Wednesday, June 21, 2017

OFFSIDES: Legislature Throws Flag on Guv's Special Election



So, a lot of hullabaloo has been made in the press lately about the Legislature's grievances with the way Governor Herbert chose to execute a Special Election to fill the soon-to-be-vacated seat of Congressman Jason Chaffetz.


The state constitution and statute clearly give power for setting election law to the Legislature.  Without getting into the weeds on this subject (and they are deep and thick) the bottom line is that the Legislature believes the Governor violated statute by moving forward with the Special Election.  But, to agitate the grumpy Legislature even more, it also appears that the Governor's office blocked a legal opinion requested by the Legislature from the Attorney General's office from being delivered to the Legislature.  This particular action by the Governor's office is unprecedented in Utah history.   


So, the question is what does the Legislature do about it?  There are several scenarios:

The Legislature Throws a Monkey Wrench in the Works

It is possible that the Legislature could file a lawsuit and put a stop to the Special Election under the premise that Congressman Chaffetz's House Seat is not vacant.  A vacancy is required first in order to initiate a special election.  In this scenario, the efforts of the candidates, delegates, and state parties up to this point would all be for naught.  The Special Election as it has occurred would grind to a halt until Chaffetz officially ended his tenure and then the process could begin again.  

This scenario is very disruptive and would make the make the Legislature look bad.  While the separation of powers issue is very important, the perceived tit-for-tattiness of it all would smack of political gamesmanship in the eyes of the public.   

The Legislature's Cousin Throws a Monkey Wrench in the Works

Another scenario is that a grieved third party outside of the Legislature may file suit and bring the Special Election to a halt.  Who would this person be?  Ask Jim Bennett with United Utah how he feels about his arbitrary mistreatment.  While Jim's lawsuit will not put a stop to the election, there are still 10 days left of anyone with a beef about the process to file suit.  If that happens, the Special Election could get scrapped and the Legislature is likely called into a Special Session by the Governor to write the rules on a new Special Election.  

This scenario is also very disruptive and would cause a lot of Xanax prescriptions to be written.  The Legislature would likely consider itself vindicated, however.

The Legislature Waits Oh, So Patiently...for Revenge

The most likely scenario, in my view, is that nothing happens right now.  The Special Election proceeds as planned.  Meanwhile, the Legislature toils away in the bill foundry and forges a tall stack of veto-proof bills to pass in the 2018 General Session.  

In this scenario, the public is fine with the work of the Legislature. Although, the media may make attempts to vilify its efforts to clarify the separation of powers issue and the its efforts to reign in some of the authority of the Governor.  Such efforts could likely include giving the Legislature the ability to call itself into special session if the need arises (presently only the Governor can do that), clarifying Special Election law, and potentially some other issues.  

For sure, the Governor wouldn't be happy.  But not to worry, the Legislature would be ecstatic.

What Now?

For now, we watch and wait to see what happens as the calendar days pass.  Once we get to a certain point on the calendar, it will be very difficult for the monkey wrench scenarios to play out.  Which means that the Legislature will be left to tap its fingertips together, offer up an wry grin, and  menacingly laugh in anticipation of the 2018 Session.  

    




Tuesday, June 20, 2017

The Curious Conservative Case for the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact

During the 2017 General Session, I drafted a resolution supporting the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact.  The resolution was intended to be a bi-partisan effort to bring attention to the problems afflicting our current presidential election process and to demonstrate Utah's leadership on the issue.  Unfortunately, the partisan rancor immediately following the election prevented us from moving forward as we have waited for passions and sentiment to temper.

It appears now that the the time has come to again address this issue and begin a conversation on this important subject.  So, let us begin.

WHAT IS THE NATIONAL POPULAR VOTE INTERSTATE COMPACT?

The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact (NPVIC) is actually very simple in its premise.  The Compact is an agreement between states.  In this case, the agreement deals with how Electoral Votes from the Electoral College are awarded to presidential candidates based on how voters vote in the presidential race.  Presently, in most states, the Legislatures of the various states have directed all their Electoral Votes to be cast in favor of the candidate that receives the popular vote in that state (aka Winner-Take-All).  So, if a presidential candidate receives 51% of the popular vote, the candidate receives 100% of the Electoral Votes.  The NPVIC provides states with an alternative to this status quo by volunteering to assign their Electoral Votes to the winner of the national popular vote rather than the winner of the individual state.

WHY WOULD ANY STATE WANT TO BE A PART OF THE NPVIC?

The NPVIC is designed to address several problems that currently exist in our presidential election process.  The first is that our present presidential elections and campaigns are geared to battleground states.  The dominant Winner-Take-All practice means that, in most states, the Electoral Votes are easy to predict due to wide margins in the popular vote of those states.  However, for a handful of states, the margins are too close to call.  These states then become battleground states and the focus of campaigning and messaging.  Indeed, campaign promises and policy are crafted mostly by candidates efforts to woo voters in swing battle ground states.

