Monday, July 25, 2016

ACYPL: Dining with Delegates from China

Last year I was privileged to be able to travel with a group of young political leaders via a State Department funded program called ACYPL (American Council of Young Political Leaders).  You can read about that fascinating trip here and here.

One of the great parts of the ACYPL program is that it creates a network of alumni that support the program moving forward.  I had an opportunity recently to provide that support by hosting a dinner for a delegation of Chineses officials coming to America.  I chose the Joseph Smith Memorial Building as our venue and invited Ryan Wilcox, a former Legislator who now works for Senator Mike Lee and Eric Hutchings who currently serves with me in the House of Representatives and who also happens to speak fluent Mandarin. Both also happen to be ACYPL alumni.

Here is a brief biography of our guests:

Our conversations mainly focused on political economy.  I sat next to Mr. Wan Sucheng who is in charge of the All-China Youth Federation.  It is an organization that oversees the civic education and molding of over 300 Million Chinese youth.  I joked with him that being in charge of that many people was pretty close to being President of the U.S.  But, since they are all kids, I am sure its much harder.  Interestingly, he is fourth in line to become President of China.

We did share some of Utah's history and explained the importance of the month of July in our state.  They listened intently as we rehearsed the pioneer story and how that heritage has affected our politics.  My wife Kim also attended the dinner with us and one of our guests asked us directly about our LDS faith and how we raised our children in the faith.  I am sure from their perspective where a one-child policy has been the norm for decades, it was alarming to hear that we had four daughters.

Our evening ended with an exchange of gifts.  I presented each member of the delegation with a proof-quality commemorative quarter celebrating the completion of the trans-continental railroad.  We also shared the story of how Chinese immigrants played a significant role in the building of that rail line and that many Chinese rest in our Ogden cemetery from that era.  

It was great to make new friends from a foreign land.  As we parted I told them that: "Peace comes from understanding, understanding comes from friendship, and friendship comes from eating dinner together."  We all got a good chuckle from my pseudo-Confucius-like aphorism.  I am glad we were able to give our guests a taste of Utah hospitality and good will.    

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Thank You Noall Knighton!

It was announced this week that Noall Knighton is resigning from his post as the Chairman of the Weber County GOP due to a job opportunity out of state.

I just wanted to take moment to thank Noall for all of his hard work on behalf of the Republican Party and elected officials in Weber County.  Being a county party chair is often a tough and thankless job as it requires balancing the needs and philosophies of so many voices within the party.

I wish Noall the best as he moves on to a new adventure.  Thanks again for your hard work and dedication Noall!

UPDATE: Special Session 2016 No. 3

We just completed our interim committee meetings and special session at the Capitol today.  Here are some highlights from the day's events:

Revenue and Taxation Interim Committee

We heard testimony today regarding internal governance of the Tax Commission and also a problem surrounding property tax exemptions related to agricultural land.  You can listen to our meeting HERE.

Government Operations Interim Committee

Our committee passed out two bills and some additional discussion.  One deals with minor changes to SB54 language and how petitions to get candidates on the ballot are handled moving forward.  The other bill dealt with parameters related to redistricting. The bill modifies the guiding principles so to place more emphasis on community cohesion rather than on exact equality in the population size of districts.  We had State Auditor John "Frugal" Dougall come and make some recommendations to the legislature regarding areas of improvement that were needed in various ways the State conducts its business. You can listen to our discussion HERE.

Special Session Bills

Tax Credit Review Amendments - This was a redraft of HB310 which passed the house with flying colors during the General Session.  Unfortunately, an egregious typo left the bill without an "Enacting Clause" and after the Governor signed it, staff realized it couldn't become law.  So, the bill was brought back to the Special Session to be voted on with its Enacting Clause intact.  The bill sailed through the House and Senate without a problem.

State Fair Park Amendments - There is a panicked effort to maintain the State Fair Park's viability in the community.  This bill made temporary emergency changes to procurement practices to facility a fast renovation of the site to be ready by next summer.  This bill passed.

Unmanned Aircraft Amendments - This bill increases penalties for individuals caught using drones in emergency areas like wildfires.  It also allows violators to be liable for damages caused by their drone intrusion.  This bill passed.

Criminal Justince Reinvestment Amendments - This bill tweaked the much needed yet sometimes much derided JRI legislation we passed two years ago.  It permitted law enforcement to include more common sense provisions in sentencing and probationary situations.  This bill passed.

Grandparent Rights Amendments - The original bill passed during the General Session (I voted against) and was ultimately vetoed by the Governor.  The bill sponsor made some adjustments to the bill and limited grand parent visitation rights to situations where adoptive parents were related to the grand parents.  This bill still seemed onerous to me since the only reason adoptive parents would not permit related grand parents to visit a child was if there was a serious strain within the family.  It seemed to me that permitting the courts to force visitation rights in such a situation would make for very painful experiences for those involved. I voted against. The bill failed 27-40.

Controlled Substance Database Modifications - This bill made a common sense change regarding access of law enforcement to databases related to controlled substances.  The bill passed unanimously.

Economic Development Revisions - This bill created sales tax exemptions for companies moving into Utah who would occupy large 150,000+ SQFT facilities and be using them for constructing data centers.  The logic behind this bill is that data centers are very expensive and add significantly to the property tax base while requiring little in the way of community resources.  Thus, such centers would help fund local education wherever they are built.  The bill also reflects a philosophical drift away from taxing inputs in the manufacturing process and only taxing final products.  This bill passed.

Judicial Nominating Commissions - This bill matched the number of judges nominated with the number of vacancies in the court.  This bill passed.

Continuing Care Retirement Community Amendments - This bill deals with a very strange business model of retirement homes being funded by future occupants of the facility.  Private equity donations would be collect to fund the construction of a facility that the "investors" had contributed to build.  The issues surrounding the bill dealt with how the "investor/occupants" funds would be treated in the event they left the facility and what kinds of guarantees and securities can be offered.  The bill creates some basic ground rules for the business model. The bill passed.

My Bill Files

I have many bill files open already and I am drafting bills on a variety of topics including property taxes, foster care, tax credits, teacher compensation, public notices, and more.  Look for more details as discussions with stakeholders continue.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

VIDEO: Kaysville City Council Conflageration

KSL recently reported on fireworks at a Kaysville City Council meeting.  The drama surrounds a freshman city councilman's use of a city credit card to fix his personal firetruck for use in the city parade.

This situation is where of a rookie mistake has collided with a city that does not have proper controls in place over its finances.  I am sure our State Auditor John "Frugal" Dougall would be interested in this story.

What makes things even more interesting is the theatrics of the city council meeting which were conveniently caught on video.  Councilman Adams (the guy in yellow) gets into a personal tirade against another councilman, breaches decorum, and otherwise makes the meeting ungovernable.  

You can watch the city council meeting meltdown here (fast forward to 4h 28m):

In this instance, I think the councilman needs to reimburse the city for the expense.  The city also needs to change its credit card policy to avoid this problem in the future.  In the meantime, its going to be very difficult for Councilman Adams to walk back this performance.  I expect more fireworks in the future.