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Friday, October 30, 2009

New Health Care Rate

At the new federal government rate of $2.2 Million per word this blog post is worth over $62 million.

Don't worry about it. We'll bill your great grandchildren.



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Congressman Bishop on Health Care

Two minute video that cuts to the core of the issue:

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Thursday, October 29, 2009

Senator Urquhart's discussion

Senator Steve Urquhart has been blogging about Sex Ed. Quite the discussion happening on his blog.

Check it out.

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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

First Snow at the Capitol

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Tuesday

A few things in which you may be interested.
1. We're not dead. It's just interim.

2. From a man who has seen both sides -- Former Governor Michael Leavitt writes about the balance of power between the states and D.C. (also in today's UPD)

3. Speaking of the 10th Amendment (and, to a lesser extent, dead people) Rep. Morley posted a blog about the Patrick Henry Caucus in today's UPD.

4. Good comments on the last post.

5. Brrrr.

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Friday, October 23, 2009

Today's question: raise taxes or cut more deeply?

The Governor is committed to building a balanced budget with no tax increase. Gotta respect that. Others, according to Art Raymond's article, believe we'll need to raise about $100 M.

Today's question: raise taxes or cut more deeply?



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Thursday, October 22, 2009

Parents Empowered Press Conference

President Michael Waddoups and Senator Peter Knudson spoke at a press conference highlighting the success of the Parents Empowered program in curbing underage drinking.



Listen to the podcast of the entire press conference here.

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Thursday Morning Workout

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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

October 21, 2009

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Wednesday Afternoon Workout

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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

October 20, 2009

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Senate Radio: Senator Hillyard Budget Update



Our distinguished intern, Mike Cannon, caught Senator Lyle Hillyard after the Executive Appropriations meeting today to discuss the current budget situation. Listen here.

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Confirmation Committee TODAY

The Senate Business and Labor Confirmation Committee will meet today to consider the Governor's appointment to the Alcohol Beverage Control Commission. Catch the meeting LIVE online here.

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Glance at the Week

Click here to see the Legislative Calendar for this week, with links to listen live online.

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Monday, October 19, 2009

Executive Appropriations Meeting Tuesday

KCPW: Lawmakers Consider Impact of Last Year’s Cuts, More Cuts Loom
"Last year, the Legislature approved more than $1 billion in budget cuts, but softened the blow with one-time appropriations from reserve funds and federal stimulus money. However, the programs saved last year by this roughly $450 million appropriation are vulnerable to cuts this year. Meanwhile, revenues have continued to decrease, and enrollment in Utah’s public schools and Medicaid have increased."

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Friday, October 16, 2009

Budget Train Wreck?

By Lyle Hillyard
Senate Chair of Executive Appropriations

This past week, I attended 3 presentations. I was told that there are essential State programs that, if they were not funded either with a continuing back fill or new money, serious problems would occur. The trouble is that I agreed with them. We have identified societal issues where state intervention is making a difference and loss of that State help will have quite an impact. The other problem is that we don’t print money so we are restricted to spending only the money we have. That money comes from the people either with the current tax revenues, which are appearing to continue to decrease, or some type of revenue enhancements. The decreases are so great that such “enhancements” must be large to fill in the gap. Gov. Herbert has initially stated that he does not plan to seek such enhancements so none will come unless he actively pushes for them.

How do we solve the dilemma? The only solution I can offer is that people who know how to deliver these necessary services must find a way to focus these services to those who truly need them and can be delivered within the available revenues. I am pleased when I see agencies realize the dilemma and step up with proposals that will work. Lisa-Michele Church put it fairly when she asked the legislature to amend the law and thus decide where her priorities as an agency should be. She accepted our challenge to make recommendations, but I agree that the ultimate decision should be made by the legislature, if her department cannot adequately provide the services allowed under the mandates of the law. I feel sorry for groups who think that these threatened dire consequences will motivate the legislature to find money to continue business as usual. They are probably in for a rude awakening.

We will try our best but things will be different. I still remember Gov. Matheson did not want to be the first Governor to have a $1.0 B budget in 1984. Now our budget is $12.0 B. That was only 25 years ago. Somehow we survived, but I have not seen that by spending more money, the problems have gone away.

I strongly request that we all look very carefully at the services we really want from Government and measure that against what we (not the rich guy behind the tree) are willing to pay. If agencies and the people who rely on governmental services are not preparing for what may happen with the reduction of state revenues next January, there will be a rude awakening, but hopefully not a train wreck.

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Thursday, October 15, 2009

Star Chamber II

An editorial board that seems to have read the actual text of the "ethics" initiative:

Daily Herald: IN OUR VIEW


A group pushing a ballot initiative it says would raise ethical standards in the state Legislature wants to create a special commission that would examine allegations of misbehavior.

