Friday, February 25, 2011

General Session: Day 31 - A Family Affair and Division On the Floor

Today I was privileged to say the opening prayer for the day and have my daughters Hannah and Wynnie lead the House of Representatives in the Pledge of Allegiance.  You can watch the opening of the meeting and the girl's performance HERE.

I also ended up on some radio talk show in Logan.  The show had myself and an immigration reform opponent on the show.  Unfortunately, I learned that not all radio hosts are created equal as 12 minutes of our 15 minute interview were consumed by the opponent's viewpoints with a last minute turnover of time to me for a couple quick rebuttals.

The floor also debated a much anticipated bill regarding In-State Tuition for illegal immigrants.  The case was being made that undocumented kids that go to our high schools and graduate should not be allowed in-state tuition as a way to punish their parents for coming here illegally.  A representative from central Utah offered an amendment that turned the intent of the bill on its head and would allow in-state tuition to kids whose parents had paid taxes for 12 months, a requirement we make of anyone coming to Utah to go to our higher learning institutions.  It was such a contested issue that a Call of the House was ordered where the Sergeant-In-Arms was summoned to compel all members of the House to come to the chamber to vote.  When the sponsor of this bill saw that the vote for the unfriendly amendment would pass regardless of all members being present, he withdrew the Call.  You can watch the drama HERE.  Here is the result of the vote on the amendment:

Once the sponsor saw that the provision passed, he "circled" his bill to stop further deliberations and the fate of the bill is now undetermined.

Finally, the wife and I ended the day with the Lincoln Day Dinner in Ogden with speeches from Governor Herbert, Senator Mike Lee and more.  I also spent much of the evening explaining the immigration dilemma to constituents and helping everyone understand what has been happening on the Hill.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

General Session 2011: Day 30 - The Run Down

Today was an extremely busy day with lots of things to mention.

I was strolling through the hall today and bumped into Congressman Jason Chaffetz.  I stopped and we had a good conversation about immigration before he had to run off to another meeting.  Special thanks to a stranger in the hall for taking this photo with my Blackberry. 

Also on the docket today was HB 116 another much anticipated immigration bill that is very much of the same design as our SB 60.  In fact, if you compare the bills side by side, they employ nearly the exact same concepts except that SB 60 has most of the details of the program spelled out where HB 116 is a platform for fleshing out detail at a later date.  I spoke very briefly in favor of the bill as it dovetails with our efforts.  To my pleasant surprise, many of my colleagues spoke in favor of this type of approach.  If you are up at 1am and have nothing better to do, you can watch the 2 hour floor date HERE.

In the end, the vote was favorable and the bill passed 43-28.

After floor voting time, I headed to the Senate Judiciary committee to speak in favor of our SB 60.  The committee was small with only two senators present to get started.  Toward the end of the meeting, three other senators arrived...just in time to cast their votes.  You can listen to the meeting, which includes my introductory comments at 10:00 minutes HERE. My comments are immediately followed by Attorney General Mark Shurtleff.  This was a very good meeting with great testimony.  The committee voted 3-2 to pass the bill to the Senate Floor for a vote.  

You can read the Salt Lake Tribune article on the meeting HERE.

H.B 48: Moving Fingerprints Forward

I had the opportunity to present HB 48 - on the House Floor yesterday.  I was the second to last bill considered before we adjourned for the day.  Fortunately, my presentation went well and it was approved 69-0 and moves on to the Senate.  You can watch the presentation HERE.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Photo of the Day: The Romneys

Mitt and Ann Romney flew into Salt Lake City last week to plant some seeds regarding a potential presidential run in 2012.  I was close by so I swung in to shake hands and introduce myself.  Janis Christensen was kind enough to snap this photo.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Honesty in Policy: My Sole Republican Vote Against H.B. 70

The House of Representatives today voted on H.B. 70, the much anticipated "Heavy Enforcement" Immigration bill.  Many of us were in queue to speak on the floor and my prepared remarks were unable to be heard today during floor debate.  I was the sole Republican to vote against this piece of legislation.

In lieu of hearing my words on the floor, here they are in written form:

There has been a major disconnect between public perception and what this bill really does.  If you go outside of these walls the average person on the street believes the bill that we are debating today is the strong enforcement cure to our immigration ills.  For nine months we have heard inflammatory rhetoric that has attended this debate and appealed to the fear and anger in our community.  Yet, at this 11th hour we discover that in fact this bill will have no meaningful effect on the way law enforcement deals with illegal immigration.  Is it any wonder then that the citizens of the state have such deep seated cynicism toward their government and this body?  Don't get me wrong.  I disagree with a punitive enforcement only approach to this issue, however, I still cannot agree to support a benign bill that masquerades as something that it isn't.  It is my opinion that the people are being bamboozeled into believing this bill is more substantive that it really is.  I ask that my colleagues in this room join me to vote down this piece of legislation.      

