Welcome to The Senate Site

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Site Visit 2007: Salt Lake and Davis Counties

By Michael Waddoups
Utah State Senator, District 6
and
Carlene Walker
Utah State Senator, District 8

Once a year, the Utah Legislature forgoes monthly meetings on Capitol Hill to focus attention and learn about a particular area of the state. In 2006 we visited the oil fields and communities of the Uintah Basin; the year before that was Cache Valley. On August 15th and 16th we'll visit Salt Lake and Davis Counties. We're looking forward to it. We're glad the legislature will have the opportunity to explore areas in SLCo (aside from Capitol Hill) and really focus on issues unique to urban and suburban Utah.

Here's are the schedules:
Wednesday, August 15: Davis County (PDF)

Thursday, August 16: Salt Lake County (PDF)
You can join the site visit on-line. We plan to share the experience with Senate Site readers by posting short updates and photos throughout the day. Maybe even a podcast or two. People with questions or insight can post comments and we'll do our best to respond. It might even be fun.

The people here are some of the best on earth and our districts are unique - we're looking forward to showing them off.

P.S. We have a good itinerary for the time alloted but of course it's not perfect. There is no way to bring the entire legislature to every important spot and delve into every local issue in just one day. We hope people would be available for informal visits to additional important spots throughout the year. We do come to the Capitol at least once a month for committee meetings. If any of our readers have suggestions for places we need to see/local issues we need to consider, please post them here.

Disappearing Site

Sorry about the downtime today - the first time the Senate Site has been down in almost two years. A while ago we transferred our domain name administration from Misk.com to BlueHost. (Misk is great, but BlueHost is great too, and local.) Apparently there was an internal communications glitch which took a few hours to fix.

It’s all good now, and we’re pleased as punch to discover the religious manner in which Paul Rolly reads our blog site.

Thanks for all the calls expressing concern (all three of them...).

Worth Reading

By John Valentine
President of the Utah Senate

Public servants catch a lot of arrows. Some of them are well-deserved. Some aren't.

Much of the criticism stems from a distrust of government (which, unfortunately, has been thoroughly earned over the last several centuries). But once in a while a little insight shines through the constant hum of negative feedback. We think this is worth reading.

I haven't met Rob. Apparently he is running for City Council in West Jordan. If that doesn't work out for him, maybe we could use him as a referee in some of our political disputes.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

China Reflections

Our own Curtis S. Bramble discussed China with Michael Castner on The Nightside Project. You can listen here. (Highlights: Historical firsts, the REAL Salt Lake Tibetan flag incident and a few travel tips.)

Also, check out Senate Radio for brief reflections on the Liaoning Trip by former Senate Majority Leader Pete Knudson and Majority Whip Dan Eastman.

Senate Minority Leader Mike Dmitrich shares some notes on China on the Senate Minority blog.

And, an Aloha from our colleagues in Hawaii:
"Recently, the Utah Senate went to China, and they've posted some great photos and stories about their trip. It's a reminder that Hawaii, with our large Asian population, is not the only state reaching out to Asia."

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Response to Wildfires

By Lyle Hillyard
Utah State Senator, District 25

Last Wednesday during interim, Senate leadership heard from the Commissioner of Agriculture, Leonard Blackham, and the Governor’s office about the urgency to respond to the damage caused by the wildfires this summer. Normally, the Governor would be able to address the problems with an emergency fund that he is given. However, the sheer size of these fires has proven too much damage for the fund to cover. If we wait until the next session to approve funds, it would leave our current problem unresolved. In the past, to deal with such problems, the Governor and the Leadership would decide on a direction and then the Governor would act in reliance that the money would be appropriated as a supplemental fund when the session began. In this case, I was told that much of the land belongs to the Federal Government or is privately owned so the State must coordinate with them to save money and effort by working together. Replanting must begin by this fall to be effective next spring. I don’t think many of us realize how damaging these fires have been to the land, the owners and the air. This string of fires has reminded me of how important it is that we have state leaders who not only care about their positions but live with the people who are affected by this tragedy so the response is not just monetary but compassionate to unify the people to help to mitigate everyone’s damages.

