Saturday, February 17, 2018

2018 General Session - Week 4

Week Four moved at a steady pace.  Here is the week in pictures.

The week started out with a 7am gathering of our Northern Utah Caucus.  As you can tell from the vantage point of the photo, I was a few minutes late to the meeting. 

Students treated us to a "Lion Dance" during lunch this week. 

Rob Bishop came to visit us at the Capitol and offered a report to our caucus.  The bottom line:  Washington is broken...still.  The Congress' concentration of power in House and Senate Leadership means that big legislation is always pushed forward via panicked emergency deadlines rather than thoughtful discussion and debate.  In my opinion, the way that Congress has organized itself prevents a change, even if the people are replaced.

Rep. Becky Edwards presented the bill to replace the statue of Philo Farnsworth at the U.S. Capitol with the statue of March Hughes Cannon.  Here Rep. Edwards speaks with the mural of Martha Hughes Cannon above her and her Senate Sponsor, Senator Todd Weiler, behind her.  

We had lunch at the Joseph Smith Memorial building with Deseret Media to discuss a bill that eliminates non-compete agreements for the news media.  Needless to say, they don't like the bill.  This lunch was held after a contentious committee meeting where the bill was passed on a split vote. I support the idea of eliminating non-compete abuses.  However, the bill is too broad in its current form and I voted against it in committee.  The most ironic part of the lunch is that Deseret Media appears to be a good actor in the industry while all the complaints we are getting from industry folks about abuses come from other media outlets.  The good news out of all this is that, while sitting next to Kevin Eubank, I learned his favorite place to ski is Snowbasin.      

Sadly, my National Popular Vote bill has inspired a pageant of ugliness in some uncivil corners of my party.  Look for an exciting post about 'Love' Letters I received on this topic at the end of the Session.  I have saved them all.   

Lobbyists of all types crowd the doors of the House Chamber.

Our annual Speaker's Dinner this year was held on the floor of the Vivint Arena.  It was a sentimental event and a nice way to honor Speaker Hughes. 

We were paid a visit by the Consul General of Canada Stephane Lessard.  He discussed the problems facing free trade between Canada and America and their desire to maintain trade between our countries.  Over 76,000 Utah jobs are tied to trade with Canada.  Exiting NAFTA would cost Utah approximately 18k-36k jobs.  NAFTA is a big deal for our state. 

Students from Ogden High School came up to the Capitol to learn how our system works. 

My daughter Wynnie came up to pal around with me for a day. 

Quote of the Week

"I support this bill...regardless who the sponsor is."

- Rep. Tim Quinn

Mr. Peterson's Bills

HB20 - Political Acitivies and Elections - This bill is sitting on the House Concurrence calendar and will be voted on Tuesday before going to the Governor's desk.

HB80 - Child Placement Amendments - This bill is on the Senate 2nd Reading Calendar.

HB110 - Lobbyist Licencing Amendments - This bill is scheduled to be heard at committee Tuesday, February 20th.

HB126 - Offender Housing Amendments - This bill was substituted and passed out of Senate Committee unanimously.  It will now wait on the Senate 2nd Reading Calendar while we prioritize funding.

HB193 - National Popular Vote Interstate Compact - This bill is still in possession of our Government Operations Committee.

HB270 - Teacher Employment Amendments - This bill passed House Committee unanimously and was placed passed the House on the Consent Calendar.  It now goes to Senate Committee for a hearing. 

HB384 - Trust Deeds and Statute of Limitations - This bill has been numbered and has been assigned to the House Judiciary Committee.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

2018 General Session - Week 3

The third week of the Session saw some major events.

