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1.LEGISLATIVE UPDATE – MARCH 11

On January 21, Sutherland Institute published its legislative priorities for the 2010 general session.  Sutherland has since provided updates of its efforts in subsequent newsletters.  Below is a summary of the Institute’s legislative work over the past week.

 

• Following unanimous passage of Charter School Amendments – SB 188 in the State Senate on Friday, March 5, the House of Representatives unanimously passed the bill on Wednesday, March 10, on a vote of 72-0-3.  Sutherland has supported this bill since it was first introduced.  The bill now goes to the Governor for signature.

 

• Sutherland has opposed Verification of Employment Eligibility – SB 251 throughout the session.  On Monday, March 8, Sutherland’s Stan Rasmussen conveyed the Institute’s position to every member of the House, likening the bill to lemons, and reasonable alternatives to lemonade.  Among the reasonable alternatives: interim study of the serious issue of identity theft and of Sutherland’s proposal that the Legislature create an in-state working privilege card.  On Thursday, March 11, the House passed the bill on a vote of 46-24-5.

 

• On Tuesday, March 9, the Senate passed Administrative Subpoena Amendments – HB 150 on a vote of 19-10, despite opposition from Sutherland Institute, the Utah chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, and many other organizations.  In the assessment of Sutherland Institute, administrative subpoenas are inherently unconstitutional because they allow an executive official and/or prosecutor to conduct a search and seizure without the oversight of a judge issuing a warrant.

 

• On Wednesday, March 10, the Senate passed Expanded Uses of School District Property Tax Revenue – HB 295 on a unanimous vote of 74-0-1.  On March 11, it was unanimously passed by the Senate on a vote of 25-0-4.  Sutherland supported this bill from its inception.  The bill now goes to the Governor for signature.

 

• The Senate passed Joint Resolution on Energy Policy – HJR 21 on Thursday, March 11, on a vote of 19-8-2.  Sutherland actively supported this resolution which urges that Utah withdraw from the Western Climate Initiative.

 

2.NCLB: SELLING UTAH’S SCHOOLS FOR A MESS OF POTTAGE

In a new publication released on March 18, 2010, Sutherland Institute recommends that when Congress likely reauthorizes No Child Left Behind (NCLB) in 2010, Utah should choose not to participate in the program.  By so doing, the state can reclaim the freedom to operate its own schools in the best interest of Utah students.

 

In NCLB: Selling Utah’s Schools for a Mess of Pottage, Sutherland Policy Analyst Matthew Piccolo contends that Utah has exchanged the freedom to run its schools for a “meager sum of federal dollars.”  He adds, “It’s not too late for the state to reclaim this freedom.”

 

Since 2002, Utah has participated in the federal No Child Left Behind Act which mandates a burdensome framework of standards and accountability.  Though NCLB rules and regulations affect all Utah schools and students, NCLB funds make up a mere 3.1 percent of Utah’s annual public education budget.

 

According to a recent study, also recently published by Sutherland Institute, most Utah public officials and educators do not like NCLB.  In 2004, the State Legislature almost opted out of the federal law.

 

“As Congress works to reauthorize NCLB, Utahns have a vitally important decision to make; a decision that will impact our schools and students for years to come,” said Piccolo.  “Will we choose to free ourselves from federal burdens and limitations that impede our educational progress, or, like a person with Battered Spouse Syndrome, will we return to our abusive ‘partner’ time and again in order to maintain a false sense of financial security?”

 

To learn more about Sutherland Institute’s research in education, visithttp://www.sutherlandinstitute.org/publications.asp?c=1.

 

3.SUTHERLAND INSTITUTE 2010 GENERAL LEGISLATIVE SESSION SUMMARY

The 2010 general session of the Utah State Legislature concluded on Thursday, March 11, 2010.  The Sutherland Institute again strove to promote and support legislation consistent with its governing principles and policy priorities, and to modify or defeat proposed legislation that was not.

