Sunday, December 26, 2010

A Year of Tribulation: 1776

I recently finished reading David McCullough's book 1776.  This is a book I couldn't put down.  It recounts the formation of the Continental Army and George Washington's efforts to rally his undisciplined troops as they laid siege on Boston, were defeated at New York and then rebounded for a surprise victory in Trenton, New Jersey.  An amazing story.  It's a miracle we are not a British Commonwealth country like Canada is today.  The deprivation our forefathers endured for the cause of freedom is awe inspiring in and of itself.

There were a couple great quotes in the book:

"We must accept men as they are, not as we wish them to be." George Washington commenting on his troops.

"Whatever is, is right." - Alexander Pope alluding to our faith and acceptance of God's hand in our own life's events.

Pick up a copy of this book.  It's a fast read and you'll feel like you are actually there experiencing the events.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas: America's Immigrant Mash-Up Holiday

I hope you are enjoying the Christmas season this year.  With temperatures where they are, I feel like I should put the yule log away and break out the clovers and leprechaun decorations.  Speaking of Irish things, I wanted to take a look at our Christmas traditions just to put them in perspective.

Interestingly, since the Native Americans had no Christmas traditions of their own, all of our traditions have come from other countries. What we have today is a potpourri of holiday practices from everywhere on Earth. It's quite an interesting history. Let's take a look at the time and origin of some of our favorite Christmas symbols:

1. The Candy Cane                Germany     1600's  
2. The Twelve Days of Christmas  England     1500's
3. Christmas Carols              Italy       1200's
4. Stockings                     Europe      1300's              
5. The Christmas Tree            Germany     1500's
6. Gift Giving                   America     1880's
7. Wreath                        Germany     1500's
8. Poinsetta                     Mexico      1830's
9. Mistletoe                     England     1700's
10. Rudolph the Reindeer         America     1940's
11. North Pole Legend            America     1880's

As you can see, many of our holiday traditions descend from Northern Europe.  Also interesting is that most of the German traditions stem from ancient pagan practices re-adapted for Christian meaning.

So how did all these traditions get to America?  Immigration.  The melting pot has produced quite an eclectic mix for us all to enjoy.  With current immigration trends and pop culture's knack for creating new icons, what Christmas traditions will be in store for our grandchildren?  Let me offer a couple alternative visions of the future:

Be sure to enjoy your Christmas Holiday (or Hanukkah for our Jewish friends) and God Bless!


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

New Bill: H.B. 45 - Vehicle Impound Amendments

The Vehicle Impound Amendments bill I am running has been numbered as HB 45.

NOTE: The bill is just adding some additional language into existing code.  The underlined text is the new language.  Everything else is already existing law.

Let me know if you have any questions or concerns.  You can read more about the background on this bill HERE.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Op Ed: Stardard Wrong On Repeal Amendement

My guest commentary was published in the Standard Examiner this morning (I am still waiting for a good link from their online live version).  Here is the text:

I would like to thank the Standard Examiner for airing its opinion on the Repeal Amendment and State’s Rights.  Although I completely disagree with the position held by the editorial board, the discussion affords us an opportunity as a community to explore this burgeoning issue.

One of the questions we need to ask ourselves as Utahans and Americans is this: At what point does the Federal Government overstep its bounds?  A good follow up question might be: Do we as a people even recognize what those bounds are?

Fortunately, to answer both of these questions, we need to look no further to our high school text books or, hopefully, our own bookshelves for a copy of the Constitution. If we understand our Constitution, we can begin to understand the power structure that was put in place to best assure the protection of our liberties and our happiness as a people.

We are all familiar with the checks and balances provided by the three separate branches of government that make up our Federal system.  Each branch is supposed to keep the power and influence of the other two branches from growing any more powerful than its own.  But this just addresses the balance of power within government.  What force is there to check the unlimited growth of power and influence by the Federal Government as a whole? Thomas Jefferson believed that the states of our Union could provide just that balance:

“It is important to strengthen the State governments…it must be done by the States themselves, erecting such barriers at the constitutional line as cannot be surmounted either by themselves or by the General Government.” Thomas Jefferson to Archibald Stewart, 1791.