I left interim and drove to Sun Valley for the annual meeting of the Utah State Bar. It was humbling to see all the burnt areas along the road. In fact, you could see a fire burning in the mountains just south east of Burley. The fires were not close enough to the road to interfere with traffic but the air was quite smoky, even in Sun Valley. A hard winter with lots of snow combined with the drought and fires we have had could potentially cause problems for animal producers, not only in Utah but the whole West.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Happy 24th

Friday, July 20, 2007

"Courage, dignity and forgiveness" / Utah Heroes Honored

On Wednesday, the Utah State Legislature was honored by the presence of two heroes. Corrections Officer Stephen Anderson (killed in the line of duty on June 25) and Mr. Eric Fullerton both received official citations for their bravery. Officer Anderson's wife and children accepted the document on his behalf.

Here are the citations presented in Extraordinary Session:

Officer Stephen Anderson

Mr. Eric Fullerton

Summer Opera

By Lyle Hillyard
Utah State Senator, District 25

Need a break from the heat? It's Opera time in Logan.

Last Wednesday night, I attended, along with some of my family members, the opening night of the Utah Festival Opera. It featured “Il Trovatore”, sung in Italian with English subtitles. It is not hard for me to follow along with the story; however, I have always thought it would be great to have Frank Pignanelli sit next to me to translate.

The Anvil Chorus was the only number I recognized but I was spell-bound by the amazing voices of the performers. They were all very talented but the lead soprano, Othalie Graham, and the main tenor, Arthur Shen, were truly masters. Although the hall was full and ticket sales have been up this year, the majority of tickets are purchased by people outside of Cache Valley and Utah.

Come to Logan this summer and enjoy the cool Cache Valley weather and listen to world renowned performers present some of the best musical opera available in this region. I remember watching "Madame Butterfly" one evening and beginning a conversation with the woman sitting next to me. She told me that she was from Alaska and had been going to the Sante Fe Opera for many years and had heard about this Opera in Logan. She asked me if I knew who was singing the lead part and I looked up his name in the program to tell her. Recognizing the name, she laughed and said that he was a lead Tenor from the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City. Tickets, such as these, would cost several hundred dollars at the Met. Her comment still rings in my ears: "I hope the people of this area appreciate the quality and the price of what they are getting in Logan, Utah."

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

New Fiscal Analyst

By John Valentine
President of the Utah Senate

After scrutinizing 80 applicants, selecting finalists and conducting interviews, the hiring committee recommended Jon Ball be appointed as Utah's new Legislative Fiscal Analyst. This afternoon Legislative Management voted to accept their recommendation.

Current Fiscal Analyst John Massey's retirement leaves a void. Given the expertise, dedication and professionalism of our staff in the LFA's Office, we know they will provide top-quality financial work to the state without missing a beat.

For those who don’t know him, Mr. Ball's character traits include a high energy level, a thorough knowledge of the state budget & the budgeting process, leadership & organizational ability, raw candlepower, a sense of humor, and expertise in cutting-edge technology. He earned his Masters of Public Policy at Georgetown, and has put it to use through 15 years of public service at both the state and federal level.

Best of luck, Jon. We look forward to working with you in your new capacity.

Word from St. George

Monday, July 16, 2007

July 17th, 2007

Executive Appropriations and Legislative Management meet tomorrow (Tuesday), along with the Higher Education Task Force, Legislative Process Committee, and the Senate Business and Labor Confirmation Committee.

In Exec Aprops (1:00 p.m.), the delegation will give a brief report on the recent Government-to-Government mission to Liaoning, China.

Legislative Management (3:00 p.m.) will take action on hiring the new Legislative Fiscal Analyst.

You can listen live on-line.

Or listen later on-line. The world is your oyster.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Last Day in Liaoning

By Curtis S. Bramble
Senate Majority Leader

Today, we concluded our stay in Dalian - the third city we visited in the Liaoning Province. We visited Dalian’s #79 Middle School, an urban school several stories high with children ranging from kindergarten age to 15 years old. As we walked to the school yard, the children were commencing in a physical exercise (almost akin to aerobics), in perfect unison, choreographed specially for the delegation. I asked the principal about the amount of preparation it took to achieve this perfect unison, and the principal replied that the teachers had worked only ten minutes with those students.

In the school building, the first presentation was the student orchestra, which opened with John Phillip Sousa's "Stars and Stripes Forever." This was one of the best school orchestra renditions of that iconic American song that my wife and I had ever heard. The orchestra then followed up with a traditional Chinese song (translation) "Very Happy Woman Warrior" that was so beautiful that if you closed your eyes, you could almost see the sceneries brought to life by the contemplative flutes and violins.