 

“Shaping public policy that preserves and strengthens the traditional family and protects the well-being of our children and communities are key legislative priorities for us,” said Stan Rasmussen, Sutherland public affairs manager.  “We express our thanks for the diligent efforts of the many legislators, informed and responsible citizens, and colleagues who worked hard in seeking to develop policy that makes Utah a better place to live, work and raise a family.”

 

Against the backdrop of serious state and national economic challenges, the Utah Legislature is to be commended for a difficult job well-done.  Crafting a budget for fiscal year 2011 that reflects sobering revenue projections required a careful, bi-partisan balancing of priorities.

 

During the intensive, 45-day general session, Sutherland Institute weighed in on a number of issues important to the people of Utah.

 

In the first of a two-part summary of Sutherland’s recent efforts on Utah’s Capitol Hill, we provide an overview of bills the Institute proactively supported, and those it actively opposed.

 

SUTHERLAND’S EFFORTS AT A GLANCE

 

• Number of bills actively tracked: 35
• Number of bills decided consistent with Sutherland Institute’s intent: 26 (74%)
• Number of times Sutherland representatives presented testimony in committee: 17 (Stan Rasmussen, 9; Derek Monson, 4; Matt Piccolo, 2; Jim Giometta, 2)
• Number of email messages sent to legislators prior to floor votes: 14
• Other correspondence: Four letters (opposing any tax increase – re: HB196 and SB 40; requesting funding prioritization – HB 200; “lemons and lemonade” packages – SB 251; sex-ed opinion-editorial – SB54 and HB 127).

 

BILLS SUTHERLAND INSTITUTE PROACTIVELY SUPPORTED – 3 out of 3 bills passed

 

1. Authentic Charity Health Care Resolution (HJR 27)
Creates the framework for a state authentic charity care policy.

 

• SI Focus: Authentic Charity Care
• Sutherland Actions: Following months of preparatory efforts by the Sutherland policy team, Legislative Consultant Jim Giometta testified in support in the House Health and Human Services Committee where it was passed out favorably.  The bill subsequently unanimously passed by the full House, favorably passed out by the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, and passed by the full Senate.
• Outcome: Positive – the bill was passed unanimously in every vote.

 

2. State Sovereignty Concurrent Resolution (SCR 3)
Asserts Utah’s 10th-Amendment rights and asserts that governance would be improved if it were largely left to the states.

 

• SI Focus: Balanced Federalism
• Sutherland Actions: Jim Giometta testified in support of the bill in the House Judiciary Committee where it was passed out favorably, after being passed by the Senate.  The bill was subsequently passed by the House.
• Outcome: Positive – the bill passed.

 

3. Removing Signature from Initiative and Referendum Petition (SB 275)
Addresses disparity in the process by which a citizen may have their name removed from a petition as compared to the relative simplicity by which they can add their name to a petition.

 

• SI Focus: Preserving constitutional-republic form of government in Utah
• Sutherland Actions: Sutherland Institute encouraged the Legislature to consider legislation that would address the described disparity – by means of a press release and discussion on a local radio program.  Sutherland Public Affairs Manager Stan Rasmussen met with Senator Howard Stephenson who expressed willingness to sponsor a bill.  Derek Monson testified in support of the bill in the Senate Government Operations and Political Subdivisions Committee where it was favorably passed out.  Monson and Rasmussen sent an email to all Senators prior to the vote in the full Senate recommending their support.  Rasmussen presented testimony in support of the bill before the House Government Operations Committee, where it was passed out favorably.  Through personal interaction, Monson, Rasmussen, and Sutherland Policy Analyst Matthew Piccolo encouraged Representatives to support the bill when it was debated and voted on in the full House.  Having been passed by both chambers by a 2/3 majority vote, the bill can go into effect much sooner (April 1), rather than after the standard 60-day waiting period.
• Outcome: Positive – the measure will go into effect on April 1.

 

BILLS SUTHERLAND INSTITUTE ACTIVELY OPPOSED – 9 out of 13 bills defeated

 

4. Income Tax Amendments (HB 90)
Amends the state Individual Income Tax Act and increases individual income tax rates on taxpayers with state taxable income above certain levels.

