Little girl living in poverty.

Tackling intergenerational poverty at Utah’s Legislature

How can Utah encourage the private sector to help children in intergenerational poverty?

HB 24 offers the hope to children in intergenerational poverty that their parents’ poverty and a lack of savings will not dash their dreams of a college education,” said Christine Cooke, Sutherland Institute education policy analyst. “By encouraging self-reliance and private donations to college savings accounts for children in intergenerational poverty, this legislation ensures that children who overcome the significant educational barriers of intergenerational poverty will get a chance at a successful life through higher education.”

How can public education meet the unique educational needs of children in intergenerational poverty?

HB 168 is good policy because it requires extended-day kindergarten program to meet the unique early childhood needs of children in intergenerational poverty, who need these programs the most,” Cooke said. “While research shows that the effectiveness of expanding kindergarten for all children is questionable, it also shows that it is most effective for the most-at-risk children. In Utah, that is clearly children in intergenerational poverty.”

How can Utah make it easier to escape intergenerational poverty?

HB 294 is good policy because it tears down barriers to a person in intergenerational poverty once they have prepared themselves for a life of self-reliance through academic success and are ready to pursue full-time employment,” said Sutherland Institute director of public policy Derek Monson. “The transition from inherited poverty to sustainable employment has enough personal, cultural and social barriers for those in intergenerational poverty without adding to that an income tax policy that takes away some of the financial reward of working. This legislation sends the message that Utah intends to help those in intergenerational poverty help themselves out of poverty, whenever they are able and ready to make that transition.”

How can Utah connect our best teachers to children in poverty?

“Good teachers deserve to be rewarded, and HB 212 forwards that value while sending the message that it is not how long you last in the classroom, but how well you perform that defines good teaching,” said Cooke, who is also a former teacher in Utah’s public schools. “This legislation also ensures that we are connecting our best teachers to the children who need them the most – children living in poverty. HB 212 is good policy because it constructively engages education leaders in re-thinking the teaching profession – both pay and morale – and fills a resource gap for Utah’s most-at-risk children.”

Principle Matters – Political Power vs. Policy Power

There is exactly one thing standing between the American people and the type of government the founders of the nation envisioned. That one thing? For members of Congress to do their job!

For far too long Congress has ceded its authority to the executive branch and the regulatory state. Why has so much power shifted from the legislative branch to the executive branch? Because members of Congress have decided to abdicate authority in order to avoid accountability. Less accountability makes re-election much easier.

My former boss, Senator Mike Lee, uses a simple example to illustrate: Members of Congress love to pass bills with inspiring names, such as the “We shall have clean air” act. (Because after all, who is going to vote for dirty air?) Then within the bill Congress transfers all authority to the Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA, to decide what clean air is, what it isn’t, how to comply with the law and what the penalties will be for violations. Further, Congress allows EPA to be the judge, jury and executioner of law. There are no checks and balances for potentially outrageous and overly burdensome regulations or excessive penalties.

When an individual or company is being hurt by these regulations and they rush to a member of Congress for help or relief, the representative can say, “Hey, don’t yell at me, I just voted for clean air. You will have to go complain to the EPA.” Then that individual or company has to go to someone at EPA who is not elected by or accountable to the citizens. When Congress abdicates its policy power to federal bureaucrats, it rarely ends well for the American people.

On the other hand, we also have too many so-called leaders in Washington who are more concerned about maintaining their political power than using their constitutional policy power in conjunction with their power of the purse. Such leaders distract and even discourage the general public with fake fights, false choices and a steady stream of divisive drama. Political power seekers know that if the American people believe that we are too divided as a nation to solve a problem, it gives Congress the excuse to do nothing and the executive branch an excuse to do whatever the president wants through executive order. The result is that power, money and influence stay with Congress, along with the wealthy and well-connected. We need to demand more from Washington.

Congress abdicating policy power and obsessing on political power has weakened the checks and balances within our republic, fostered dysfunction within government, and rightly fueled public frustration toward elected officials. Congress caused this mess, and only Congress can clean it up by reasserting its power and proper role. By putting Congress back in charge of making and funding federal policy, we can once again put the American people back in charge of their government – as it should be.

