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Thursday, July 31, 2008

View from the Balcony

We heard the drums inside the senate offices and looked out and found an African Children's Choir from Uganda. Awesome.



Hope. ?

Senator Carlene Walker on the Jordan Split (in the DNews and Utah Policy Daily's Quote of the Day):
"I feel so deeply and strongly that this division is the best thing for both sides and for the children," Walker said. "There has got to be a way to make it work. I have high hopes."

Friday, July 25, 2008

NCSL: New Life for Online Government

Ignore this post. We're sharing a little information at the Friday, 8:00 a.m. session of NCSL's Annual Meeting* and I need an easily accessible place to stash the links. We may live stream part of it, depending on what connections are available, so feel free to drop in and post your comments.
Links and Notes:

--> A sampling of actual text messages sent from the Utah Senate - 2008 legislative session (collected for an NCSL/State Department/Algeria project in Algiers).

--> More info on Utah Senate texting here.

--> Vox Partners.

--> Government 2.0: the short list of current New Media experiments.

--> YouTube: Utah Senate Channel

--> Live streaming video: NowLive.com

--> A random picture of the whiteboard in my office, circa 3/3/08. The checklist for senate media events is on the right-hand side. Ignore the other junk. Please.

--> On LinkedIn, consider joining the Government 2.0 Group, a network of citizens and professionals exploring the use of New Media tools in government communication.

--> A moment of quiet thought about the soul of New Media. And the hope it offers to a democratic republic like ours.
Call anytime. I'm happy to answer questions, give feedback, share lessons learned, etc.

Ric Cantrell @ 801-647-8944



* 8:00 am - 9:30 am
A New Life for Online Government
Convention Center 220-221--Second Level

Web 2.0--a second generation of the Internet--offers new ways to provide services and collaborate with citizens on health, education, public safety and civic life. Explore Second Life and other social networking tools being used by Congress, NASA, the CDC and others.

* Moderator: Mark Stencel, Governing Magazine, Virignia
* Panelists: Ric Cantrell, Senate, Utah
* Norven Goddard, Alabama Department of Homeland Security
* Leigh Rowan, The SLAgency, California
* James Walker, Alabama Department of Homeland Security

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Happy 24th

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

KCPW: Gang Issues

Laura Jones discusses solutions to gang violence with Senator Ross Romero and John Florez.

Florez says in order to curb gang violence there needs to be less focus on treatment of individuals and more focus on suppression of crime. He is also in favor of stronger sanctions for first-time offenders.

Democratic Senator Ross Romero, who represents District 7 in Salt Lake City, says expanding educational opportunities for youth is another key to curbing gang violence.

"Education is key to this. Keeping these youth in the elementary schools, junior high, in high school, and on to college, is very much a part of the solution. But we also need to recognize that we need to have opportunities," says Romero. "If an individual doesn't see themselves having an opportunity for their future, then it is I think more easy for them to be enticed by a life of crime."

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

"Learn your math, young man! There are people in China starving for your job."

Daily Herald reports on the NASA Standards Working Group.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Storm Clouds, Part II

By Lyle Hillyard
Senate Executive Appropriations Chair

On Friday, the Utah State Tax Commission released preliminary year-end revenue numbers.

When you look at the numbers, you will notice we're collecting less revenue than originally projected. That is not a surprise (we're actually pleased it's not worse). We're still within the range we predicted last month.

No one wants to be right about bad news but legislative dinosaurs like me have been through enough economic cycles that we felt the downturn coming and planned ahead for it. We have some carry-forward money, a healthy Rainy Day fund and we socked away an additional $100 M for the Uniform School Fund. In addition, we crafted a FY 2009 budget that is significantly lower than the FY 2008 budget.

From the article in the Salt Lake Tribune:
"We intentionally reserved a large carry-forward because we anticipated a slowdown," Valentine said. "Utah is very well poised to weather any kind of economic downturn."

Some states are having to cut services because of dwindling tax revenues, said State Tax Commission spokesman Charlie Roberts. "We're in a lot better fiscal shape than most," Roberts said, pointing to Utah's fiscally conservative bent and efforts to foster a favorable business climate as contributing factors.
So, we need to pay attention, spend carefully, and act wisely - but we don't need to be afraid. In keeping with being the best managed state in the nation we have already asked state agencies to plan ahead on where and how they can cut, should that become a necessity. I'm hoping it won't.