Historically, this trip is significant. It is the first time the Utah Legislature has tackled a task of this nature. As I listened to the two flawless musical renditions, I couldn’t help but contemplate some of the symbolism. Instruments produce the same sound whether the song is eastern or western. But the notes of the composition combine to create strikingly unique melodies. We are all human with common traits, but culture and upbringing build us into dramatically different individuals, and nations. Too deep for me, maybe, but there is something there worth thinking on.

Everywhere we have stopped so far has displayed a Chinese flag along with a United States flag side by side; a gesture of friendship and respect that remind us why we are here. For me, the sound of those children playing a United States' anthem reinforced the wisdom of cultivating a friendship with these people. The side bar conversations of Senator Mike Dmitrich and Wang Zhuang, for example, or the casual talks with our interpreters on the mini-bus, have all bridged gaps to common ground towards a better future.

New perspective. To say that the delegation is stunned would be an understatement.

Tonight we travel to Beijing. Tomorrow, we meet with national government leaders in the Great People’s Hall in Beijing as well as spending some time on cultural tours. A side note: At the end of this trip, we will have spent about four out of something close to one hundred working hours touring culturally and historically significant areas of China. I believe they are an important part of the overall picture. You can certainly disagree, but please don’t blow it out of proportion.

Internet service in Beijing may be sketchy – we may not have it available in our rooms. If not, we’ll touch base when we get home. I believe we are scheduled to give a brief report this Tuesday in Executive Appropriations.

I hope these posts have been helpful. See you soon.

China Trip: Day 4 in Dalian

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Dalian

By Senator Curt Bramble
Senate Majority Leader - Blogging from Liaoning, China.

Today we saw exactly what Tom Friedman was talking about. Dalian, a vibrant metropolis on the Liaodong peninsula, is the quintessential "world-is-flat" city. We visited the Dalian High-Tech Industrial Zone, which contains a number of smaller cluster-type parks with various industries, including biotech and pharmaceutical (we're told Myriad Genetics has a Chinese company here, but we didn’t visit it). The park also includes information technology, advanced equipment manufacturing, and other industries. The IT area includes a heavy focus on software; there is even a separate section for a Software Park that we visited today.

Oracle has a facility in the software park, which was farmland until 1998. We visited the facility that handles software support for the Chinese, Japanese, and Korean markets. This facility has about 90 employees and expects to have nearly 300 within two years. Many of these employees are workers from Japan and other places who've decided to make a life in Dalian. Other companies in the software park include HP, Accenture, IBM, Neusoft, Microsoft, and a host of Fortune 500 companies. This area is thriving due in no small part to the 22 universities and 100 plus research institutions located in the Dalian area.

But Dalian isn't all about business. The city is known as "Little Europe" throughout China and serves as a vacation city for many Chinese. You can see the influence of the Russian occupation throughout the city and we've seen European touches, including at least two miniature Eiffel Towers. We had a short visit to the Dalian Natural History Museum and the Tongniu Mountain Panoramic Stand, which gives one an incredible view of the port of Dalian which serves as one of Northern China's premiere seaports. I’ve sent some pictures and we’ll get them posted.

Our spouses have been able to go out and experience much more of the unique culture and beauty of this area (for some inexplicable reason, they have chosen not to join us at some of these meetings). Hopefully, we’ll get one or two of them to describe China from their perspective.

After leaving the mountaintop, we visited the port and saw a very small portion of the more than 200 million tons of cargo shipped out of Dalian into the north Pacific every year. Some of us couldn't help but wonder what products in those containers might be destined for our own homes. Leaving the port, we rode the city's light rail back into town to continue our meetings with government officials, including the Mayor of Dalian and the Chairman of the Dalian People's Congress. Senator Knudson gave a great speech summing up many of our thoughts in his own unique way.

Senator Knudson astutely discussed the myths and realities of Utah culture. He spoke of the unique connection between vibrant areas of high-tech growth and strong research universities and encouraged all participants to build upon the increased understanding between our two countries. He received a standing ovation and entertained us all with his wit. During our meeting with the mayor and other government leaders, we also heard about some of Dalian's other industries and had a few minutes to mingle in one of the many city squares with the people of Dalian.

