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Friday, June 27, 2008

Re: Performance Pay

Deseret Morning News:
. . . the current 'one size fits all' approach doesn't offer enough incentive. It's time teachers who are worth their weight in gold get paid that gold. Just as it's time for teachers who simply 'phone it in' to be bucked from the horse so true professionals can run the show.
Salt Lake Tribune:
For the first time, Utah school districts are seriously considering how they can distribute bonuses or pay raises to teachers based on how well they do their jobs.

. . . That would benefit not only dedicated, talented teachers but also their students, as mediocre teachers would sharpen their skills in order to earn more money.

. . . [But] there are two myths that must be dispelled before merit systems can be effective. The first is that there are no mediocre or poor teachers in our schools. The second is that, even if there were, there is no way to differentiate between them and the excellent teachers. Both these myths have been used by teacher association leaders to undermine past efforts to adopt effective merit-pay plans.
SLCSpin:
Until recently… honestly analyzing public schools, their teachers, and administrators

was never done in polite society…

Those days are over. Finally.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

SCOTUS and the 2nd Amendment

On Washington Post's D.C. Wire:
The U.S. Supreme Court today did not release its long-awaited ruling on whether the District's handgun ban violates the Second Amendment. That means the potentially landmark decision will almost certainly come tomorrow morning when the court is planning to issue the last of its rulings for the term. The case, District of Columbia v. Heller, which was argued nearly four months ago, could settle the decades-old debate over whether the Second Amendment grants individuals the right to own firearms.
Utah's Constitution - BTW - is pretty clear on the "individual right" question.


[Thursday morning update:] Here's the decision.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Bernick and the Blog

By Lyle Hillyard
Utah State Senator, District 25

Last Friday, I came home from my brisk 5 mile walk and sat down to a great breakfast of Cheerios and raspberries from my garden. I looked at the two most important parts of the Herald Journal and the Deseret News (obituaries and letters to the editor) and did not see my name so I knew it would be a good day. I scanned the rest of the paper and, to my surprise, saw that I was mentioned in an editorial piece by my friend Bob Bernick of the Deseret News. I was tempted to cut it out and send it to my grandchildren and see if they were impressed with me being called “well-respected” (I knew my children would not be) but then I realized that they work through a thing called the Internet so they would not even know what a newspaper was. Because of some of the things stated in the piece and the whole idea of a blog being used to "report news", I thought I should offer a response.

First, I am glad what I did was only a "minor issue." Actually the TC 23 is not issued by legislative staff or even us “bosses”. It is issued by the State Tax Commission which I believe is official state action. What I did was give my comment on what it showed and how I believe it should be handled in my capacity as Senate Chair of Executive Appropriations, and after talking with our non-partisan fiscal analyst staff. When I heard that the collections were down for one month only, I visited with the Governor’s staff to get their read on the event. They agreed with our staff that the revenue collections for the year are still within the ranges and until we know more any discussions would be pure speculation. More numbers will be available in August.

You may remember that the same cash flow for the end of April showed clearly that we would end the fiscal year with a surplus. There were also concerns that new withholding tables and new collection methods may have caused the downturn in collections - it may have had little to do with a serious downturn in the economy. We all agreed that the revenues had been so allocated that we would have enough surpluses to cover to the end of June so there was no need to panic and stop spending on the budgets approved during the session. I was also concerned that the wrong signal – panic, panic, we are really losing money and hence going into a recession even in Utah – could become self-fulfilling prophecy.

Second, the memo given to the members of Executive Appropriations included the full House and Senate Democratic Leadership. Any one of them could have asked for the item to be discussed during the meeting under other business or talked about the memo. The legislative staff works for them as well (staff does a very good job about not taking sides).

Third, our State budget has a lot of input from the Democrats. I have found them just as interested in it being balanced and that we have surpluses to spend with a well managed State. If you checked the record, you will find most of them vote for the budget bill. I try to take a lot of time during the session and in the interim meeting on that side of the aisle, answering questions and accepting their suggestions. At least from my perspective and from what I have seen over the years, I think we work quite well together in creating a state budget.