But we will keep watching. As further reports arrive (September and November) we will sit down and decide the exact best way to handle the budget. We will have final revenue numbers after the closing period this month. I expect to know our final FY 2008 balance after the Division of Finance closes-out expenditures at the beginning of September.

We've had three years of phenomenally healthy economic and governmental growth. It is probably not an unhealthy exercise to carefully scrutinize state spending and see if the money being spent needs to be reallocated to meet the areas of growth next session.

Reid Hoffman's Idea

The Trib published an LA Times story on Reid Hoffman, chairman and president of LinkedIn.com.
His service lets professionals create online profiles that help them connect with other professionals to get advice, find jobs and make hires. Hoffman sees it as a karmic, self-perpetuating social circle.

More than 24 million people agree and have traded in their Rolodexes crammed with business cards in favor of LinkedIn, which makes money in a variety of ways, including advertising and premium subscriptions. The site offers people the chance to do small favors that could help others in big ways. That's Hoffman's theory of the ''small good,'' something he's been practicing for years.
Senate folk on LinkedIn include Senate President John Valentine, Majority Assistant Whip Sheldon Killpack, Chief Deputy of the Senate Ric Cantrell, and Majority Assistant Laura Barlow.

We also host the Government 2.0 group, a network of citizens and professionals exploring New Media tools to help inspire citizen engagement. More info here. If you read this blog you're qualified and we'd love to have you join the team.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Regency Scholarships

By Lyle Hillyard
Utah State Senator, District 25

Last session, I sponsored a bill in cooperation with the State Board of Regents to create a $1000 scholarship for high school graduates who complete a rigorous course of study for their 4 years in high school and have a good citizenship component to their school attendance. We decided to make it available to those who comply with the requirements with this graduating class mainly to see how it would work and to create some interest in the program. We have been very pleased to see the interest and the number who qualify. It will take all of the $900,000 that was allocated to the program this year. We will need more money to continue the funding, although the bill was written so that the Board of Regents can reduce the amount of the scholarships if those who qualify exceed the available revenue. An interesting question came up.

To qualify, each student is required to take 4 years of rigorous math. Several students completed difficult AP classes their junior year and thus did not take math their senior year. Do they qualify? I have recommended to the board, based on the budget and the fact that this exemption was not considered when the rules were announced, (hence there are probably many more students who would qualify if we made this exemption), that we not make this exemption. We should consider it carefully and if the decision is made to expand the qualifications, we do so in the future.

I really had two purposes in sponsoring the legislation. First, to create a new mind set in students beginning 9th Grade so that they would be thinking of this scholarship and change behavior early on. Granting the scholarships this year by expanding the qualifications won’t necessary accomplish that. Second, I believe we need to help students with the rapidly rising tuition costs. It would be very difficult to reduce tuition. This money will go to our graduating high school students and will be used for tuition costs for Utah post-secondary education including UCAT schools. Granting the scholarships to graduating students now accomplishes this goal. We are receiving very positive feedback from guidance counselors in high schools and believe the first year grants will create an interest and compliance with current students looking forward to their graduation and future educational training.

States who have started these programs have found two big problems. First, they make the scholarship a percent of tuition so that as tuition goes up, so do the costs of these scholarships. Second, they make the qualifications too easy so that in the end almost every one can qualify. We have avoided both problems with this bill but as we make exemptions, we raise the second challenge. It may be that some AP may qualify. As a college student, I did very well in all of my advance math classes but when I returned to USU after 2 ½ years on a LDS mission in Holland, I was very concerned that I had forgotten quantum mechanics. That made law school more inviting than to continue with my major in physics. Then someone raised the issue of concurrent enrollment qualifying. The Regency Scholarship program in my mind is to help students with the raising costs of tuition but more importantly to spur them on to better performance in tougher classes while in public education.

What do you think?

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Word from California

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Ponderous

In 2000, the total appropriated budget for Public Education was $2,144,523,100.

As of this year (FY 2009), the appropriated budget is up to $3,712,949,800, an increase of 73.1 percent.

In the same time period, student enrollment increased 15.7 percent.

