah Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus, helped release 18 Rocky Mountain Bighorn sheep into the foothills of Utah County.

Three new herds have been started in the Provo area in the last five years, and a total of 28 new herds over the last 15 years in Utah.




She E-mailed us:
It was fun to be involved in the release of the big horn sheep - but I was a little nervous about opening the gate when the biologist said to me, "Don't worry if they bang against you and knock you down - it makes for good footage!!"

The best 30 minutes of the week

KCPW posted unedited audio of the tax reform bill signing. It's worth a listen.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Finally.

KSL: Governor Signs Largest Tax Cut in Utah's History:
Tax Relief 2007 is a combination of cuts to income tax, general sales tax, dropping the food sales tax and certain business taxes. Together, the state's $220 million tax relief investment will translate to about $320 a year savings for the average Utah family.

Governor Huntsman: "This is the largest tax cut, and the most meaningful exercise in tax reform in the history of our state."
Reminder: It's not just the huge tax cut that is historic, it's the completion of a systemic overhaul of our tax system. A better structure. Less volatility. (See graphs on page two of the PDF doc).

Still, the extra $320 will be nice.

Waste

KSL Editorial:

"A lot of powerful interests want to overturn Utah's new school voucher law through a voter referendum. KSL views the effort as a waste of time, energy and means."

"...divisive..."

"...futile...."

Days of Glory

Death Knell discusses the benefits of limiting the annual legislative session to 45 days.

Good insight.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Reflection before the Battle

By John Valentine
President of the Utah Senate

Close elections get tense. When beliefs are heartfelt the temptation to demonize opponents can be very strong. This is especially true in the final weeks of a hotly contested vote. But the voucher debate seems to be heating up early. We’re probably 20 months away from a public referendum and the discussion already seems to be devolving.

One blogger I know to be a good man seemed to publicly accuse the other side of the debate of lying because she referenced poll numbers different than the ones he hopes are accurate.

Here’s a poll conducted five weeks ago. Here is the more recent poll.

No one is lying. These are two differently worded questions on different dates, from different polling firms.

In a tight race with strong-willed, sincere people on both sides, name-calling can be incendiary. This is just one example but we could easily find several, on both sides of the issue.

I sincerely believe that less contention makes it easier to see the truth of an issue. Careful deliberative discussion makes for better policy decisions.

The Education Voucher debate could be the best policy discussion we've ever had - or it could be the bloodiest political civil war in Utah’s history. It's our choice. So far, it’s been fairly respectful. I was pleased to see the Wall Street Journal characterize the debate in the House as "more philosophical and substantive than demagogic." If they can do it we all can.

I want to see a hopeful, informed, edifying process. Both sides should police themselves and ensure the debate does not degenerate into negative emotional reactions, empty sloganeering, personal attacks, or name calling.

We should all recommit to an educated, respectful discussion.

Utah is a class act. Eventually, we’ll make a decision. What our children will remember - and the most significant lasting impression they will take from this debate is how we treated each other in the process.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Fourth Seat Prognosis

Looks like Congress will be voting on Utah’s Fourth Seat this month, and it looks like the new congressperson will represent a statewide at-large district. More Under the Dome.

Voucher Debate: An Added Layer of Complexity

Here are the facts about the latest twist in the voucher debate, as explained by the Lt. Governor’s Office and our counsel.

There are two voucher bills: HB 148 (the original bill) and HB 174 (which amended the original bill). HB 174 reenacted and included much of the language of the earlier bill because HB 148 was not yet on the books.

It also included an explicit Coordinating Clause that states …
"If this H.B. 174 and H.B. 148, Education Vouchers, both pass, it is the intent of the Legislature that the amendments to the sections in this bill supersede the amendments to the same numbered sections in H.B. 148...."
If there is repetition or conflict between the bills, the second bill supersedes the first. Last week, a group of voucher opponents petitioned to hold a public referendum on the FIRST bill (HB 148), not the second.

It’s too late to petition for a referendum on the second bill - the deadline has passed. That may not matter because the second bill (HB 174) received over two-thirds of the vote in both chambers. The Utah State Constitution states that legislation passed with a two-thirds majority is not subject to a referendum. Counsel has advised us that the core of Utah’s voucher program will be on the books through HB 174.

There are, however, a few aspects of HB 148 that are not swallowed up in HB 174.
  • Short Title;
  • Definitions;
  • Purpose;
  • Mitigation Money;
  • Enforcement Provisions and Penalties;
  • Requirement of School Boards to make rules; and
  • The Appropriation ($9.3 Million).
One of the conclusions we are approaching is this: even if voucher opponents can persuade a majority of voters to repeal HB 148, they will not be repealing Education Vouchers. We are told that the program is on the books to stay. They might, however, be yanking money from the program. Ironically, voucher antagonists would also be repealing the mitigation funding that would reduce class size while holding districts harmless.

The mitigation in the original voucher bill (NOT in HB 174) provides that when a student leaves the public school system for a private school, the district will continue to receive funding for five years, as if the child was still there. This is an important aspect of the voucher program the legislature hoped would help reduce class sizes and make folks more comfortable with the new system.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Funding Recap

We were pondering a blog on this topic. Then Utah Issues saved us the trouble. Thanks UI! From their 2007 Legislative Update:
The Legislative Session over and it appears that many can say they are winners. With an estimated $12 billion spending plan coupled with $220 million in tax cuts the 2008 Legislative Session is one for ages. For us here at UI the biggest winner was the Children’s Health Insurance Program which is fully funded at $4 million and will also receive $2.5 million from the Medicaid restricted account for increased Medicaid access. When including the cost adjustments from Rep. James Dunnigan’s HB218 the potential for primary health care coverage for children may exceed 20,000 new enrollees.