This intense attention to battleground states means that the other states, like Utah, are left out of the discussion.  The campaign promises and policy nuances that may win over voters in battleground states may actually work to the disadvantage of the other states.  Also, after the election these battle ground states perennially receive preferential treatment due to their lopsided clout.  For instance, when it comes to public lands issues, Colorado is much more likely to have their grievances addressed than Utah.  When it comes to receiving Federal waivers, Florida is more likely to receive a waiver than Utah.

The bottom line is that the NPVIC would put every state on an equitable standing when it comes to crafting and honing policy at the presidential level.

HOW DOES THE NPVIC MAKE EVERY STATE A BATTLE GROUND STATE?

The NPVIC is designed to "go live" once enough states have joined the compact to constitute 270 Electoral Votes among them.  Until that time, nothing changes. Hence, the urgency in having states like Utah join the compact to reach the 270 threshold.  Once the threshold is reached and the compact's provisions are implemented, it will award the 270 electoral votes to the presidential candidate that wins the national popular vote.

Since 270 electoral votes are required to win the presidency, the states that joined the compact would effectively change the way presidential campaigns and races are run for every state, even those that did not join the compact. If a candidate needs at least 270 electoral votes to win, and those electoral votes are awarded based on the outcome of the national popular vote, then candidates have an incentive to obtain every vote from every state possible to achieve that goal.  Thus, every state becomes a battleground state.  Clearly, this would be a dramatic difference from how things are run today.

WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF NPVIC?

  • Funds raised in the states for political purposes will stay in the states rather than being exported to current battle ground states.  
  • Voter participation would increase due to the importance of every single vote being cast to determine the winner.  
  • Presidential campaigns will have a presence in all states rather than just current battle ground states. 
  • Policy will be influenced by all states rather than just a few battle ground state.
  • Party nomination processes would seek candidates with the broadest appeal to Americans at large rather than candidates that merely play well to a battle ground state audience.  
  • and more!
For a great tutorial on this topic, this video does a great job explaining the concept:




Look for more information on this topic in the coming months.  The resolution is currently being drafted and will be presented for discussion in the 2018 General Session.  If you have any questions or concerns, don't hesitate to reach out to me.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Of Death, Dying, and Our Memorial



Death is an immovable force.  It punctuates our life experience and renders it complete.  It terminates our life work and delivers it ready for judgement by peers and posterity.  Some die in glory and honor while others pass in ignominy.  Sadly, most of us expire in anonymity.

Annually, we honor our progenitors and our protectors who have gone before us.  Our veterans died for a cherished idea we call America.  Our police men died to protect the law and order that binds our society together.  Our firefighters died protecting lives and livelihoods.  They have all offered up their bodies as a sacrifice in our stead.

Whether it be early or late, there will be no escape for us from death's reach.  Thus, the inevitability of our physical demise begs the question of us all.  What is worth dying for?

In the final analysis, God, family, and country are the pillars that elevate a death regardless of its timing; and, it is these same pillars which form the foundation of what makes life worth living.

On this Memorial Day, may we ponder the lives of those who have gone before us.  If we must ever risk our own lives, let be said of us that our valor was noble and our causes just.  If we are privileged to live out our lives in peace, may generations hence speak of our good deeds.  Such is said of all those who dedicate their lives to honorable and worthy pursuits.    
   

Friday, April 28, 2017

Weber GOP Organizing Convention 2017



Weber County GOP Delegates met to elect new executive and legislative district leadership.


We went through several rounds of balloting to reach a verdict.  Here are the results:

COUNTY PARTY
Chair- Lynda Pipkin
Vice Chair - Chris Jenkins
Secretary - Linsey Ohlin
Treasurer - Stu Jensen


LEGISLATIVE DISTRICT 9
Chair - Matt Westrich
Vice Chair - Doug Nandell
Secretary - Libby Shelton
Treasurer - Rosalie Beeli


Congrats to the winners!  It is a labor of love to work in the party and we all appreciate their efforts.



RAILROADED: Our Historic Locomotive Ride to Ogden With Union Pacific


Union Pacific recently brought one of the last operating steam engine trains to Ogden for display.  To bring more attention to the event, they invited dignitaries from Northern Utah to ride along with them from Brigham City to Ogden.  It was a fun experience.





The train depot on Forest Rd. in Brigham City is beautifully preserved.  


Many folks came to learn more about railroad history.


We rode on a 1950's era train car with 360 degree views.  I was impressed with the spaciousness of the train car (and the leg room).