H.B. 70 was amended last Friday with "may" provisions to tone down the impact.  Today on the floor it was amended further to indemnify municipalities from litigation in the event that they don't enforce the provisions of the bill.  In essence, this misdirected bill has been diluted to futility.  The public is completely unaware.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

General Session 2011: Day 24 - Some Good News

After last week's beating, this week has been quite pleasant thus far.

On Tuesday, the Juvenile Fingerprints bill (HB48) that I sponsored was passed out of committee finally and will be heard on the House Floor in the next couple of days.  You can hear the final committee meeting HERE

This morning I presented our immigration bill S.B. 60 to the Conservative Caucus along with my other colleagues who presented their competing legislation. It was a very lively debate.  One of my colleagues got down right testy and openly bad mouthed other competing bills.  It was difficult to hold my tongue as he chose to use inflammatory rhetoric to make his case.  In the end, I felt that his tone and railing accusations were best left to speak for themselves.

One of the big items we released today was the  fiscal note for S.B. 60.  Based on projections, we estimate that our immigration program will generate about $12 Million in new tax revenue after expenses each year.  Here is a summary of those projections:

Another interesting item today was my attempt to open a bill file on the House Floor.  The rules state that a bill cannot be opened this late in the session without a majority of the members of the House consenting.  You can see the short video of my effort HERE.

Finally, the USA Today ran a nice article on our bill as well.  Click to read.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

General Session 2011: Week 3 Summary

This week flew by.  In fact, events are occurring so quickly that it seems almost dreamlike.  I have a hard time reconciling my memory of events with a calendar.  I also ended the week in total exhaustion.

One of the interesting developments in the immigration debate this week was the passing of HB70 (the so-called heavy enforcement bill) from committee on Friday.  This bill has now become symbolic rather than substantive in its effect.  The key changes in the bill this week were done by making detainment a "may" provision rather than a "shall" provision.  It seems like a small change but the real effect is a remarkable diversion from the bill's original intent.  Expect to see the status quo in detainment practices from law enforcement departments across the state.  The "Deport Them All Now" crowd believes they are getting a tough law pushed through but in reality they are just getting symbolic gestures from those interested in playing to their emotions on this issue.

The watering down of HB70 is timely.  The majority of the public is searching for other answers to this problem and more thoughtful (and less expensive) solutions are now on the table for discussion.  We spent this week discussing SB 60 and HB 116 in a workgroup with the Senate to see if there is some common ground among the alternatives proposed.  There will be more developments on this subject next week.

Finally, the last thing I did on Friday was attend the Judiciary Committee meeting for my Juvenile Fingerprints Bill HB 48.  However, before my turn, I was treated to hearing the same committee eviscerate HB 59 sponsored by my good friend from Layton.  Even with big names like Mark Shurtleff testifying in behalf of the bill, the committee was unimpressed and, after a torturous hour and half or meticulous cross examination, struck down the legislation. 

This was the less-than-cheerful tone of the meeting in which I presented HB 48.  Unfortunately, we also were walking into the meeting with a couple of marked disadvantages.  First, I misunderstood the feedback I received from the stakeholders involved in our first committee hearing and made changes that needed further clarification.  Secondly, Legislative Research neglected to release the bill for review until an hour before the meeting.  The stakeholders and I had no time to adjust any wording.  Thus, the scene was set for the near death experience of this bill.  One legislator on the committee tried twice to kill the bill through a motion to "table" the legislation.  You can listen to the experience HERE.  I'll be back to the committee next week for a final attempt to get this to the House Floor for a vote.  


Thursday, February 10, 2011

An Unscripted Message

This is what happens when party folks shows up in your office and say: "Hey, I have a video camera, go ahead and say something,"  The result is interesting.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

General Session 2011: Day 13 - Bill Status Update

I had some time to breath today and I thought I would sit down and account for where some of my bills are right now:

H.B. 45 - Vehicle Impound Amendments - This bill was heard at the Senate Transportation Committee on Thursday and was moved out of committee with a favorable recommendation for a vote on the Senate Floor next week.  I anticipate it will pass without incident and be signed by the governor in March to become law.

