Tonight: Watch debate on land use

We invite you to watch this debate tonight on a topic vital to our state: the potential transfer of public lands from federal to state control.

If you live in the Cedar City area, feel free to attend in person. The debate starts at 6 p.m. at SUU’s Sterling R. Church Auditorium at Sharwan Smith Student Center.

Otherwise, click here for the live feed. See the flier below for more details.
alc lands debate flier


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Is Healthy Utah a good idea? More information changes people’s minds – Sutherland Soapbox, 9/16/14

Man-inside-note-headThis post is a transcript of a 4-minute weekly radio commentary aired on several Utah radio stations.

Sutherland Institute commissioned a poll by Magellan Strategies that was released yesterday about Utah voters’ support for Medicaid expansion in its various forms, including Governor Gary Herbert’s preferred “Healthy Utah” form of expansion. The question we aimed to address was this: “What do Utah voters think about Medicaid expansion when they are informed about the issue in a way that is comparable to Utah legislators?”

Utah voters’ answer was to reluctantly say “Utah should probably do nothing on expansion for now, and should instead start looking for better ideas.” But before I dig into that, I think it’s important to understand why we thought to commission a poll at all.

Multiple polls on Medicaid expansion in Utah have been published and reported on in the press. These polls reported that somewhere between 70 and 88 percent of Utah voters support either traditional Medicaid expansion, or the Healthy Utah version – overwhelming support by any reasonable standard.

But think for a minute about whether those numbers make any sense. If these numbers are accurate, it means that a higher portion of Utah voters support expanding Medicaid than supported Utah’s marriage amendment in 2004. Now, does anyone really believe that’s true? Yeah, neither did we.

Rather than accepting hard-to-believe polling results at face value, we thought it better to commission a poll that gave more complete information and context to Utah voters about the costs, enrollment, and uncertainties of Medicaid expansion in Utah.

What happened is that voters said that none of the Medicaid expansion options merit majority support. In fact, the only one that received positive net support was the “do not expand Medicaid right now” proposal, with 45 percent in favor and 26 percent opposed. For comparison, Healthy Utah got 32 percent in favor and 40 percent opposed, traditional Medicaid expansion got 21 percent in favor and 49 percent opposed, and partial Medicaid expansion got 19 percent in favor and 48 percent opposed. Thirty percent of Utah voters on average said they were unsure or didn’t know whether they supported or opposed each proposal. Continue reading

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Trouble in the West

Montana's Rocky Mountain Front is seen at the right in this aerial photo. (Photo credit: Bobak Ha'Eri)

Montana’s Rocky Mountain Front is seen at the right in this aerial photo. (Photo credit: Bobak Ha’Eri)

The “green-über-alles” crowd has Utah and our neighbors in its sights. For instance, take this editorial from a Montana newspaper (republished by Utah.Politico.Hub), “Big Trouble in Big Sky Country.”

This “big trouble” – referring to tactics used by radical environmentalists who demonize multiple use of our beautiful Western lands – doesn’t just apply to Montana, but to all the states in the West. From the editorial:

When public support for the [1964] Wilderness Act tanked, enter the manipulation by environmentalists. Greens both inside and outside government have turned to an onslaught of other means to control and/or remove land uses they dislike — through appeals, litigation, administrative fiat, bureaucratic delay, endangered species, conservation easements, even national monument designation under the Antiquities Act.

The strategy is to block land uses in hopes the land users go away.

Click here to read the rest of the editorial at Utah.Politico.Hub.

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New poll shows Utahns reluctant about Medicaid expansion proposals

Study tableThe results of a new survey conducted by Magellan Strategies seem to contradict other recent polls on the topic of Medicaid expansion in Utah.

In the Magellan poll, conducted last week, no more than 45 percent of poll respondents favored any of four proposals once those proposals had been explained in detail.

Sutherland commissioned the poll because we wanted to see what Utah voters thought about Medicaid expansion when they were given more complete information about the costs, enrollment, and uncertainties of Medicaid expansion than provided in the previous polls.

In essence, the poll tackled the question: “When voters are informed about the options for Medicaid expansion on a level comparable to Utah legislators, what do they think the state should do?”

The voters’ reluctant answer was this: “They should probably do nothing for now and look for something better than the currently available options.”

In fact, the only proposal that had positive support was the “do not expand Medicaid right now” proposal, which was favored by 45 percent of poll respondents, compared with 26 percent opposed.

The other three proposals in the poll had more opposition than support: Traditional Medicaid expansion had 21 percent in favor, 49 percent opposed; partial Medicaid expansion had 19 percent in favor, 48 percent opposed; and the Healthy Utah plan had 32 percent in favor, 40 percent opposed.

