Sutherland Newsletter – April 8, 2010


The Honorable Michael Waddoups, president of the Utah State Senate, presented and moderated participant discussion at the April 29, 2010 session of the Utah Prosperity Forum.  Hosted by the Sutherland Institute, this session addressed “Why Balanced Federalism Is Good for Utah.”


“We’re involved in a cause that needs to be addressed in a committed fashion,” President Waddoups said.  “We’re involved in a cause that’s going to save our nation.”


Other presenters included Robin Riggs, vice president and general counsel of the Salt Lake Chamber, and LaVarr Webb, publisher of the popular Utah Policy Daily and partner and founder of The Exoro Group.


Mr. Riggs, who served as legal advisor to former Utah Governor Michael O. Leavitt, observed that federalism is a legal concept, not a political one, noting that states do not have rights, but powers.


“The intent of federalism never was and never should be to protect the power of states,” he said.  “It is to protect individual rights.”


Among the many reasons to promote balanced federalism, Mr. Riggs said, are four areas of society and business that flourish within such a system: decentralization, choice, mobility, and plurality.


In his presentation, President Waddoups observed that a recent poll conducted by the Pew organization found that among the Americans polled, 80% do not trust the national government.  He also summarized an article he co-authored with the Honorable David Clark, Utah Speaker of the House, recently published in The Washington Post.  In  A modest proposal to the federal government: Let Utah do it, Utah’s legislative leadership recommended the federal government relinquish control of education, health care, and transportation in Utah to the state’s Legislature, as an experiment to verify that state and local governments can best provide for the needs of citizens residing in Utah.


Mr. Webb made concrete recommendations on how to effectuate the changes needed to restore the proper and necessary balance of power intended by the nation’s Founders.


“State legislators have the power to restore balance, and are really the only ones who do,” he said.  “Congress will not relinquish powers back to the states on its own.”


He said it will take Senate Presidents and Speakers of the House of individual state legislatures to stand up and push back in order for real change to occur; in order to reestablish balanced federalism.  Because bipartisanship is necessary to accomplish the goal of restoring that proper balance, Mr. Webb said this movement should focus on structural processes and not specific issues.



Sutherland Institute scholars contend that Utah’s counter-productive child-support system desperately needs an infusion of justice.


In Rethinking Child Support, co-authors Bryce J. Christensen, Ph.D., and William C. Duncan, J.D., argue that injustices of the child-support system should be remedied by rethinking the assumptions underlying “no-fault” divorce.  Further, that custodial parents should be required to account for the use of child-support payments that are tied to a finding of fault in the parent who is ordered to pay.


Since 2005, the State of Utah has aggressively pursued the goal of “cracking down” on “dead beat dads” – noncustodial fathers who are in arrears on their child-support payments.  This policy has not been effective.  According to Christensen and Duncan, a comprehensive policy promoting the ideal of marriage as the foundation of the child-support system would be in the best interest of children and families in Utah.


“Family breakdown has not diminished and there is no evidence to suggest that children are better off in a culture of easy divorce or that child-support enforcement is appreciably increasing their quality of life,” the authors say.


Some of the problems in current policy stem from punitive child-support enforcement which can contribute to tension between parents and siphon money meant for children into collection agencies.  Child-support awards separated from any finding of fault on the part of a parent lead to irrational and unjust results, such as the re-emergence of a form of “debtor prison” and extreme punishment of parents without any attempt to establish that the punishment is merited.


Bryce J. Christensen is associate professor of English at Southern Utah University and adjunct fellow of Sutherland Institute’s Center for Family and Society.  He is a contributing editor to The Family in America and author of Divided We Fall: Family Discord and the Fracturing of America(Transaction, 2005).  He has also published articles on family issues in SocietyThe Public Interest, Policy ReviewModern Age, and other journals.


William C. Duncan is director of the Marriage Law Foundation and is the director of Sutherland Institute’s Center for Family and Society.  He formerly served as acting director of the Marriage Law Project at the Catholic University of America’s Columbus School of Law and as executive director of the Marriage and Family Law Research Grant at J. Reuben Clark Law School, Brigham Young University, where he was also a visiting professor.