Spring is almost here and it shows in the sartorial splendor styled by Senate President Valentine and KSL-TV reporter, Rich Piatt. Orange ties are the way to go for Capitol Cool Cats this spring. Can you say, "Who are you wearing?"
Last night, Rod Decker used Senator Killpack in a piece about car insurance rates. However, he called him Darwin Killpack. Multiple times. Luckily, Senator Sheldon Killpack has a sense of humor. See the clip below.
Our lawmakers for years have worried about school lunch programs. Now it is our turn to get worried. What kind of laws can you pass when your breakfast spread includes cookies, M & M's and a plethora of carbs? Where is the outrage from the press? Lisa Riley Roche? Holly Mullen? Rich Piatt? Ethan Millard? Its clear that sugar is the answer to lawmaking late into the night.
Okay . . . So we host the press in the Senate President's office with the Senate Majority Leadership every day after floor sessions. Today, we had a budget press conference across the hall in the lounge so I'm thinking . . . "Hey. Why move? Lets do it all here."
Well... I forgot to tell ALL of the press.
A couple of anxious reporters rushed right into the Senate President's office, thinking they were late for the media session. Instead, they walked into a closed door negotiation. The backside you see below blocking the door (post-reporter interruptions) belongs to the Chief Deputy of the Senate, Ric Cantrell. Here's the audio of the Senate President and Senator Hillyard reacting to the meeting interruptus.
7:30 AM - Got a Utah Driver’s License. After all it’s only two years overdue. I get an 88% on the open book test. They look at me oddly when I ask for the questions I missed. Apparently it wasn’t open for debate.
9:00AM - Meeting in the President’s office followed by a meeting in Sen. Killpack’s office.
9:30AM - Greet my old Nightside partner Paul Nelson from KSL Radio and connect him with Sen. Christensen to talk about Puppy Torture Bill ..oops..I mean Puppy Love.
9:45 AM - Start to work on getting a press conference set up for the Immigration Bill. I check with Chief Deputy Ric Cantrell and the bill sponsor Sen. Hickman and they both sign off on it. The question is, when will the bill come up? We are told 11:00AM.
11:00AM - No sign of the Immigration Bill. We are told by noon. I walk around telling all the reporters change of plans.
11:30AM - We are told another change of plans. More adjustments need to be made on the bill. It will come after 2pm.
11:40AM - Lisa Riley Roche from the Deseret News has requested an interview with Sen. Buttars regarding his meeting Sunday with a church. Rich Piatt from KSL-TV has also asked. I take them both back to the Senator’s office one after the other. Each of them takes about 7 minutes. Yes, I count the minutes.
11:54 AM - The Press Availability with the Majority in the Senate President’s office starts up. The President announces a change in a committee’s leadership. The Trib’s Robert Gehrke grabs the President outside the office to ask about the change. The Prez says little more than he did the press conference.
12:15 AM - The Senate Majority Caucus starts up. This, after Des News Reporter Lee Davidson has a “chat” with the Majority leader. Davidson is a LOUD chatter.
2:00 PM – We are back on the floor for an afternoon session. Immigration gets passed and reporters head to the Senate Lounge for the press conference. The heat is blasting in our new Capital and of course the windows don’t open.
2:10PM - Alcopops is debated. The press conference must wait for 15 mins. so the debate can have all the senators’ attention. As some of the reporters and TV crews sweat it out, I become a hated man.
3:00ish - The press conference starts. I go around the floor and get Sen. Hickman and the Minority Leader to agree to appear along with the Senate President. We stream it live on SenateTube.
4:00 PM - Yet another meeting in the Senate President’s office. People come and go all day and I get called in depending on the subject or whether budget numbers are involved. I try to avoid those. I use Quicken for that stuff.
5:00 ish - We head over to the “Star Wars” room in the west building. The majority leadership from the House and Senate meet to crunch numbers…..FOR THREE HOURS!
