Monday, January 23, 2017

WOMEN'S MARCH 2017: The Potpourri Passion Protest


The first day of the 2017 General Session was greeted by a throng of protesters who descended on Capitol Hill.  To be honest I have never seen so many people fill the Capitol building.  There were at least 5,000 people who marched from downtown SLC up the hill to the buildling...in the snow.  A remarkable showing. 




So what was the fuss about?  After our business adjourned in the Chamber, I went undercover into the crowd to investigate source of their ire.  I discovered that there were many voices being sounded.  Here is what I found.


Feminist Voices

When someone says "Women's March", what comes to mind?  These posters seem to fit the bill.





Well ok, so maybe this dude doesn't come to mind. 




Bullet shooting uterus?  Tell me more.




Vulgar Voices

Of course, there are those who simply can't resist the temptation to take a protest into the gutter.





Sigh....


Angry Voices

There were some folks dealing with some serious angst issues.  Hopefully this loud and sweaty conclave allowed them to shake out the anger.






Confused Voices

Some folks didn't get the memo or showed up to the wrong protest. 


 This protester will be glad to hear the Lejislacher is taking a hard look at the ejukashun bujet.








Masses of People

It's amazing to see everyone showing up on a work day in a snowstorm.  




NOTE:  I made a specific effort to avoid the public restrooms.  I was having disturbing flashbacks to Lalapalooza. 


I am sure this won't be the last protest we see at the Capitol before the Legislature finishes its work in March. Lets hope the next one features symbols other than crudely named knit-caps.   








Sunday, January 15, 2017

2017 Pre-Session Primer



So the 2017 General Session gets under way in a week's time.  What does this year's policy scrum have in store?  There is a lot to be sure.  Here is brief overview of what to expect.

'Our Schools Now' Takes The Legislature Hostage

You may have heard of the effort by Education First, Our Schools Now, and a group of wealthy businessmen to hike our income taxes by $750 Million through a ballot initiative.  While this constitutes a nearly 20% increase in taxpayer's out of pocket expenses, the group is hoping you won't mind, sign their petition, and vote for it anyway.  

The threat of a citizen ballot initiative is a popular way for special interest groups to intimidate the Legislature.  You may recall Count My Vote and their crusade to abolish the party Caucus/Convention system.  The Legislature saw that the threat was real and drafted SB54 to prompt a cease fire.  The fight stopped but the consequences of SB54 live on.  

With Education First's heist, my bet is we are in a recession by 2018 when their initiative would appear on the ballot and voters reject the measure. 

Besides, there are many ways for the Legislature to trim up tax credits and other tax policies to help create funds for education that have been overlooked.  Legislation I recently passed helps the Legislature identify those funds.  

Meanwhile, expect the Legislature to be insulted by these provocative gesticulations.  The thought of a few wealthy people willing to advocate for an increase of taxes on the common man just doesn't sit well with me.  And in an even more ironic twist, the key provocateurs are former Legislators themselves.  Retirement is boring, I guess.

Medical Marijuana

Look for this issue to come up again but it will likely come from a research angle.  The change in the Administration in D.C. will require a lot of clarity in federal policy before you see major medical marijuana initiatives move forward.  The uncertainty will cloud this issue this year, I believe.

Business Licensing Simplification

Utah has a moderately heavy regulatory apparatus when it comes to licensing businesses.  Efforts are underway to create a principled and well reasoned policy for requiring businesses to be licensed.  This effort should reduce burdens to businesses and open up competition in many industries. 

Election Reform

The dejected voters who suffered in big lines on election day this last cycle will have their grievances addressed in several bills.  Most of those bills will come to our Government Operations Committee of which I am the Chair.  

Mr. Peterson's Bills

HB23 - Income Tax Credit Modifications - This bill will phase out rooftop solar tax credits.  The bill will move $24M+ to the education budget.  Learn more HERE, HERE, and HERE.

