Tuesday, March 22, 2011

ENDORSEMENT: Ken Ivory For Utah State Senate District 10



Ken Ivory is a bright mind and articulate communicator who benefits from an enormous catalog of knowledge that has amassed from his life experience. 

During Ken’s service in the House of Representatives, he took a course far from the norm for freshmen legislators by sponsoring substantive and paradigm-shifting bills while also engaging in heated debates on fundamental issues such as state’s rights and fiscal responsibility. 

Ken also was able to forge working relationships with those he agreed with, but also more importantly, those he disagreed with.  He has the rare ability to respectfully disagree without reducing those differences to personal acrimony. 

It is my belief that the people of Senate District 10 deserve someone who can vocalize what they believe and back it up with the facts.  Ken Ivory is that man and I support his bid for Senate District 10.  I encourage all to examine his life, his record, and his character where I am confident he will be determined the most viable and worthy candidate.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Utah and the Gold Standard: Civil War Currency

 
As I mentioned in a previous blog post, I have been reading Saints and the Union by E.B. Long. Its a colorful recounting of Utah's history during the Civil War years.

The book tells the story of the displeasure incurred in June of 1864 by Colonel Conner at Fort Douglas when he discovers that merchants in Salt Lake City were encouraging the use of gold as means of commerce instead of "greenbacks" as U.S. paper dollars were called in the day. The Colonel sites a Deseret News article advocating the practice. A search of our state newspaper archives provides us a visual copy of that article. Click to read full scale large version (article highlighted):


I find it interesting that confidence was waning in the "greenback" and that inflation was occurring as a result.  Sound familiar?

The article describes the problem of courts enforcing contracts that were established in gold backed dollars but compelled the receivers to accept payment in "greenbacks" at face value even though they had depreciated below the gold standard that the contract has been established in originally.  The result was that creditors were being robbed by inflation.

Here is an interesting excerpt:

"Mechanics, laborers, producers, and all concerned will understand at a glance that we deem 'greenbacks' the most uncertain in value of all the commodities in their possession, and we trust will govern themselves accordingly, lest, though retiring at night with pockets overflowing with currency, they awake bankrupt."
Fast forward 147 years and today we have HB317 - Currency Amendment sponsored by a bright legislator from western Weber County.  The legislation permits gold and silver coins issued by the federal government to be accepted and tendered as payment.  It also establishes a commission to find out if establishing another form of legal tender is appropriate. 

What would spur such a piece of legislation?  Our nation is at war, our banking system is a wreck, our national treasury can't seem to borrow enough money, and lo and behold people have started to doubt the value of the 'greenback' once again.

The monetary gimmickry occurring at federal level will be revealed for what it is sometime in the future.  In the meantime, we have an obligation to ourselves and our children to learn from history...before we repeat it.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Patriotic Muppetisms

I loved the Muppets as a kid.  I thought you would enjoy this:



Best Regards!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

THANK YOU!


Having completed one of the most intense experiences of my life while at Capitol Hill, I would like to take a moment to publicly thank several individuals:

Speaker Becky Lockhart - For allowing the freshman class to spread their wings and find their voices on the Hill.  Whether it was freshmen Republicans walking off the farm and supporting Democrat sponsored legislation, rallying opposition against senior member's bills, or speaking way too long and too often on the floor, it was a great experience for me and I know it was a great experience for my freshmen colleagues.

Luz Robles - For having the tenacity and spirit to push forward a sensible piece of legislation despite the insurmountable odds.

Rhonda Menlove - For being accessible and willing to help us know who to talk to and how to get things done.

The Sutherland Institute - For taking on a controversial issue and doing so in a way that was constructive to the debate and provided a grounded voice in a sea of shrill criticism.

Ron Gordon - For putting up with my attitude and freshman foibles while we hammered out good law enforcement policy.

Steve Thompson and Eric Stein - For walking through the process together as we tested the minds of policymakers and understanding that patience is a virtue when trying to move mountains.

Paul Rimmasch - For being willing to bring forward a major concern and help make a law to fix it.

Jon Greiner - For telling me how it is and being right.

Ryan Wilcox - For being a great mentor and teacher and also for filtering his feedback to me with such carefully couched remarks like "Oh no! Jeremy, what have you done?!?" 