7:00 PM - Ric Cantrell calls me out into the hall to discuss the Des News matter. As a former reporter I have an issue with members of the press behaving in a less than professional manner regardless of their personal agenda. Yelling at the Majority Leader in the halls of the Senate? Yeah…not cool.
7:30 PM - I leave before the meeting breaks up. I then get an email from Ric Cantrell. We are back in the same group at 7:00am. Treats! Your tax dollars at work….LITERALLY!
Senator Buttars' letter to Judge Pullan was a private expression of disappointment to a judge he trusted and helped confirm. The letter made no threats and demanded no action (and anticipated none).
Senator Buttars exercised his first amendment right to communicate his opinion privately with another public official. The letter was sent to to Judge Pullan privately. Others made it public. Senate Leadership was concerned the letter – now published statewide – may now have a negative effect on the confirmation process of new judges.
An early draft of the letter was circulated among several concerned individuals. The senate president was one of those and he offered some suggested edits. Independently elected senators, however, do not need permission or approval from the senate president to send mail.
Last year’s H.B. 466 had a variety of unintended, and unpleasant, consequences. Senator Stowell blogged about the issue this past December. Thanks to everyone who responded! We wanted to further update everyone on what the Utah Senate is doing to remedy the current situation.
The goal is to put citizens back in the decision-making process.
S.B. 25 recently passed in the Senate and is now on its way through the process in the House. Click here for a flow chart that explains the new process to incorporate a town under S.B. 25.
The process begins with a petition to incorporate. The petition must:
Be signed by legal property owners whose property covers more than 50% of the land area and that is more than 50% of the assessed land value;
Be signed by 10% of the registered voters in number, on the date of the petition, equal to at least a majority of those who voted in the last gubernatorial election;
Consist of a contiguous area of unincorporated county land;
Consist of a population greater than 100 but less than 1000; and
Have at least five sponsors, which collectively may not own more than 40% of the land.
The petition’s signatures are verified by the County Clerk, and if approved, the petition then passes to the County Legislative Body (“CLB”).
The CLB holds a public hearing to decide whether a feasibility study is required, and if required, the CLB holds a second public hearing on its results. If not required, or if the feasibility study reveals that revenues do NOT exceed costs by more than 10%, the CLB MUST approve incorporation. Pending an election, the prospective town becomes incorporated. If the feasibility study reveals that revenues exceed costs by more than 10%, then the CLB MAY deny, approve, or approve (with sponsor approval) subject to certain conditions or altered boundaries.
Utah’s economy is not immune from the national and international forces that are turning economies sluggish all over the world. Nevertheless, Utah government should be able to navigate the slowdown in reasonably good shape without significant reductions in basic services.
The reason is that Utah’s governors and legislators have been fiscally prudent, avoiding the temptation to be profligate even in good times when money has been plentiful. Despite a slowing economy, Utah has a $600 million-plus budget surplus, and the state’s needs are being met reasonably well. Instead of spending every dime of tax revenue on on-going programs, legislators have spent surplus dollars on one-time projects like transportation, have filled up rainy day funds, and have reduced taxes. With the exception of education and mandated programs like Medicaid, Utah government has grown very little.
Contrast that with the situation in New Jersey, as reported in a Wall Street Journal editorial. Despite having the nation’s second highest overall tax burden, New Jersey faces a “serious structural financial problem,” in the words of its governor, Jon Corzine. The state is $32 billion in debt, and faces additional debt of $81 billion in unfunded pensions and health benefits for retirees. To begin to pay off the debt, Corzine wants to borrow $38 billion and pay off the bonds by dramatically increasing tolls on the state’s major roads and highways.
Utah citizens can thank their lawmakers and governors for wise fiscal discipline, resulting in Utah being consistently ranked as one of the nation’s best-managed states.
I'm sponsoring a new animal cruelty bill that will be available to the public as soon as it is finalized. [Update: here it is.] One of the most significant ways it differs from SB 117 is that it makes torture of companion animals (defined as domestic dogs and cats) a felony on the first offense.
