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Saturday, May 31, 2008

KCPW: Education Bill Lawsuit

The Senate Education Chair talks about political grandstanding a lawsuit on the Education Bill on KCPW. Eric Ray reports:
Republican Senator Howard Stephenson calls a lawsuit questioning the constitutionality of an omnibus education bill passed by lawmakers this year nothing more than election year politics.

"The plaintiffs know that there's no substance to the lawsuit. Omnibus bills have been done on single subjects, as this has been, for years in the state of Utah and have been found to be valid," says Stephenson. "I think if this was not an election year, this lawsuit would not have been filed."

Stephenson says the fact that the suit wasn't taken directly to the Supreme Court, and was instead filed in district court, is evidence of an attack by the plaintiffs on the Republican dominated legislature. He says the legal process will take longer, and gain extensive media exposure, by filing the suit in district court:

"They see this as a very low cost way of improving certain people's chances for reelection, and a chance of defeating conservative Republicans," says Stephenson. "This is just money in the bank for them. It's earned media and they don't have to pay for the advertising because the media will cover it for them."


Blogger Jeremy said...

Why should there be any political problems with the method you guys used to pass these bills?

If Senator Howard (I Like Sticking Bills That Can't Pass On Their Own Into Omnibus Packages) Stephenson thinks that there might be negative voter reaction to publicity of his illegal legislating tactics maybe he should quit trying to game the system.

Sen. Stephenson can complain about political opportunism by his opponents all he wants but the fact remains that you guys provided your opponents with this ammunition. Any "political granstanding" should have been expected when you resorted to legislation by Omnibus.

6/01/2008 9:47 AM  
Blogger CraigJ said...

Jeremy is right.

Based on Howard's comments, who exactly is grandstanding? Leave it to Howard Stephenson to not only push through a bad bill but to try to score points for his "team" in the process.

For some reason you guys look at politics first, policy second. Maybe if you switched the order you wouldn't have so many people angry with you.

It was a bad bill and a bad decision, plain and simple. You're going to lose this one in court if you persist. However, there is an easy solution - call a special session and disaggregate the bill. Problem solved.

6/01/2008 10:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The far right conservative Republicans are sounding nervous. Calling a demand for the democratic process "political grandstanding" tells me you all know you've been caught.

6/01/2008 10:06 PM  
Anonymous Something's Rotten in Denmark said...

Why wouldn't they have filed it directly to the Supreme Court of UT like the school district did?

If the 38 plaintiffs want a quick decision, and are confident of a win, that's the way to do it.

If it's frivolous, and they're looking to keep it in the court system until around...say...November-ish for the election, hoping to sway the outcome, then they did the right thing by filing w/a district court.

6/02/2008 1:14 PM  
Anonymous Tom said...

@ S.R.I. Denmark: I'm a bit surprised to see the exact same comment (punctuation, spacing, and all) copied directly from the editorial in the Standard Examiner. I have the same question now as I did when I read it there: what do you mean "like the school district did"? Huh?

I've read through several Supreme Court decisions re the Article VI Sec 22 claim, and to my recollection, each of those cases started in district court before moving to the Supreme Court. Why should this one be any different?

6/02/2008 5:30 PM  
Anonymous Sen. McCoy said...

Actually the reason the suit was filed in district court is because that is the Court that has jurisdiction over the claims. Supreme Court jurisdiction is limited to a few areas by statute. The reason this is different than the voucher referendum suit is that the referendum statute provides for original and direct Supreme Court jurisdiction and review, mostly because there are election deadlines that must be met when dealing with an issue that must go on the ballot. Believe me if there were any way to have filed directly with the Supreme Court, we would have.

As for the accusation that this is merely political, the plaintiffs are a balanced group of Republicans and Democrats. I think that Sen. Stephenson's resort to this accusation says a lot about the veracity of their argument in defense of the "process" that he and leadership followed.

It is a bit puzzling also given that Sen. Stephenson came up to me after the debate on the bill and let me know that he thought the process was bad and that he was committed to not allowing omnibus bills like this in the future. I'm not sure which Sen. Stephenson I should believe any more. I guess he and I will just have to work through that on our own.

As an attorney and a legislator, I am particularly interested in vindicating our constitutional provisions. The Constitution is the highest law of the land. No one is above it. Not even legislative leadership. This lawsuit would have been filed even if it were not an election year. I would also say that it would have been filed if the Democrats were running the show and they tried to pull such a stunt.

As for the "there have been omnibus bills in the past" argument, there may have been but 1) that doesn't make it right and 2) never have I seen a situation were bills that actually failed to pass either the House or the Senate were rolled up with bills that had passed both chambers. These circumstances have not presented themselves before, which is why the suit is particularly warranted.

6/03/2008 2:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you Sen. McCoy (and Rep. Allen +38) for taking on the hard core conservatives who at one time were probably pretty good people. SB 2 illustrates what happens when power is left unchecked.

6/04/2008 10:39 AM  

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