Halfway House Reform

I was able to meet with House Leadership and the Department of Corrections to find common ground on HB126 and our efforts to re-align our halfway house system.  A late Monday evening gathering was a breakthrough for us.  The Department of Corrections offered constructive feedback for us that turned into the 1st Substitute of the bill.  I presented the bill on Thursday and it was overwhelmingly supported with a 64-5 vote.  Our next step is to shepherd the bill through the Senate as we work on the fiscal note.  Here is a video of the floor presentation:

Remembering Our Progenitors

My grandmother passed away Saturday evening and her funeral was held in Shelley, Idaho on Wednesday.  I was asked to speak at her funeral.  We spent the day with family as we remembered the great life and example Grandma gave us. 


While I was out of town Wednesday, I was made aware that my colleague Jon Stanard had hastily resigned due to the failing health of his father.  The abrupt and cold nature of his departure hurt just as much as hearing about the suffering in his family.  Then, Thursday morning, the headlines hit about his very poor judgement.  The Legislature is still trying to process what has happened.  My heart goes out to Jon's wife and children who are innocent victims of this sad turn of events.     

It is a reminder that life is about choices and we must live with the choices that we make.  May we be wise in what we choose.    

Scenes from the Capitol

Most government meetings threaten to put people to sleep.  Some of my colleagues take that threat very seriously.

One of the more serious presentations we heard this week. 

Hanging out with my Ogden Arts peeps.  

Trashing a state monument (the Capitol) to show solidarity with a state monument.  Facepalm!

The most delicious part of the week.  

The sympathy Symphony bars return as bills start failing on the board.  

House Floor Humor

Mr. Peterson's Bills

HB20 - Political Activities and Elections - This bill is sitting on the Senate 2nd reading calendar and will be voted on soon.

HB80 - Child Placement Amendments - This bill passed the House unanimously and was heard in Senate Committee this week.  It now moves on to the Senate Floor for a vote.

HB110 - Lobbyist Licensing Amendments - We are putting the polishing touches on this bill before having it heard in committee next week.

HB126 - Inmate Housing Amendments - This bill will be heard soon in Senate Committee

HB193 - National Popular Vote Interstate Compact - This bill is waiting patiently to be put on our committee agenda.

HB270 - Teacher Employment Amendments - This bill is scheduled to be heard in committee next week.  


Saturday, February 3, 2018

2018 General Session - Week 2

Week 2 was a productive yet contentious.  It all started with a 7am Monday at the Little America Hotel for our annual Utah GOP Breakfast.

Mr. Peterson's Bills 

HB20 - Political Activities and Elections - This bill was passed out of the House and heard in Senate committee this week.  It goes to the Senate Floor for a final vote.

HB80 - Child Placement Amendments - This bill was heard on the house floor and voted out unanimously.  You can watch the floor debate HERE

HB110 - Lobbyist Licencing Amendments - This bill has been held up due to conflicts between our Legislative legal staff and the lobbyist community on how to best proceed with the bill.  We finally held a meeting where we resolved the outstanding issues to the satisfaction of all parties.  A redraft of the bill should be public at anytime.  It will then go to the rules committee and then assigned to Government Operations.  

HB126 - Inmate Housing Amendments - This was an extremely contentious bill to work on this week.  My first meeting was on Monday with the Law Enforcement Legislative Committee who took a vote last week to oppose the bill.  I presented the bill to them for the first time and took some criticism from the Department of Corrections.  Meanwhile, local chiefs and sheriffs sympathized with the bill.  The committee voted to take a neutral stance after our presentation.  

On Tuesday we presented the bill to the Law Enforcement Standing Committee.  The meeting was extremely tense and the bill was panned by the Department of Corrections.  However, I was able to overcome the concerns of the committee and the bill passed on a 5-4 vote.  You can listen to the meeting and the vote below.  


You can also read about it in the DNews and the Trib.     

HB193 - National Popular Vote Interstate Compact - I keep getting calls and emails from folks in Utah County who are angry about the bill.  It turns out most of them have been misinformed about what the bill does and when I talk to them about how the bill really works, they put their torches and pitchforks down to do some more thinking.  