We arrived at Ogden's Historic Union Station to a throng of onlookers, media, and railroad enthusiasts.  However, the experience did leave one unanswered question in my mind.  The Frontrunner station was placed two blocks to the north bypassing Union Station.  Why wasn't Union Station used? 

In my view, we need to look at a plan to return Union Station back into full time use.  Obviously, it's not something that can be done easily, but something that is definitely worth it.  Restoring Union Station to full time use would restore the natural rhythms of Ogden's Historic 25th St. and make Ogden a more welcoming destination from across the Wasatch Front. 



Thursday, March 30, 2017

GRINDING THE FACE OF THE POOR: Draper Citizens vs. The Homeless




"What mean ye that ye beat my people to pieces, 
and grind the faces of the poor?
saith the Lord of Hosts."
- Isaiah 3:15


An open house was  held after Mayor Troy Walker of Draper offered up two sites for Salt Lake County's new homeless shelter.  Accounts of behavior at the meeting are shocking and discouraging.

 Citizens of Draper showed up in force to express their disgust at such a proposal.  The Salt Lake Tribune reports that attendees booed a homeless man trying to make the case for helping the disadvantaged.

A Legislative staffer, who is accustomed to contentious political debate, lives in Draper and attended the meeting:

"I am absolutely ashamed of the behavior of my fellow community members tonight. Agree or not with the decision of the mayor, there is no excuse for the ugliness, the insults, the screaming and accusations based on a whole lot of nothing....I truly am mortified and oh so very disappointed. Not because of the decision that was made, but because of the uncivil behavior that led to the decision. Our country is in trouble, more than too many of us realize, I'm afraid."  - Carolyn Phippen

The videos speak for themselves:






With this unruly display coming on the heels of Rep. Jason Chaffetz rowdy town hall meeting, it appears we are entering a new era of politics.  The meeting should have been a sincere dialogue and discussion about the issues.  Instead, it turned into a vulgar name-calling shout-fest.  Worrisome indeed.

If we fail to rise above our feelings to enjoin in respectful discussion, even in disagreement, we consign ourselves to a worse fate.  May we forever surrender ourselves to decency in our discourse.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

SINE DIE SILLINESS: JP and The Cache County Boys


Every year after we adjourn Sine Die, several legislators get together to put on skits, awards, and other entertainment.  Since I play guitar, I have been involved in after hours entertainment quite often.  Last year we played a parody of Sweet Home Alabama and roasted our colleagues.  This year, we chose Credence Clearwater Revival's Proud Mary to adapt to the grilling.

Here is our performance at 1AM on the House Floor:



A special thanks to my band mates Curt Webb, Ed Redd, and our new bassist Val Potter.  All three of these guys hail from Logan (where I also attended USU for a time).  Something musical must be happening in that valley.

For those of you interested in reading the lyrics and the accompanying photos, here they are:



Enjoy!

2017 General Session Update: Week 7 - Grand Finale



Looking back on the final week of the Session, let me just say that it is a blur in my mind.  We passed a lot of bills and killed a few of them as well.  Here are some major highlights.


Sales Tax Head Fake

Previously, there was a lot of deliberation and consternation regarding our sales tax policy and the idea of making changes to even out the volatility of revenues.  As it turns out, the assumptions that lead to proposing the policy change in the first place were completely wrong.  Fortunately, the policy came to the House where 75 brains were then put to work dissecting and critically analyzing the idea.  In the end, the idea was abandoned because it was needless.


Clean Air




The House passed SB197 to help in the effort to improve air quality along the Wasatch Front.  The bill provides sales tax exemptions for refineries to purchase equipment needed to convert their operations to Tier 3 fuel standards.  Once converted, the improvement to air quality would be the equivalent of removing 4 out of 5 vehicles from the road.  So, the impact would be substantial.

The bill gives the refineries a couple of years to move in this direction and the exemption is only good for equipment used to convert to the higher standard.  Hopefully, this incentive will drive some positive changes in the coming years.


Protesters - Take Two



International Women's Day was during the last week of the Session.  In a sequel to the Women's March during the first week of the Session, this second event was much more subdued.  This time my own constituents came to the Capitol and sent in a green card to invite me out of the House Chamber to visit with them.  I gladly obliged.

We had a great discussion even if we had two very different philosophical view points.



Letter Grades for Schools

Our body deliberated extensively a bill to revamp how schools are graded for public judgement.  I am a big opponent of the letter grade system for schools because it glosses over so many aspects that make up a school community.  I feel that we should do away with letter grades for schools and simply allow the statistics and attributes speak for themselves.



Mr. Peterson's Bills

HB23 - Rooftop Solar Tax Credit Phase Out - Passed out of the Senate.  Ready for signature from the Governor.