Brad Dee - For tolerating my shenanigans and the raw potatoes I put on your desk...yes that was me.

Dan Thatcher - For rescuing one of my bills from sudden death.

Brad Daw - For handling our Transportation Committee with dignity and leadership.

Curt Webb - For making the Political Subdivisions Committee a fun and enjoyable experience.  

Jim Neilson -  For seeing through my "bleeding heart" to know there is a conservative lurking inside.

Jennifer Seelig - For teaching me proper decorum and demeanor...ha!

John Dougall - For watching out for my bills even though I lack the same libertarian stripes.

Fred Cox - For making me smile by saying whatever is on his mind whenever its on his mind regardless of context or setting.

Todd Kiser - For being tactful and graceful in cutting government in the face of budget constraints.


LaVarr Christiansen - For teaching the freshmen how to reserve the right to make a motion to amend.-grin-

Francis Gibson - For teaching me that not all is as it seems.

Lee Perry - For being a great chair mate during our first session together.  

Thanks again.  The session was the best teaching experience I have ever had and I look forward to a productive and enjoyable work session next year. 

Best regards to all!

Friday, March 11, 2011

General Session 2011: Last Day Roundup


We concluded the 2011 General Session Thursday.  The tempo was remarkably relaxed compared to previous sessions I am told.  Here are a couple notable items from the day:

HB 48 - Juvenile Fingerprints

After languishing on the Senate board for a couple weeks due to the fiscal note associated with the bill, money was found to fund the bill and it came up for a vote.  Unfortunately, there appeared to be a personal disagreement in the Senate between a senior Senator and my Senate sponsor of the bill.  That disagreement manifested itself in the senior member "gutting" the bill with an unfriendly amendment.  I was in the room watching and my stomach turned as I realized that all the time and labor put into getting the bill right was about to be wasted.  You can watch the proceedings HERE.   Fortunately, Senators in support of the bill were able to persuade the sponsor of the amendment to reconsider his actions and HB48 passed the Senate later that day and now awaits the signature of the Governor. 

WSU Buildings

It was debated in our body whether we should borrow bond money to construct several new buildings at our state universities.  After analyzing the market dynamics at play, the majority of our body felt that it would be wise to do so at this time rather than defer several years.  The reasons being that interest rates are likely headed up as the bond market gets traumatized by municipal defaults and other market trauma on the horizon.  We felt that borrowing at 1.5% would not be available much longer.  Also, with inflationary forces raising prices on construction materials, it was felt that we could avoid paying more in the future by building now. With the governors approval, the Davis Campus of Weber State University will have a new classroom building to handle its expanding student enrollment.

Education Budget

The education budget is bewildering to say the least and I won't try to explain it here.  The bottom line is that education received a 2.2% increase in a year where we cut everything else by the same margins.

Protests



Just to make things interesting Friday night, protesters showed up to express their displeasure with HB477.  They filled the House gallery and were yelling and singing until security came to reiterate the importance of politeness inside the chamber.  Most were quiet thereafter so we could finish our business. 

The End

Fortunately, Kim was able to spend the evening with me as we wrapped up.  We worked debating and passing bills until midnight.  A funny and entertaining vaudeville performance by Mike Noel, Ryan Wilcox, and others followed and we left about 1am to come home.  

Monday, March 7, 2011

General Session 2011: Day 42 - Def Comedy Jam, GRAMA Wrinkles, and a Jazz Bear

After Friday night's showdown on HB 116, the House needed some emotional relief from that high tension experience.  Here is the comedic stylings of the Representative from Kanab with the rest of the House pitching in ad lib:


video

Also today we honored Jerry Sloan for his career with the Jazz:



Finally, we had a meeting on the GRAMA situation and learned more about what is happening with the press, the public, and where HB477 is going.  It appears that the speed in which HB477 was passed through our body has created in interest in the media to come to the negotiating table on writing an agreeable piece of legislation.  Several years ago, Representative Aagard worked on a task force with the press to accomplish just such a feat.  Unfortunately, after offering input and agreeing to a bill, the press reneged on their support and the legislation that was created by the task force failed.  The desertion of the press on support for the revision had discouraged the legislature from reviving the issue until now.

