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.”

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

Dusty Trails: The Erosion of Grazing in the American West

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

Outrage, riots and knowing where you’re going

It is so easy to get swept away in the fog, rhetorical riptides and tweet storms of the digital age. Leaders can overwhelm the public with a whirlwind of words designed to distract and confuse – often leaving citizens wondering where in the world we are. If we do not know where we currently are, it is impossible for us to chart a course to where we truly want to go.

Long years ago, before cell phones, Google Maps and GPS systems, I was on a speaking tour in Ireland. On the first day of my tour I was scheduled to speak to corporate executives at a company in Cork. I set out for the speech with a very specific and detailed old-school map. I immediately encountered several ring roads and roundabouts, and soon had no idea where I was. After about 20 minutes of wandering through the Irish countryside, I realized that this was not a good use of my time and I did the hard thing: I bit my ego and pulled into a little gas station at the side of the road to ask for directions. Map in hand, I went in and asked the man behind the counter, “Where am I?” The man obviously knew I was a foreigner, because he just flashed me a big Irish grin and said, “Why, you’re in Ireland don’t you know!” I then tossed the map at him and asked, “Where am I on the map?” Once the attendant pointed to our specific location I had no problem navigating my way to my speaking engagement. By stopping to figure out where I was, or what the present reality was, I was better able to chart the right course to my desired destination.

Before a critical debate in the United States Congress, Daniel Webster said: “Mr. President, when the mariner has been tossed about for many days in thick weather on an unknown sea, he naturally avails himself of the first pause in the storm, the earliest glance of the sun to take his latitude and ascertain where he is in relation to his desired course. Let us imitate this prudence and before we float on the waves of this debate refer to the point from which we departed, that we may at least be able to surmise where we now are.”

As a nation we have been through some thick weather and tossed about, to say the least. Here are a few areas where I believe we need to figure out where we really are before we start to try and solve the problems:



National division


Criminal justice

Federal lands

Health care

(Just to name a few …)

Before the American people and our elected representatives float on the waves of debate on these critical issues, let’s stop and determine where we are today.

By specifically identifying our present reality we will be able to chart the best possible course to reach our desired destination as a nation.

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

Portrait of a pretty young woman waving an American flag with wide open arms outdoors.

Testimony in support of HCR 6 (Concurrent Resolution Supporting the Re-empowerment of the States Amendment)

Testimony by Stan Rasmussen, Sutherland Institute director of public affairs, in support of HCR 6 (Concurrent Resolution Supporting the Re-empowerment of the States Amendment) before the House Judiciary Committee of the Utah Legislature on Jan. 31, 2017.

Thank you, Mr. Chair, and good afternoon, representatives. Stan Rasmussen with Sutherland Institute. I am pleased to share with you a statement prepared by our office, particularly the Coalition for Self-Government in the West, a project of Sutherland Institute.

We firmly support House Concurrent Resolution 6 because we support efforts in Congress to re-empower the states and restore the system of checks and balances instituted by our nation’s Founders.

At best, executive orders and administrative rulings can easily and blatantly disregard the opinions and rights of the American people. At worst, they allow government power to go unchecked which can ruin lives. Such actions have been taken by presidents and agency heads of both parties and fly in the face of the principles undergirding our American republic. Our families, our communities, and our state deserve better.

While the mechanism by which this resolution makes possible the repeal of executive orders, rules and regulations is important, it also gives incentives to the president and bureaucratic agencies to work with the people most impacted by their decisions. With the president and bureaucratic agencies working with individual states, laws will become more reflective of the will of the people, thereby encouraging collaboration and unity. The restoration of the states’ stronger voices will have a predictably constructive effect on participation in local governments, with citizens feeling a greater capability to contribute to and advance the cause of liberty in their homes and communities, returning the government to its constitutional origins of being of, for and by the people.

Because this is and ought to be a nonpartisan issue, we encourage you to support this resolution and efforts being pursued in Congress to re-empower the states.

Thank you.

Young African American family having fun while drawing together at home.

3 Things the Family Prosperity Index shows Utah legislators

By Krisana Finlay

This Utah legislative session covers 1,200-plus bills, and with only 45 days to cover them all, legislators need to know what issues matters most.

Luckily the newly published Family Prosperity Index (FPI), of which Sutherland gave a recent general overview, gives legislators a few things to keep in mind.