For Sutherland Institute, this is Boyd Matheson. Thanks for engaging – because principle matters.

This post is an edited transcript of Principle Matters, a weekly radio commentary broadcast on several radio stations across the country. The podcast can be found below.

Receive this broadcast each week directly via iTunes by clicking here

Open range cattle grazing at foothills of Rocky Mountains in northern Colorado, summer scenery

Dusty Trails: The Erosion of Grazing in the American West

Cheerful little poor boy standing portrait near brick wall at his home and looking to the camera portrait close up.

Testimony in support of HB 24 (Student Prosperity Savings Program – Tax Amendments)

Statement in support of HB 24 Sub 1 (Student Prosperity Savings Program – Tax Amendments) as prepared by Christine Cooke, who testified before the Senate Revenue and Taxation Standing Committee on Feb. 17, 2017:

Thank you, members of the committee.

I’m Christine Cooke, education policy analyst at Sutherland Institute.

Sutherland understands that every child has unique needs – especially when it comes to education – and believes that legislation ought to reflect these realities.

My colleague sits on the state’s intergenerational poverty advisory board, so we recognize that students experiencing IGP have very distinct needs.

Especially for children experiencing IGP, a life of prosperity – including educational and economic opportunity – is likely out of reach without the help of policy that incentivizes charitable donations from private actors and encourages financial self-reliance.

Because we believe HB 24 Sub 1 is sound policy, we ask you to support the bill.

Thank you.

Utah State Capitol Building  in Black and White

Testimony in favor of Senate Bill 196 (Health Education Amendments)

Statement as prepared by William C. Duncan, senior fellow at Sutherland Institute, who testified in favor of SB 196 – Health Education Amendments, on Feb. 21, 2017, before the Senate Education Committee of the Utah Legislature:

The core policy of Utah as it relates to sex education today recognizes that marriage is the only appropriate setting for sexual activity and that this subject is best understood when parents are highly involved in that education. If Senate Bill 196 were approved, that would still be the policy of the state.

So, what would change? The state would not be singling out an identifiable group in the statute. That would mean, practically, that the state would not be vulnerable to a lawsuit challenging that provision, which under current Supreme Court precedent, might invite federal court micromanagement of Utah’s curriculum.

Don't Drink and Drive written on the road

Utah should strengthen its DUI law

How a .05 BAC Standard Strengthens Personal Freedom

A mountain of evidence suggests that moving Utah’s DUI blood alcohol content (BAC) standard to .05 will save lives and improve public safety on Utah’s roads. This is common-sense policy in much of the civilized world, which already has a .05 BAC standard with no discernible harms to tourism, court/prison systems or the rights of responsible drinkers.

But the .05 BAC standard raises an interesting question regarding the impact on personal freedom from such a standard. Unfortunately, they arrive at the wrong answer to that question. Moving to a .05 BAC standard does not weaken personal freedom – it strengthens it.

A few questions illuminate this. How is personal freedom impacted when a parent must arrange their child’s funeral because of a drunken driver? What is the impact on personal freedom for someone who loses the friendship of a neighbor from alcohol-impaired driving? How is personal freedom affected for the individual who dies prematurely because another person irresponsibly chose to drink and drive?

Freedom is not just a philosophical theory, but a personal experience. Freedom does not exist disconnected from human experience with what freedom means on a personal and community level. Striking the proper balance in personal freedom means balancing considerations of how policy impacts personal freedom for everyone in society, not for a single group of people.

Critics of a .05 BAC standard express concern that this policy reduces the personal freedom of those who drink and drive, through license suspensions and DUI arrests. But this argument misplaces the blame for this loss of personal freedom on the law, instead of on the individual.

The choice to drive after drinking excessively is the choice to subject one’s personal freedom to the uncontrollable consequences of drunken driving. In this case, the limits on personal freedom come not from the law, but from the loss of control over driving skills caused by intoxication. Lowering the BAC standard to .05 is not establishing new limits on personal freedom, but simply recognizing the self-imposed limits on personal freedom that a drunken driver has accepted with an irresponsible decision.