Just about everybody, including many a lawmaker, feels that some sort of independent eye on the Legislature is a good idea. But Utahns should not be swayed to support this ballot measure just because it sounds good. Sound bites do not make sound public policy. It's the nitty-gritty plain language of the law that counts, and that's where the proposed initiative fails.

Voters need to understand the plain language of this initiative, because it is laden with problems.

For example, those pushing the ethics initiative frequently claim that the oversight commission it would create is strictly advisory, so Utahns need not fret overmuch about its powers. Looking at the plain language, however, which describes what would be on the ballot in November 2010, gives a more alarming picture.

The referendum, if passed, would make this state law:
"The commission is vested with power and jurisdiction ... to do all things, whether herein specifically designated or in addition thereto, which are necessary or convenient in order to accomplish" the broad purpose of ethics enforcement.
That's a blank check for the commission, with no check or balance. Who decides what's necessary or convenient? The proposed law makes the commission immune from any court ruling. So the conclusion must be that the panel itself would decide what was "necessary and convenient."

That's not merely wide latitude; it's a virtually unlimited mandate.

The genius of the American system is that it puts limits on government. Here, unfortunately, is a loophole that would seemingly let the ethics panel avoid limits. But this is just one instance of plain language at variance with sound bite.

Is the commission's job merely advisory, to lecture Capitol Hill on right or wrong? Not at all. Here's a key passage from the petition:
"Although the commission serves the legislature and is not an agency within the executive branch of state government, the commission nevertheless shall have the powers and shall adopt the procedures of the Utah Administrative Rulemaking Act."
Mmm. That doesn't sound so bad. It has to make rules, right? But now turn to the code, which says:
"An agency's written statement that is made as a rule in accordance with the requirements of this chapter is enforceable and has the effect of law."
That means the ethics commission will make laws -- or at least rules that have the effect of law, something like the Internal Revenue Code of the United States. The laws the commission would make are not necessarily trivial ones, either. The petition goes on to say that
"Any conduct which violates the code of conduct shall be deemed in every instance to be one or more of the following: (i) a felony; (ii) a breach of the peace; (iii) an action outside the ordinary course of legislative business; (iv) an action beyond the scope of a legislator's official duties."
Looking at all this, we see that the initiative would give the ethics panel real heft in the legal world. Advisory? Hardly. Of course, its advocates certainly hope the new setup would have an impact. But our judicial system, by contrast, has plenty of built-in protections for an accused person. Not so with the ethics initiative. It seems to envision a different process.

To its credit, the proposed law would explicitly apply the state open meetings and open records acts to the panel, so that proceeding would be conducted in the full light of day. Yet, except for openness,
"there shall be no judicial review or agency review of any commission action."
Is this the sort of Star Chamber that Utahns want? Be careful what you wish for. No judicial review of a governmental action? How could that happen? How could Americans think that courts should not step in to protect rights? Who is to prevent potential abuses by the ethics panel itself if not the courts?

In short, a reading of the plain language of the ethics petition strongly suggests that the commission would not be merely a nag and a scold, with no real powers. On the contrary, it will have significant legal powers, including a startling authority to intervene in court cases.

Certainly, there is merit in the idea of an independent body examining ethics questions. But like every other governmental entity, it must act within clear and definite limits. Sadly, the ethics commission as outlined in the current ballot initiative falls far short of that vital American ideal.

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Star Chamber I

Star Chamber (from Wikipedia):
" . . . The court was set up to ensure the fair enforcement of laws against prominent people, those so powerful that ordinary courts could never convict them of their crimes. Court sessions were held in secret, with no indictments, no right of appeal, no juries, and no witnesses. Evidence was presented in writing. Over time it evolved into a political weapon and became a symbol of the misuse and abuse of power by the English monarchy and courts."

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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Panguitch!

We hardly knew ye. Article in the New York Times, via Utah Policy Daily.

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Fix Immigration

Senator Robles on KCPW:
"... we’re asking Congress to fix a broken policy system that will have a direct impact on our economic situation...."

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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Abortion loophole targeted

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A New Partnership: USU and the Idaho National Laboratory

By Kevin Van Tassell
Senator, District 26 (Uintah Basin)

The coming together of Utah State University and the Idaho National Laboratory signifies a synergy as we move forward in both conventional oil and gas production and new hybrid energy. It gives the Idaho National Laboratory a local presence to test, research and develop their practices. The press release details what is expected to occur as we bring USTAR, the Uintah Basin and the USU Energy Dynamics Lab together with the Idaho National Laboratory.

It has been exciting for me to work with these people and see the partnership come together with the help of public and private donations as well as the cooperation of all entities. I look forward to this partnership studying and solving many of the energy questions we have today.

See the full press release here.

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Transparent.Utah.gov :: Essay Contest

From the Sutherland Institute:

SUTHERLAND ANNOUNCES SCHOLARSHIP ESSAY CONTEST

SALT LAKE CITY - In an effort to encourage Utahns to use the state's new transparency website and to promote responsible citizenship, high school students throughout the state of Utah are invited to apply for one of five $1,000 scholarships being offered by Sutherland Institute. Students, grades 9-12, may do so by submitting an essay on how to use information available on the new State website, www.transparent.utah.gov, to improve Utah's schools.