As I drove home the day after we had announced my reaction to the TR 23, I was concerned when I heard on the radio that the budget chairman had announced that we could be $100.0 M down in revenue that no mention was made that we also could be up $70.0 M. I was pleased that we do do have a credible means to share information. We don’t have to sit back and listen to what news reporters choose to highlight or mention. We even encourage Democratic Senators to make their comments on this Senate Blog Site. Bob knows my cell phone and is welcome to call me any time he wishes to discuss reports or the lack of reports but even this old dog can learn new tricks.

If I can use the Internet to post information on a blog site anyone can and the reliance people have had to place on the printed or broadcast news can now be balanced from other sources. They can then choose what to believe and accept. As new revenue and budget numbers become available, I expect to report them on the Senate Site along with my recommendation on what to do with this information.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Missouri does it right

Missouri does it right. At the end of session legislators chuck their bills and paperwork into the air. Georgia does too. Stateline.org chronicles America's legislative end-of-session traditions like songs, skits, synchronized ceremonies and even the "Shroud Award" for the deadest bill. Minnesota is bugged.

Representing Utah, Senator Scott McCoy describes our final night awards ceremony:
"Interns in Utah’s state Senate award signed Certificates of Senator Superlatives at the session’s close, including honors for the best wardrobe, the most likely to vote no, and the “only person on the floor able to understand his bill,” among others.

"State Sen. Scott McCoy, a liberal Democrat in a state where two-thirds of the House and Senate is Republican, won an award from this year’s interns for delivering speeches most likely to fall on deaf ears.

"'I’m often a dissenting voice on a lot of things we pass.' McCoy said. '(But) all of (the awards) are in good fun and in jest, and a way to celebrate what is normally a high-intensity, short time-frame period of 45 days.'"

Friday, June 20, 2008

Extra pay for better performance

Representative Urquhart: Performance-based pay for teachers.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Ice

Wow.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Revenue Forecast: Fair to partly cloudy; thunderstorms possible

By Lyle Hillyard
Senate Chair of Executive Appropriations

Utah enjoys one of the hottest economies on the planet, but we learned this week that we may not be completely immune from the larger national picture. State revenue collection for the last month has turned out to be slightly less than we expected it would be. We are still within the range we predicted last February, however.

More detail: The most recent Tax Commission Revenue Summary shows combined year-to-date General Fund and Education Fund revenues down 0.8% at the end of May -- lower than February's Fiscal Year 2008 growth forecast of 0.6%. Here's the report.

Our economists now predict revenue for Fiscal Year 2008 (which ends this month) will be in a range between $100 million lower and $70 million higher than the February forecast, with likely risks on the downside.

This is not a surprise. Some of us old timers have been through an economic cycle or two and you probably remember us worrying about it during session. I'm proud of my colleagues for supporting wise fiscal policies such as limiting spending, depositing $100 million into the Rainy Day Fund over the last two years, setting-aside another $100 million for next year, and carefully building a balanced budget. We're so old-fashioned we look progressive.

Bottom line: We will be just fine for Fiscal Year 2008, but we'll need to watch the cash flow collections like hawks. If it turns out we need to address the Fiscal Year 2009 budget we should be able to do so in the upcoming legislative session.

Interestingly, revenue collections at the end of April were slightly higher than we forecast - so we don't think this recent atypical drop can be completely attributable to the economy. Two factors that may have played a part are 1) recent adjustments to the state withholding tables, and 2) a new method of collection we just implemented.

We'll have a more complete picture for you when we close out FY 2008 (which is usually mid-August). We appreciate the citizens of this state who monitor the Senate Site and pay attention to what happens on Capitol Hill.

We'll keep you in the loop as the situation unfolds.

Chilly Gardening

By Lyle Hillyard
Utah State Senator, District 25

As you all know, this has been a very slow spring for planting my garden (until last Saturday, I would not have called it a summer). With the constant rains, it has been too wet and too cold to work the soil and help many of the plants grow. I did notice that the rhubarb and the strawberries have done exceptionally well.

My father was a field man for Del Monte for many years in Cache County and told me that corn will only grow when it reaches 70 degrees. We have not had many of those days so far this year. As I see how poor the corn crop is in Iowa, I think my corn may be more valuable this year. My wife does a great job cutting it off the ears and freezing it for year round eating.

