Here's ninja staffer Jerry Howe as quoted in today's UPD:
“It comes as only a slight exaggeration when legislators compare a general session to drinking water from a fire hose! At this point in the session, the Legislature has more bill files opened (1,029), more bills numbered (434), and more bills assigned to committee (409), than it has had in any session in recent memory, and perhaps even in the history of the State.”
1) We want to give each bill due consideration, and 2) We need to finish our work by the stroke of midnight on the 45th day of session (March 5th).
So President Valentine asked the senate to work late tonight. All parties agreed. We got a lot done.
Audio and video of evening floor time are archived here (see "Part Two" on the bottom half of the page).
Dave Fletcher: The success of eGov initiatives is critically founded on the concept of trust. And a tutorial slideshow...that we're going to look at when session is over.
The LDSChurch included President Valentine's YouTube on the passing of Gordon B. Hinckley on their web site. Is that a first? You can still see clips of senate leaders from both sides of the aisle here. And you can watch the moment of silence in the Senate Chamber and reflections from state senators from all points of the political spectrum here.
Health care 2: A Trib reporter, dressed in a cheer squad outfit, gives a holler for the Governor. No hint of any other viewpoint on the issue. If she had called us her readers would have learned President Valentine thinks the executive and legislative branches need to hammer this out together.
KSL pens a nice editorial about President Gordon B. Hinckley.
Senator Pat Jones: still wanna throw trash out your window? Highway littering fine will increase from $100 to $250. You're welcome.
Senate committee approves funding for a Vets Home. Not because we know the Feds will come through for vets, but because vets need it, and we're not sure the feds will come through for vets. DNews. SLTrib.
[Update @ 4:00 p.m.] Paul Rolly just called with concerns about #10, above. So . . . for Mr. Rolly and anyone out there who may have missed it: The cheer squad outfit mentioned above was figurative.* We were saying – at sixish a.m. – that this article seemed to be cheering for the Guv.
* Of course it was figurative. It's a printed article. How would we know what the reporter was wearing when the article was written? I was wearing an Echo & the Bunnymen T-shirt when I pounded out the blog. Now, if I were talking about TV Reporter Rod DECKER wearing a cheerleading outfit, THAT would be another story. (Apologies for planting that visual in your minds.)
So, the Sierra Club and HEAL Utah have decided to oppose something else. They seem to have worked themselves into a degree of outrage over a bogeyman of an energy bill they say is "nothing more than a wolf in sheep's clothing that could stall renewable energy development in Utah for decades." They say it is full of "handouts, caveats, and loopholes." And so on, and so on.
Problem is, the bill has yet to be written.
All we have is a draft that will serve as a starting point for a stakeholders meeting tomorrow (Tuesday) afternoon.
A meeting to which they have been invited.
Why not join the discussion? If there is something in the draft bill they think will be less than effective, why not roll up the sleeves and assist with the real work of getting the bill right?
Taking to the streets when others are willing to engage doesn't seem to indicate a real desire to solve problems.
Statement on the passing of President Gordon B. Hinckley
John Valentine President of the Utah State Senate
Karen and I were heartbroken to hear of the passing of this great leader, wonderful man, and servant of God. He inspired us to be kinder and more compassionate in our daily lives. We will remember him not only as a man of God but as a world leader. His words and his legacy will continue to bless and encourage all of us for generations to come.
As Utahns, we were incredibly fortunate to hear one of President Hinckley's final public addresses when he rededicated the newly restored State Capitol Building on January 4th. May we all rededicate ourselves to all the good he left us by word and example.
Ambassador John Bruton, the European Union’s Ambassador to the United States, visited the Utah State Senate today. Feeling “at home” on the Senate floor, Ambassador Bruton analogized the feelings of loss and opportunity associated with Irish emigration to Utah’s pioneer heritage. He said the same feelings of loss and opportunity accompany the United States’ and the European Union’s challenges regarding energy consumption and global climate change.