HB270 - Teacher Employment Amendments - This bill just became public.  It fixes a technical glitch in our state software system that does not allow a teacher to be credentialed at more than one school district.  Originally, I was told that the bill would trigger a total rewrite of the software since apparently it was programmed back in antiquity.  The note was supposed to be an outrageous number like $40 Million.  Fortunately, the program is scheduled to be rewritten anyway and my bill will provide guidance in that rewrite.  So, the fiscal impact is $0.  

Look for more exciting news in Week 3!

Saturday, January 27, 2018

2018 General Session - Week 1

Session Opening

The 2018 General Session kicked off with the House being serenaded by alumni.

Former Reps Ryan Wilcox, Spencer Cox, Kerry Gibson, Jim Nielson, and a Rep who served well before my time offered up our National Anthem and God Bless America.  It was a great performance.  Elder Dale G. Renlund of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of the LDS Church offered in the opening prayer.   

Mr. Peterson's Bills

Presently I have about 10 bills in the hopper.  However, several of those bills have been in queue while issues are worked out between stakeholders.  So, if things go well, my total count may winnow down to 7.  We will find out in the coming week where some of the bills are headed.  Here is a summary of the bills I have drafted as of now:

HB20 - Political Activities and Elections - The most exciting part of this bill is the title.  Once you get into the meat you quickly realize this is a bill full of technical corrections, reference changes, and other uninteresting minutia.  The most titillating parts of this bill decriminalizes the act of misstating your registered voter status when signing an petition.  The second most interesting part brings financial disclosure deadlines for State School Board races in line with every other office.  This bill was inspired by recommendations that came to our Interim Committee from the Lt. Governor's office. 

HB80 - Child Placement Amendments - Third Time Is The Charm!  I have run this bill three times now.  It has passed unanimously in the House and Senate TWICE but failed to be prioritized for funding each time.  We will make it stick this year.  The bill requires the state to do arrest warrant checks prior to reuniting children in state custody with their parents.  The bill passed a House committee hearing this week and moves on to the House Floor.  

HB110 -  Lobbyist Licensing Amendments - This bill attempts to create workplace harassment training for Lobbyists who work at Capitol Hill.  Our staff have recommended a bill to help reduce liability for the State in the rare event that state employees are harassed by lobbyists.  However, the language we currently have in the bill appears to extend into activity off the Hill as well.  So, we are working to revamp the bill to reduce the scope and provide common sense training while also reducing liability for the State.  I am meeting with stakeholders soon to negotiate the language of our substitute.  

HB126 - Inmate Housing Amendments - This bill is a top priority for me.  The bill would realign Utah's halfway house distribution so that facilities would be based in communities across the Wasatch Front and Southern Utah.  Presently, Utah only has facilities in Salt Lake County and Ogden.  Inmates from around the state are being paroled to these large facilities and are far from family and support that can help them re-integrate into society.  So far I have 22 co-sponsors to the bill with the entire House Law Enforcement Standing Committee being co-sponsors as well.  The Department of Corrections opposes the bill.  Meanwhile, local law enforcement from counties across the Wasatch Front support it.  I am optimistic we will get the bill funded and passed.  It will cost approximately $14 Million to construct and staff the new centers.

HB193 - National Popular Vote Interstate Compact - This bill is also a top priority for me.  What more can I say about this bill?  Please read more about it HERE, HERE, HERE and HERE.  There is a 95% chance that what you have heard about this bill on the radio or via email blast is incorrect.  

More drafts are on their way...

Scenes From The First Week

Ogden's Tourism troopers raided Capitol Hill in a promotional blitz.

The Utah League of Cities and Towns took us by bus to have lunch with city folk from our districts.  Here I am with Rep Mike Kennedy, Rep Scott Sandall, and Senator Dan Hemmert.  

Kim came down to the Capitol so we could enjoy dinner together and attend the State of the State address by Governor Herbert.  The only thing missing was popcorn. 

Early bird gets the worm...or awesome photo of the Capitol.

Meeting with other Northern Utah politicos to discuss issues affecting our region of the state.