Some of the squash froze last Thursday night when it got to 32 degrees here in Cache Valley. Is it really June 12th? I could not go walking the other morning because it was snowing. And the morning before that, I could see my breath while walking. I refuse to wear a winter coat in June so I toughed it out in my sweatshirt. I hope with the sudden increase in the temperature that the garden will really take off. I can’t see many small apples on my apple trees so that causes concern. My son-in-law told me that he was trying to buy fruit trees the other day and was told that the tree lot was sold out. There seems to be a rush on fruit trees every year that employment becomes unstable because people are looking for ways to provide food for their family.

Monday, June 16, 2008

The Jordan School District Split

By Chris Buttars
Utah State Senator, District 10

When we first started to consider the split, both sides, I believe, were in agreement. Especially considering the purpose of the District split was to improve the educational process for the kids. Because it was originally perceived as being “all about the kids”, almost everyone voted for the split.

Unfortunately, it hasn’t ended up that way. In fact, as it stands today, it’s not about the kids at all. It’s all about the money. As the proposal stands today, and as reported by the East side to the press, the amount of money the West side would owe the East side could very well reach $300 Million!

Yes, you heard it right. The West side could be obligated financially up to $300 Million, payable to the East side. And this, before we even consider our own bonding obligations of somewhere between $500-600 Million over the next six years.

Now ask yourself if you were in this situation with a proposal that you had not even been allowed to vote on, and the proposal as it currently stands could cost you, upfront, $300 Million (payable to the East side district) and in your discussions with the other side telling you “if you don’t like it, then let’s go to mediation”, how would you feel?

That’s where we are at. Is it any surprise that the West side will not accept this proposal in any way, shape, or form? If the East side holds onto present demands, I believe there will be major legal action and an injunction that will prevent the implementation of the split until who-knows-when. That action would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Can anyone tell me how that action is “all about the kids”?

I believe that a simple, temporary fix would be for the Governor to call a special session to delay the implementation date of the split.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Stay Safe

By Carlene Walker
Utah State Senator, District 8

The theft of records at the U of U Medical Center is not the first large-scale breach of sensitive private information in Utah. It was actually the fourth such incident in less than six months.

We will not know the impact of the recent theft anytime in the near future. Even if the tapes are recovered no one would know if they were copied. The thief now knows how valuable they are.

The costs of just monitoring the credit of the 1.3 million people with stolen SSNs will run between $31 and $46 Million dollars. To their credit, the University Medical Center has committed to making sure that credit monitoring will be provided free for a year.

Bottom line: We can not know that our private information is secure. Many times we won't know our information has been taken until years later. And we may never know.

Given that reality, what is our next line of defense?

Here is a short list.
1. Monitor your credit report. At a minimum, you should check your credit report. Go to annualcreditreport.com (NOT freecreditreport.com. Annual Credit Report .com is free. Free Credit Report . com is not. Go figure.) You may request a free report from each of the credit agencies once a year, so it makes sense to do one every four months.

2. Red Flag. Contact each of the three credit bureaus and put a 90 day red flag alert on your credit files. This is free, but you have to renew it every 90 days.

3. Credit Freeze. If you want to take safety a step further, you can freeze your credit. It will cost you $10 per credit bureau but I think it's worth the $30.

We passed legislation so, beginning in September 2008, you will be able to unfreeze your credit in 15 minutes. Currently it takes three days. This matters when, for example, you suddenly want to buy a new car and they have to check credit quickly.

4. If you think you may be a victim of ID fraud the Attorney General's website will walk you through reporting, then rebuilding your credit and your life.

Here's the link:

www.idtheft.utah.gov

Taking steps to protect your credit is just as important as locking your front door at night. Please keep yourself safe.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Don't feel bad, Kanab

We don't allow bikinis in the senate either.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Utah's Tax Burden

Two excerpts from the Deseret News Editorial on the lead article in the Utah Taxpayers Association's June Newsletter:
The irony is that Utahns get more outraged about property taxes than any other tax. In truth, Utahns pay less in property taxes than the national average, and less than people in California, who have spent 30 years under Proposition 13 — a tax-limiting measure some Utahns covet.

Another truth is that Utahns have the eighth-highest overall burden of taxes and fees in the nation. That is according to the latest figures from the Utah Taxpayers Association, which annually calculates the state's burden and measures it against all other states. Conventional wisdom says Utahns have a high tax burden because of the large numbers of children they must educate. To some extent, this is true. But a big part of the burden Utahns bear comes from fees, for everything from business licenses to drivers' licenses and college tuition.