Ambassador Bruton also discussed how his visit to Utah was a reminder of the European Union’s and Utah’s interdependence. In 2005, $11 billion of the $12 billion invested in Utah came from the European Union, while in 2006, Utah exported three times more goods and services to the European Union than it did to China, Japan, India, and Korea combined. Check out some pictures of Ambassador Bruton below.
Just received this E-mail from the Tax Commission:
The Tax Commission has received concerns the Jan. 1, 2008 withholding schedules result in over withholding for some taxpayers. The Tax Commission is researching the situation and will determine in the next two weeks if modifications to the tables need to be made.
The glitch doesn't include all state employees - just a subset of those with a higher-than-average number of allowances. The Tax Commission is analyzing their schedules to see if they can fine tune them and issue more accurate tables. Word on the street is that the numbers are off in this article.
------ SMS ext ------ From: 83043 Sent: Jan 22, 2008 12:25 PM SENATEMOBILE: Senate passes cost of living & pension increases for state public safety officers. Also passes compensation for those exonerated of crimes.
Hurry and get in front of this one! So, a day after the DNews reported on legislative solutions for our airlines and while three of our legislative leaders were actually in Atlanta talking to Delta, the Air Transportation Promotion Alliance suddenly blossoms into existence. On the other hand, the really cool thing about all this is that it is the first time in memory the Gov's Office, the Legislature and the Mayor of Salt Lake are working together on . . . anything. If we unite our efforts we really should be able to maximize Utah's opportunities.
By Chris Buttars Utah State Senator, District 10: South Jordan, West Jordan, and Herriman
I believe the plan to create new school districts was formed with good intentions by those wishing to improve communication and cooperation between school districts and parents. Unintended consequences, however, are common in even the most well-thought proposals. In the case of creating new school districts, the unintended consequences are significant.
Though there are several major problems, I am most alarmed by the lack of definition for the term "equalization." If "equalization" is not realized prior to the new districts' commencement of services, then I believe we will have a disaster.
We can avoid this tragedy if we successfully and equitably define "equalization." This definition must consider and resolve the following issues:
1. Property Tax: "Equalization" must level the playing field regarding districts in harm’s way. Depending upon whose research you consider, in the present split, the property tax in southwest districts could increase over 300%. I believe "equalization" must address this issue to the point that Property Tax could not be allowed to increase more than 50% in a given year, and no more than 150% over a five-year cycle.
2. Asset Distribution: All assets, including approved but not yet allocated bonding balances, must be distributed on an equitable and balanced basis.
3. Statewide School Building Priority List: A process whereby the funding of new school facilities are prioritized must be encompassed by the definition of "equalization."
4. Funding of a Yearly Base: This minimum base would be used to build and fund prioritized school facilities. I believe this base must be, at least, one hundred million dollars yearly.
5. Base Funding Primary Source: I believe the majority of the base funding must be supplied through State Income Taxes.
6. Equalization Plan MUST be resolved in the 2008 Session: In the event that "equalization" as described is not achieved in the 2008 session, I consider it a priority that legislation be signed by the Governor delaying new school districts from offering services until "equalization" is realized.
Martin Luther King's birthday is celebrated on the same day the Utah Constitution mandates we begin the legislative session: the third Monday of January. Until the voters amend the constitution this November. Or not. But we expect they will.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was among this nation's foremost orators and the youngest person to ever receive the Nobel Peace Prize. He championed the concepts embodied in the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Dr. King practiced and advocated non-violence, despite the violence that often surrounded the Civil Right Movement. Violence would eventually claim his life, but violence will never extinguish the spirit of human equality his life stood for.
Today, the Senate remembered Dr. King, by hearing from Trystan Smith, Chair of the MLK Human Rights Commission, and Bishop John C. Wester of the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake.
We hope his message rings throughout the session, if not the year.
