Welcome to The Senate Site

Friday, August 31, 2007

The New Rampton Boardroom

The Governor's Boardroom in the newly renovated Utah State Capitol will be named after former governor Cal Rampton.

Here's the press release.

Remember the Governor's Boardroom in the old Capitol Building - through the double doors, behind the glass wall? In the restored Capitol that space will be occupied by the governor's reception area. The Cal Rampton Boardroom will be located directly to the north.

More from the press release:
This boardroom has been designed consistent with historic finishes throughout the capitol. The light fixtures, drapery, painting, carpet, and furnishings will be historically accurate to 1915. However, the boardroom table - which replicates the governor's original table - will also hold power and data connections. A wooden cabinet will house state-of-the-art technology, including screens, speakers, cameras and other telecommunications gear, making this room both cutting edge and uniquely historic.
Cutting edge and uniquely historic. A tribute certainly fit for Governor Rampton.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Word from the Capitol

"Ugly, mean and expensive"

KVNU's For the People quotes the Wall Street Journal Editorial:
Voucher Showdown
August 29, 2007; Page A14

The Utah legislature passed one of the nation’s most far-sighted voucher laws in February, and the state teachers union is calling in the national cavalry to help repeal it in a November 6 referendum.

Last month Kim Campbell, the head of the Utah Education Association, schlepped all the way to Philadelphia to speak at a National Education Association convention, where she asked the board of directors for financial support to oppose school choice. Ms. Campbell promised that her campaign to defeat it “will be ugly, mean and expensive,” and she needs the outside cash to overwhelm pro-voucher supporters in the state. Look for other liberal activists to pour cash into what will be the most significant state-wide ballot test for school choice in years.

The Utah union chief made her out-of-state trek, by the way, even as one of her spokesmen back home denounced the “river of money from out-of-state ideologues intent on starting a voucher experiment in Utah.” Apparently, out-of-state contributions are only tainted when they’re used to support something the teachers union opposes.

In any case, Ms. Campbell’s plea didn’t fall on deaf ears. Mike Antonucci of the Education Intelligence Agency, a union watchdog, reported recently that the Utah union’s $3 million request for its anti-voucher campaign was approved. The union’s executive director wouldn’t confirm or deny the amount when we inquired, but she did volunteer that “we’re reaching out to the national affiliate for support and assistance, and we’re hoping it will be significant.” You can bet it will be.

Neither confirm nor deny?

"What is this, the Pentagon Papers? It will be public record as soon as UEA receives it and starts spending it on ads, billboards, consultants and paper clips. The evasiveness is just too cute for words."

- Intercepts, by the Education Intelligence Agency

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Summer of 2007

Sometimes we forget: Utah is a great place to play. The Office of Tourism does a pretty good job telling people about it. Compare to, say, Newfoundland. Or Wisconsin. Or even Greece. Or Korea.

Coal Mines

Minority Leader Dmitrich represents the area in which the Crandall Mine is located. He posted a good blog on the minority site about the families, searchers, officials and all those involved in the rescue effort, and coal mining in general. Excerpts:
"Coal mining provides a livelihood for many miners and their families in my Senate district. It should be noted that other coal mines in eastern Utah continue to operate safely. The safety record of Utah’s coal mines has been good until the Crandall incident. I hope this incident demands increased emphasis on safety for our miners. Coal production is a vital component of Utah’s economy. The Utah coal mining industry employs nearly 2,000 people. In 2006, 25.5 million short tons of coal were mined at a value of over $570 million. Coal provides more than 50 percent of our nation’s electrical generation, validating the immediate requirement for high levels of safety for miners."

"At this time of angst, I would like to express my concern for the trapped miners and their families. They have experienced emotions that none of us can fathom, and I certainly hope for a positive outcome. Also at this time of tragedy, I would like to extend my condolences to the families of the three rescuers who perished and my appreciation to the six rescuers and their families who were injured in their courageous attempt to locate the trapped miners. I hope those who were injured will soon return to good health."

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Kudos to the Speaker

By Lyle Hillyard
Utah State Senator, District 25

I just returned from the annual meeting of the Uniform State Law Commissioners and witnessed an event that all political junkies in Utah should have seen. Speaker Greg Curtis is also a commissioner and was asked to serve as the Chair of a Committee of the Whole while a proposed act was being debated.

The Committee of the Whole is the entire conference and while there are about 300 attorneys who are members only about 150 to 200 are usually present during the presentation. Speaker Curtis’s job was to allow members of the drafting committee read a section and then open the group to questions or comments from the attorneys present. Speaker Curtis was given a drafting committee that had caused much concern last year when the President of the Conference tried to push the bill through the first year, which is against the tradition and pride of the group. One of the issues that had not been completed last year was a recommendation on tort immunity and, of course, the fight between the trial lawyers and the business lawyers quickly rose to the surface.

