Friday, November 26, 2010

Book Review: Nullification - How to Resist Federal Tyranny in the 21st Century

A couple weeks a go I received a book in the mail from the Utah Chapter of The Tenth Amendment Center.  The TAC is a libertarian leaning organization with a focus on State's Rights.

The premise of the book is that the size and scope of our Federal government far exceeds the original intent as defined by our Constitution.  The size of our central government has swollen due to abuses of the "Commerce Clause", "General Welfare Clause", and "Necessary and Property Clause" of our founding document.  Incidentally, the power and authority of our state governments have diminished in proportion to the consolidation of power at the Federal level.  The book provides legal and historical precedents for states to act in order to provide a legitimate check to an ambitious Federal Government.   

The book was a fascinating read of early American history and an articulation the Jeffersonian doctrine of nullification.  It documents the struggle between states like Kentucky, Virginia, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Idaho, Connecticut and others as their state legislatures acted to nullify intrusive and unconstitutional laws.

One of the most intriguing ideas presented in the book is the concept of Federal Tax Escrow Accounts.  Basically this is an account that Federal Taxes, when collected by the state, are deposited into.  However, rather than forwarding those funds directly to the Federal Government, the State Legislature would debate the constitutionality of the Federal Budget and then forward the appropriate funds to Washington.  The remainder would be retained for State use and without the strings attached that so often come with Federal money.  This kind of tool has tremendous applications and would keep tax money and decision making close to the people which is where it belongs.  The first major implication that comes to mind is keeping our Federal Government's 8% contribution to our schools here in Utah without such ridiculous mandates like No Child Left Behind attached to it.  Imagine teaching our children how we know best to do it but without expensive Federal requirements and silliness.          

The book is definitely worth a read and I believe the concepts are worthy of merit.  I know several legislators who have bills on the table this session that will address this nullification issue.  It will bring a much needed debate on the subject and I am sure will enlightening everyone.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A Thanksgiving Proclamation

George Washington penned the first Thanksgiving Proclamation as President of the United States in 1789.  Here are his words:

Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor; and Whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me to "recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness:"
Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favorable interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed; for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enable to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and, in general, for all the great and various favors which He has been pleased to confer upon us.
And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions; to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our National Government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have shown kindness to us), and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and, generally to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best.

Given under my hand, at the city of New York, the 3d day of October, A.D. 1789.

Enjoy your Thanksgiving Holiday!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Committee Assignments: Made to Order

I received my committee assignments from Speaker Lockhart today.  Here they are:

Transportation - Standing Committee
Given the importance that transportation will be playing in Ogden in the future, I asked to be placed on this committee.

Political Subdivisions - Standing Committee
Although not a super glamorous committee assignment, I asked to be placed on this committee to help gain perspective on our State's current political system and how its division affects policy and operations.

Economic Development, Business and Labor - Appropriations Subcommittee
This is an exciting committee assignment.  This will give Ogden a front row seat at opportunities for economic development and growth as they become manifest to our committee.  You will likely be hearing a lot from me about opportunities that arise from this committee assignment.

And finally, if you want to see where I will be sitting, here is a map of the House Chamber (click to enlarge):

Freshmen typically sit on the front row.   My seat is the yellow box.

Fun factoid: I will also happen to be the second most youthful Legislator to serve in the House this next term. 

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Resolution Convolution: The $101 Million Drama

Today the Utah Legislature was called into special session by Governor Herbert.  As a representative-elect, I was invited to attend and watch the Legislature address the issue dealing with $101 million dollars that are coming to Utah as part of the Federal Government's education jobs bailout which passed earlier this year.

As you can probably guess, it was a contentious issue and stirred some heated debate.

The resolution as it was proposed stated that Utah was accepting the funds but doing so holding its nose due to the perceived usurpation of State's rights and encroachment of Federal power on State prerogative.

Here are some important facts related to the funds and the resolution:

1.  The funds were officially requested by the Governors office and would be received by the State whether or not the Legislature approved the resolution.
2.  The Legislature has sole authority over appropriating State funds for use, including education funds, and not passing this resolution would allow the Federal government to bypass the Legislature by issuing funds to school districts directly.
3.  The resolution with its strong language of dissatisfaction added was seen as a compromise on the issue.
4.  The funds are desperately needed to plug a $50 million shortfall in our education budget.

So, the debate that ensued on the House Floor was quite intriguing.  On one side, you had a Republican  faction of representatives who absolutely opposed receiving the funds on grounds that it was fiscally irresponsible on a national level and just another example of government over spending.  On another side, you had Republican representatives that supported the strong language and yet wanted to approve the bill based on the States budget gap.  Finally, on a third side, the Democratic representatives tried to substitute a bill with friendlier wording than the one proposed on the basis that provoking the Federal Government with a verbal rebuke would hurt other sources of Federal funding that we are dependent on.