HB24 - Student Prosperity Savings Account Tax Credit - Passed out of Senate.  Ready for signature from Governor.

HB64 - Property Tax Relief Amendments - Passed out of Senate. Ready for signature from Governor.

HB73 - Child Placement Amendments - This bill did not get funded.

HB158 - State House Boundary Amendments - Passed out of Senate. Ready for signature from Governor.

HB270 - Inmate Housing Amendments - This bill will be discussed over the Interim. 

HB448 - Community Reinvestment Amendments - Passed out of Senate. Ready for signature from Governor.


Tweet of the Week


Photo Gallery


VFFs - Vest Friends Forever - Rep. Adam Gardner and me.


Super Intern McKenzie Forbes and me in front of the Dias.


Rep. McKell, after adjourning, runs a faux resolution retiring SB54 from Legislative lexicon.


We play a parody of Credence Clearwater Revival's Proud Mary and roast our colleages 
at 1AM on the House Floor after adjourning sine die. 

Conclusion

This session was another year of growth for me as a Legislator.  I took on some difficult bills and also learned a lot.  This was my first year as Chair of the Government Operations committee and I believe we did a good job vetting the bills that came before us.  We also had fun while we were doing it.  I tried to keep our committee conversations upbeat and sprinkled with appropriate humor.  I also discovered early in the Session that our political fabric is under great strain after my lighthearted comments were distorted to foment an eruption of bitterness and anger.  I learned a lot from that. With that glaring exception, the Session was the mildest that I have yet to experience here on the Hill.  Staff that I spoke to said that our Leadership teams ran the Session better than they can ever remember.  So, hats off to Greg Hughes, Brad Wilson, Francis Gibson, and John Knotwell for their hard work keeping the Legislative process moving smoothly.       

Now on to the interim and drafting new bills for 2018...  

Saturday, March 4, 2017

2017 General Session Update: Week 6




Week 6 was heavy with big votes on big issues.


Sales Tax on Food



The Legislature has been informed that our current tax structure is woefully prepared for the future.  Changes in the economy have meant decreasing tax revenue to pay for increasing demands for services.  Much of this is related to shifts in what people purchase and how they purchase it.  The shift has left the State unprepared for the future.

Many reforms are on the horizon.  We attempted to navigate a three pronged approach to tax reform involving income taxes, single sales factor taxation for manufacturers, and sales taxes.  That idea proved too unwieldy to comprehend and parse in the short time we have left on the Hill.  So, we decided to move in a more measured direction as we work through reforms a piece at a time into the future.

The proposal on the table is a restoration of the sales tax on food with a reduction in the sales tax on everything.  Why?  The sales tax funds everything in government outside of education.  Unfortunately, the current model which excludes food is highly volatile which makes funding government services unpredictable.  By lowering the tax rate for everyone and broadening the tax base by restoring taxes on food, this funding source for services becomes more stable over time.

Poverty advocates have been chiming in for a while about avoiding a restoration of taxes on food.  I agree that it would affect our lowest income families the most.  So, to mitigate this problem, the tax reform proposal includes a Grocery Tax Credit for retired folks and an Earned Income Tax Credit for working folks.  These two credits would offset the food tax for those living in poverty.  As proposed, this tax structure would not increase tax revenue to the state but merely even out its ebbs and flows over time. This change will help set the table for looking at other reforms down the road.      

I support this proposal in concept.  The bill should be released anytime and ready for a public hearing on Monday.  

Alcohol Reform



HB442 - Alcohol Amendments - This bill reforms Utah 's alcohol laws significantly.  Probably the most headline worthy part of the legislation is that it gives restaurants with bars the option to remove the "Zion Curtain" feature that was mandated in 2009 for new restaurants.  It also phases out dining club licenses and makes some other changes related to off-premise retailers.  You can listen to what the bill does HERE.    The buffer area, "Washington" wall, and curtain options give restaurants plenty of options to choose from.  I voted for the bill in committee and on the floor.

Electric Vehicle Tax Credits

HB29 - Electric Vehicle Tax Credits - This bill died on the house board 37-38.  The tax credit is set to expire this year and the bill as proposed would have phased out the tax credit over several years.  I supported the bill and voted for it on grounds that a tapered phase out was a much better policy. 

Gun Laws

HB 237 - Firearms and Domestic Violence Modifications - This bill would make Utah a "constitutional carry" state but would also forfeit the firearms of any person convicted of domestic violence.  I supported the bill and voted for it.  We need more good guys carrying guns.      

Motorcycle Helmets



SB159 - Helmet Requirement Amendments - This bill would have required motorcycle riders between the ages of 18-21 to wear helmets.  I was a big NO vote on this bill.  I am disappointed the committee felt the need to restrict the liberty of riders to choose for themselves.  