By recognizing this reality with a .05 BAC standard, and reducing fatalities from drunken driving as a consequence, we strengthen personal freedom by extending the lives of would-be victims of alcohol-impaired driving. Survivors and their loved ones gain the freedom that life brings, rather than suffering in the prison of premature death.

The weight of these considerations tips the balance of personal freedom in favor of those whose lives will be extended and enriched from the protections of a .05 BAC standard. Personal freedom is strengthened through improved public safety brought about by a .05 BAC standard, not reduced, because those who drink and drive have subjected their personal freedom to intoxicated driving.

Quick Facts About HB 155

Outdoor Retailer should avoid ultimatums on lands policy

Today, some leaders from the outdoor retail industry are making demands and issuing ultimatums to Utah’s elected officials, threatening to pull the Outdoor Retailer trade shows from the state.

Their aggressive actions highlight how the discussion around public land management has been absolutely degraded. So, while questioning our state’s values and love for public lands, their ultimatums are actually restricting and undermining real collaboration and constructive dialogue on this critical issue. So, those who care about our public lands need to move beyond the bluster and bombast and get to principled compromise and viable land management solutions.

Clearly, tourism and outdoor recreation play a vital role in Utah’s economy today and will for generations to come. Utah’s unparalleled beauty and recreational opportunities draw visitors from around the world, driving small businesses, providing tax revenue, and making our state a great place to work, live and play.

To claim that the only appropriate use of our public lands is outdoor recreation is to ignore the needs of real Utahns – especially those who live in our rural communities. And despite the false claims often depicted on the internet and in the media, responsible land management is not a zero-sum game with only winners and losers.

The type of bullying rhetoric currently coming from some in the outdoor retail industry is creating the kind of fake fight and false choices we often see in Washington, D.C. That is not how we do it here in Utah.

We understand that stewardship of natural resources is everyone’s responsibility. We know public lands can and ought to be put to multiple – often complementary – uses, which expands the economic pie to everyone’s benefit. We must remember that ultimatums kill collaboration and compromise.

We call on Utah’s elected officials, the outdoor retail industry, and other key voices to engage in an inclusive, elevated dialogue that will lead to land management policy that will foster a healthy environment, abundant recreational opportunities, and a diverse thriving economy for all Utahns now and for many generations to come. That is the Utah way.

Endings Matter

I have spent a lifetime learning lessons from my dad. Some lessons came through our conversations as we discussed simple principles and practices such as seeing the best in people, constantly learning, never judging, pursuing excellence, reading and writing with purpose, servant leadership, and how to help others see and reach their potential.

However, one of the most important lessons I have ever learned from my dad is one we’ve never had a single conversation about, but one I watched and witnessed as far back as I can remember. The lesson? Endings matter.

Living in a house with 11 children is a daily experience of organized bedlam careening toward complete chaos. The clamor went even higher when visitors came. There was a never-ending rush of people coming and going, always compounded by the fact that our home was the gathering spot for parties, neighborhood get-togethers, dinners and church events.

My mom made sure everyone felt welcomed with great food, perfect presentation, laughter and always room for one more. My dad, on the other hand, was the closer for the Matheson family experience.

At the end of a family gathering, neighborhood party or visit with friends it has never been adequate for my dad to just say goodbye from the living room. A hug or handshake in the kitchen on the way out? Not enough. “See you soon” from the front door? Completely insufficient. Dad always walks you out – snow, rain or sunshine – all the way until the car door is closed. Then he waits, to wave one last time as the car drives away – because endings matter.

Dad always makes sure that the ending of a visit is just as high-impact as the beginning. For the grandchildren he makes sure they stop by my parents’ famous “candy closet” for one last treat. For friends there is always an ask from dad if they want some of the leftover food or dessert for later. For social guests there is always a word of thanks for something they said or did, for what they brought into our home, and a sincere invitation to please return soon. For us kids he usually takes us by the arm, tells us how proud he is of us, how much he loves us, occasionally slips some cash into our pockets and then sends us away with an expression of confidence in our ability to endure, overcome or get important things done.