Greg handled the fight beautifully. His quick sense of humor helped lower the tension and you could quickly see that, while he did not seek this job, he had the skills to handle it. The culmination came when a former President and highly respected member of the Conference for many years made a motion which was hotly debated. Greg turned to him after the debate to sum up on this motion and the member suddenly changed the motion to something else. Greg, still in control, firmly said: Sir, I have presided over many debates but I have never let any one change their motion while summing it up. His motion failed and Greg immediately recognized him again to make the motion he wanted. I had a number of members tell me after that meeting of how impressed they were of his ability. I would just smile and say the Utah House of Representatives schools their leaders well.

Dog Days

That On-line Town Meeting siphoned away a year’s worth of our Web 2.0 vitality. No man, woman, or child should become that entwined with a blog. The Town Meeting was good, though, and we appreciated the questions and comments. Responses are still being posted as they trickle in.

Time to get back in the saddle – Lyle Hillyard’s garden has begun to bear raspberries, a public hearing on property taxes is in the works, and the move back to the beautifully-renovated historic Capitol Building is fast approaching – with the 2008 Legislative Session close on it’s heels.

Hope everyone is having a good August.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Heads Up

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

The Town Meeting Is On (line)

We’re putting the Senate Site aside for a few days to devote attention to an on-line town meeting forum for the Legislative Site Visit this week.

On-line Town Meeting (www.utahsitevisit.com)

More here:
For several reasons, such as a packed itinerary, a plethora of diverse communities, etc., the traditional "brick and mortar" town meeting was impractical this year. We decided to take to the web.

This on-line town meeting replaces 3X5 cards with E-mail, replaces the brick and mortar of an auditorium with whatever surrounds your computer, shrinks geography and tosses the clock out the window.

Welcome to the Town Meeting. We will be here for the duration of the site visit. Maybe a few of us will stay and chat afterwards.
We planned to wait until the entire site was finished, proof-read, nailed-down and packaged before unveiling it, but then remembered this is 2007, the budding era of the open-source republic. Several hundred brains are better than one. We’d love to have your suggestions, especially if they come with pre-written text and/or HTML code.

One thing we need is a graphic. Maybe the blue line drawing picture of the capitol is classy enough, but we were thinking of something that speaks to the social and literal landscape of Salt Lake and Davis Counties: Wasatch Mountains, city skyline, Antelope Island, etc., maybe elements of Norman Rockwell’s Freedom of Speech painting… a Utah Town Meeting motif. Any takers among the artists out there?

We’re plowing new ground, but it should be fun. Let us know what you think.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Still waiting . . .

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Stay Off the Road

Surfing the Senate Site from New England? Keep your eyes peeled for a silver Durango with an Thifty Car Rental bumper sticker and a sub-woofer pounding a ZZ Top baseline.

A critical mass of state power is scheduled to be back in Boston after meeting with HHS Officials in DC. Problem is, all flights out of DC were canceled. Something about heavy thunderstorms, rain and tornadoes.

Reportedly, Reagan National Airport was a zoo. Nothing was moving. So the five legislative leaders decided to pull an all nighter. Road-trip! Dodge Durango. DC to Boston.

You can call 801-538-1035 to a) wish them well, b) ask them to slow down, or c) tell them to hang up and drive.

Smokey and the Bandit(s):
  • Senate Majority Leader Curt Bramble
  • Assistant Whip Sheldon Killpack,
  • Speaker of the House Greg Curtis
  • House Majority Leader Dave Clark
  • House Vice Chair of Executive Appropriations Becky Lockhart
Movie rights are up for grabs.

Huntington Canyon

By John Valentine
President of the Utah State Senate

We've been at NCSL this week, but much of our attention has been riveted on the rescue efforts to recover the trapped miners in Huntington. Utah is not alone in our worry and concern; during my time here dozens of my colleagues from other states have approached me to express hope and condolence. I appreciate their sincerity and kindness.

Just a few more hours and the first rescue drill will be down to the cavity where they believe the six miners are likely to be trapped. We'll know then, hopefully, if there are survivors. We deeply appreciate all those who are working tirelessly to recover the trapped miners. We also appreciate the Governor and the Consul General of Mexico for their concern and quick reaction.

The miners and their families remain in our prayers.

Links to more information:
Dave Fletcher's blog with the latest

Salt Lake Tribune

Deseret Morning News on Utah's Mining Tradition

KSL: Rescue Drill Closing In

Photos from the Deseret Morning News

News from CNN and ABC

Photo Essay on Fox News and MSNBC and CNN.

Romney Wins

By John Valentine
President of the Utah State Senate

Here at the Annual Meeting in Boston, the National Conference of State Legislatures conducted a Presidential Straw Poll.