Mr. Peterson's Bills

HB23 - Rooftop Solar Tax Credit Phase Out - Passed out of the Senate.  Ready for signature from the Governor

HB24 - Student Prosperity Savings Account Tax Credit - On the Senate board waiting for funding approval.

HB64 - Property Tax Relief Amendments - This bill passed the Senate with a unanimous vote and now goes to the Governor for a signature.

HB73 - Child Placement Amendments - This bill passed the House and Senate committe unanimously.  It awaits funding prioritization early next week. 

HB158 - State House Boundary Amendments - This bill passed the Senate Floor unanimously and goes to the Governor's desk for a signature.

HB270 - Inmate Housing Amendments - This bill will be discussed over the Interim. 

HB448 - Community Reinvestment Amendments - This bill was heard in a House Committee and passed unanimously.  It awaits sifting and being placed on the House board for debate Monday.  

Napoleon Dynamite 

This week I was notified by House staff that Jon Heder (of Napoleon Dynamite fame) was coming to Capitol Hill to visit the Governor, Senate, and House.  Speaker Hughes asked me to host him in the House during his visit.  It was a fun experience.


I met Jon in the hallway before walking him onto the House Floor.  It just so happened my girls were waiting to ambush him as he arrived.  Someone must have tipped them off.


We hammed it up for the few moments he was with us in the House and had a few laughs.  I brought "Vote For Pedro" t-shirts for both of us to wear.  He wasn't expecting that but was a good sport nevertheless.  Midway through our time on the Floor he leans over to me and says: "Now wait, is this whole thing for a photo op, or for your amusement?"  I responded with a smile: "Both."  Shortly after that, his handlers arrived and whisked him away to the Governor's office.  

Nobody had informed me why Jon was visiting us on the Hill.  I thought it was a fun publicity stunt to promote his new movie.  However, I discovered later that Jon was visiting the Capitol to advocate for Motion Picture Tax Incentives.  Hilariously, I ran a bill (that failed) to end those same tax credits last year.  Haha! When worlds collide.

NOTE:  Jon, if you are reading this, I forgive you.  We can still be friends.

Grand Finale

The dramatic conclusion to this year's session is upon us.  Look for a post-mortem of the week's events after the smoke clears.  



Friday, February 24, 2017

2017 General Session Update: Week 5



An abbreviated week 5 is in the books.  This week was a consolidation of business before starting our final slog next week to the reach the finish line on March 9th.

To Pay Voter's Postage or Not to Pay Voter's Postage, That Is The Question  

My friend and colleague Rep. Brad Daw ran a bill that would notify voters if their mail in ballot was spoiled due to a mistake.  That was a great idea.  However, he also included a mandate that counties pay for return postage.  To me, that was a problem for several reasons.  You can watch my amendment to his bill and the debate it ignited on the House Floor.




Mr. Peterson's Bills

HB23 - Rooftop Solar Tax Credit Phase Out - Passed out of the Senate.  Ready for signature from the Governor

HB24 - Student Prosperity Savings Account Tax Credit - On the Senate board waiting for funding approval.

HB64 - Property Tax Relief Amendments - This bill passed the Senate with a unanimous vote and now goes to the Governor for a signature.

HB73 - Child Placement Amendments - This bill is circled on the House 3rd Reading calendar and will be debated first thing next week.

HB158 - State House Boundary Amendments - This bill passed the Senate Floor unanimously and goes to the Governor's desk for a signature.

HB270 - Inmate Housing Amendments - This bill will be discussed over the Interim.  We met with the Department of Corrections on Friday and had a very constructive conversation.  We are committed to crafting a workable plan over the summer.

HB307 - Energy Innovation Research Grant Program - This bill has been abandoned due to unexpected conflicts between GOED, OED, USTAR, and GOMB that were unable to be reconciled by the end of the session.   
  
HB318 - Recycling Market Development Zone Tax Credit Amendments- This bill is being sent to the Interim for discussion with stakeholders.  We will be meeting in late spring to finalize a proposal for next Session.  

Random Happenings


Rep. Brian King hosted Tom Perez who is running to preside over the DNC.  He seemed surprised we all were clapping for him.  Speaker Hughes told him we are a friendly bunch.  


Winner of the Most Awkward Bill Title Award


We met with PTA members from Weber and Davis Counties.  We heard a lot of concerns and answered a lot of questions. 


Mia Love visited our body and spoke for several minutes.  


Animal Print Friday is catching on at the Hill.  Garishly dressed men like Reps Mike Winder, Scott Chew, and Norm Thurston join the ladies to celebrate.  


If you are looking for a good investment, Sandbag Manufacturers may be a safe bet.  Look for a Spring flood as our snowpack reaches record levels.  