Students are encouraged to explain their experience using the website and how they believe the information on that website can lead to improving education. Students are also encouraged to include facts found on transparent.utah.gov and how those facts have impacted or are currently impacting their education.

For more information about the Transparency Scholarship Essay Contest, download the Transparency Scholarship Essay Contest Application. All entries must be postmarked no later than October 31, 2009.

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The Senate has Gone Country

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Friday, October 09, 2009

Revolving Door: Who cares?

El Foresto tweets (and blogs): Why is Nobody Else Bothered By Rep. Holdaway's New Job?

Does anyone care?

If certain legislative watchers were agitated about the revolving door last winter, why are they silent now?

In City Weekly (City Weekly, for pete's sake. At least they call it like they see it):
Conveniently Ethical

Rep. Kory Holdaway, R-Taylorsville, a legislator who often leads the fight for education, will become the top lobbyist for the Utah Education Association next month. Thankfully, he will resign his seat—which is not actually required just because he is a lobbyist—but he will be using the connections and influence he built while serving (and being paid by) the public. Even more disappointingly, UEA is one of the primary supporters of the so-called ethics-reform initiative that would require former legislators to wait two years before becoming lobbyists.
For the record, we all agree that Kory is a great guy. We're talking concepts here. Your thoughts?

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Eerie alternate universe

What's going on here? Earth bombs the Moon, President Obama wins the Nobel Prize, and Bob Bernick publishes this.

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Good Question

Joe Pyrah writes about writing about LDS General Conference:
How in the name of all that is inky and tweety are we supposed to transition into the Digital Age if half our readers not only don't get it, but get angry about it?

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Thursday, October 08, 2009

UPD: Call to Action

Representative Mike Morely published this in Utah Policy Daily. Appropriate and timely reminder.

A movie from a few years ago portrayed a fictional president of the United States. Near the end of the film, the actor portraying the president said these lines, "America isn't easy. America is advanced citizenship. You've got to want it bad, because it's gonna put up a fight."

I've thought about those words over the years and find them to be particularly true for our nation today.

Being a citizen of The United States of America means that we -- "We, the People" -- govern ourselves. In this republic of ours, we are represented by leaders whom we elect. These elected officials are chosen to represent us -- our values, our ideals, our desires and political will -- in the body or office to which they are elected. They have not wrested power from us. They are not elected for life. When these elected representatives no longer represent us, it is our duty to elect new leaders to take their place.

Throughout our lives, this is our great and solemn responsibility as citizens of this nation. In order to fulfill this responsibility to the best of our ability, we must be willing to take action.

The signers of the Declaration of Independence took action at great personal risk, indicating, "we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor." These were no idle promises.

Their action branded them traitors to their native country of Great Britain. Had the American colonies not won the war, these men would very likely have been found guilty of treason and executed.

Every day, the men and women of the United States armed forces take action to protect us against enemies and aggressors the world over.

Many find their duty takes them into harm's way, yet they willing go forward with the certainty that their actions will preserve liberty for their families and loved ones.

The action we are called to take does not put us in harm's way or place our lives in jeopardy, but it is no less important. What must we do?

  • Read and understand the principles contained in the founding documents of our nation, including the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence
  • Understand the issues of the day and evaluate them according to the principles contained in our founding documents
  • Take the time to become familiar with political candidates and their platforms. Find out if they will represent you well in their elected office
  • Teach our children what it means to be a citizen of The United States of America
  • Show respect for our laws and work with elected officials to change laws which are contrary to our founding documents

And so the actor concludes his speech, "Now show me that, defend that, celebrate that... Then you can stand up and sing about the ‘land of the free'".


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Monday, October 05, 2009

Provo on the Rise

According to Forbes Magazine, the Provo-Orem area is the number 2 U.S. City (metro area) on the rise.

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Friday, October 02, 2009

Garden Time

By Lyle Hillyard
Senator, District 25

This has been a glorious gardening year. The frost we normally get in Cache Valley on the second week of September did not come. We did cover our raspberries and cantaloupes last week when it was predicted that we would have a freeze but it only got down to 34 degrees. I am still picking beans, raspberries and corn. The cabbages (both green and red) are doing very well. The big work will come in about two weeks when we will spread about one ton of compost on the garden and plow all under except the carrots that we will cover with leaves to dig up in the winter when they have become very sweet. It has been fun to invite students who are living by us to come with their small children and learn where potatoes, carrots and apples come.

If anyone wants to come to Logan in the next several weeks, we need help picking and washing the apples. We will even give you a gallon or two of freshly pressed apple juice! The Red Delicious really makes good juice.

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Thursday, October 01, 2009

Who's conservative? Who's liberal?

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Urquhart on Holdaway

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