The plan now is for HB477 to be recalled soon for another vote.  It will be amended to be implemented in July of 2011.  In the meantime, a new task force will be created involving the press and a new agreeable piece of legislation will be drafted with their input.  That new bill will be approved in a special session to be called in June by the Governor.  However, if the press reneges again on their commitment to participate in the process, HB477 will become law as it currently stands.  Obviously, there is a strong incentive for all parties to come together on this issue.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Immigration Update

I received a call today asking that I post an update on what is going on with the immigration issue.  Before I start, let me say that there were various issues and aspects of immigration that were trying to be addressed in legislation this year.  The House had several bills from various representatives and the Senate had a couple bills from several different Senators.  Here is a rundown on each bill and its current status:

SB 60 - This is the bill that Luz Robles (D) sponsored in the Senate and I signed on as the Republican house sponsor.  This was a very smart and well thought out piece of legislation that I believe trumps any other "guest worker permit" legislation that has been presented.  However, due to the minority status (politically speaking...eh hem) of the sponsor, the Senate opted to delay and defer on the bill and then put it in a state of suspended animation (what we call being "circled") on the Senate side.  As of this post, SB 60 is sitting "circled" on the Senate floor and will in all likelihood die there as the General Session concludes on Thursday.

HB 116 - This is the bill that we passed out of the House last week as a "Guest Worker" bill. It was the skeletal framework of SB 60 but without all the details fleshed out.  That is the form in which we passed it out of the House.  When it arrived in the Senate it underwent major surgery and other big parts were attached to the bill.  For some reason, visions of Frankenstein come to mind, anyway, it came back with all the new parts.  That is the bill we debated last night on the floor.  The mood on the debate floor last night felt like being at a funeral, or worse, an execution, but despite that mood HB116 was ultimately passed 41-32.  You can listen to the melancholy banter HERE. You can READ THE BILL AS IT PASSED HERE.  You can notice the differences between the original and how it came back from the Senate.  Here is the final vote on the House Floor that sent it to the Governor for a signature.


SB 288 - At the start of the session, when the immigration debate started rolling forward, a specific Senator felt compelled to bring all the parties together and synthesize an "Omnibus" or Mish-Mash bill comprising all the parts of everyone's different legislation.  This work group fell apart very early in the session.  Since all the parties left the table, the author of the bill "borrowed" language from everyone's different bills and assembled it into SB 288.  This SB288 was then mostly copied and pasted into HB116 which we passed last night.  So, it is likely that SB 288 will die in the Senate at the end of the General Session.   

HB 70 - This was the Heavy Law Enforcement Arizona Like Bill.  This bill was then watered down, diluted some more, then watered down again for passage out of the House.  However, the rhetoric and and stigma about the bill persisted so the Senate killed it in a committee hearing on Wednesday.

HB 497 - In exchange for letting his HB70 die peacefully, the sponsor of HB70 was allowed to open a new bill and copy the language of HB70 into it except with one final round of watering down of language.  HB 497 is THE "I'M NOT AN ARIZONA BILL I AM A UTAH SOLUTION" BILL.  This bill passed out of our House yesterday and passed out of the Senate as well but was only released by the Senate when they saw that we had successfully passed out HB116 at 9:45pm last night.  That was the deal. You can read more on that in the SLTrib. This bill is now on its way to the governor for a signature.

HB 253 - This was an E-verify bill that had some components inserted into HB 116.  HB 253 was passed out of the House but will likely die in the Senate.

HB 191 - This was a bill that started out revoking in-state tuition waivers but was then modified to allow it except for certain conditions.  The bill passed the House but will likely die in the Senate.  Provisions of the bill were inserted into HB116 which passed the House.

HB 466 - Finally this was a Migrant Worker bill that allowed for Utah to partner with the Mexican state of Nuevo Leon to look at bringing workers from that state to Utah to work.  This was a team effort on the part of the House and Senate.  It has passed both bodies and is on it's way to the governor for a signature.

HB 469 - This is a very interesting "blast from the past" bill presented by a libertarian leaning representative in the House.  It basically provides for individuals in Utah to "sponsor" individuals to come here to go to school or to work.  I have heard some folks coyly describe it as an Indentured Servitude bill.  The real question is how it will jive with the rest of the legislation that has already been passed.  This bill is sitting in the Senate.  Lets keep an eye on where it goes.