Citizen lobbyist Steve Barton of the Ogden Sierra Club (Ogden Is Awesome t-shirt) poses with pseudo-professional lobbyists Alan Dayton and Steve Hunter.  What do we all have in common?  We're all proudly from O-Town.  

Ending the Week



 Look for more tantalizing updates to come...








  

Sunday, February 19, 2017

2017 General Session Update: Week 4


The Ogden Arts Community visits with Rep. Peterson outside the Chamber doors.

Mr. Peterson's Bills

Week four was a flurry of debate and bill presentations. Here is an update on my bills' status:

HB23 - Rooftop Solar Tax Credit Phase Out - This bill passed the house with a 60-14 vote.  It passed the Senate Committee unanimously (even receiving the vote of Senator Dabakis) and is on its way to the Senate Floor.  You can watch the House Floor debate below:




HB24 - Student Prosperity Savings Account Tax Credit - This bill passed out of the House unanimously.  It also passed out of the Senate Committee unanimously.  It is on its way to the Senate Floor.  You can watch that brief floor debate below:



HB64 - Property Tax Relief Amendments - This bill passed the Senate with a unanimous vote and now goes to the Governor for a signature.

HB73 - Child Placement Amendments - This bill was presented to the Judiciary Standing Committee and passed out with a unanimous vote.  It now moves to the House Floor for debate.

HB158 - State House Boundary Amendments - This bill passed the House Floor and Senate Committee unanimously.  It now goes to the Senate Floor for a vote.

HB270 - Inmate Housing Amendments - This bill was heard by the Law Enforcement Standing Committee.  The committee was very interested in the bill and what it was trying to accomplish.  However, there are still many details to work out with the Corrections Department.  We will be initiating those meetings in the next week or two and working over the interim.  You can listen to the presentation HERE.

HB307 - Energy Innovation Research Grant Program - This bill was heard by the Public Utilities Standing Committee.  The committee liked the bill but had some reservations about the details of how the program would integrate with USTAR and current GOED initiatives.  The bill was held to give us time to work out the details.

HB318 - Recycling Market Development Zone Tax Credit Amendments- This bill opened up a pandora's box of questions from the Revenue and Taxation Committee.  We substituted the bill to end the income tax credit and swap it out for a sales tax exemption for recyclers.  It turns out that not only recyclers but manufacturers are using the income tax credit as well.  Interestingly, manufacturers are already benefiting from a sales tax exemption today.  So manufactures are getting double incentives!  These are incentives even recycling companies aren't getting right now.  We are digging deeper into this issue.  The bill was held as we get the numbers ready to submit to the committee for a rehearing.

Floor Debate - Defending Ogden's Good Landlord Program

Rep. Brian King presented a bill that would have destroyed Good Landlord Programs across the state. I offered an amendment to exclude Ogden City and West Valley City because they carry the State's Halfway House inmate burden.  My effort to amend the bill starts at the 4m50s mark.  The vote is a nailbiter:





My Town Hall Meeting

After watching Jason Chaffetz town hall and then seeing my political opposition and our local paper advertise my town hall meeting like it was a concert event, I got a little worried about what kind of experience it was going to be.  Fortunately, the people who attended were spirited but well mannered despite of our difference in views on the issues.  You can watch the entire town hall event here.

We are headed into the final three weeks of the Session.  Expect more excitement ahead!





VIDEO: Rep. Jeremy Peterson's Spirited Town Hall Q and A



I held a mid-session town hall meeting last week to interact with constituents and offer a report of the bill files I am working on.  We had about 75-80 folks attend, including my wife and four daughters.  Many folks were from areas outside District 9 but who felt compelled to attend in order to offer their perspective on issues facing our state.  Also in attendance was my opponent in last years election, Kathie Darby.

Karen Thurber and John Hines ask questions during the town hall meeting.

The meeting touched on a broad variety of issues.  We recorded the entire event so you can watch for yourself what transpired and my responses some pointed questions.

Part 1

In part one we welcomed everybody and I offer a summary of all the bill files I am running this year.  The room quickly jumps into discussion surrounding my proposal to phase out rooftop solar tax credits.  Here is the first half hour of discussion:




Part 2

In the second part we discuss gerrymandering, funding halfway house reform, indigent defense, tone-deaf legislators, medical marijuana, intergenerational poverty, the Zion Curtain, funding education, and the Our Schools Now petition,



Part 3

In the third part, we enter a grand finale of questions touching on sex education, opiate addiction, the National Popular Vote, gridlock on 5600 S in Roy, Bears Ears Monument, and clean air,



A special thanks to all those who attended and participated in our conversation.  Even though we may not have seen eye to eye on every issue, I think we all came away from the event more informed and satisfied that our various viewpoints were able to be voiced and heard in the public square.  Look for another town hall meeting to be held after the Session ends in mid-March.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE: Rep. Jason Chaffetz vs. The Inconsolable


Congressman Jason Chaffetz held a town hall meeting recently to reach out to constituents and hear their concerns.  You can see for yourself what happened next:



This video has given me renewed respect for Representative Chaffetz.  I can't say that I would have withstood 90 minutes of this kind of treatment.  Somehow, he mustered the professionalism to address the crowd in a respectful tone and accommodating tenor.