  1. Thanks in part to Utah legislators, Utah ranks No. 1 in the nation for family prosperity.

It’s important to remember where we are doing well, and as a whole, Utah surpasses all other states with flying colors. It takes the national lead in five of the six FPI major indexes. In the economics category Utah comes in second to North Dakota, thanks to that state’s fracking boom, which affected the statistics this year and since then has reportedly declined.1

Why is Utah ranked No. 1 nationally?

Utah citizens and lawmakers uphold the cherished principle that family is the fundamental unit of society. This fundamental unit is the driving force behind everything they do – framing how they go about the day’s work and the night’s play. All is geared toward building strong families. Strong families facilitate functional cultures, capable communities and enriched economies. And the FPI proves it.

Utah is experiencing true prosperity considering its robust scores on almost all major prosperity index scores. But all of its flying banners of success cannot discount two areas of real concern: self-mortality overall, and conditions in Salt Lake County.

  1. Utah Legislators need to take an uncomfortable but direct look at self-mortality.

Utah does well in the major index of family health. We’re in the top 10 states for low rates of tobacco, alcohol, and obesity, illicit drug use, sexually transmitted disease rates, and high rates of infant survival. But Utah has a serious problem with self-mortality, ranking 45th in the nation because of its suicide and drug-overdose rates.

Suicide Rates

It’s bad. Utah’s suicide rate has consistently measured above the national average and has accelerated at a faster rate, increasing 43 percent between 2000 and 2014 (the national average increased 29 percent).1 Leaders have been confounded when it comes to resolving this problem, in part from the myriad risk factors: domestic violence, bullying, alcohol or drug abuse, local epidemics of suicide,2 increased elevation, or feeling constrained when it comes to seeking help.3

This combination of risk factors may be providing the perfect storm. Domestic abuse, high stress in school or work, high expectations, addiction, and technology offering counterfeit connections instead of real relationships and resources may cause a person to consider dire alternatives.

Drug-Overdose Rates and Opioid Addiction

Utah’s drug-overdose rates are also a concern. Utah’s rates have been higher than the national average, although growing at a slower rate.1 Luckily, the 21st Century Cure Act Congress passed just last December offers help. This bipartisan legislation takes a comprehensive approach in solving opioid overdoses and distributes $1 billion of its budget to states to address local health concerns. This funding distribution will take place early this year, in perfect timing for the Utah legislative session.

U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan in a recent town hall meeting commented, “We have to have a full-front war against this opioid epidemic, and that is exactly what we passed and funded.” Along with that help, Salt Lake County must also solve some full-front wars of its own.

  1. Salt Lake County needs help

The most populous county in the state, Salt Lake County reports having a higher violent crime rate, higher rate of families with children below poverty level, and the lowest level of married taxpayers in the state. It also had 4,412 of the 9,687 unwed births in the state (46 percent).1

To answer the why behind these statistics, the FPI offers the following insight, citing a 2012 domestic policy report from The Heritage Foundation:

“Not surprisingly, many of these factors are interrelated. For example, children from single-parent homes, emanating from a high unwed birth rate, are more prone to criminal activities in youth (more than twice as likely to be arrested) and young adulthood (three times more likely to be in jail by age 30) relative to children from intact married families.” 1

A guide to resolving self-mortality and Salt Lake County concerns

Boyd Matheson recently said, “In areas where we lack effective solutions it is usually because we are avoiding uncomfortable conversations.”

Taking on these uncomfortable conversations will inevitably cause leaders to engage with various community participants: community officials, families, churches, industry professionals, and other legislators. These engagements will bring understanding and naturally community-driven solutions.

Simply put, community problems require community engagement. Community engagement brings community solutions. Community solutions bring community prosperity. We applaud and encourage community officials who initiate difficult conversations in the hopes of resolving family health and Salt Lake County problems.


All in all, Utah is doing incredibly well in regard to family prosperity. FPI authors wrote, “[I]t’s not even a close race with Utah’s dominating performance on the FPI across nearly every major index.”1

Utah holds a high standard for true prosperity. It leads the nation because Utah residents understand the family is the economic engine of society. The stronger the family, the stronger the engine, and the further Utah will go amid whatever lies ahead. As legislators look to resolve Utah’s unique struggles, a prosperous and enduring community will result. Such endurance and strength only comes through sustaining core principles, ones that Sutherland is committed to uphold.