. . . The report offers some good news. Despite a growing tax burden as a percentage of personal income, Utah's rank actually has slipped, from fifth place in the previous report. Also, recent tax cuts enacted by the Legislature are bound to improve that ranking in the future.

But without the fees, Utah ranks 20th in tax burden. It ranks 15th in individual income taxes, again because of public education costs.

The property tax burden, however, ranks 38th.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Debunking New Mythology

By Howard Stephenson
Utah State Senator, District 11

Hearing the truth about erroneous, but deeply held beliefs is a painful experience for all of us. Nevertheless, truth can also be a powerful anesthetic for that pain. Truth about the ominous omnibus education bill, SB 2, has been largely missing in reports about this important piece of legislation. That is why I would like here to debunk litigant's stories about SB2 before they reach the status of Utah political mythology. Maybe it's too late, but even established mythology should be challenged.

As co-sponsors of SB2, the education funding bill also known as "omnibus", Representative Brad Last and I wrote an op-ed for the Deseret Morning News. We wanted to mop up some of the misconceptions circulated by the candidates who are suing the state for what we think must be political motives.

We thought those who read this blog would also appreciate additional perspective.

1. The litigants make their first obvious blunder when they say that good bills were "held hostage" until the end of the session so they could be combined with "bad" bills in an omnibus package. The fact is that all fiscal note bills are held until the end of session. That is not a violation of our rules. It is exactly what our rules require and what we do every year. That is how we ensure a balanced budget each year.

2. Litigants are saying SB2 includes language from bills that didn't pass the first time through. HB200 was one of those bills. When its language was included in SB2, Rep. Karen Morgan tried to amend it out. The House debated it for 30 minutes. She couldn't persuade a majority to vote with her. Sen. Scott McCoy tried to amend the same provisions. He failed, too.

There were more attempts to amend SB2, but you get the picture.

The fact is that every single word in SB2 was subject to discussion and amendment. Welcome to an essential (and potentially frustrating) element of democracy: You need a majority vote to change the law.
It seems the political message being taught here is if you can't attract enough votes by the force of your argument, you can always sue those who voted against you.

3. Our so-called omnibus bill was 42 pages . . . hardly the thousand-page congressional monstrosity the litigants try to invoke.

4. SB2 didn't happen in the dead of night. It was the result of an entire session of negotiations. The news media reported the details. We posted information on our official Web site and on our blog site. We passed out the details to all legislators, reporters and the interested public. We made staff available to answer questions. The two chambers and the governor's office were in constant communication. The entire chamber debate is archived online for everyone to witness.

The only way this anti-democratic lawsuit makes any sense is as a campaign stunt. Sixteen of the plaintiffs are currently running for office. Others are reportedly running for leadership positions in their caucus. As the vice chair of the state Democrats recently said, "If some of the plaintiffs on this suit win their elections due to 'earned media' then so be it."

I think that is pathetic. Let the money flow to the teachers and classrooms. We hope our board of directors (a.k.a voting citizens of Utah) will recognize this lawsuit as election-year grandstanding, pure and simple.

I believe that the root cause of the litigation is not so much about process as it is about innovation and change. Public education is a sacred cow for many people. Attempts to modernize, incentivize or test new programs are usually met with resistance. Our goal is to provide a world-class education for Utah's families with the funding available. Sacred cows must be examined for efficiency and new ideas will be piloted where appropriate.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Dilemma: Services for the People vs. Taxes

By Greg Bell
Utah State Senator, District 22

At a recent legislative committee hearing I heard an example of the classic dilemma elected officials face.

Both sides had compelling arguments. The county health departments told the interim Political Subdivisions Committee about their crisis in funding. County health departments are the first line of community health. They address communicable diseases, food-handling safety in restaurants and stores, swimming pools, and children’s health in public schools. They do a very good job and are thus invisible to the public . . . until cryptosporidium flares up and makes swimmers sick or there is an outbreak of food poisoning at a restaurant.

County health departments are funded by each County Commission/Council. Most county governments have been hit recently by the political whiplash from property tax increases, and consequently have held the line on budget increases. Health departments have no other source of revenue. With increasing populations to serve, the expanding mission to address bioterrorism and homeland security issues, they claim they need some more funding.