Our visit to the city square was fascinating. Each night, hundreds of people gather in Zhongshan Square (named in memory of Sun Yat-Sen) to rollerskate, play hackey sack, and dance. The city provides a small speaker system and music plays while the citizens dance, children play, and tourists watch. It's a bustling environment with little sign of tension. Even the hundreds of near misses between cars and pedestrians don't seem to bother anyone.

The federal government can do it’s thing – and I’m glad they do – but when it comes to facilitating local educational exchanges, cultural exchanges, and specific business deals, the very best way to do that is at the person-to-person, or local government to local government level.

Although we realize that China is not without its problems, as we visited the Dalian facilities of Oracle, Pfizer, the Dalian deep-water port (largest in region), their ship-building facility and other companies, it was clear that the China we're seeing in our trip is far from the China suggested by antagonists who would have us turn a blind eye to a fast-developing nation of more than 1.3 billion people. Dalian, with its city squares, business parks, and energetic streets is a city you've got to see to believe.

Photo Album

The delegation in China just E-mailed more pictures. I'd like to post them, but doing it this way crowds the site. This method works, but there's gotta be something better. I want to upload en masse, without having to shrink the photos first and I want to allow comments.

Does anyone out there have favorite photosharing software? Flickr and Picasa seem efficient, but I’m looking for something more elegant. Maybe even Senatorial.

Recommendations?

[Update:] We're looking at JAlbum - any landmines there?

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Fire on the Mountain

John Valentine
Utah State Senate President

My colleagues (see their notes, below) and I just returned from Milford Flat – the largest fire in our state’s history. 20 miles wide and 80 miles long. The fire problem in Utah right now is so large it is hard to wrap your mind around it.

I took this picture today on I-15 near Cove Fort. Click here for a few more pictures.

Currently there are 42 uncontained large fires are burning in America. Several of them are in Utah, including the following:
  • Milford Flat Fire (2nd largest fire in the US right now, and the largest in Utah history),
  • Blackrock Gulch Fire, 30 miles south of St. George,
  • Mathis Fire, nine miles north of Price,
  • Neola North Fire, three miles north of Neola, and
  • Greenville Fire (an offshoot of the Milford Flat fire), six miles southeast of Beaver.
What this means, from a legislative perspective is that the DNR needs firefighting money immediately. It’s too early to know exact costs but when we do have a final price tag, something close to a 75/25 percent split between the federal government and us would be about right.

The next question is what course we take after the fires are out to reclaim an area larger than Davis County. The danger is that cheatgrass will rush in and take over. Again. Some of the fast burning areas of this fire were burnt in 2003. Invasive cheatgrass replaced native flora and created the repeat hazard. We probably need to reseed with native grasses.

Here is current information for those who may be interested:
Map: Milford Flat Incident – July 11, 2007 (PDF)

Situation Report (PDF)

Incident Action Plan – Milford Flat Fire (PDF)

Fire Update - 7/11/7 Press Release (PDF)
Fire danger in Utah remains extremely high. Please be careful out there. Keep your families safe.


Darin Peterson
Utah State Senator, District 24

Where are the environmentalists that knew so much about how we should manage our land?

These fires are perfect examples of failed land policies that have largely been forced on us due to pressure from well-funded environmental groups. They have little idea how our complicated high- desert ecosystem functions. They make dangerous assumptions. They base decision on emotion, not science, and not local experience.

In this case, urban environmentalists have created problems, but do not live with the consequences that have engulfed our communities. They speak of dangers to the earth but when a real life-threatening danger strikes, their silence is deafening. Their absence is striking. Others do their clean up work, and locals pick up the pieces.

Land management decisions need to be made by the people who know the land, who live on the land, and who will enjoy or suffer the direct consequences of those decisions. From a farming and ranching perspective, it’s unthinkable that the people who use public lands would purposefully abuse them. Their livelihood depends on the health and sustainability of those natural resources.


Margaret Dayton
Utah State Senator, District

It was absolutely sobering to witness the acres and acres and acres and acres of parched and smoking earth. I echo what my colleagues have already written.

Several of the men on the fire line expressed their dismay and frustration over the damage. They reminded us that this did not need to happen. We should guard the right to manage our own lands more jealously.

I was very impressed with the efficiency of the well-organized, well-disciplined tent city of fire fighters in Milford. Home to several hundred people, they bring in their own supplies, and do not use food, water or even electricity of the local community. Our hearts and prayers are with them as they continue their work to contain these fires.