SB 117 would have made torture of any animal a felony on the second offense, if the second offense occurred within five years of the first offense.
This bill is a compromise. I've heard from thousands of people from all points of the political spectrum with many opinions of what Utah state policy should be. Many are emotionally invested in the issue. This bill finds - I hope - a point of agreement between widely divergent interests. The Farm Bureau and the Humane Society have both approved this as an acceptable compromise bill.
Two press conferences today. This morning, Mark Shurtleff, along with Senator Orrin Hatch and President Valentine held a press conference to launch a public awareness campaign to keep our kids safe. At lunchtime, there was a press conference (below) to announce a corridor breakthrough to get Mountain View Corridor rolling.
We recorded both of them and you can listen in on Senate Radio.
. . . Yet that's what Senate Bill 218 would do. Beginning in 2009, the bill would replace the 1 percent restaurant food tax with a 0.07 percent general sales tax. Half of the revenues would continue to go to the county. The other half, however, would be divided among 16 cities and towns, half in proportion to population and half in proportion to revenues raised.
Here's the correct info: beginning in 2009, SB218 would "replace the 1 percent restaurant food tax with a 0.07 percent general sales tax." However, the revenue sharing between the counties and the cities and towns would not be effective until January 1, 2012.
I understand these things are complicated but this little fact makes a big difference to the story and the root of my bill. I would hope those who are writing about our bills would take special care to make sure the facts are correct before going to print.
With only 12 working days left in the legislative session, it’s time for a lot of hard decisions. With final revenue projections in (down significantly from earlier estimates), budget decisions can begin to be finalized. It will be excruciatingly difficult to choose among the competing interests for state appropriations. The most difficult legislation will also come up for final action in the last several days.
As floor debate heats up, it’s also time for my annual reminder on how to judge a legislature. The legislative process often seems messy and muddled. Silly bills are introduced and outrageous speeches are delivered. With 104 independently-elected, hard-charging lawmakers, each with a big ego and a mandate from the voters back home, there’s no way to keep a session tranquil and controlled.
But it’s not fair to judge a legislature by any bill, any speech, any committee action or even any particular floor vote. A legislature should only be judged by what it has produced when the session is over, all the votes are counted, and the governor has had his say. The process is chaotic by design, but the legislative obstacle course eventually weeds out bad legislation and produces a good democratically-decided budget. Silly speeches have little impact and angry words are forgotten. When final gavel sounds, the Legislature has usually done very good work, reflecting the desires and values of the citizenry.
As Senator Hillyard said on the Senate Channel today, this amount will be adequate to fund our needs but still not enough to pay for the entire checklist. Subcommittee requests are about four and a half times the available revenue.
So we make some tough choices.
And we balance the budget. And we finish the entire process by March 5th at midnight.
I appreciated Representative Chris Herrod’s perspective on immigration in debate on the House floor (read here on Rep. Frank's blog).
In a nutshell, he argues that those who support the lenient enforcement of our current immigration laws are often considered “compassionate.” This “compassion,” however, effectively discriminates against legal immigrants who oftentimes wait several years to come to the United States, then wait several more years to become naturalized citizens. Are legal immigrants foolish for obeying our laws?
Rep. Herrod’s views, in the context of H.B. 241 “Repeal of Exemptions from Non-Resident Tuition,” can be heard here (please note that Real Player is required, which is available for free download here).
Senator Allen Christensen read a touching resolution honoring these families and their commitment. After a teary moment of silence, several senators rose to show their appreciation for the bravery of all soldiers fighting and giving their lives to protect this country.
Happy Valentine’s Day from the truest of Valentines! This has always been my favorite and most dreaded days of the year. My favorite because, well, what girl doesn’t love chocolate. Yet there is a down side: the teasing factor. While growing up I heard comments such as: “Patti Valentine, will you please be my Valentine?” Wow, so original.