If you listen to the first few minutes of the video, you can hear a lot of the crowd shouting the word "indivisible".  It turns out that there is a progressive grassroots movement by that name that is educating activists on how to best disrupt town hall meetings and other gatherings.   Here is an excerpt from their website:


AT THE TOWN HALL

  1. Get there early, meet up, and get organized. Meet outside or in the parking lot for a quick huddle before the event. Distribute the handout of questions, and encourage members to ask the questions on the sheet or something similar.
     
  2. Get seated and spread out. Head into the venue a bit early to grab seats at the front half of the room, but do not all sit together. Sit by yourself or in groups of two, and spread out throughout the room. This will help reinforce the impression of broad consensus.
     
  3. Make your voices heard by asking good questions. When the MoC opens the floor for questions, everyone in the group should put their hands up and keep them there. Look friendly or neutral so that staffers will call on you. When you’re asking a question, remember the following guidelines:

    Stick with the prepared list of questions. Don’t be afraid to read it straight from the printout if you need to.

    Be polite but persistent, and demand real answers. MoCs are very good at deflecting or dodging questions they don’t want to answer. If the MoC dodges, ask a follow-up question. If they aren’t giving you real answers, then call them out for it. Other group members around the room should amplify by either booing the MoC or applauding you.

    Don’t give up the mic until you’re satisfied with the answer. If you’ve asked a hostile question, a staffer will often try to limit your ability to follow up by taking the microphone back immediately after you finish speaking. They can’t do that if you keep a firm hold on the mic. No staffer in their right mind wants to look like they’re physically intimidating a constituent, so they will back off. If they object, then say politely but loudly: “I’m not finished. The MoC is dodging my question. Why are you trying to stop me from following up?”

    Keep the pressure on. After one member of the group finishes, everyone should raise their hands again. The next member of the group to be called on should move down the list of questions and ask the next one.
     
  4. Support the group and reinforce the message. After one member of your group asks a question, everyone should applaud to show that the feeling is shared throughout the audience.  Whenever someone from your group gets the mic, they should note that they’re building on the previous questions — amplifying the fact that you’re part of a broad group.
     
  5. Record everything! Assign someone in the group to use their smart phone or video camera to record other advocates asking questions and the MoC’s response. While written transcripts are nice, unfavorable exchanges caught on video can be devastating for MoCs. These clips can be shared through social media and picked up by local and national media. Please familiarize yourself with your state and local laws that govern recording, along with any applicable Senate or House rules, prior to recording. These laws and rules vary substantially from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.

AFTER THE TOWN HALL

  1. Reach out to media, during and after the town hall. If there’s media at the town hall, the people who asked questions should approach them afterward and offer to speak about their concerns. When the event is over, you should engage local reporters on Twitter or by email and offer to provide an in-person account of what happened, as well as the video footage you collected. Example Twitter outreach:

    “.@reporter I was at Rep. Smith’s town hall in Springfield today. Large group asked about Medicare privatization. I have video & happy to chat.”
    Note: It’s important to make this a public tweet by including the period before the journalist’s Twitter handle. Making this public will make the journalist more likely to respond to ensure they get the intel first.

    Ensure that the members of your group who are directly affected by specific threats are the ones whose voices are elevated when you reach out to media.
     
  2. Share everything. Post pictures, video, your own thoughts about the event, etc., to social media afterward. Tag the MoC’s office and encourage others to share widely.

This is pretty much what we saw at the Chaffetz event.  Prepared questions were read.  The crowd demanded a microphone.  Questioners asked several follow up questions for as long as they could. The crowd cheered wildly anytime a questions resonated with them. Everything was shared live on Facebook and social media.

Meanwhile, I have my own town hall meeting coming up.   I inadvertently volunteered as the House Punching Bag this session after provoking the ire of activists several weeks ago.  So, I do expect a lively and interesting event.   Look for a report on that next week.      



2017 General Session Update: Week 3




Week three was full of committee meetings and bill hearings.