The survey found that a sizable percentage of Utah voters are uncertain about what Utah policymakers should do, when they are given all of the information. On average, 30 percent of respondents were unsure if they favored or opposed the proposals when they were informed and asked about them in a stand-alone format.

After hearing all of the proposals described in detail, respondents were then asked to choose which plan they thought was best. The “do not expand Medicaid right now” proposal won a plurality of support with 31 percent, followed by “unsure or don’t know” at 20 percent, Healthy Utah at 17 percent, traditional Medicaid expansion at 15 percent, partial Medicaid expansion at 10 percent, and “don’t like any of the proposals” at 7 percent.

Put together, this means that only 42 percent of those polled said that some form of Medicaid expansion was the best option, compared with 58 percent who were either unsure or preferred something other than the proposals that would immediately expand Medicaid.

The poll was a landline and cell phone survey of 500 registered voters in Utah on Sept. 8 and 9. It has a margin of error of +/- 4.38 percent at a confidence level of 95 percent.

Click here to read the survey done by Magellan and see details about the questions and methodology used.

For crosstabs detailing information about subgroups within the survey population, click here.

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‘A secular society is not our judge’

couple_walkingElder Russell M. Nelson of the LDS Church minced no words about the true nature of marriage last month during a commencement speech at BYU:

Social and political pressures to change marriage laws are resulting in practices contrary to God’s will regarding the eternal nature and purposes of marriage, he said.

“We cannot yield,” he said. “History is not our judge. A secular society is not our judge. God is our judge! For each of us, judgment day will be held in God’s own way and time. … Man simply cannot make moral what God has declared to be immoral. Sin, even if legalized by man, is still sin in the eyes of God. …

“Marriage was not created by human judges or legislators. It was not created by think tanks or by popular votes or by oft-quoted bloggers or pundits. It was not created by lobbyists. Marriage was created by God.”

Elder Nelson also pointed out, “It is crucial to note that full fidelity to [marriage] covenants forbids pornography, lust or abuse in any form.”

Listen to the full speech here.


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The wrong Rx

A new study by State Budget Solutions shows our friends and neighbors in Utah would be devastated with the loss of 14,000-plus jobs in the state because of Medicaid expansion. We must do better!

You can read the study here.



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Charity care is crucial to Utah’s health – Sutherland Soapbox, 9/9/14

MystethoscopeThis post is a transcript of a 4-minute weekly radio commentary aired on several Utah radio stations.

Health care and health care policy have become daily news topics. You may have noticed Governor Gary Herbert promoting his Healthy Utah plan. Although this proposal is touted as an alternative to Medicaid expansion, it would require the approval of the president’s Secretary of Health and Human Services. So in other words, a state government initiative, funded by the federal government – as long as the money is there – will be run, and effectively guaranteed, by state government. Considering the federal government is already in debt up to its neck, we think this sounds like a really bad bet.

As a conservative organization, Sutherland Institute does not believe in government-driven health care. We do not believe health care is a right, but rather a personal responsibility, and yet we believe all people have a moral obligation to care for each other. It’s manifestly human – a moral good – to care for our neighbors.

For the past 12 years, Sutherland has argued that authentic charity care creates the right kinds of socioeconomic incentives to build community, heal class divisions, control health care costs and set an example for the rest of the nation. We also assert that the increase in Medicaid can be mitigated through the expansion and improvement of something that already exists: the impressive care currently being provided across our state by charity-care clinics, private-practice physicians and institutions serving the “working poor,” indigent and needy uninsured. Continue reading

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Not so fast: Federal judge says Constitution doesn’t require redefining marriage

We_The_PeoplePerhaps the most powerful argument for same-sex marriage has been that it is “inevitable.” It’s powerful because it contains an implicit threat: If you think there is something unique and uniquely valuable about marriage between a husband and wife — you are on the wrong side of history and your views will soon be treated as unacceptable with the possibility of your livelihood being at risk.

This argument has gotten some fuel lately from a couple dozen federal and state court decisions ruling that the U.S. Constitution requires each state to redefine marriage to include same-sex couples. These courts have reasoned that when the U.S. Supreme Court last summer was silent on whether states could retain their marriage laws it really meant to signal that the states were actually not allowed to define marriage as the union of a husband and wife.

A common rhetorical point made by advocates of redefining marriage is that same-sex marriage is enjoying a streak of unbroken successes in the court.