So what does it mean to be a Valentine? Does it mean skipping school to go see our government in action? Or is it getting your picture in the paper sitting all the floor of the senate? Possibly but, to me, being a Valentine means gathering as a family on Sunday, eating and enjoying a “playful” political debate which always involves encyclopedias and very large words to try and prove Dad wrong. It usually doesn’t happen though.
My father comes across as very knowledgeable and well tempered. While this is true, there is so much more. Growing up under his roof has been interesting, and this has become much more apparent as I moved out and have seen other ways of life. One disadvantage about being in the public eye is the face recognition. We have all learned the hard way never to take Dad shopping. Christmas is the worst. What usually ends up happening is, while we go shopping, he sits in the mall talking and answering questions.
One definite advantage though is the information that has poured from him to help us all. My senior year of high school, for example, I led a lot of the discussion in my government class and got a easy A. It just kind of felt like Sunday dinners. Even though my dad’s occupation has had its ups and downs I’m very proud of him and the way he always honors his integrity and truly follows what he believes. When it all boils down, he is just a regular man that has tried to influence people and events around him in the best way he is able.
When my husband, Allen, was a little boy, his family traveled regularly from Ogden, Utah, to Malad, Idaho, to visit relatives. Near the border between the two states and along the Malad River, there was a glue factory outside of which were regularly corralled horses who were to meet their end in the factory. Allen thought oftentimes how he might approach the factory by night and free the horses.
When he was 18, Allen had a buckskin quarter horse named Nick. He loved Nick and did all he could to care for him. It was necessary for Nick to have an operation, but the horse was young and frisky and would not settle down enough to recuperate. Eventually the horse tore open the surgical incision and, in exhaustion, laid itself in the nearby Milad River. Allen waded out to encourage Nick, wrapped his arms around the horse’s head to lift his nose above the current and wept as Nick died in his arms.
In 1989, Allen decided that our family needed a cat and dog. For Christmas, he presented the children with a beautiful gray, part Siamese kitten and a papered Shih Tzu puppy. The kitten we named Loretta after "the coal miner’s daughter" and the puppy was Kim Chi, known to us affectionately as Kimmie. Allen and the puppy developed an incredible bond. We all loved her, but Allen loved her the most and it was obvious that she liked him best. She would wait excitedly for him to pull into the garage each night and then the two of them would go through a welcome home ritual and just hang out.
We had that dog for 13 years. Once during that time, Kimmie was frightened by neighborhood fireworks and ran away. My husband, myself and our children cried for 4 days. We passed out hundreds of fliers with Kimmie’s photo. We had a couple false alarms, but after 4 days , a person 2 miles away called and said they had our dog. We feared it was another false alarm, but Allen went to check it out. . Kimmie recognized the sound of his truck and was so excited. We all felt as if we had been given another chance at life with this animal we adored.
In October of 2001, Kimmie was aging. She couldn’t move as fast, plus her hearing was almost gone. I was in Provo shopping at University Mall with my daughter. I received a call on my cell phone from Allen. He was sobbing so hard, I couldn’t understand him. I finally was able to understand that he had pulled into our garage, Kimmie was there and had failed for the first time ever, to get out of the way of Allen’s truck tire. He had hit and killed his precious pet and his pain was unspeakable.
Maybe sharing these very personal experiences will help some of you understand who my husband really is and why I am angered by those who would depict him as a heartless, inhumane animal-hater. The persons promoting that image have also misrepresented how SB 117 compares to legislation nationwide and what it will really accomplish. The Allen Christensen I know and love is on the side of animals and is promoting a strong animal rights bill which can actually make it into our law books. I hope you will support his efforts on behalf of the animals in our midst - and I hope you will help refute false impressions of good people wherever they occur.
Today, SB 48 passed the Senate and is on its way to the House. The Equalization of School Capital Outlay bill has wide acceptance. For six months, several groups have been weighing in and helping to produce the final product. This bill mitigates the potential financial problems that could result from the Jordan School District split as well as lessen the impact of potential financial problems in future dividing districts.