BEDLjuice

Our Business Economic Development and Labor Appropriations Subcommittee (say that 10 times fast) heard a lighting round of appropriations requests.  Committee members were each asked to list their top 10 priorities for ongoing funding and top 15 priorities for one-time funding.  We received 52 one-time requests and 18 ongoing requests.  Here are my top ranked funding priorities from the committee (not in any particular order):

Ongoing

1.  DABC - Funding for Critical Needs (staff, compensation, etc)
2.  Dept. Heritage and Arts - Security for Rio Grand Facility
3.  Dept. Heritage and Arts - Multicultural Youth Summit
4.  Dept. Heritage and Arts - Sustainability Grants
5.  Dept. of Commerse - Controlled Substances Database
6.  Econ Dev - Targeted Industries Procurement and Supply Chain Expansion
7.  Econ Dev - Engineering Initiative
8.  Natural History Museum of Utah
9.  Econ Dev - Impact Utah Manufacturing Support
10.  GOED - Financial Services Cluster Director

One-Time

1.  GOED - Business Resource Centers
2.  GOED - Sundance (small approp)
3.  Utah Advanced Materials and Manufacturing Initiative
4.  Spring City Historical Building
5.  Hill Air Force Base Air Show
6.  George Beard Photography Exhibition
7.  Utah Refugee Scout Program
8.  United Way of Ogden
9.  Ogden Pioneer Stadium
10.  El Systema@Salty Crickets
11.  Boys State/Girls State
12.  Youth Impact
13.  Utah Humanities Museum on Main Street
14.  Restoration of Grantsville Donner Reed Museum
15.  GOED - Financial Services Cluster Director

The requests varied widely in amounts from $2,000 to $1.1M.  The committee chairs will be looking at available funds and then allocating amounts based on committee priorities.  We will know more early next week on the recommended amounts and who received enough committee support to even show up on the list.  I spread the good word on our local needs.



Federal Delegation Visits

We were privileged to hear from several of our Congressmen this week.  


Representative Christ Stewart offered some particularly poignant remarks.  You can watch those here:



We also had Congressman Rob Bishop visit with us.


State Rep. Adam Gardner (who, as Young Republican at WSU, door knocked with me back in 2008 during my first run for office) was able to also reunite with his old boss.  He later worked as staff for Congressman Bishop.  Their reunion was pretty funny.  You can watch that here:




  Mr. Peterson's Bills



My bills are moving through the system.  A couple were numbered and finished the drafting process.  Here is the latest:

HB23 - Solar Tax Credit Phase Out - This bill is on the House 3rd Reading Calendar and will be presented Monday or Tuesday of Week 4

HB24 - Student Prosperity Savings Account Tax Credit - This bill is right behind HB23 on the board.  Should be heard very soon.

HB64 - Property Tax Relief Amendments - This bill passed the Senate Committee and is on the board for a final hearing on the Senate Floor.

HB73 - Child Placement Amendments - This bill has been in the House Judiciary queue since the beginning of the session.  I hope to present it this coming week.

HB158 - State House Boundary Amendments - This is a technical fix-it bill that will align house districts with the Box Elder/Cache County line.  Due to map maker errors and poorly recorded map changes decades ago, the geocoding and legal boundaries were off by a few dozen feet.  This bill is on the House Consent calendar and will be heard Monday.

HB270 - Inmate Housing Amendments - This bill reduces the halfway house burden placed on any one community and spreads the housing of inmates returning to society based on county population.  This bill has not been assigned to committee yet.

HB307 - Energy and Innovation Research Grant Program - This bill creates a $1M competitive grant program to promote the development and deployment of new and innovative energy technology.  This bill has not yet been assigned to a committee.

HB318 - Recycling Development Zone Tax Credit Repeal - This bill repeals a wonky tax credit that costs the education budget about $1M per year.  Under current law, the credit is set to expire in 2021.  This bill will be heard in committee on Wednesday.


Random Happenings



This guy just came strolling through the hallway one morning at 8am.  He didn't say much but seemed friendly enough.


I leave my office door open on the fourth floor of the Capitol to help foster communication with my colleagues.  But, my guitar equipment appears to be an irresistible attraction to many passers by... as in this case, the Executive Director of the DABC. 

So far, the most commonly asked question I get is "Dude, an Epiphone? Where's the Gibson Les Paul???"  It appears guitar snobs also walk the halls of the Capitol.

    
After giving each other a bear hug (no, I am not kidding),  Utah Democrat Party chief Peter Corroon and Utah GOP head James Evans testify at committee together to support a bill presented by Rep. Patrice Arent.  



None of us like to be bored at the Capitol.  Fortunately, we have a solid Plan B in case we slip into the doldrums.  

Coming Up...

Look for more Floor time this next week and more controversial bills to hit the board.  We killed our first bill of the season this week.  More bills are sure to walk into Legislative crossfire.  Look for excitement to come.