Dennis Stowell
Utah State Senator, District 28

What a disaster! I am afraid this could break some of our ranchers in Beaver and Millard Counties. The problem is that there is no feed for the cattle. Some will use their winter feed now and have to buy hay this winter. Hay is in short supply this year and many will not be able to afford to buy it. Any of the ranchers who signed up for NAP insurance need to contact the FSA office now to report their losses as there are deadlines. The other problem is some ranchers have had substantial losses of cattle to the fire.

What makes me feel bad is that this disaster is the result of failed environmental policy in this country. The environmental movement has pushed to reduce cattle numbers and eliminate livestock from the ranges. As a result there is a large residual of fuel built up on our public lands. If livestock and wildlife do not remove it, fire will, and the fires are becoming increasingly intense and expensive.

Who pays for the failed environmental policy? We do. Last year the Natural Resources Appropriations Committee which I co-chair appropriated over $8 million in supplemental money to pay for last year's fires. The bill will be higher this year.

Where are the environmentalists today? I didn't see any down in Kanosh trying to keep the fire from spreading or offering to help raise money to keep our ranchers in business or repair the damage the fire has done. Environmentalists want clean air. Look at what this event has done for Utah's air quality.

This will impact people's lives for a long time.

China Podcast 2: Phone call from Dalian, China

Senators Dan Eastman and Curt Bramble phoned home and recorded a 20 minute conversation on what they've seen so far. The sound quality isn’t great, but the insight from the Middle Kingdom is worth posting.

Catch the MP3 or listen in on Senate Radio.

More from Shenyang

Pictures from Day 2. You can read (or listen to) a short report here.














Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Update from Liaoning – Day 2

By Curtis S. Bramble
Senate Majority Leader, blogging from Liaoning, China.

My apologies in advance for the length of this post. (The podcast is shorter.) For those who love China, fear China, or are just trying to anticipate significant economic trends – I believe you will find this very interesting.

Day 2. Adding on the foundation built at Monday's meetings with members of provincial departments and the Provincial People's Congress, we began Tuesday by meeting with the Governor of the Liaoning Province. Governor Wenyue Zhang discussed the interlocking relationship between the US and China and expressed the desire to further those interests by partnering to meet the mutual needs of Utah and Liaoning.

Our days are long, the climate is very hot and humid, and there is little or no air-conditioning . The Chinese people don't seem to mind. Accustomed to the dry desert heat of Utah, our delegation seems to be melting :-)

When Deng Xiaopeng began reforming China's economy in the mid-1980s, the efforts focused primarily on the Pearl River and Yangtze River Deltas in the country's more southeastern regions. The areas surrounding Guangzhou and Shanghai made great strides in short order on the heels of those efforts. However, much of the country was left behind, including Liaoning.

As the industrial heart of China since the 1950s, Liaoning represents a backbone of China's economy even while it has not, until recently, seen the more modern developments of the southeastern coastal regions. This is changing.

One of the striking aspects of Liaoning is the enormous scale. From the size of the population to the size of its factories, China (Liaoning) is almost beyond comprehension. We had the opportunity of touring the Shenyang Machine Tool Factory after meeting with Governor Wenyue Zhang. The factory is amazingly clean and is spread throughout 42 buildings, each of which is several hundred thousand square feet in size. The Shenyang Machine Tool Factory produces tooling machines of various sizes. The largest appeared to be well over 100 feet in length, capable of turning steel rods several feet in diameter.

Since Liaoning began reforming its economy in earnest in 2003, it has seen an average of over 12% annual GDP growth. Government revenues have skyrocketed. Unemployment has dipped below 5%, free public education is increasingly offered in rural areas, and foreign investment has raced forward. Companies like Goodyear, GM, GE, Intel and Wal-Mart, yes Wal-Mart, now have a presence in the province.

Governor Zhang expressed his desire to partner with Utah to further expand foreign investment. Natural resources, including mining technology and the utilization of methane gas were discussed as one prominent area of potential cooperation. We also talked more about educational exchanges, which China views as increasingly important to educate a workforce in transition from low-skilled manual labor to more higher skilled technical jobs. There are multiple medical schools in the city, including one of China's finest.

China's workforce tends to be a bit younger than in America; because of the availability of workers, the retirement age here is 60 for males and 55 for females. These younger Chinese workers are being educated in universities and technical institutions and could benefit from studying in Utah with our advanced technological programs.