In the end, the original resolution was passes with just 14 Republican representatives voting "No" on the measure.

The Legislature today was put in a Catch-22 situation.  To have voted the resolution down on grounds of supporting State's Rights would have had the opposite desired effect as the Federal government circumvented the State's authority to distribute funds and encroached further into State business.  However, today's vote of approval may likely put some of the State's sovereignty at risk in the future as the Federal Government uses the acceptance of funds as a reason to mandate compliance to more Federal rules.  It has done just that with Medicaid funds the State received several years ago.

It seems that the Federal Government is becoming a master of making offers that States cannot refuse.   

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Utah Compact: Collision Course with the Capitol

Local business interests, community leaders, and leaders from various faiths descended on the Capitol today to sign "The Utah Compact - A Declaration of Five Principles to guide Utah's immigration discussion".

Here is a copy of the compact (click to enlarge):

The document itself doesn't offer any solutions or suggest any specific policy.  Rather, in my opinion, it tries to define the debate that will occur on the Hill this year regarding illegal immigration.  With Governor Herbert asking for a comprehensive reform package this year, the collision course has been set for those who have signed this pact with legislators like myself whose constituents elected them to address this issue in a meaningful way.  The debate should be lively.  I look forward to the discussion.  

Here is the text of the pact and my responses:

FEDERAL SOLUTIONS — Immigration is a federal policy issue between the U.S. government and other countries — not Utah and other countries. We urge Utah's congressional delegation, and others, to lead efforts to strengthen federal laws and protect our national borders. We urge state leaders to adopt reasonable policies addressing immigrants in Utah.

This is correct.  As a state, we are essentially hostage to Federal inaction regarding this issue.  Hence, our constituents growing frustration.  This is exactly why I propose that our Federal delegation, our state Legislature, and our Governor form a pact with other states to compel our Federal government to take action.  Even Texas has an "Arizona-style" bill on the table this year.  We should lock arms with states like Texas and confront our Federal Government on this issue.  There is safety in numbers with such a course of action. 

LAW ENFORCEMENT — We respect the rule of law and support law enforcement's professional judgment and discretion. Local law enforcement resources should focus on criminal activities, not civil violations of federal code.

I agree.  Law enforcement simply does not have the resources to be immigration enforcers as well.  However, with a large minority of our crimes being caused by illegal immigrants, it is logical to assume that crime would go down in direct proportion to the absence of illegal immigrants in our communities.  Therefore, we need to seek out solutions that remove incentives for illegal immigrants to come to Utah.

FAMILIES — Strong families are the foundation of successful communities. We oppose policies that unnecessarily separate families. We champion policies that support families and improve the health, education and well-being of all Utah children.

The first sentence is correct and separating families is not ideal.  However, any policy that sends the message to would-be illegal immigrants abroad that marrying a citizen or having children in the U.S. will give you a free pass to stay here is pure folly.  It will only exacerbate the problem, not make it better.  Immigrants should be encouraged to come here with their families through the legal channels our Federal government offers.

I also believe that this statement blurs the lines between citizen rights and non-citizen rights.  Education and other taxpayer funded services provided by the state are there for the advantage of citizens.  As citizens, we have rights that other non-citizens do not.  Hence, the bother of even distinguishing between the two.  This statement seems to suggest that citizens and non-citizens should be treated the same as one another in regards to health, education, and well-being.

I am of the opinion that state resources for welfare, child care, or tuition assistance should not be issued to illegal immigrants.  To issue such benefits will only attract more illegal immigrants seeking taxpayer funded assistance.  The practice is also an insult to citizens who can utilize these scarce resources.  While we welcome and encourage freedom-seeking people to come to America, to be a citizen means something of value and, therefore, we should protect the importance of citizenship through policy that advocates such.    

ECONOMY — Utah is best served by a free-market philosophy that maximizes individual freedom and opportunity. We acknowledge the economic role immigrants play as workers and taxpayers. Utah's immigration policies must reaffirm our global reputation as a welcoming and business-friendly state.

We need immigrant labor.  However, the quantity of immigrant labor needs to be controlled and held in proper account.  That is not happening now thanks to our Federal government.  Fortunately, we can be business friendly and still provide opportunity for legal immigrant labor through the E-Verify system.  Provide penalties for businesses that do not use the system and much of the illegal immigrant problem will cure itself.  It is my understanding that Utah law, though mandating use of the E-Verify system for businesses with over 15 employees, provides no penalty for those that choose not to use it.  Why do we have such toothless laws?