HB24 - Student Prosperity Savings Program - Tax Amendments - This bill leverages private funds to help disadvantaged and poor students pay for college education expenses. 

HB64 - Property Tax Relief Amendments - This bill clarifies that widows and widowers may receive existing property tax relief regardless of their age.

HB73 - Child Placement Amendments - This bill passed the House and died on the Senate board last Session due to time constraints last Session.  It requires outstanding arrest warrant checks to be conducted on parents of children in state custody before the state moves for reunification. 

I have a couple more bills that are being drafted right now.  Look for more details on those as they are published...

In a final note, I am looking forward to my new assignment as Chair of the Government Operations Standing Committee.  I will be flanked by my wingman Rep. Norman Thurston who will serve as Vice-Chair.  We should have a very interesting agenda this year.  Look for more reports to come! 









       

RACE RELATIONS: Colorblindness and the Content of Character



For the past 5 years, I have served as a member of the Multi-Cultural Commission.  The Commission has served as a sounding board for ethnic communities throughout the state and a place where issues and concerns can be discussed as they relate to separate and specific groups.

While the mission and focus of the Commission seemed to waiver during my early tenure there, it has since coalesced around a message of outreach and advocacy.  The best example of this is the yearly Youth Leadership Summit that brings thousands of kids from ethnic minority homes together to promote education and personal success.  Indeed, the event is inspiring and successful in its own right.

But with all this being said, there is an undertone that I have noticed in much of our dialogue about race and ethnicity that I find disconcerting and perhaps counter productive to our ultimate goals of harmony.  Early upon my arrival at the Commission, we discussed the different Chambers of Commerce that were set up for various ethnic minorities.  There was the Hispanic Chamber, the African-American Chamber, the Asian Chamber, and so forth.  I spoke to a Commission member after the meeting and related to him my excitement that one day none of these Chambers would be necessary because we would all be colorblind and our differences wouldn't matter. To my shock, this member rejected my comment and declared that it was absolutely important to have individual and distinct groups.  He believed that each group should be celebrated in its difference from the others.  I was so surprised that I didn't know what to say.

Here is the paradox as I see it:  Martin Luther King Jr. taught that men should be judged by the content of their character and not by the color of their skin.  Yet, in today's diversity sensitive society, we are expected to distinguish people by their racial difference from our own.  I struggle to reconcile these two thoughts.  One one hand we have colorblindness and on the other we have high-contrast.

In my view, diversity simply for diversity's sake is divisive.   The term 'diverse' should be an adjective used to describe the physical qualities of something, such as a population.   But in many cases it is assigned a moral value.  Such as diversity is good, homogeneity is bad.  Yet, if we go back to Dr, King's words, if we are truly living by them, neither diversity nor homogeneity matter.  They become irrelevant.

So, this colorblind view has been a perspective I have held for a long time.  I have Hispanic neighbors who don't speak any English and are from rural Mexico.  I have African-American and Asian colleagues I work with in my profession as a real estate broker.  To me, everyone is an equal in their humanity and each brings something of value to the table in my personal relationship with them.  Yet, when I share this perspective with my liberal leaning friends, they say "Well, that's great you are doing that, but the rest of the world isn't that way."  Well, I say Why Not?

Racial acceptance is a non-partisan issue.  Sadly, the ongoing politicization of this topic moves people farther apart rather than closer together.  My wish for this MLK Day is that we take an introspective look at how we view those around us who are different from us.  If we realize they have a family, work, pay taxes, and want the same opportunities in life we do, perhaps we can get past the divisions that keep us from relating with each other.  Rather than persistently pointing out our distinct differences to everyone else, let us engage our fellow men in a spirit of our common humanity.          


Monday, January 9, 2017

UTAH JOURNOS: Herbert Must Go Hog Wild With Power




As the wind-up to the 2017 General Session begins in earnest, many commentators are pitching their vision for how Governor Herbert should wield his Executive Scepter.  Both veteran reporter Bob Bernick and newly knighted Trib columnist Robert Gerhke (vote Gerhke!) have chimed in with an earful of advise:


and




The desire presented by both of these venerable journalists is that our good Governor should spend his political capitol like a drunken sailor.  While a lot of Democrats I know would pay money to see our Governor drunk or dressed up as a sailor, neither is likely any time...ever.  