We met with city leaders from Shenyang, Liaoning's largest city (some 7 million people). Shenyang city itself has seen roughly $2.6 billion in foreign investment in recent years and has used much of its increased government revenue to reform in a number of areas, including providing heating to more residents and planting an urban forest (trees grow all along the roadside, even in the middle of the city). Like the province as a whole, Shenyang is modernizing and doing so through education and foreign investment.

In the Deseret Morning News editorial (The Key to Success in China), it was noted that the best way to build productive, real relationships is one-on-one, person to person. We’ve endeavored to follow that advice. We have been honored by the formal meetings with government officials where were we listen to welcoming speeches (which provide a wealth of information about various aspects of the Chinese business, social, cultural, and educational setting). And then they listen graciously to our response. These are formal exchanges, but they are generally followed by an informal setting where we can discuss issues on a personal level. It is amazing how much we have in common, given the differences between our two culture and history.

Our common enterprises: natural resources, education, high tech endeavors, defense industries, etc. provide a fertile field of opportunity for both Liaoning and Utah. I would encourage critics to take the long view. Time will tell how these opportunities will bear fruit. I respect the men and women of this delegation and believe this is the beginning of something good.

Pictures from Shenyang

The Vice Chairman of the Liaoning Provincial Congress, Mr. Wang Zhuan, speaks to the Utah delegation.

Representative Hutchings wows people with his Mandarin.

Side-bar.

Meeting in the People's Great Hall - roughly equivalent to our House Legislative Chambers.

Picture taken as music from 'Hunt for Red October' played in the background.

Liaoning University





Meeting with the Secretary of the People's Congress, Mr. Le Keqiang. Mr. Le is the gentleman with whom the President and Speaker corresponded previously.

Formal dinner at Friendship Hotel.


Monday, July 09, 2007

Liaoning – Day One

By Curt Bramble
Senate Majority Leader, blogging from Liaoning, China

After an arduous 30+ hour trip, including an unexpected weather-related delay in Beijing, we finally arrived in Shanyang, Liaoning Province, China at about 3:00 a.m. on Monday morning. We left Utah at 11:00 a.m. Saturday, so we lost Sunday en route.

After 1 -2 hours sleep, the delegation had two morning meetings. The first was with several officials from the Liaoning Provincial People's Congress including Mr. Zang Xilin, Executive Vice Chairman. This meeting was more formal, with our hosts expressing great hope for building a friendship between our state and their province. The 2nd meeting was a "roll up your sleeves" affair, with several Representatives of Liaoning Provincial Government Departments including the Provincial Department of Foreign Affairs; Provincial Department of Foreign Economic Trade; Provincial Department of Education, Provincial Department of Land & Resources; Provincial Department of Information Industry; Provincial Department of Culture; Provincial Department of Coal Industry Management; and the Provincial Department of Magnesite Resources Protection.

After the morning meetings, we were privileged to tour the People's Great Hall (similar to the Utah House Chambers) and had a rather informal lunch at the People's Great Hall. After lunch, we visited a BMW and China Brilliance automobile manufacturing plant. The BMW's produced in China are for internal consumption (a sure sign the Chinese economy is thriving). These BMW are manufactured to the same exacting standards as those manufactured in Germany. The China Brilliance auto is similar to a Hyundai and is offered in two models with 1.6 & 1.8 L engines. They seem to be an entry level auto.

China is experiencing unprecedented growth in the number of institutions of higher learning - both in terms of a traditional university education and highly-skilled vocational training. The Liaoning Province alone has 77 universities and colleges and 571 vocational institutions. We visited Liaoning University and discovered that college kids look the same whether in Utah or China. The province has participated in numerous exchange programs with approximately 1,000 foreign institutions and would like to see more educational exchanges with Utah. Some possible areas of cooperation might include research exchanges in natural resources and technologies.

The Liaoning Province is an industrial province and has rich natural resources, including coal, natural gas, uranium, and others. Department leaders discussed possible cooperation in the sharing of coal-bed methane extraction and utilization technologies, uranium extraction and refining techniques, geophysical exploration, and even the exploration and preservation of palentological sites. It turns out Liaoning has a rich fossil resource. Also, Liaoning leaders are interested in Utah's technology for monitoring and inspecting coal mines. Although they've got a rich supply of coal and have made great strides in mine safety, the Liaoning Province could benefit from Utah's expertise in mine safety technology, particularly with regard to gas and water suppression in mines. Senator Dmitrich is actively exploring those possibilities.