One idea was to create a public health district like a water or mosquito abatement district with a board of trustees which could levy a modest property tax.

A Representative responded that he would do nothing to implement any tax increase on his constituents because they are hurting badly with sharp increases in gas, bread, milk, cereal and other staples. No argument there!

So there you have it: A high-priority public program, which delivers proven societal benefits that differentiate us from a third-world country, seeking funding that is, apparently, highly necessary to complete its mission . . . versus the evil of a new tax. In the abstract, almost everyone agrees that there should be “no new taxes.” But we are also quick to criticize a preventable outbreak of a contagious disease or a TV expose’ of the cut in the number of restaurant inspections carried out.

These are the dilemmas lawmakers face every day. Would love to have your thoughts.

Congress

Senator Hickman's opinion seemed to have touched a nerve, if the comment section and the ambiguous "Was this article worthwhile?" vote count are any way to judge.

Representative Steve Urquhart writes:
I regularly meet with legislators from other states. Bill's sentiments are directly in line with the vast majority of state legislators across the nation. States aren't perfect. Often, we're far from it. But we're worlds better, or at least braver, than the show horses in D.C., who habitually hide from tough or controversial issues.

As for Utah's 5 representatives in Congress, I think they are exceptional human beings. And that's what really depresses me. If a Rob Bishop or a Bob Bennett can't put a significant dent in the machine, we're in a bad way and in desperate need of reform.
Dan Harrie and Connor Boyack also posted on the subject.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Report on our Congressional Investment

By Bill Hickman
Utah State Senator, District 29

Where is the leadership?

For years we've supported our congressional delegation. We believed them when they told us that seniority was important. When they told us Utah would be in a prime position to lead on the issues that matter - if we would only give them a few more years in office - we believed them. We invested our votes and we invested years of our time.

What happened?

What have they done with the seniority we allowed them? They have squandered it like foolish children. They worried about staying in power to the point they neglected to perform their fundamental mission. They betrayed all of us.

Congress overspends. The deficit accumulates and the interest compounds into what we have now - a national debt of almost $9.5 trillion dollars, which encumbers my kids and grandkids. Every one of my grandchildren was born $30K in debt due to congressional dereliction of duty. We plainly have more government than we can afford, yet our elected delegation shirks the disciplined work of limiting spending to income.

Our senators and congressmen are derelict in other areas as well. The trade deficit is staggering. Between our budget deficit and the trade deficit, we are sitting on a ticking time bomb. The increase in fuel prices is directly connected to the plummeting value of the dollar. Congress has taken upon themselves the management of our school systems in which they have no constitutional role, yet they neglect border security - which is clearly a federal task. The ridiculous list of shame goes on to include earmarks, the war, the housing and credit crisis, and a thousand smaller crises that naturally arise from a leader's abandonment of duty.

This is a dangerous situation that saps American vitality, and opportunity. It limits the realm of our possibility. It throws power to foreign lenders. This behavior is anti-republican and pretty damn un-American. For decades our leaders in congress blamed the other party. Then, suddenly, from 2002 to 2006, our party was in charge. We controlled both chambers of Congress and the Presidency. We had power to change our course. The nation needed leadership. Congressmen: You failed to do your duty and you broke your trust with the people of Utah. I'm looking at you, Senator Hatch.

Congress has failed to act as a check and a balance to the executive branch. Like impotent self-important bulls in a china shop, they have shattered liberties paid for by the best blood of the past several hundred years. They did so while mouthing patriotic soundbites like sheep. They built up counterfeits of genuine patriotism and true security and worshiped at that altar while the nation crumbled.

Let me ask a question we all should have been asking long ago.

If congress is neither a check nor a balance; if they increase our debt each day they control the budget; if they fail to carry out the responsibilities for which they were chartered, yet clumsily usurp work others are doing better and less expensively; if they fiddle while our liberty and economy burn; if by both action and inaction they increase the danger to which each American citizen is subjected…

If they are guilty of all these things - and they are as guilty as sin - then I ask:

Why are they still there?

Why do we still pay for them? Are they any different than the class of royal power we divested in 1776?

I want my money back. I want my vote back. I want the years our state has invested in these congressmen returned to us all. I want a change in D.C. If our congressional delegation cannot turn it around, I want leaders who can.