 

• SI Focus: Budget Recommendations
• Sutherland Actions: Sutherland Policy Manager Derek Monson was prepared to present testimony in opposition in the House committee, but public-comment time was cut off.  The bill was defeated on a vote of 9-4.
• Outcome: Positive – bill soundly defeated.

 

5. Antidiscrimination Study Related to Employment and Housing (HB 128)
Requires the study by a legislative interim committee of public policy related to LGBT discrimination in employment and housing.

 

• SI Focus: Preserving “Sacred Ground”
• Sutherland Actions: Sutherland discussed with Senate leadership a one-year moratorium on all homosexual/“gay-rights” legislation.  That was the decision.
• Direction of Outcome: Positive – the bill was not considered.

 

6. Administrative Subpoena Amendments (HB 150)
Modifies the Code of Criminal Procedure regarding the use of administrative subpoenas in the investigation of specified criminal offenses.

 

• SI Focus: Limited Government
• Sutherland Actions: Sutherland engaged this bill after it had reached the House floor.  Stan Rasmussen testified in the Senate committee wherein the committee was adjourned without a vote.  Pursuant to a brief discussion with members of the Attorney General’s staff, Rasmussen arranged a conference call wherein members of the AG’s office and Sutherland policy specialists engaged extensive discussions about the bill.  Sutherland communicated via email to the sponsors and to all members of the Senate the fact that the Institute’s position was unchanged: that administrative subpoenas are inherently unconstitutional because they allow an executive official and/or prosecutor to conduct a search and seizure without the oversight of a judge issuing a warrant.  The Senate passed the bill on a vote of 19-10.
• Direction of Outcome: Negative – the bill passed.

 

7. Public Employees’ Health Care  (HB 177)
Extends health insurance coverage for state employees to include an adult designee unmarried partners.

 

• SI Focus: Preserving “Sacred Ground”
• Sutherland Actions: Sutherland discussed with Senate leadership a one-year moratorium on all homosexual/“gay-rights” legislation.  That was the decision.
• Direction of Outcome: Positive – the bill was not considered.

 

8. Tobacco Tax Revisions (HB 196) and
9. Cigarette and Tobacco Tax Amendments (SB 40)
Both bills increase taxes on tobacco products.

 

• SI Focus: Budget Recommendations
• Sutherland Actions: Derek Monson prepared to present testimony in opposition in the House committee on HB 196, but the public-comment period was limited.  The bill was passed out favorably on a vote of 5-2.  Monson sent an email to all members of the House prior to the floor vote on the bill; it passed on a vote of 39-35-1.  The same message was emailed to all senators, accompanied by a letter from Paul Mero opposing any and all tax increases this session.  The House passed HB 196 on a vote of 19-8-2.  SB 40 was passed by the full Senate on a vote of 20-9.  The full House did not consider or vote on SB 40.
• Direction of Outcome: Negative – HB 196 passed, despite pre-session commitments to resist tax increases.  SB 40 received no vote.

 

10. Licensing Eligibility (HB 227)
Requires all applicants for various licenses to provide the licensing authority with documentation of their lawful presence in the United States.

 

• SI Focus: Immigration Reform
• Sutherland Actions: The Institute engaged this bill after it had passed a House committee.  It was considered and debated on the House floor and defeated.  It was subsequently reconsidered and once again defeated, and then reconsidered again and passed.  Paul Mero and Derek Monson sent an email message in opposition to all members of the House prior to the second reconsideration vote, wherein it was passed on a vote of 38-36-1.  Stan Rasmussen presented testimony in opposition in the Senate committee hearing where the committee was adjourned with no vote on the bill.  When it was taken directly to the Senate floor, Rasmussen sent an email to all Senators prior to the floor debate and vote.  It was circled as part of an agreement to send it to interim study, but it was not included on the Master Study list.
• Direction of Outcome: Positive – the Senate committee adjourned to avoid a negative committee vote on the bill and it was not voted on by the full Senate, with the effect that the bill was not passed.