It has taken me half a century just to begin to understand what my dad was really doing and teaching. Endings matter.

Thomas Monson once described seeing a sign in the window of a furniture store in Salt Lake City that read, “Finishers Wanted.” It wasn’t a sign seeking those who could complete a couch or construct a chair as much as it was a call for those who could apply the perfect finishing touches and transform useful objects into magnificent, handcrafted furniture.

It is easy to play the front end. Beginners are many; finishers are few. I remember in Washington there were those who loved to walk into the room with the senator, those who were always at the ready when a TV camera was near, and those who were all too eager to swoop into a meeting with the rich, famous or powerful.

Far fewer were the finishers. Those grand souls who were willing to do the hard work and heavy lifting far from the spotlight and well out of microphone range. The caseworker who would stay late to make certain a struggling constituent got exactly what he needed. The legislative assistant burning the midnight oil to complete tedious research so the senator would be properly prepared for an obscure committee hearing. The sleep-deprived communications professional laboring to polish and perfect the speech no one will ever know she wrote. Like my dad, these folks are the finishers – the master craftsmen and craftswomen committed to making sure that the final touches of the ending are what matter, have impact and make a difference.

In our conversations, relationships, work projects, meetings and community interactions – endings matter. A good ending makes the rest worthwhile.

For Sutherland Institute, this is Boyd Matheson. Thanks for engaging – because principle matters.

This post is an edited transcript of Principle Matters, a weekly radio commentary broadcast on several radio stations across the country. The podcast can be found below.

Receive this broadcast each week directly via iTunes by clicking here

Illegal Young man Spraying black paint on a Graffiti wall. (room for text)

Testimony in support of HB 239 (Juvenile Justice Amendments)

Testimony given by Derek Monson on Feb. 10, 2017, in support of HB 239 (Juvenile Justice Amendments) before the House Judiciary Committee of the Utah Legislature:

Thank you, Mr. Chair and members of the committee. My name is Derek Monson and I represent Sutherland Institute.

Sutherland Institute supports HB 239 because one of its major thrusts is to tap into and strengthen families to find community-driven solutions to problems of juvenile justice.

One of the temptations in criminal and juvenile justice policy is to view families as a problem, and subsequently to take the easier path of ignoring or going around families. But we think the right policy approach is a road “less traveled,”[1] which views families as a solution. That approach has the potential to find answers that are practical, because they work from the ground up within communities, and answers that are sustainable, because they don’t require unending allocations of taxpayer dollars.

We see HB 239 as reflecting this approach, and as a result its impact will be to strengthen families that need help, spend taxpayer funds more cost-effectively, and help children whose future should point to a life of success and happiness despite mistakes, not toward juvenile detention because of their mistakes.

We encourage you to support HB 239. Thank you.

[1] Robert Frost, “The Road Not Taken,” 1916.



Testimony in support of HCR 12 (Concurrent Resolution Urging Federal Legislation to Reduce or Modify the Boundaries of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument)

Testimony given by Matthew Anderson on Feb. 2, 2017, in support of HCR 12 (Concurrent Resolution Urging Federal Legislation to Reduce or Modify the Boundaries of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument) before the Senate Business and Labor Committee of the Utah Legislature.

Good afternoon, senators. My name is Matt Anderson. I represent the Sutherland Institute and the Coalition for Self-Government in the West.

I want to quickly talk about the ranching and grazing ramifications of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument to hopefully answer some of Senator Gene Davis’ concerns. A Utah State University study conducted two years ago found that the number of AUMs, or the amount of grazing on the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, has declined by almost one-third in the last 20 years since it was created. In addition to that it has had an economic effect of $9 million of economic output in the county and a loss of 81 jobs. While that may not seem big for us living here in Salt Lake, for Kane and Garfield counties – which have a combined population of 15,000 people – that is significant. Eighty-one families is a big hit to the economy and a large reason why we have a large economic and a scholastic state of emergency declared in Garfield County. Thank you.