A FREE SOCIETY — Immigrants are integrated into communities across Utah. We must adopt a humane approach to this reality, reflecting our unique culture, history and spirit of inclusion. The way we treat immigrants will say more about us as a free society and less about our immigrant neighbors. Utah should always be a place that welcomes people of goodwill.

The only question I have is how somebody defines the word "goodwill".  It could be argued that anyone that comes to the United States looking for work could be considered "goodwilled".  However, it could also be argued that anyone coming to the United States in violation of the law could be coming here in "bad faith".

I am sure that the coming session will be full or rancor.  For more on my views on illegal immigration, click here.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Great Works: George Washington's Sacred Fire

I recently finished reading George Washington's Sacred fire by Peter A. Lillback.  I highly recommend you pick up a copy for your library.  This book takes head-on scholars, who for the last 80 years, have argued that our First President was not a Christian but rather an aloof Deist.  Deism in Washington's time was nearly equivalent to today's Secular Progressive worldview.  After reading the book and its overwhelming citations and scholarly proofs, I am convinced that he indeed was a Christian and an ardent one at that.

Here are a few quotes that I found edifying:


" Though I prize, as I ought, the good opinion of my fellow citizens; yet, if I know myself, I would not seek Or retain popularity at the expense of one social duty or moral virtue."

Minority Rule

"If the laws are to be so trampled upon with impunity, and a minority (a small one too) is to dictate to the majority, there is an end republican government; and nothing but anarchy and confusion is to be expected hereafter."

Leadership Principals

"I have found no better guide hitherto, than upright intentions and close investigation..."

"Laws or ordinances unobserved, or partially attended to, had better never have been made; because the first is a mere nihil. and the second is productive of much jealousy and discontent."


"It may be proper to observe that a good moral character is the first essential in a man, and that the habits contracted at your age are generally  indelible, and your conduct here may stamp your character through life.  It is therefore highly important that you should endeavor not only to be learned but virtuous."
Happiness and Government

" The foundations of our National policy will be laid in the pure and immutable principles of private morality; and the pre-eminence of a free Government, be exemplified by all the atributes which can win the affections of its Citizems, and command the respect of the world...there is no truth more thoroughly established, than that there exists in the economy and course of nature, an indissoluble union between virtue and happiness, between duty and advantage, between the genuine maxims of an honest and magnanimous policy..."

"Since we ought to be no less persuaded that the propitious smiles of Heaven, can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right, which Heaven itself has ordained: And since the preservation of the sacred fire of liberty, and the destiny of the Republican model of Government, are justly considered as deeply, perhaps as finally staked on the experiment entrusted to the hands of the American people."

"A good general government, without good morals and good habits, will not make us a happy People; and we shall deceive ourselves if we think it will."

These quotes don't even scratch the surface.  Pick up a copy and be enlightened my the story and wisdom of such a great man.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Learning to Swim: Leadership Elections

There is no better teacher in life than experience.  Hence, the reason I believe for the wild experience of new legislators being compelled to participate in legislative leadership elections less than 48 hours after being elected.

Even as election results were coming in on Tuesday night, I began to recieve numerous calls from supporters but also candidates who were running for leadeship positions within the House of Representatives.  What adds an even more interesting element to this is that no one in government expected us to win.  We were a complete upset victory which meant that leadership candidates, except for perhaps three, had mostly ignored our campaign until election night.  Our victory threw the political calculus of the leadership elections back into uncertainty.

Thus, the phone calls began.  It became clear after Wednesday that there were two camps vying for power in the House of Representatives.  Each made compelling arguments for there case.  Adding difficulty to the vote was that I like and respect those that presented their names for consideration.  Still, it was difficult to make a decision with such little information and history to work from.  Nevertheless, we cast our ballots.

What we witnessed after the ballots were cast was a surprising transition in power from side of the room to the other as both factions opted to sit on opposite sides of the room from each other.  The disappointment from the vanquished party was palpable.  The satisfaction from the parties who pushed for this shift was unmistakable.

It was quite an event and I leaned more about politics in two days than I have in the past two years.  


Wednesday, November 3, 2010


We prevailed last night in our bid for the House of Representatives in Utah House District 9 and I want to thank all those who contributed their time and resources to our race.  It took a lot of hard work and without the efforts of our volunteers and contributors we would not have been able to make this possible.

I am humbled by the opportunity to serve and I am ready to get to work for our district and to bring the spotlight to Ogden.  Please let me know what issues and concerns you have.  You can email or call.

Thank you so much and lets make Ogden a great place!