That contention is no longer available, since Wednesday a federal court in Louisiana handily rejected the argument that redefining marriage is required by the Constitution. Most readers can be excused for not knowing about this development since it’s not getting much high-profile press coverage (as the decision would have if it had gone the other way). Continue reading

Posted in Law, Marriage | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Conservative focus on helping vulnerable is long overdue – Conservatively Speaking, 9/2/14

Senator Mike Lee holds a discussion at Sutherland offices about poverty.

Senator Mike Lee holds a discussion at Sutherland offices about poverty.

This post is a transcript of a 4-minute weekly radio commentary aired on several Utah radio stations.

For conservatives, poverty and eroding economic security for middle income families are not simply social problems, but moral problems as well. Beyond the economic and budget struggles poverty creates, we have an “obligation to help the vulnerable,” to borrow from Arthur Brooks at the American Enterprise Institute. And the lack of ability to enter and remain in the middle class diminishes the meaning and value of freedom for society, not to mention inviting greater dangers by suggesting to people that a free society is perhaps not in their best interests.

Because of the social and moral problems presented by poverty and middle-class insecurity, various political and intellectual conservatives have begun proposing new policy approaches to these issues. For instance, the American Enterprise Institute recently published a compilation of work in a booklet called “Poverty in America, and What to Do About It.” Congressman Paul Ryan published a draft report from the House Budget Committee titled “Expanding Opportunity in America.” And our own U.S. Senator Mike Lee just released a booklet titled “An Agenda for Our Time” detailing his approach to what he calls “the opportunity crisis” faced by the poor and middle class in America.

The renewed focus on poverty and middle-class issues on the right is long overdue. While charitable giving and volunteerism are indisputably good things espoused by conservatives, events such as the recession and the weak economic recovery illustrate that they simply are not enough in the face of a weak economy. A consequence of conservatives’ praise of markets and civil society has been to leave welfare policy largely to the political left, which has turned into unending promises for economic salvation, combined with an unending inability to do much for the poor. Continue reading

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Poll: Most Utahns want police to wear body cameras

policecarFollowing the recent violence in Ferguson, Mo., and shootings by police in Utah, the website Utah Policy commissioned a Dan Jones poll on how Utahns feel about related issues. Utah Policy’s report says,

More than 8 out of 10 Utahns think police officers should be required to wear body cameras or other recording devices, but they’re split over whether cops are too quick to use deadly or excessive force.

Utah police agencies are already adding body cameras. In fact, the officer who shot and killed a man Aug. 11 in a 7-Eleven parking lot was wearing one, so that footage is part of the investigation. According to The Salt Lake Tribune, some officers want to wear a body cam enough that they are buying them with their own money.

So apparently the use of “cop cams” appeals to both the public and the police in Utah, though perhaps for varying reasons: documentation that protects the public, and documentation that backs up police actions.

Possible drawbacks to the body cameras include privacy issues and cost to taxpayers. But even the ACLU supports use of the cameras (although with strict privacy rules): “We’re against pervasive government surveillance, but when cameras primarily serve the function of allowing public monitoring of the government instead of the other way around, we generally regard that as a good thing.”

Click here to read about the poll at

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From HB 477 to the Utah Legislature winning the Online Democracy Award

Photo Credit: Scott Catron

Photo Credit: Scott Catron

Nailed it.

This week, Speaker Becky Lockhart and Senate President Wayne Niederhauser accepted the Online Democracy Award from the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL)  on behalf of the Utah Legislature. NCSL recognized the Utah legislative website,, as Best in the Nation. You know what? They deserve it. The site really is awesome and it makes it possible for anyone with an internet connection to get more information about sausage making legislation and the Utah Legislature than they could possibly consume.

After the cachinnations in the press over HB477 died down, the Utah Legislature–led by Lockhart and Niederhauser (and their staffs)–buckled down and showed they were earnest in wanting to give Utahns access to their government. Transparency is an ongoing effort, but this recognition shows we’re moving in the right direction. Follow how legislation is made and what those scoundrels up at the legislature are up to more on social media, blogs, and their website below:

Utah Legislature:

Senate Cloud:

House Twitter:

Senate Twitter:

House Facebook:

Senate Facebook:

Senate YouTube:

House YouTube:

Legislative Blog Sites:

Originally posted here at Utah.Politico.Hub.



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Whether by fire or blade, ‘green’ energy is killing birds – Sutherland Perspective, 8/26/14

Flying_birds_at_Sacramento_National_Wildlife_RefugeThis post is a transcript of a 4-minute weekly radio commentary aired on several Utah radio stations.