 

11. Adoption Revisions (HB 300)
Permits a person who is cohabiting in a relationship that is not a legally valid and binding marriage under the laws of this state to adopt a child under certain conditions.

 

• SI Focus: Preserving “Sacred Ground”
• Sutherland Actions: Sutherland discussed with Senate leadership a one-year moratorium on all homosexual/“gay-rights” legislation.  That was the decision.
• Direction of Outcome: Positive – the bill was not considered.

 

12. Antidiscrimination Amendments (HB 305)
Modifies the Utah Antidiscrimination Act and Utah Fair Housing Act to address discrimination, including discrimination on the basis of “sexual orientation” or “gender identity.”

 

• SI Focus: Preserving “Sacred Ground”
• Sutherland Actions: Sutherland discussed with Senate leadership a one-year moratorium on all homosexual/“gay-rights” legislation.  That was the decision.
• Direction of Outcome: Positive – the bill was not considered.

 

13. Health Education Amendments (SB 54) and
14. Reproductive Health Education Amendments (HB 127)
Modifies provisions relating to health courses taught in public schools including the establishment of curriculum requirements that include a general discussion of contraception.

 

• SI Focus: Family as the fundamental unit of society.
• Sutherland Actions: In an opinion-editorial published in the Salt Lake Tribune, Matt Piccolo articulated Sutherland’s opposition to the proposed sex-ed reforms.  The op-ed was sent to legislators and to like-minded groups who distributed it further.  Piccolo was prepared to testify in opposition to SB 54 when it was considered in the Senate committee, but no one on the committee would move to adopt the sponsor’s substitute bill to begin debate.  As a result, it effectively died.  When the sponsor of HB 127 was asked by Piccolo if he would pursue that bill, in view of the outcome of SB 54, he was noncommittal.  HB 127 was never considered by a committee.
• Direction of Outcome: Positive – SB 54 failed to receive a committee vote and HB 54 was never presented in committee.

 

15. Verification of Employment Eligibility (SB 251)
Provides for voluntary registration with the Department of Commerce (DOC) by a private employer who participates in employee verification; and requiring the DOC to publish a list of registered private employers participating in employee verification.

 

• SI Focus: Immigration Reform
• Sutherland Actions: Sutherland engaged this bill after it was passed by a Senate committee.  Stan Rasmussen and Paul Mero met with the bill sponsor to explain Sutherland’s opposition.  Mero composed an email that was sent to all members of the House and the Institute delivered “lemons and lemonade” packages to representatives’ desks underscoring the point that there exist better alternatives to SB 251.  Rasmussen emailed a message to all representatives encouraging them to send the bill to interim study where two important issues could be examined: the serious problem of identity theft; and Sutherland’s recommendation that the state develop an in-state working privilege permit.  The bill was passed by the House on a vote of 46-24-5.
• Direction of Outcome: Mixed: the bill was passed, but by ten fewer votes than was SB 81 in 2008.

 

16. Joint Resolution on Legislative Ethics Commission (HJR 15)
Amends the Utah Constitution to create an independent ethics commission to decide whether ethics complaints merit investigation by a legislative ethics committee.

 

• SI Focus: Legislative Ethics
• Sutherland Actions: The Institute conducted a pre-session forum in which Utahns for Ethical Government initiative supporters made brief presentations and then responded to questions presented by Paul Mero, including their concept of an independent ethics commission.  Sutherland has encouraged legislative leadership to not create an independent legislative ethics commission, emphasizing two basic “pillars” – that ethical behavior must be tied to personal accountability as measured against a clearly-defined set of standards; and that standards of official conduct must be tied to the integrity of the institution (Legislature).
• Outcome: Mixed: the bill passed, establishing an “independent commission” – but one that serves as a clearing panel from which complaints meriting further consideration are sent to the respective House or Senate ethics committee.