Because property tax equalization will be required from any district that is being divided, citizens can expect to share the cost of building new schools more equally no matter where they live. While this bill has been long awaited, it is not a complete re-invention of the wheel. It encompasses existing programs and adds some additional considerations for factors like growth. There are sophisticated portions of this bill dealing with certain issues, such as truth in taxation hearings. You can find more info here. I believe this bill is a good solution and the right thing to do.
This is the statement no elected official wants to make, but I made a mistake and owe the Senate and the people of Utah an apology. Yesterday in discussion on the Equalization Bill, I made a comment which could reasonably be understood as offensive. It was a dreadful choice of words and I recognize that my words were damaging. I want to thank Senator Romero for speaking out immediately and President Valentine for allowing me to address this matter. Again, I apologize to anyone that may be hurt by my remarks. I did not mean to be degrading in any way to anyone, and I am truly sorry.
In debate on the senate floor tonight, one of the senators made an offensive comment. He took immediate action to address the issue and made a public apology. You can view that exchange here. The offending comment is here, one hour, six minutes and eight seconds into the debate.
So, we opened the paper Sunday morning to learn "One of every four bills introduced in the current Legislature creates an apparent conflict of interest for sponsors…," by Deseret Morning News commentator, Bob Bernick. We use the word commentator intentionally. This piece on "apparent" conflict of interest was light on research but heavy on speculation and innuendo.
One assumes that a reporter uses his best supporting pieces of evidence for a newspaper piece. The two senators he holds up for exposure are guilty of nothing more than having expertise in the bills they proposed.
. . . Jon Greiner, is also the Ogden police chief. He introduced nine bills dealing with law enforcement. One would allow police chiefs, such as himself, to declare "no-gang zones." Known gang members could be arrested if they refuse to leave such areas or return to them within eight hours.
How does Senator Greiner benefit from this bill other than getting gang members off the street? But wait there’s more….or rather less.
Sen. Dan Eastman, R-Bountiful, a former car dealer, introduced a bill about the Motor Vehicle Safety Inspection Advisory Council.
And this retired car dealer lined his pockets . . . how? Sen. Eastman's bill was a suggestion from the Department of Commerce, allowing them to more fairly hear appeals. That knowledge was just a phone call away - but no one called.
The most damning innuendos were in The Chart. Take Senate President John Valentine, for example. The chart shows President Valentine (a CPA, and tax attorney) is sponsoring eight bills, four of which are APPARENT CONFLICTS (their emphasis, not ours) then declares the percentage THAT ARE CONFLICTS, fifty percent in Valentine's case.
Problem is, all but one of his bills are “boxcars”, i.e. place holders to be used in the event a bill is needed later in the session. They are blank. Really. See for yourself. CLICK HERE. And here. You get the idea. What part of that white space is a conflict?
Hey, if you have evidence to the contrary tell us about it. We’ll post it here on the blog. If you have something that violated the law please pass it on to the Attorney General.
We have worked hard this session to be more transparent. We are almost always available through email, multiple cell phone lines and offices phones. We realize that a story like this requires research and leg work. If you're embarking on a project of this magnitude, good for you. But finish the job. People should have the truth, even if it's more nuanced than expected.
On Tuesday, the day of the super mega primary (formerly known as the Western States Primary) Senate President John Valentine will be featured on a special election-day incarnation of the Doug Wright Show from 11:00 am to 1:00 pm. The show will be part of a special broadcast live from the Hinckley Institute of Politics Caucus Room, starting at 9:00 a.m. Hinckley Institute Director Kirk Jowers, Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff, former Congressman Bill Orton and Salt Lake County Councilman Joe Hatch will be there too.
Free Pizza and soft drinks will be provided. If you're there in person.
"Taking away driver privilege cards would only make it more likely that your car would be in a crash with that of an undocumented driver, and that he or she would not have insurance." Daily Herald Editorial.