Yet, the Standard Examiner editorial board feels that the voters can simply vote out Federal Legislators and that will somehow resolve the issue of our bloated government:

“If voters don't like what a current U.S. Congress is doing, they have the right to vote federal pols out of office.” - S.E. Editorial Board

The problem lies in the fact that the new guy takes the reins of a government that is every bit as large as it was when his predecessor left.  Voting out legislators does not reduce government programs, eliminate executive orders, or overturn judicial interpretation that all aim towards an enlargement of Federal power.

Even Alexander Hamilton, the supreme advocate of centralized federal government in his day said:

“This balance between the National and State governments ought to be dwelt on with peculiar attention, as it is of the utmost importance. It forms a double security to the people. If one encroaches on their rights they will find a powerful protection in the other. Indeed, they will both be prevented from over passing their constitutional limits by a certain rivalship, which will ever subsist between them.” (Alexander Hamilton, speech to the New York Ratifying Convention,

Indeed, we may be asking the impossible.  The “rivalship” between the Federal and State level is mediated by the Supreme Court.  Is justice even possible when the defendant in the case, the Federal Government, is also a party to the mediator?  I think not.  And so, over the past two centuries our government has been drifting ever so slowly, but surely, in the direction of ever more consolidated centralized Federal power.  We should not rely on our Federal government to exercise self-restraint in this regard.  Our Founders did not envision The New Deal, The Great Society, or No Child Left Behind when they signed our framing document.  These have been possible only through subtle interpretation of the constitution and the collective acquiescence of the American people. 

That acquiescence is coming to an end.  Rob Bishop’s Repeal Amendment embodies the return of public sentiment to our Founding Principles.  It will give the States the necessary tools to effectively counter-balance an overzealous and cumbersome Federal government.  For this reason I support this cause and I hope that you, the reader, will do so as well.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Day at the Capitol: Up Coming Issues

I spent the day at the Capitol with my legislative colleagues and fleshed out some of the issues that will be addressed during the Legislative Session starting in January.  Here are some interesting points we discussed and some things you can look forward to:

$313 Millions Budget Deficit - The state budget still has a revenue shortage of $313 million that needs to be addressed.  Under current tax rates, we will need to cut another 7% from the budget.  Look for more difficult belt tightening.

Immigration - We were presented with the 8th revision of a much anticipated immigration bill.  Apparently, the bill has been made bullet proof to constitutional challenges. 

No New Taxes - We voted as a Republican Caucus today to not raise taxes this year to meet the budget deficit.  This is good news for everyone.  Instead, look for more paired down state programs this year.

Federalism Issues - The issues surrounding Federalism seem to be gaining traction on the Hill.  One legislator is investigating the possibility of Federal Tax Escrow accounts while another is proposing reawakening the Constitutional Defense Council.

Deferred Building Maintenance - To trim the budget and live within our means, the legislature has taken money from funds used to maintain buildings.  We have deferred this maintenance for several years now and we were warned that this can only happen a couple more years. We will be forced to increase the maintenance budgets again or otherwise risk more extensive damage to state owned buildings.  

Rejection of Governor Herbert's Tax Acceleration - Governor Herbert's budget called for one time acceleration of tax revenue collection by mandating that businesses pay state taxes quarterly rather than yearly.  This accounting "gimmick" would add about $110 Million to this year's budget by pulling revenues from the future.  It's a one time fix and also would add an additional $10 Million in collection burden to the business community.  We saw that as an undue tax increase and committed to not support that measure. 

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Book Review: A Century of Service - 1860-1960 - A History of the Utah Education Assocation

Ok, I will be honest with you.  I did not "read" page for page this book.  It is a 680-page encyclopedic diary of committee motions, board findings, leadership successions and other minutia that I felt were best left as a reference on the pages of the book than swimming around in my head.  However, among the ocean of detail I did find a few noteworthy things.