Even through the jet lag, our first days’ meetings have made clear that our friendship with the Liaoning Province can be mutually beneficial. They have an increasingly vibrant economy, yet there are specific areas where Utah's expertise, ingenuity, and resources can be of benefit to the province while allowing Utah companies to increase international investment under favorable conditions. We will continue to build our relationships with people here in order to create an environment for Utah businesses, universities, and others to make sure that our inevitably shrinking world turns out to be a better world - for all of us.

Under the Dome

Search and Rescue

At the end of the 2007 Session, the interns gave Senate President John Valentine the prestigious "Most Likely to Rescue You from an Avalanche – Literally and Politically" award.

The Daily Herald and Deseret Morning News covered some of Utah County Search and Rescue Team’s training exercises – with Valentine front and center. Valentine has spent the last 27 years pulling people off rock ledges, out of lakes and rivers and bringing them home. He is currently a Lieutenant with the Utah County Search and Rescue.

Nice stories. Good pictures. No, he’s not really hurt.
Picture taken by Dan Lund of the Deseret Morning News.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Liaoning Visit Begins

Tomorrow a delegation from the Utah State Senate and House of Representatives will travel to our sister state in China. You can find detail in today’s Deseret Morning News and KCPW.
Here is the Itinerary.

Here is the Map. Here's one in English. And another.

Here is a terse briefing on economics and trade in China.
Anyone interested in periodic reports from Liaoning can keep an eye on this site. The delegation has a pocket full of phone cards and have promised to check in with Senate Radio from time to time.

China Facts

A few interesting facts about Chinese International Trade:
  • China's economy has averaged over 9% annual growth since 1978.
  • Per capita GDP has risen from $148 US in 1978 to $1,700 US in 2005.
  • Percentage of Chinese living in poverty has dropped from 73% in 1990 to 32% in 2003.
  • In 2005, China's total trade in goods represented about 64% of GDP.
  • In 2004, China's total trade in goods made up 6.7% of global trade.
  • Despite these gains, distribution of incomes is widening. Urban incomes are 3.2 times that of rural Chinese. This has led to some social unrest in rural areas, which are home to many of China's ethnic minorities.
  • China has made great strides to comply with many of its obligations under the WTO, however, some areas remain problematic, including export restrictions, Value Added, Tax rebates, intellectual property protection, and others.
  • China has encouraged foreign investment by creating a relatively favorable tax climate for foreign companies, with lower rates than domestic companies enjoy.
  • State-owned enterprises are being phased out in many areas, but do continue to dominate some areas, such as banking (four banks controlled by the state represent 54% of China's bank assets).
  • China has massive energy needs and vast reserves of coal, yet it also is increasingly playing in global energy markets to ensure supplies for continued growth. It has invested billions in the Sudan, including work on a pipeline to the Red Sea, and other countries like Ecuador, Syria, and Russia.
  • Manufacturing accounts for over 90% of China's merchandise exports.
  • China's latest Five Year Plan calls for doubling of year 2000 GDP per capita by 2010.
  • Restructuring of the economy, particularly with respect to state-owned enterprises and agriculture, will likely require the creation of 100 million new jobs in the next decade.
  • Much of the labor force is low-skilled and China's shift away from increasingly competitive markets for these low-skilled, labor intensive industries will require great strides in workforce development. As a result, higher education in China is undergoing rapid growth.
Sources: World Trade Organization, "Trade Policy Review: People's Republic of China" June, 2006; Business Week, "China's Widening Income Gap" Feb. 16, 2007; Energy Information Administration, "Country Analysis Briefs: China" August 2006; Susan Porter, American Council on Education, "Higher Education in China: The Next Superpower is Coming of Age".
From a briefing prepared by the Office of Legislative Research and General Counsel.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

A powerful influence for good

By Lyle Hillyard
Utah State Senator, District 25

The Center for Persons with Disabilities at USU just celebrated its 35th anniversary.

This Center has been an absolute leader in training teachers and parents in how to educate and cope with these special people.