My grandpa had an old saying: “Nothing’s free, and nothing’s priceless.” That sounds a little cynical, but it’s true. Everything has a cost, even if that cost can’t always be measured in dollars and cents.

That old saw came to mind as I read a recent article about birds being incinerated at a solar power plant in California. The article said that as many as 28,000 of our fine feathered friends, from hummingbirds to pelicans, may go down in flames each year as they navigate sunbeams concentrated by a field of mirrors. Turns out the sun’s power isn’t free if you’re a bird caught in man’s efforts to harness the sun.

“Free” wind power isn’t free to birds, either. A quick search finds estimates of 888,000 to at least a million birds being hacked to the ground each year by windmills generating less than 5 percent of our nation’s energy, and creating huge eyesores on some otherwise beautiful vistas in the process.

Here’s a simple mathematical fact: Wind and solar energy are not going to replace coal, gas and nuclear power in the foreseeable future. Together, wind and solar make up less than 5 percent of U.S. electricity output today, and even rosy scenarios have them making up barely 13 percent of the grid over the next 20 years. There are technological reasons for this which may be overcome through, well, technology. But the real reason is real estate. Fossil and nuclear power require less than 5 square kilometers per gigawatt while wind and solar require 20 to 150 square kilometers to produce the same amount of power, and that only happens when the wind is blowing and the sun is shining. Continue reading

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Paul Mero steps down as Sutherland Institute president

Sutherland Institute and Paul Mero are parting ways. After 14 years at the helm, Mero has been asked to step down as president by the Institute’s board. The decision is effective immediately, and the search for a new president will begin soon. Stanford Swim, chairman of the board, will serve as acting CEO until a new president is selected.

“Paul has served faithfully and effectively as he has led Sutherland Institute from its infancy to becoming the most influential conservative voice in Utah,” Swim said. “While the board feels this change is necessary as we move into the future, we are grateful for his dedicated service. We will continue to be guided by our seven governing principles that allow faith, family and freedom to flourish in Utah.”

Sutherland’s founder, Gaylord Swim, hired Mero in 2000, and Mero oversaw the growth of the Institute’s broad influence throughout the state. Previously, he worked for 10 years in Congress and was the founding executive vice president at The Howard Center for Family, Religion and Society. Mero has been instrumental in nurturing the World Congress of Families coalition and secured Salt Lake City to host its ninth gathering next year. He will continue to serve on the executive committee for World Congress of Families IX.

“Disagreements often arise between a CEO and board, and this is what happened here,” Mero said. “While disappointing, it became necessary. I have enjoyed every success and learned from every failure. Utah is a better place to live, work and raise a family because of Sutherland Institute.”

Heading into the 2015 legislative session, Sutherland is working with elected officials and policy colleagues on issues that have a significant impact on Utahns. These include:

  • Alcohol policy
  • Criminal justice reform
  • Dependence on federal funds
  • Environmental regulations
  • Marriage and family policy
  • Medicaid reform
  • Religious freedom
  • Public lands
  • State budget policy
  • Utah economic policy

Sutherland Institute is a nonpartisan, independent public policy organization located in Salt Lake City. As a state-based, 501(c)(3) nonprofit, its mission is to protect the cause of freedom, constructively influence Utah’s decision-makers, and promote responsible citizenship. Sutherland Institute is recognized as the leading conservative think tank in the state of Utah.

Posted in Miscellaneous | 2 Comments

Utah, where careful planning makes the sun shine

sunshinestate2013This report by the State Data Lab, a project of the nonpartisan Truth in Accounting, finds that Utah is one of only nine “sunshine states” – meaning the state governments have enough financial assets to cover their financial liabilities (debt).

Click here for more details about Utah’s financial position.

(Or create your own graphs for any of the states.)

There is a caveat: The report notes at the bottom of the page that, unfortunately, each of the nine states has “hidden retirement debt,” or commitments to current employees’ retirement benefits that aren’t counted as traditional financial liabilities or debt.

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Getting your money’s worth: Which states are best?

Maps published by the nonpartisan Tax Foundation offer a concise depiction of the cost of living in Utah compared with other states. Or as the foundation puts it: “Which states offer the biggest bang for your buck?”

Utah lies somewhere in the middle when it comes to purchasing power. The states or areas where your money buys the least are urban and coastal: Washington D.C., Hawaii, New York, New Jersey and California. The states that offer the most for your dollar are in the Midwest and South: Mississippi,
Arkansas, Missouri, Alabama and South Dakota.


An accompanying map compares purchasing power at the more detailed level of metro areas:

Metro Price Parity_0

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