I am proud of Utah. We have an army of talented leaders who are sharp, seasoned, energetic, and wide-awake. We are consistently rated one of the best-managed states in the nation. Our budget is balanced. Utah is the best place to start a business and raise a family. This is due, in large part, to keen-minded, innovative leaders with a lot of common sense. You probably know a dozen such. So why do we keep sending Orrin Hatch and Bob Bennett back to D.C.? They are not our A Team.

We can do better.

America's problems are complex, but Americans can do complex things. We can overcome monumental challenges. I have come to believe, however, that the solution to this one starts at the ballot box.

I have served in the Utah State Legislature for 16 years, but I'm not running for re-election. A man with nothing to lose is sometimes inclined to speak the truth. Bottom line: We have all been cheated. I think we should cut our losses and start over.

This op-ed piece was published in the Salt Lake Tribune and The Spectrum.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Guest Blog: Progress Report on DORA

By Mary Lou Emerson
Director, Utah Substance Abuse and Anti-Violence Coordinating Council

At any given point in time, as many as 85% of offenders incarcerated in Utah’s prisons have substance abuse problems related to their criminal activity. We have long been aware of the relationship between drugs and crime, and that locking drug abusers up will not solve the problem. More often than not, when these offenders are released from prison, they will continue to abuse drugs and commit crimes related to their drug habit. Further, these offenders are taking up valuable prison beds that should be reserved for only the most serious and dangerous offenders.

In 2007, the Utah Legislature took action to address the vicious cycle of drug abuse and crime by passing the Drug Offender Reform Act and appropriating $8 million to provide screening, assessment, supervision and treatment services for offenders with substance abuse problems. Research has shown that the frequency and severity of crime escalate as drug use increases, and that substance abuse intensifies and sustains criminal activity. We also know that substance abuse treatment in a criminal justice setting, whether it be in prison or jail, or in the community while on probation or parole, has proven effective. The Drug Offender Reform Act, or DORA, will address the root causes of much of the crime being in committed in Utah, by making effective substance abuse treatment available throughout the state for those offenders with drug dependencies.

The statewide implementation of DORA began on July 1, 2007. As of this date, Utah’s courts are now required to order every offender convicted of a felony to participate in a screening, an assessment if indicated, and substance abuse treatment if determined to be appropriate. The screening is a preliminary appraisal of the offender’s substance use, and determines whether a more comprehensive problem assessment is needed. The assessment is an in-depth examination of the offender’s substance use/abuse that is used to determine if treatment is needed and at what level of care (day treatment, outpatient, residential, etc.).

DORA implementation is overseen by a State DORA Oversight Committee and Local DORA Implementation Teams throughout the state that involve collaboration among the Courts, Corrections, substance abuse treatment providers, and prosecutors and defense attorneys. This collaboration ensures offender issues are addressed immediately, with a team supervision approach that greatly increases the chance for success.

As of the first of May, 2008 an estimated 1,003 felony offenders had been assessed by Local Substance Abuse Authority agencies throughout the state, and 616 offenders had been admitted to DORA treatment services. It’s a great start toward saving lives, reducing drug use and crime, and increasing the health and safety of Utah’s communities!

Senator Niederhauser the Second

We now have two Senator Niederhausers - fairly odd, given the unique nature of the name.

Congratulations to Molly Niederhauser, daughter of Senator and Melissa Niederhauser, who was elected to the State Senate at Girls State being held at the campus of Southern Utah University.

Special thanks to the American Legion Auxiliary who sponsor the event every year to help educate High School students on the workings of a government of, by, and for the people.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Energy Bills Ceremonial Signing

Yesterday, The Governor touted Utah as being a leader in encouraging energy efficiency. He ceremoniously signed 5 Energy Bills that will help achieve greater goals in energy efficiency:
  • HB 106 S01 Clean Air and Efficient Vehicle Tax Incentive
  • HB 146 School Bus Amendments
  • HB 359 Tax Changes (section covering Solar Tax Credit)
  • SB 84 S01 Net Metering Programs
  • SB 202 S01 Energy Resource and Carbon Reduction Initiative
There were also 2 bills recognized as part of the Energy Bills (were ceremonial signed earlier):
  • HB 103 Use of State Alternative Fuel Network
  • HB 198 State Agency Energy Savings

Governor Huntsman talks about Utah's strides in energy policies. Senator Van Tassell stands directly to his right.