Former colleague Dean Sanpei visited us.  He resigned in December after taking a job in Colorado.  We are actively searching for a top quality Colorado Rep to poach in retaliation.  

Quote of the Week

"We need to turn this ship around before we go over the cliff!"

- Utah House Rep (name withheld)

This is all for now.  Much more to come in Week 2!

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

VIDEO: National Popular Vote Interstate Compact Heard at Committee

Today I presented my proposal to have Utah join the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact at the Government Operations Interim Committee.

Here is video of the powerpoint presentation with audio from my remarks and the committees questions:

The bill will be heard again at the Government Operations Standing Committee in the up coming 2018 General Session.

Monday, November 13, 2017

WINNER TAKE ALL: Mormon Missouri Expulsion and the Electoral College

In 1820, Missouri and and Maine entered the Union under the auspices of the Missouri Compromise.  Maine was admitted as a free state and Missouri was admitted as a slave state.  Through the compromise, the precarious balance of power between the North and South was maintained for a little longer.

Eleven years later, in the summer of 1831, Mormon settlers began to migrate from Ohio to Jackson County, Missouri to establish a new center of Mormon life.  The territory was untamed and on the frontier. Life was hard.  Nevertheless, the group worked diligently to improve their land and livelihoods.

Unfortunately, their presence was not appreciated by other locals who took a dim view on their new religious neighbors.  With Missouri being a slave state, anti-slavery sentiments among the Mormons proved to be a potential threat to slaveholders.  The large Mormon presence threatened to upset the political balance that supported Missouri as slave state.

Settler agitation against their Mormon neighbors began in earnest in 1833.  A local paper in Independence, MO published a letter signed by community leaders.  Here are their unbelievable words:

Clearly, the settlers of Jackson County had little tolerance for their religiously enthused neighbors.

After tensions mounted and the Mormons abandoned their settlements to relocate in Clay County, the Missouri Legislature created two new counties for the Mormons to reside.  Caldwell and Daviess Counties were created as safe havens for Mormons to segregate themselves from the rest of the state.  The settlements quickly filled to overflowing and Mormon settlers spilled into surrounding areas.  Lands were purchased in surrounding counties and tension again began to rise.  Tensions erupted into violence including Mormon youth and prisoners killed at the Haun's Mill Massacre.

In 1838 Governor Boggs issued Executive Order 44 "The Mormon Extermination Order":

The result of the extermination order was swift.  General Clark surrounded the largest Mormon settlement of Far West and laid it under siege.  Mormon settlers capitulated.  Terms were issued giving the Mormons until Spring to leave the state or face a slaughter.  Rather than waiting, the Mormons abandoned their settlements that winter and left for Illinois.

The material losses were enormous.  The 12,000 Mormons left behind their land, their homes, and their possessions.  Estimates of financial losses in today's money is around $25 million.

After the exodus, Joseph Smith, the president of the church, traveled to Washington D.C. to seek redress for the abuses the Mormons had experienced.  Considering their rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness to have been trodden down, he took the grievances of the Mormon people to the highest level.  Joseph met with President Van Buren to plead for justice.  After hearing the issue Van Buren's response was stunning.  There are two quotes attributed to his retort upon hearing of the Mormon's deprivations in Missouri:

    "What can I do? I can do nothing for you, -if I do anything, I shall come in contact with the whole State of Missouri." 

"Your cause is just, but I can do nothing for you; if I take up for you, I shall lose the vote of Missouri."

His words (whichever quote you chose) is stunning.  We read the words of a calculating politician who is weighing his electoral chances in the run up to an election year.  In 1839, Missouri held four electoral votes in the Electoral College.  The state also awarded those votes based on a winner-take-all system that Utah and 48 other states still employ today.  President Van Buren figured that he would lose all of Missouri's electoral college votes if he helped the Mormons.  That was simply too much to ask.

In the end, the result was truly winner-take-all:  The mobs took all of the Mormon's wealth and Van Buren took all of Missouri's electoral votes in the 1840 election.