The results?
Mitt Romney: 36 percent
Fred Thompson: 23 percent
Rudy Giuliani: 16 percent
Mike Huckabee: 8 percent
John McCain: 8 percent
Ron Paul: 3 percent
Sam Brownback: 3 percent
Tom Thompson: 1 percent
Newt Gingrich (write in): 1 percent
On the Democratic side
Hillary Clinton: 31 percent
John Edwards: 26 percent
Barack Obama: 20 percent
Bill Richardson: 10 percent
Joe Biden: 7 percent
Chris Dodd: 3 percent
Dennis Kucinich: 2 percent
Al Gore (write in): 1 percent
I find it heartening that Mitt Romney is doing so well among opinion leaders throughout the nation. Mitt is a good man and offers the candlepower and executive skill set we need to lead this nation.

[UPDATE:] The media staff at NCSL produced this WMV Video on the Straw Poll and this press release.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Local Boys Make Good

In Boston this week, Senator Curt Bramble was selected to serve on NCSL's Executive Committee.

On the presidential campaign trail, it looks like Senators Ross Romero, Scott McCoy, and Fred Fife have been asked to serve on Bill Richardson's Steering Committee.

Congrats all.

25 Ideas

Hawaii gives us a snapshot of the 25 Ideas we blogged about here. It's easier to read than our PDF doc.

We'll ponder the list here on Capitol Hill but we'd love hear from you, gentle reader. Is there anything on this list we should incorporate here in Utah?

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Boston 2007

By John Valentine
President of the Utah Senate

Legislators and staffers throughout the nation will participate in a phenomenal gathering of the National Conference of State Legislatures this week in Boston. I was honored by an invitation to share a little about the Senate Site in a forum discussing interactive technologies for communicating with the public.

The question: how to encapsulate this two-year experiment in 15 minutes or less? Here's my outline:
Making state government informative, inclusive, classy, competent, and fun.

* The Blog Site :: Keeping the Board of Directors informed and involved.

* The Supporting Web Pages :: Profiles, Archives, About, Contact, etc.

* Senate Radio :: Curing insomnia since 2006.

* Audio Snapshots :: How is the session going so far, Senator Killpack?

* The Status of Bill Hickman :: A little respect for Diety.

* The Senate Cam :: Introducing Little Brother. (Big Brother is so 1984.

Some of you have been reading this site since the beginning. Is there anything about the contribution this site has made - positive or negative - that I should mention to others who may want to do something similar?

Worth Stealing?

In State Legislatures Magazine, Pam Greenberg listed 25 Great Online Ideas Worth Stealing.

The Senate Site was number five. Politicopia got a nice sidebar (see page 63). And there is a veritable cornucopia of progressive ideas from legislatures nationwide.

Two thoughts:

1. If you want to build something like the Senate Site, you don’t have to steal a thing. Just drop us a line. We believe in this stuff and would be glad to help you instigate something similar.

2. What ideas from our sister-states do you think we should adopt here in Utah?

Friday, August 03, 2007

Love the Constitution?

The Constitutional Revision Commission (CRC) scrutinizes the Utah State Constitution and makes recommendations on possible changes to the Governor and Legislature. They also advise the Governor and Legislature on proposed constitutional amendments.

And we need two citizens to step up and serve. Want to apply?

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Math Standards

By Howard Stephenson
Utah State Senator, District 8

Tomorrow the State School Board will approve or deny sub par math standards for Utah's schools. The House and Senate Education Chairs (Senator Dayton, Representative Hughes and I) have asked the board to reject new standards that are anything less than world class.

For anyone who may be interested, we sent this E-mail to the Board

and attached this PDF document.

3000 Words

Senate President John Valentine is second in line to be governor should tragedy strike. Today he had the sobering honor of signing a prospective oath of office. We like him here in the Senate so staff are praying daily for the Guv’s well-being.
8/2/07: Partly sunny. Slight breeze promises stormy weather. Craftsmen in orange vests continue renovating the Historic Capitol Building. Helicopter buzzes overhead. Tourists wander. A camera crew films something or other.

Senator Killpack: “Don’t worry. I’ve got it all under control.”

Word from Hawaii

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Word from Upstairs*

Received an E-mail from the new Fiscal Analyst today (links and bold added):
>>> Jonathan Ball 8/1/2007 11:28 AM >>>
I am pleased to announce that Steven Allred will serve as the Deputy Director of the fiscal office effective July 30. You all know Steve. He is a great analyst and an excellent person. Please join me in congratulating and/or consoling him -- depending upon your perspective. ;-)
Steven Allred has served in the trenches for about 10 years. We like him because he knows his stuff. He is quiet, but savvy, with a reputation for integrity, analytical skill, and thorough preparation.

Steve holds an undergraduate degree in Political Science and a Masters in Public Administration from BYU. Before joining us he served as a Presidential Management Intern for the Department of Defense. Congrats, Steve, and best of luck in your new role.

* "Word from Upstairs," in this case means E-mail from the third floor of the West/House Building. It should not be confused with the periodic E-mail we receive from the Eagle Forum.

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