Senator Wayne Niederhauser discusses the tax credits that may be available with solar energy use.


Governor Huntsman signs the above bills with Sens. Van Tassell and Niederhauser to his left.

Special Session or Arbitration?

By Carlene Walker
Utah State Senator, District 8

The news reports some of my colleagues are asking Governor Huntsman to call a special session to delay the creation of East and West Jordan School Districts. They are good people and I respect them immensely but I honestly don't see the need.

We knew the division of assets between old and new districts would be a challenging task and we planned ahead for it by listing arbitration as a last resort. Now we seem to be at that point. Let's let the plan work.

The teams have done a good job bringing us as far as they have. Now some outstanding arbitrators will step in and help finish the job. We all knew that this process would not be easy but I remain convinced that all parents and children, east and west, will be better served by smaller, more manageable school districts.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Word from Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson, May 6, 1810:
"No one more sincerely wishes the spread of information among mankind than I do, and none has greater confidence in its effect towards supporting free and good government."
Hat tip: Founders' Quote Daily

Utah's Litigation Environment

The Institute for Legal Reform (an affiliate of the US Chamber of Commerce) rated Utah 5th in the nation for the fairness of its litigation environment.

Here's the report.

View all state rankings.

And the least fair locations.

Hat tip: Utah Policy Daily.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

More than just pretty faces . . .

Finally, recognized for something OTHER than our accomplishments . . .

Ladies and Gentlemen of the Senate.

Your vote counts - now more than ever!

Word from James Madison

James Madison in 1826:
"The best service that can be rendered to a Country, next to that of giving it liberty, is in diffusing the mental improvement equally essential to the preservation, and the enjoyment of the blessing." - - From today's Founder's Quote Daily (subscribe here).
The Utah Bloghive: Diffusing mental improvement since 2004. And now the DNews is blogging. Who knew? (Trib bloggers have been messing with people for years.) Welcome aboard.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Politics

In Sunday's Daily Herald:
A group suing over an omnibus education bill passed this year by the Legislature should take their complaints to the venue best suited to decide such issues: the ballot box. Their beef is more about politics than law.

. . . legislative bodies can go too far with "catch-all" bills. The U.S. Congress is one of the worst offenders -- note the recent omnibus farm bill, which granted huge subsidies to millionaire farmers and also gave handouts to race horse owners. We'd say that's distasteful, but not unconstitutional.

And the remedy is for voters to register their contempt at the polls for any senator or congressman who went along with the bill.

The Utah Legislature has created a parallel case with SB 2. But it was far more restrained than Congress.

At the beginning of the session, almost all observers agreed that Utahns were demanding action on education. That's Job No. 1 for any legislative body: respond to the wishes of the voters. So it's hard to criticize lawmakers for trying to address education.

Well, then, is SB 2's title, "Minimum School Program Budget Amendments," clear according to the state constitution? We'd say it's not exactly a model of clarity, but neither is it obfuscatory. Omnibus bills always have title troubles.

Is the bill about "one subject"? Defenders say yes -- education. The bill ranges from a major appropriation ($2.5 billion for the Uniform School Fund) to a host of lesser matters, including the powers of the State Charter School Board, various education programs, school transportation funding and more.

But all of them deal with education.

Let's look more closely at the bill. Does it hide items in a huge package that no human being can reasonably read? No. The bill is not enormous. It runs a mere 40 pages printed out, which isn't haiku but isn't too bad as laws go.

Numerous news accounts about the bill have been published since it was cobbled together. Those reports seem fairly clear and complete; so Utahns had some notice about what was in it.

The bill was passed in the last few days of the Legislature, but last-minute bills are normal for all kinds of legislative bodies.

So, all in all, we don't see what all the fuss is about.

. . . It's been said that this lawsuit is more political than legal, a charge disingenuously denied by the attorney for the plaintiffs. If you were to view a few dozen plumbers unclogging drains or installing hot water tanks, you'd have no hesitation in saying they were engaged in plumbing. Here, seeing a few dozen people trying to reverse an action of the legislature, we have no hesitation in saying they are engaged in politics.

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