Rewarding Performance: Another Step Forward

More from Senator Urquhart on performance-based pay:

Districts and Charter Schools have turned in their plans to implement performance pay measures. Those proposals can be viewed here. They are all over the map – and that is a great thing! Utahns don’t lack ideas to improve public education (or passion about those various ideas), and this initiative provides a great opportunity to experiment with some of those ideas.

After the voucher vote, I’ve had many people tell me how happy or sad they were that vouchers failed. But, regardless of their position on vouchers, they often express a strong desire to figure out a way to pay the best teachers more money. Matching that desire with an appropriate and fair way to actually to do it is a huge and complex task.

Rather than have one group come up a plan, Utah will now run more than 87 separate experiments. WOW! . . . We’ll monitor those experiments, collect the results and determine next steps.
Read more.

Check out the plans.

Lame Duck Travel

By Lyle Hillyard
Utah State Senator, District 25

I noticed an article the other day in the newspaper raising the old issue: Should lame duck legislators still travel at state expense to national meetings when they will not be able to use that information in upcoming sessions as they will no longer be serving? The newspaper article made some good points, and I would generally accept those arguments.

However, I think there are a few other considerations that may have an impact. When I was first elected, I was asked by the President of the Senate to attend a national meeting of NCSL because the Senator who had been assigned to a particular committee could not attend. Although everything had been arranged beforehand, when arrived at the meeting I discovered a rule that does not allow a substitute legislator to vote on issues in the national committee. So while I could attend and participate in the discussion, Utah did not have a voice in that final policy vote. A legislator at the end of his or her term can still add value by representing the state of Utah in these national organizations.

Second, I have attended meetings and picked up material that I know will help other legislators who are interested in the issue. I just pass that information along to the interested member and they can use it. Had I not attended, the material would not have been provided to those who need it. I know from previous leadership positions that we try to make sure that every committee is represented and that legislators attend their meetings so that the three goals of attending national meetings are accomplished:
1 - To express Utah’s position on national and state issues,

2 - To gather knowledge of what is happening in other states so that this can be used in Utah, and

3 - To meet people who are experts in their own states so that as issues come up in Utah, there is reference in the other states for input on what they are doing to handle the problem.
My suggestion would be, rather than making an iron clad rule that lame ducks are forbidden to travel for the state, look at each case and make a reasoned judgment.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Class of 1958

By Lyle Hillyard
Utah State Senator: Cache Valley

There have been several events in my life that have really caused me to stop and think about how fast time flies. The first was when I turned 30. Then again when my first child was married. They all pale in light of the trauma of attending my 50th year class reunion which occurred over the weekend.

The class of ’58 from North Cache High School had 145 graduates (this was in Richmond, Utah. In the olden days it was the farthest north of any High School in Utah but has since been replaced by Sky View High School now in Smithfield). It was reported at our dinner that 29 have passed away. Surprisingly to me most were due to cancer. The second-highest cause of death was accidents with car accidents being the highest. Of the survivors 85 sent photographs and 69 attended the reunion. Most with spouses. One traveled from Eastern Pennsylvania and many from out of state. 37 live within the friendly confines of Northern Utah.

I soon tired of asking people what they were doing and be told that they were retired. Most were still recognizable but some were totally so different that even though I had spent 12 years in school with them, I would have never guessed who they were.

After a fine, full evening and lots of talking, I came to this conclusion; it did not make much difference in what they did for a living or where they lived. People are a lot more important than things. The main subjects for discussion were their health and their families.

I wish someone would have told me that 50 years ago. They probably did but I did not care to listen then.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Word from CNBC

This just in . . .
News Release
July 10, 2008

CNBC Ranks Utah #3 Top State for Business
Other High Rankings from the Milken Institute, Business Facilities Magazine

Salt Lake City -For the second year in a row, CNBC has ranked Utah the No. 3 Top State for Business, recognizing Utah’s economy, high quality of life, and business friendly environment.

“This ranking highlights our constant effort as a State to maintain a strong economic foundation,” Utah Governor Jon Huntsman said. “Our unmatched quality of life, livability, and dynamic workforce make Utah a great place for businesses, employees, and their customers.”