The Baby Watch Early Intervention Program was also fully funded with $2.2 million in Provider Rate Increases and Caseload Growth on top of base budget. This money will be used to support an estimated 6,000 children and families in the coming calendar year.

Additional provider rate increases for Dental, Hospital and other provider services was increased over base by $2.5 million. Medicaid optional services Adult Vision and Adult Dental will see $2.174 million in new appropriations and Mental Health Services will receive $2.71 million over base budget. UI is very pleased with the estimated $54 million in additional appropriations for Health and Human Services. This record surplus has given our most vulnerable families and individuals an opportunity to receive much needed medical services.

Other items of note come from Economic Development and Revenue. The Pamela Atkinson Homeless Trust Fund received $500,000 in on-going funds and $500,000 in on-time money and the Olene Walker Housing Loan Fund will receive $400,000 in ongoing money. From Public Education an estimated $385 million will provide $68.7 million for teacher salary increases, $33 million in teacher bonuses, $7.5 million for all day kindergarten, and $9.5 million for Education Voucher Scholarships and Administration.

We want to thank Governor Huntsman, the Legislature, and their staffs, and all the advocates for a tremendously successful session.

Tribune Editorial on Tax Cuts

A little Trib perspective on Utah's new tax systems.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

New DORA Program

By Chris Buttars
Utah State Senator, District 10

The Drug Offender Reform Act (DORA) is, without a doubt, the most exciting, innovative change in law enforcement and corrections philosophy in 100 years. I was glad to see it pass the legislature this year without a single dissenting vote.

Here is how it works. DORA provides for intense drug screening to every felon prior to sentencing. We’re well aware that over 80 percent of the 6400 people we have incarcerated have a substance abuse problem. Up to this point, all we’ve done is lock them away for crimes (usually property crimes) they have committed to fund their habit. We put them in prison for 1 to 3 and provide no treatment. When they are released they tend to be back in jail within 60 days.

Our Drug Courts have shown that non-violent offenders who commit crimes just to feed addictions can enter an intense treatment program and be very successful. They can stay out of jail, stay in their home, keep their jobs, pay taxes and actually beat the monster that is controlling their lives.

Under DORA, the drug screening information is given to the judge. If it is determined that the situation is non-violent and that the crime had a direct relationship to feeding their addiction (and after meeting a few other requirements), the judge has the option to impose drug treatment for a year, followed by two years of close monitoring.

Over the last nine years, Drug Courts have demonstrated that treatment can drop recidivism by over 60 percent. DORA’s 18 month test-pilot in Salt Lake City sent 250 felons to a drug treatment program instead of prison, and the results were very encouraging.

We’ve been out of state prison beds for over a year. We have had to contract with cities and counties to house state prisoners. We believe, as DORA achieves full implementation, we could empty as many as 2000 of our 6400 state prison beds.

Everyone wins. There are no losers. The state will save tens of millions of dollars and people will get their lives back. Property crime will drop, and families will be preserved.

"It blows my mind away how quickly the whole thing happened"

Tell the Truth

From mullentown:
One haunting component of the Libby trial for me came early in the process, when Cheney aides testified how they sorted through the Washington press corps for the most malleable and sympathetic reporters with which to plant their tips and stories.

I know that is the way it works in the adversarial relationship between government and the press, but it’s an ugly indictment against reporters. If nothing else, this is another warning to people in my profession at every level to re-examine their reasons for doing journalism. It’s not for fame, or for Sunday TV talk shows, or to land another book deal.

Our job remains to find the truth - or the closest to it we can come. If that sounds melodramatic, fine. It’s the nearest I can come to patriotism. And I can’t come up with a better definition of a free press.
Good thoughts. Inspirational, almost. For the record, we're not crafty enough for this sort of manipulation and we don’t think our press corp would fall for it. We expect reporters to tell the truth about the Senate. Most of them do a good job. We usually come out okay.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Public Education Funding, 1994 - 2008

PDF here. More info here.

Nice Site!

By John Valentine
President of the Utah Senate

Cool, sharp, and informative. No one would expect anything less from the upper offices of the Utah Senate.

The more familiar people are with the human face of local senators, and the more those senators can convey their thought process firsthand, the better. The more folks understand how government works, the better government works. I think people will come to agree that the Utah Senate has the best minority caucus in the nation.

This is a great addition to the Utah Blog Community. Welcome!

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Senate Radio: "And I followed my heart from there."

As the session was winding down, Utah Senators reflected on the best moments of the last six weeks.

We posted their thoughts on the podcast.

The Morning After

Emerging from the inevitable post-session coma we see the House Majority posted a quick list of articles that summarized the 2007 session. BTW - What legislative staffer is up and posting blogs at 9:00 a.m. the day after session? Jen? Peter? Go back to bed!
$omething for everyone: Programs and pork generously dealt with

Utah lawmakers call it a day after making (almost) everyone happy

Surplus, UVU and tax cuts mark '07 session (with some great pictures!)

Good Session

By Curt Bramble
Utah Senate Majority Leader
"It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly . . . ."

- Teddy Roosevelt, 1910
I would characterize the 2007 Session as rewarding, intense and productive. I appreciate the team effort between Senators, the House of Representatives, and the Governor’s Office that made this session historic. Respect and close communication work.

We started the session by establishing six major priorities (and several less public areas of focus) and we worked toward those goals all session. We met or surpassed each one and I believe that was a great service to the state.

Some of my favorite pieces of legislation:
  • The tax cut package, including tax reform
  • Funding education at an all time high
  • The Voucher Bill
  • DORA; and
  • Creating Utah Valley University
To my colleagues in both chambers, let me echo President Valentine’s words:

Thank you.

Utahns will benefit from your work here for generations to come.

I salute each and every one of you for a job well done.

Done

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