With HB116, HB466, and HB 497, the full spectrum of immigration issues should be addressed.  The question now is how effective will they be.  I anticipate they will be signed into law and we can begin watching to see how they perform.  We should start to see fruit from these bills in about 6 months with the broader impact coming in about 24 months. 

Friday, March 4, 2011

Mutually Assured Destruction


You might remember from the 80's the term M.A.D or Mutually Assured Destruction.  It was the military doctrine that advocated the full deployment of a nuclear arsenal toward an enemy who was equally armed and would behave in the same way.  If one party moved against the other, it guaranteed that both parties were annihilated.  It acted as a great deterrent.  It was a strategy that kept us alive during the Cold War.

After tonight's experience passing HB116 on the House floor and HB497 on the Senate floor, I am starting to think that some folks in our Legislature have served time as military strategists.

GRAMA Drama

Several constituents contacted me and asked for some clarification on my "yes" vote on HB 477.  Before I get started, let me present the list of folks that voted on it in the House:

And for good measure, here are those that voted on the bill in the Senate today:


Several days ago our body was approached with the proposal for HB477 (CLICK HERE TO READ A COPY).  The Legislative Research department made the presentation and gave us the run down on what was wrong with current GRAMA rules. The presentation focused on extremely broad and sweeping requests (i.e. like asking for every email for a 9 month period from every legislator on a broad topic) made by the press. 

1.  Time Costs

The workload already this legislative season has totaled over 400 man hours on the eight GRAMA requests we have received thus far.  This provides a major constraint as the legislative attorneys that draft our bills are forced to spend time instead on sequestering laptops, reading e-mails, determining their pertinence to the request, and then putting them in a form that can be delivered to the requestee.  Due to the budget reductions of the past few years, the legislative staff tasked with this has been reduced significantly and there are now major bottlenecks in use of time under current GRAMA rules.

2.  Monetary Expense

The legislative attorneys that handle the requests cost about $50/hour.  Multiply this by the time necessary for any one request and you have the tab for that request paid for courtesy of the Utah taxpayer.

3.  Public Privacy Issues

Because current rules blur the line between personal correspondence and legislative correspondence, any communication that we receive from the public regardless of the content, is available to the individual making a GRAMA request if it's deemed pertinent to the request.

4.  Time Studying the Issue

Although the press has asked for more time to look at the issue, those legislators that have been here a while have attested to the fact that GRAMA has been studied for years now with now.  Despite this length of study, when conversations have been had between the government and press on how to improve the statute, no suggestions have been made...just requests for more time to study the issue. 

I would also recommend that you LISTEN TO THE COMMITTEE HEARING on the issue for more information.

Having little experience myself with this issue, I trust the judgment of our non-partisan legal staff and those who have a long institutional memory and know how this has affected the people's business in a negative way.  However, if there are problems that arise from this bill, I am certainly willing to tackle the issue and amend the statute in our next legislative session.

The crux of this issue is whether the the disclosure of debate and deliberation of decision making among public officials should be put on equal footing with personal conversations and discussion that public officials have with others.  Based on the information that was provided to us, I believe that HB 477 clarifies this distinction and should be a logical solution.  Let's watch and if there are obvious problems that arise when this law takes affect, we can work together to make the proper adjustments if necessary. 

Thursday, March 3, 2011

General Session 2011: Days 37 and 38


The Hill is buzzing with anticipation as time runs out on the clock and legislation is being presented for passage or failure on the debate floor. 

On Wednesday we held our final Political Subdivisions Committee meeting.  The most noteworthy bill was SB 243 which puts a moratorium on Historic Landmark Designations in Salt Lake City.  The Yalecrest ("Yell"crest) neighborhood erupted into a Hatfield and McCoy dispute recently over how the city was preparing to make the neighborhood a historic district.  The neighborhood showed up to committee and gave passionate testimony on both sides of the issue.  After voting the bill down on Monday, we received new information which prompted us to reconsider it on Wednesday where it passed out of committee with a favorable recommendation.