Utah’s annual job growth is the third highest in the nation at 1.4 percent with the national average at 0.1 percent. While our state’s job growth is slowing, we continue to add jobs. Our unemployment is the third lowest in the nation at 3.2 percent, significantly lower than the national average at 5.5 percent. Utah provides businesses with a young, highly educated and hard working workforce pool, vital for continued success.

Utah was also recently recognized as No. 1 for Technology Concentration and Dynamism by the Milken Institute in their State Technology and Science Index, which gave the State a No. 8 ranking overall.

Business Facilities Magazine just ranked Utah as a top ten state in five core areas: Business climate, manufacturing momentum, most educated workforce, drugs and pharmaceuticals (top ten medium metropolitan area: Provo-Orem, No. 5), and medical devices and equipment (top ten large metropolitan area: Salt Lake City, No.2).

# # #

Monday, July 07, 2008

July Garden Report

By Lyle Hillyard
Gardener

I have been out of town for several days and could not believe my eyes when I saw my garden yesterday. It seems like once the irrigation begins, the garden grows up by the day. My strawberries are about done, as is the rhubarb. The potatoes have blossoms and that usually means that I can dig new potatoes. That will be the project this week. The peas are in pod so creamed peas and new potatoes will soon be on the table.

The reality of living in “cold” Cache Valley came home on the 4th of July which we spent at our daughter’s home in Centerville. Their garden is months ahead of ours. They even have tomatoes soon to be ripe and ours haven’t even begun to bloom. We trade our new potatoes and raspberries for their tomatoes and cucumbers. This year with food prices and the concern about shipping costs, we may find ourselves thankful for what we have produced and maybe willing to eat of potatoes and carrots that we dig up under the snow and leaves and not be so dependent on the food in the grocery store that is shipped in from Chile.

Call me next March if you run out of food.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Happy Birthday, America

The sun never shone on a cause of greater worth. ’Tis not the affair of a city, a county, a province, or a kingdom; but of a continent—of at least one-eighth part of the habitable globe. ’Tis not the concern of a day, a year, or an age; posterity are virtually involved in the contest, and will be more or less affected, even to the end of time, by the proceedings now.

- Thomas Paine, Common Sense

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

West Side Story

A group of elected officials, including Mayor Kent Money, Senator Waddoups and Senator Buttars met with the governor today to talk about delaying the Jordan District split. They presented the governor with a petition and information showing stark imbalance in student enrollment, building needs, and taxable property value between the two new Jordan School Districts.

Here is a PDF of the information.

When you have that up on your screen, click on Senate Radio to hear Senator Waddoups explain the numbers. (Here's the MP3).

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Higher Ed Choices

By Lyle Hillyard
Senate Chair of Executive Appropriations

While the issues of mission creep are always involved with any discussion about challenges for Higher Education, Utah has two movements that will really test the future of this state. First, are the smaller schools that feel they need to expand their offerings and become what their area must have to be competitive. We have been able to address some of that needed expansion with the large amounts of new money we have been receiving.

Those days are gone for now but the pent up demand is still there. Where will we get the money? Each of the big schools can also show that they also have unmet needs that require that they receive a substantial boost in funding. While every legislator is supportive of higher education, they seem to be more supportive of the schools in their area or where they attended than for the system as a whole. If we begin taking money from one and giving to another for what ever reason, it will create war and could risk stopping the good system we have had since 1969 of a Board of Regents to govern all the schools.

The other challenge comes from the UCAT’s who want to pull away from the control of the Board of Regents but still offer credit to the students who want it so that they can transfer that credit to one of the regular colleges as they progress towards graduation. That is currently being handled by articulation agreements between the various UCAT schools and a higher education facility. If the legislature gives a blanket approval for such a transfer of credit, I am concerned that we could jeopardize the credibility of these current schools to have their graduates move on out of state into graduate programs with this credit on their transcript. A second problem in my view is if teachers at the UCAT programs are teaching classes that have the same credit as classes at the local universities then why should they not be paid the same and why should the students not pay the same tuition? I am concerned that after this expansion is completed, some one will come to the legislature and say we need a new program that focuses on technical training where students are trained in skills that they need so they can move right into the workplace. UCATs provide an important service that could be lost with a change

I wish the Board of Regents good luck as they try to handle these issues and then present their recommendations. We do want what is best for the students, economy, and educational establishments of the state. We are talking about big bucks here.

Happy New Fiscal Year

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