H.B. 63 - Left Hand Turn Penalty and Sentencing - we held our committee meeting on this bill on Tuesday this week.  A.B.A.T.E. came and supported us as well as Ron Brown who shared testimony about the passing of his son in a tragic accident.  You can listen to our presentation HERE.  We made a compelling case for enhancing the penalty when a death results in left hand turn accidents.  However, the committee felt that increasing penalties was too punative and inconsistent so decided to hold our bill pending revisions.  In my interviews with committee members after the meeting, it became apparent our bill could not move forward even with revisions.  Basically, an overall shift in penalty policy is too big to be dealt with in this narrowly focused bill.  In other words, our little bill was trying to move a mountain with a shovel.  After discussing the issue with my constituents, we decided to let the bill die this year while we petitioned Legislative Research for an interim study on the subject.  Our hope is that the research from other states will show that increased fines do cause an effective decrease in the number of deaths. With Legislative Research's credibility behind the study, and if the findings are favorable, it will lay the ground for a paradigm shift on how we fine motorists who cause death and bodily injury.  We will see how the study goes and try again next year based on what we find.

H.B. 48 - Fingerprints of Juveniles - This has been a very interesting bill to run.  I presented before the Judiciary committee and you can listen to that meeting HERE.  There is a "saunter" portion while paperwork was being found so fast forward through that part.  I had great testimony from Paul Rimmasch with Weber County Metro CSI and also some support from Rod Gordon on the Commission on Criminal and Juvinile Justice.  The committee liked the intent of the bill.  The problem was that whoever wrote this section of code prior to my arrival did a poor job and left lots of open doors for mischief to occur.  The committee demanded that I fix the rest of the pre-existing language in the bill to their satisfaction.  I will be working on that on Monday and hopefully have that back to their committee for approval next week.

S.B. - 60 Utah Pilot Accountability Permit Program - This bill is getting lots of local attention with national media outlets likely reporting on this legislation next week.  This bill will be entering a Senate committee soon for a hearing.  Most likely that will happen next week sometime.  From there, if approved, it will be voted on the Senate Floor and then heard in a committee on the House side for an ultimate approval and then a vote on the House floor.        

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

General Session 2011: Day 10

Quite the day today.  We held a press conference to announce bipartisan support for SB 60 which is an immigration reform bill sponsored by Senator Robles (D) in the Senate and which I am sponsoring in the House.  Here is KSL's take on it:

Video Courtesy of

Shortly after the press conference I presented my Juvenile Fingerprints bill to committee which fell under heavy scrutiny.  I will be working tomorrow to amend the bill to appease the committee when we next meet.

The Case for S.B. 60: Utah Pilot Accountability Permit Program

One of the issues that I promised my constituents I would address when elected was the immigration issue.  It was made very clear going door to door that the voters wanted something done to achieve some meaningful change.  Up till now, however, the debate has largely centered on an enforcement only initiative proposed by a legislator from Utah county.

Several weeks ago, I was made aware of a piece of legislation being run in the Senate that I believe is more effective and accomplishes what my constituents and Utahns really want from immigration reform.  As I was visiting with voters during the campaign, I consistently ran into folks who were conflicted over how to deal with illegal immigration.  On one hand, they wanted our government to do something about the faceless hoards of people streaming across our borders unchecked and causing problems in the community.  Yet, on the other hand they hoped that their immigrant friends and neighbors would be unaffected by any enforcement because they were good people.  This seemed like an impossible challenge to overcome.  That is until now...

I would like to announce my sponsorship of Senate Bill 60 on the House Floor.  SB 60 answers the question of how to maintain public safety while holding harmless those of good will.  It is rigorous but fair legislation.    

Here is a summary of the program (click image to enlarge):

In essence this bill creates a controlled environment in which undocumented immigrants will pay a fee to be screened.  The bar will be raised on expectations as they will be required to learn English and basic civics.  They will not have access to welfare and unemployment benefits.  They will be given the option of participating in the program or being compelled to leave the state as they are shut out of the workforce.  To give traction to the whole system, businesses who violate the program will be fined starting at $10,000.  
I wrestled with this issue for some time before deciding to support this legislation and I understand that not all of my constituents will be happy with this proposal.  However, I do believe that it will accomplish more to enforce the law and promote prosperity than the alternatives that are currently being presented.  I ask for your thoughtful consideration of this proposal as we move forward in the debate on immigration.  May we have a civil and insightful discourse.