Among them, the book extracts from the October 1921 edition of Review, a UEA publication,  in suggesting a "Teacher's Code of Ethics":

1.  The Constitution of the United States gives every man the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  If we choose to be teachers, we should show by our action that we are happy in our work.
2.  Do not be a grouch; it will show in your work, your face, and your schools.
3.  Make yourself so important to the people with whom you work, that they will feel your absence.  The community you work in should be the best in the country.
4.  Don't content yourself with knocking [criticizing].  You are only ringing your own death knell; for everything you knock out, you should build something better to take it's place.
5.  Join the teachers association, and see that you help make it a factor for good by doing your full duty without complaint, that those who see our good work may help us to better conditions.
6.  Make your work the first consideration all the time.
7.  Remember that the privileges we enjoy have been earned by steady application to work for high ideals.  Do not abuse the privileges we have.  By better work and higher ideals, let us earn greater freedom.  Remember always that increased freedom is always dependent upon greater responsibility.
8.  Demand the standard of punctuality of your students and then be sure that you do all and more than you require of them.
9.  Do not be a gossip carrier.  The best of us sometimes make mistakes.  Help the one who has erred back to a good healthy attitude. 

My how times have changed!  For fun, contrast these words to the legal disclaimer message of today's UEA code of ethics.  Which one inspires you more?

It was refreshing to find this gem in the book.  The "Code" from Review are words we all should live by, regardless of our profession.  How pleasant would our lives be if everyone we knew at work lived by these basic rules?

Finally, here is a departing fun factoid from the book:  In 1875 Utah had 236 School Districts, 458 teachers, 19,278 students, and 65 children per school.

I am grateful to the owner of this rare book who loaned it to me to peruse.

Friday, December 3, 2010

A Bill Is Born: Vehicle Impound Amendments

I recently opened a bill file regarding police authority to impound vehicles.  This legislation was proposed last year but did not have enough time to reach the floor for a vote.  I offered to submit the bill again in behalf of an outgoing legislator who was the original author.

The gist of this bill is to allow for police seizure of vehicles that are suspected in hit-and-run accidents that involve property damage, injury, or death.  Our existing law allows for our vehicles to be impounded without a warrant if we are driving on the road for over three months without registration. This bill proposes the same if our vehicles are suspected in a hit-and-run accident.    

The main benefit to this bill will be the time and resource savings from a law enforcement perspective.  Rather than having police stake out a vehicle or spend a lot of time running warrants through the court when a hit-and-run vehicle is found, the police will have the authority to act in a timely way.

UPDATE 12/21/10:  Upon further research it was discovered that current law allows for the impounding of vehicles involved in hit and run accidents without a warrant.  However, when documenting such incidents the police classify the the incident at "theft/possible theft" which everyone involved knows is not the best description of this circumstance.  This bill provides a legal description that fits the facts of the case and will help law enforcement properly document such instances.  In essence, the bill is a minor clerical change. 

The next step is for the bill to be assigned a number. Then it will sit in a pile of bills that will be heard "at committee" when the legislative session starts in January.  From there it is sent for a vote on the House floor, then to the Senate, and if approved, to the Governor for a signature where it becomes the law of the land.   

I will keep you posted on the progress of this bill.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Quote of the Day: Edward Carpenter

I was reading an excerpt from Edward Carpenter's book England's Ideal under the chapter "The Simplification of Life".  I found this quote quite gripping:

In remembering those who have dedicated their lives to the benefit of their own lands, we inevitably picture them as men of simple ways, who have asked little and given much, who have freed their shoulders from the burdens of luxury, who have stripped off from their lives the tight inflexible bandages of unnecessary formalities, and who have thus been left free for those great essentials of honest existence, for courage, for unselfishness, for heroic purpose, and, above all, for the clear vision which means the acceptance of that final good, honesty of purpose, without which there can be no real meaning in life.