From his speech at Alabama's State Capital Building:
"Somebody’s asking, 'How long will prejudice blind the visions of men, darken their understanding, and drive bright-eyed wisdom from her sacred throne?' Somebody’s asking, 'When will wounded justice, lying prostrate on the streets ... be lifted from this dust of shame to reign supreme among the children of men?' Somebody’s asking, 'When will the radiant star of hope be plunged against the nocturnal bosom of this lonely night, ... plucked from weary souls with chains of fear and the manacles of death? How long will justice be crucified, ... and truth bear it?'
"I come to say to you this afternoon, however difficult the moment, ... however frustrating the hour, it will not be long, ... because 'truth crushed to earth will rise again.'
"How long? Not long, ... because 'no lie can live forever.'
"How long? Not long, ... because 'you shall reap what you sow.'"
And it begins. Watch or listen live from your computer. Or come visit. Here is the senate schedule for the first week of the legislative session (and here's the schedule for the House of Represenatatives).
You love the senate, but blog prose can be so text-heavy. Well . . . now you can sign up for short daily updates on your cell phone.
Senate Mobile. Here's how:
1. Text the word Senate to 83043.
2. You'll receive a confirmation message.
3. You'll start receiving periodic (daily?) updates from the Senate.
4. You can get those updates immediately, anytime, by resending the word 'Senate' to 83043.
5. Media reps can text the word News to the same number (83043) to get breaking news and last-minute minutiae on media availability, press conferences, etc.
6. To opt out just text the word Stop to the same number.
Easy as pie,
thanks to revolutionaries Jeremy Po and Hugh Bryant Plautz at Vox Partners, Inc. who caught the vision and threw gasoline on the Government 2.0 fire.
Side Note: We're excited about Senate Mobile and planned to send a media notice early Friday afternoon, but then the phone rang a hundred times, Capitol renovation workers kept walking in and out getting everything ship shape, and a thousand miscellaneous tasks had to be checked off before session starts. And then there was the bubble wrap. We just didn't get it done. Best laid plans . . .
We've discussed this on the Senate Site after too many bitterly tragic cases of senior-caused car fatalities. It's not anonymous reporting, it is reporting that will be kept confidential. There is a big difference. This bill will save lives.
Another of my controversial bills – the Animal Cruelty Amendment - was brought before the Senate in the Special Session in August. We're almost finished ironing out the text. Essentially, it will make the second animal cruelty offense a felony if it occurs within 5 years of a first offense.
By Jon Greiner Utah State Senator representing [parts of] Davis and Weber Counties
The Retirement Committee was unanimous in approval of the Surviving Spouse Bill. It raises the cap on death benefits for the spouse of a member of the police public safety retirement systems. This bill is of special importance to me because I work for the public outside of the Legislature, have seen firsthand the needs of this group of people. If anyone out there has anything to add, I would like to hear it.
The State Fire Chief has requested legislation that would permit him to have increased decision making authority on small fires and fire on private lands. It makes sense to me. So I'm running this bill.
One bill I'm running this session deals with compensation of exonerees (those in prison later found innocent by other than DNA evidence). Those proven factually--not just technically--innocent will receive financial assistance.
Many states have been settling or paying damages in such cases. This bill provides limited, but clearly stated compensation and cuts off further claim against the state.
I think it's the right thing to do, but I would be interested in public input, here or in committee.
By Chris Buttars Utah State Senator, District 10: South Jordan, West Jordan, and Herriman
There seems to be a major rush to convince Law Enforcement Agencies and the public, that because beer and Alcopops both have an alcohol content of 3.2, they are essentially the same and therefore can be sold or marketed in the same manner. One argument is, "3.2 is 3.2 is 3.2…so what’s the big deal?"
It’s a great sound bite. But it is just flat wrong. To put it simply, the facts are this:
BEER is a product produced by fermentation of any malted grain. And under Utah Law, can be licensed and sold in grocery stores and convenience stores.
ALCOPOPS, under Utah Law, are classified as liquor. And liquor products, again under Utah Law, can only be sold in State Liquor stores and approved package agencies.