I was asked by my neighbor to serve on an advisory board about a month before our son Matt was born (32 years ago). When he arrived, we suddenly arrived in the world of disability from the eyes of parents. I have learned so much from the great people and programs at the Center. I well remember coming to the Center to pick up my son who was about 3 years old and watching him eat by himself. I was on the other side of a two-way mirror. He finished and then took the tray over and properly emptied it. I had thought that he was so disabled that he could not do anything on his own. Those few minutes changed my life and taught me that sometimes people can do much more than we expect or will let them do.

We have been very fortunate because we have been able to accept Matt and he has become such an important part of our lives. We are all better people because of it because we have learned that while all of us are different, we are more alike than we are different.

If you have not had a chance to become acquainted with the CPD at USU, please take the time for a visit. They have outreach programs across the state and nation and could help anyone who faces the challenge of raising a child who has disabilities. I have found the greatest challenge to most parents is accepting that their child may not be the star quarterback on the football team or the class valedictorian but when we realize the influence they are in our lives and when they are accepted and loved, they can be a more powerful blessing than a star athlete or scholar. I’m grateful for my son. Matt always reminds me when everyone else seems to want to criticize that there is someone who loves without reservation and always says, “Thank you,” even for small acts of help.

Up in smoke

Weary of all these Utah wildfires? Find refuge in Hawaii, our sister blog state, and . . . oh, wait . . . .

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Happy Fourth from Utah County

By Margaret Dayton
Utah State Senator, District 15

At the beginning of the parade today, a gentleman from the police department came up to me and said (with a heavy British accent), "Today is losers’ day -- this is the day we lost!" Of course, he is happy to be here -- as we all are.

What a grand celebration of freedom! There was such an air of celebration and patriotism in Provo today as we lined up for and participated in the Freedom Festival Parade.

The Utah County Republican Party had a float. Utah County Legislators (along with family members who joined in support) had a very different view of the parade than the did the parade attendees. We didn't get to see the many impressive patriotic floats. We didn't get to hear all the bands playing Sousa marches. We didn't get to cheer for the soldiers - young and old - who participated in the parade. Being part of the parade, we missed all of that. What we did see, however, were rows and rows and rows of patriotic people - most of whom were dressed in red, white and blue and many waving flags. People sat closely together, sometimes 20 deep. Although some had the joy of a shady spot, most were sitting in the sun and cheering.

Everyone there was celebrating something bigger than all of us, and we were just one community; a few of the zillions of Americans who celebrate the blessings and the promises of freedom, and rejoice in the birth of the United States.

May God bless you and may He bless this nation.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Government by the People

By Carlene Walker
Utah State Senator, District 8

A city council decides to enact a city manager form of government. The Mayor of that city does not approve. As the two entities are both elected, and must work in tandem, who has the final say?

Voters?

The Legislature?

For the city of Bluffdale, this issue is not hypothetical anymore (see the Deseret Morning News and the Salt Lake Tribune stories).

The Local Issues Task Force is working on a permanent statutory fix. Our number one guiding principle, as accepted by the committee, is voter input. Specifically, "Respect for Voters - Voters should have a say in any change in the form of municipal government."

We are working closely with the League of Cities and Towns to come to a consensus opinion as to how the form of government in a city might be changed in an orderly fashion, and inclusive of citizen input. If both the mayor and city council are in agreement - fine. Both are elected and represent their citizens. There would probably be no need for a special election. If, however, there were disagreement I believe you need to have a vote of the people living within that municipality.

That's the direction we're headed right now. Draft legislation will be discussed at the next task force meeting (July 23rd, 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.)

I would appreciate your thoughtful input. You can E-mail me (cwalker 'at' utahsenate.org) or post comments to this blog.

Thank you!

Happy Fourth



Hat tip: Marshall Hendrickson's new blog site.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Summertime and the livin' is easy



June/July at the Capitol: Laura the Intern, now Laura the Administrative Assistant, took these a few days ago. Click to enlarge.

News from the Garden

By Lyle Hillyard
Utah State Senator, District 25

My garden (except for the carrots and onions) is really growing well this year. I just dug my first new potatoes and the peas and zucchini will be ready for the first picking during the week. My brother-in-law, who usually helps me, has left for an 18 month mission with his wife in Edinburgh, Scotland so I am on my own until next April. I am glad that I have found out how much space the pumpkins (8 hills) and the banana squash (3 hills) take up. While it is sometimes hard to find people to help work in the garden, it is never hard to find people who will help me eat. I think I learned that while very young in reading the story of the Little Red Hen.

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