But, for him to spend his political capitol in such a way is even less likely.  I have had my differences in how I thought the Governor should handle certain issues.  Yet, I have come to terms with who he is and how he governs.  He is a measured man who is not quick to harsh judgement.  This in many activist circles translates into 'boring'.  But, voters (outside Salt Lake City) don't elect activists.  They elect people who will govern, and sometimes that means piloting a steady course.  After all, gentle winds move mighty ships.  

However, I have to admit it's a lot of fun being an arm-chair general and telling others how they should do their job.  In fact, I think Bernick and Gerhke need to wield their mighty pens to focus on avant-garde poetry and crossword puzzles.  I am sure its a wining formula for success...how could it not be?

While we are waiting for my journalistic advice to be taken, let's watch for a deliberative and thoughtful Governor to speak to the issues facing us and focus Utah on remaining one of the best managed State's in the Union (by signing all of my bills this year.)

Sunday, December 18, 2016

BILL FILE: HB23 - The Phase Out of Solar Tax Credits



The much anticipated solar tax credit bill that passed our Revenue and Taxation Interim committee by an overwhelming margin is now numbered and ready to be heard on the House Floor early in the 2017 General Session.  However, the story isn't over.  The Solar Industry was distraught with the flogging they received at the hands of the committee.  Yet, even though the lashing they received for "slow walking" the Legislature was well deserved, our good faith desire for stakeholder involvement still persists.

A stakeholder meeting will be held the first or second week of January to identify any final unexplored common ground between the industry and Legislature.  This will be a last chance meeting of willing minds and it is my hope that the solar industry brings some smart and helpful ideas to the table.

Look for more on this issue as the Legislature prepares to convene in late January.



Friday, November 18, 2016

The Future of Solar Tax Credits in Utah: Part 3



The ongoing effort to resolve Utah's solar tax credit conundrum came to a head this week as my proposed bill was presented at committee for a hearing.  I offered a visual presentation to help make my points.  Here is the slideshow:





Once my presentation was completed, the committee began to ask some very good questions on the subject.  Then, the meeting was opened to public comment.  The Utah Solar Energy Association opposed the bill and made their case to the committee.  However, the committee was not impressed by the lack of effort made by the USEA to negotiate or offer input on the bill proposal.  In my opinion, it appears the USEA believed they could simply make the bill go away by lobbying behind the scenes and ignoring discussion of the issue directly.  That turned out to be a losing formula.

The committee hearing was very pointed in its discussion of the issue and disappointment in stakeholder behavior.  You can hear the presentation and sharp committee rebuke here:



 
Of course, the Salt Lake Tribute's own Pat Bagley wasted no time caricaturing the debate:



This is my first time being featured in one of his cartoons.  So, I guess this means I have "arrived".  But, I do have to take issue with the way that he chose to draw me...my suit isn't that blue.  

Now that the bill has passed committee, I will be reaching out to stakeholders for a final round table to see if any final adjustments can be agreed upon by industry, stakeholders, and the Legislature.  From there, the bill will be presented for votes in both the House and Senate during the General Session.  

Friday, November 4, 2016

VOTE! VOTE! VOTE!



Ok everyone, it's time to vote.  If you haven't postmarked your ballot as of November 7th, or you feel like saving the postage and dropping off your ballot at a secure ballot box, here are some options for you:




Click on the icons to learn more about hours and specific locations near you.

Even if you don't want to vote in a particular race, all the other races need your attention...especially the race for House District 9.  Here is an example of how I recommend you fill out your ballot:




Make the trip to the polls Tuesday or get your ballot in the mail today.  Either way, stand up and let your voice be heard.  I will see you after the election!