(5) (a) "Beer" means any product that: (i) contains 63/100 of 1% of alcohol by volume or 1/2 of 1% of alcohol by weight, but not more than 4% of alcohol by volume or 3.2% by weight; and (ii) is obtained by fermentation, infusion, or decoction of any malted grain. (b) Beer may or may not contain hops or other vegetable products. (c) Beer includes a product that: (i) contains alcohol in the percentages described in Subsection (5)(a); and (ii) is referred to as: (A) malt liquor; (B) malted beverages; or (C) malt coolers.
(24) (a) "Liquor" means alcohol, or any alcoholic, spirituous, vinous, fermented, malt, or other liquid, or combination of liquids, a part of which is spirituous, vinous, or fermented, and all other drinks, or drinkable liquids that contain more than 1/2 of 1% of alcohol by volume and is suitable to use for beverage purposes. (b) "Liquor" does not include any beverage defined as a beer, malt liquor, or malted beverage that has an alcohol content of less than 4% alcohol by volume.
1. Alcopops are currently being marketed in the same manner as Beer, which is illegal under Utah Law.
2. Alcopops need to be classified and taxed under Utah Law as “Liquor”.
3. Selling or promoting Alcopops in retail stores represents nothing less than an insidious ploy to introduce our kids into the liquor industry and their products.
If you've been here during session you know parking can be a beast. Here are a few sweet public parking spots:
The East Lot. It is reserved exclusively for public parking.
The Northeast Lot. We have 180 new spots in the Northeast Lot for employees and the public to share. First come, first served.
The Streets. 450 construction workers have parked on the streets around the Capitol for the past few years. This year, the number is closer to 50. The streets are fair game. Respect the signage in the neighborhoods. Some streets have signs posted with 1 hour parking or no parking at all.
If you don't want to mess with it, UTA sends a bus to Capitol Hill every 15 minutes from downtown Salt Lake. We are part of the downtown "Free Zone."
The other evening, I was outside shoveling my driveway and walks (for the third time in 24 hours) when a neighbor came over and asked if I wanted to borrow their snow blower.I told her that I have always loved to shovel walks and doing so reminded me of my youth when I grew up on a small farm in Northern Cache Valley.Whenever there was a big snow storm, my father would awaken me early and the boys would all go out and work shoveling paths to the various pens, barns, and driveways so the vehicles could get out.We often went to help neighbors just because they needed it.When we arrived home, we could smell the hot chocolate that my mother made (none of this instant stuff) as we entered the house.My mother had a job so most mornings, breakfast was just eggs and bacon with toast.
After shoveling the walks I love to see that I have accomplished something and while I don’t drink hot chocolate any more, a bowl of hot cereal with a handful of raisins really hits the spot.I am sure if I had a snow blower, I would be tinkering to make it work and be done so fast that there would be no silent contemplation that being alone in the outdoors can accommodate.
Karen Mayne will become Utah's newest state senator on Wednesday, January 16, at 9:00 a.m. The short swearing-in ceremony will be the first official function in our/your new Senate Chambers. You are invited.
Utah Policy Daily (subscribe) gave us a mention today in the left column. The only thing I would add is that we're trying to enhance/add dimension to, not circumvent, traditional media. Web 2.0 helps, but can't do it alone.
We received this from the Governor's Office. The Senate Minority Leader posted this.
The new senator will be sworn in on the first day of the legislative session.
[UDATE:] We moved Senator Mayne's swear-in date to Wednesday, January 16th, so her district would have a vote in appropriations sub-committee meetings that day. It will be the first official action in the newly restored and remodeled and restored Senate Chamber. Call us if you need more information.
We invited Michael Castner to help tell the story of the 2008 Legislative Session.
You know Michael. He led the Nightside Project from a gleam in KSL's eye to Utah's number one show on evening radio. His team was smart, funny, human and independent. They broke the mold, pioneering radio interaction with listeners. More about Michael here.
On our side, the Senate Site and the Utah Legislature Site have broken some new ground in providing citizens the opportunity to connect with the government they elected and for which they are accountable. We think Michael can help bring that to a new level.