Wednesday also saw the ignominious death of HB70 - The Heavy Enforcement So-Called Arizona-Style Bill.  Despite the bill being nurtured in weeks previous, the Senate Judiciary committee struck down the bill as "polarizing".  You can listen to the Senate's brief comments on the bill HERE.  The interesting side-story is that the Senate asked the bill sponsor to water down the wording in HB70 one more time and then put those words in a new bill with a new name. The senate has agreed to pass the new bill in its final compliant form. 

At the same committee I was able to present HB48 - the Juvenile Fingerprints bill - for their consideration.  You can listen to the audio presentation HERE.  It was approved and will be heard on the Senate Floor.


Today we had a visitor.  Shawn Bradley paid a visit to our Chamber.  I am told that he once played a professional sport of some kind.  

Finally, the House passed a GRAMA bill that makes common sense changes to the way the press access records of elected officials.  Current law allows them to request personal records and exchanges.  The changes in the bill will limit them to legislative business only. 

The end game is in place for our immigration bill SB 60.  The new "Omnibus" Immigration Bill SB 288 is due to be debated tomorrow.  SB 60 is sitting safely "circled" on the Senate board and is ready to be pushed forward at any time. The bill was debated on the Senate Floor briefly today.  You can watch the video and get a feel for where the Senate is going with immigration HERE.  We will find out the fate of our bill likely tomorrow.  Stay tuned for that.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Indian Attack: Lessons for Today From 150 Years Ago


When the Mormon pioneers first came to Utah, they established relationships with the Ute Indians.  Since the Indians were hunter/gatherers, they often suffered deprivation during especially harsh seasons.  Often, the Indians would make attacks on neighbors as resources for their tribe became more scarce.  In light of this, the pioneers established a policy of offering food and clothing to the natives to help meet some of their needs.  As a consequence, the Indians tended not to raid Mormon outposts or emigrants even during harsh times.     

Nevertheless, in the Autumn of 1862, during the Civil War, Utah experienced a marked increase in Indian attacks along the Overland Trail and other emigration routes across the territory.  U.S. Troops from California were previously stationed at Fort Douglas in Salt Lake City to help protect the emigration routes and new telegraph lines that had been erected.  They also were there to keep an eye on the "peculiar" people of Utah. 

Colonel Conner, who oversaw the troops, decided to retaliate against the Indians that winter and to demonstrate to the tribes that the U.S. would not stand idly by while these attacks occurred.  He ordered his troops to Cache Valley where they attacked the Indians at their winter camp along the Bear River.  Almost 300 warriors were killed in the assault. Although they prevailed, Colonel Conner's men suffered heavy losses at the hands of the Indians and many more men suffered amputations due to frozen feet.   

In commenting on the presence of U.S. troops, Brigham Young had this to say:

"I will, comparatively speaking, take one plug of tobacco, a shirt and three cents' worth of paint, and save more lives and hinder more Indian depredations than they can by expending millions of dollars vested in an army to fight and kill the Indians.  Feed and clothe them a little and you will save life; fight them, and you pave the way for the destruction of the innocent." - Journal of Discourses Vol. X

This quote got me thinking about the context of their situation and what lessons we can draw from them for today.

Federalism

It is clear from history that the pioneers knew better how to handle the Indian situation than the Feds did at that time.  Even today, 150 years later, we find ourselves as a state fighting a large, cumbersome, and ineffective government who is unaware or ambivalent to local solutions to Utah's current problems.  Not much has changed. 

Charity

The pioneers and the Indians came from very different cultures and backgrounds.  They competed for scarce resources initially.  However, rather than using their technological advantage to destroy the Indians, the pioneers were able to share some of their resources and help the Indians survive during harsh seasons.  We might imagine it would have been ideal for the pioneers to purge the land of the Indian nuisance.  Nevertheless, the cost-benefit ratio of charity outweighed that of idealism.

In many ways, today's immigration debate is being framed in this same context. The result is that the hard edges of idealism are giving way to the cost-benefit advantages of charity...which is probably just how Utah's pioneer forefathers would have done it.  

Banter: Debate on HB 191

video

Here is a fun video clip from our debate on HB 191 - In-State Tuition for Undocumented Immigrants.