Thus, we see yet another example of how our current winner-take-all electoral college system produces distorted (and in this case grossly unjust) outcomes based on the rules for electing our President.  You can learn more about my proposed solution to this problem

Monday, November 6, 2017

STATES' RIGHTS: Federalism and the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact

Federalism, the 10th Amendment, and State's Rights are all subjects near and dear to my heart.  Having observed the course of business in our national capitol and its propensity for one-size-fits-all policy, I recognize the great wisdom our Founder's showed when they ordained the separate states as laboratories of democracy.  So, it is with great regret that I watch as national policy is drafted that pleases a few but runs counter to the will and best interests of other various states.  Such a process is not only insensitive, but also completely unnecessary.

Presently, national directives are dictated by the great policy making exercise that occurs every four years: the Presidential Election.  It is during this great exercise in political showmanship that promises are made and deals struck by candidates to assure their ascendance to power.  If the right agreements are made with enough of the right people, the candidate prevails and becomes our head of state.

We witnessed this in President Trump's surprising victory in November.  He defied conventional political wisdom by wooing Rust Belt Democrats to his cause and blurring the traditional party lines.  In order to secure the support of these voters, it was required to strike a deal with the trade unions to promote a trade policy that encourages U.S. manufacturing.  This policy would involve tariffs, regulations, and potential trade wars with other countries.  While a trade war would be good for Ohio and Pennsylvania, it would not be good for Utah which is an export state.

Which begs the question, why would such a bargain be struck to gain support of the Rust Belt states in the first place?  Well, as it turns out, states like Pennsylvania and Ohio are swing states.  Like Colorado, Nevada, Florida, Virginia, and North Carolina, the margins of support in the 2016 election were too close to call before election day to know if the state would throw its Electoral College votes to a candidate of either party.  The reason this electoral uncertainty is important is because nearly all the states in the country, except Nebraska and Maine, have pledged their Electoral College votes to the candidate who wins the state popular vote.

This winner-take-all policy has in turn created battleground states who gain all the attention during presidential elections. Meanwhile, the remaining states, like Utah, sit on the benches and watch as national policy is crafted based on the needs and desires of these all-important battleground states. The spectator states are left wanting.

To offer some examples, let's look at two of the most partisan issues that have risen in recent Utah memory: Public Lands and Medicaid Expansion.  Regarding Medicaid Expansion, Utah, like most states, applied for Federal waivers to the program.  The waivers would have exempted Utah from some parts of the law to help the program better fit with what local political leaders felt would work in the state.  Our request was outright rejected.  Meanwhile, Florida, a battleground state, received their Federal waiver and was able to move forward with the program.  Had the Federal government been willing to accommodate Utah's specific needs, the acrimonious debate on Medicaid expansion would probably have been much more subdued.

The other issue vexing Utah is how we manage our public lands.  With over 60% of the land in our state being owned and managed by the Federal Government, we have a strong interest in making sure that management is being handled properly.  Many rural communities depend on that stewardship being treated seriously.  With the Federal Government having such a large footprint in the state, problems are bound to surface.  When they do, Utah has petitioned the Federal Government to resolve the conflicts.  Unfortunately, few of our requests are granted.  Meanwhile, Colorado, who also has a large amount of Federally owned public land, has most of their public lands conflicts resolved.  Is it merely a coincidence that Colorado is also a battleground state?  It is not.

So, how does Utah reassert its rights as a state and engage in the national policy discussion?  The answer is the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact.  By forcing Presidential Candidates to consider the needs of all the voters in all of the States, the policy outcomes will be more even-handed.  Given the diverse perspectives and needs of each state, candidates would be forced to promise policy that would accommodate large swaths of the country rather than specific niches.  Spectator states, like Utah, would become proportionally relevant again to the policy discussion and improve the likelihood that their grievances are heard.

I hope you can join me in supporting the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact.  Utah deserves to have a seat at the Federal policy table.  I look forward to presenting this exciting policy initiative in the 2018 General Session.