  1. P. Warcholik and J.S. Moody, Utah Family Prosperity Index, January 2017, American Conservative Union Foundation, website.
  2. “Complete Health Indicator Report of Suicide,” July 15, 2016, accessed January 12, 2017,
  3. L. Price, “Utah officials unsure why youth suicide has nearly tripled since 2007,” Salt Lake Tribune, July 3, 2016,


Utah State Capitol is the house of government for the U.S. state of Utah in Salt Lake City. Salt Lake City is the capital and the most populous city in the state of Utah. Salt Lake City has  a strong outdoor recreation tourist industry and is well-known as the center of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

2017 Utah Legislature gets underway

The Utah Legislature is now meeting in its annual general session, which started Monday and will continue through March 9.

The state of Utah has an excellent legislative website with a wealth of information available to Utahns. Click here to learn the quickest way to find and read the text of a specific bill. To learn more (with pictures!) about how a bill becomes a law, click here. As a citizen, your voice and perspective are included in the legislative process if  you communicate with your legislators. To find your representative and senator and their contact information, click here.


In his introductory remarks (video), Utah Senate President Wayne Niederhauser addressed the critical need to rebalance the power of the states and the national government. Regarding the “intense partisanship and inability of Washington to effectively pass and deal with issues,” Pres. Niederhauser said,

…this is because the federal [national] government was never intended to be so comprehensive. … The vision of the Founders was to spread power over multiple layers of government in order to prevent any concentration of power. Most issues should be dealt with in our state houses and our city halls, not Washington, DC. … Centralized government was the very thing the Founding Fathers were trying to eliminate. … I call upon my legislative colleagues across this country to join together and build a barrier around state jurisdiction and guard it jealously. Even though I am encouraged by the talk coming from Washington, D.C., now, I don’t think they will give up the power on their own. We will need to hold their feet to the fire.

Underscoring the hard work and decisions of those who have gone before, Speaker Greg Hughes highlighted (video) several of the challenges and issues he and his colleagues in the Utah House of Representatives will address over the next 45 days. Among the more pressing matters will be:

  • The urgency to confront, in appropriate and effective ways, the homelessness crisis in our state
  • Intrusions of the national government and its executive-branch overreach – as manifest in the recent Bears Ears national monument designation – and the efforts now underway to rescind that designation
  • Continuing the prudent balancing of public education funding requirements and preservation of the state’s tax-policy competitiveness with other Western states – a critical element of which is the public land still under the control of the national government

Again, as citizens of Utah, you can participate in the processes of deliberation and decision-making on matters of public policy – if you will – and thereby equip your representatives in the House and Senate to be your voice in the legislative processes of our democratic republic.



Op-ed: You say goodbye and I say hello

Originally published in the Deseret News.

On Tuesday, Jan. 10, President Barack Obama will say goodbye to the nation as the 44th president. Just 10 days later Donald Trump will say hello as America’s 45th president. Farewell and inaugural addresses have been with us from the founding of our nation. Endings and beginnings matter. Goodbyes and hellos have meaning. How each man approaches, writes and delivers his address will have an impact on the direction of the country.

Today we focus on Obama’s farewell.

You say goodbye

In announcing his farewell address, Obama referenced George Washington’s farewell as the model he would follow. He would be incredibly wise to pursue Washington’s “Warnings of a Parting Friend” as a pattern. Of the 6,088 words contained in Washington’s farewell, nearly all are about the future and what it would take for the country, and the American people, to remain free and strong. Washington spoke little of what he had done as president, other than to ask forgiveness for any wrongs his administration might have committed. He was humble enough to know the success of the nation was due to good people and divine providence and acknowledged the mistakes and failures that were his.

However, for many presidents the farewell address has been more of a self-indulgent review of their time in office with spotlights on their successes, a whitewash of their failures and an attempt to declare their own legacy. On Friday, Obama issued a cover letter to the American people sadly signaling that his farewell address will likely be more self-centered and self-promoting than instructive and forward-moving.

I have always had a saying for my teenage children that applies to outgoing and incoming presidents — “If you have to declare it, you aren’t it!” Teenagers love to declare, “I am an adult,” usually right before they are about to do something very childish.

Obama should avoid the temptation to declare his greatness, his success or what he believes his legacy will be. Washington-like humility would go a long way in allowing his true legacy to emerge.

The president is known as a brilliant orator and lecturer, but that doesn’t make him an authentic communicator. His final address would be the perfect time to shed the supercool, aloof persona and authentically look the American people in the eye and share something of his soul. He could highlight the struggles every president faces, the doubt encountered in facing daunting problems, the heavy burdens he surely bore in making difficult decisions and the hope he continues to have for the country in the days ahead.

At a time when national unity is desperately needed, Obama could remind us of our better angels and the goodness he has seen and experienced in the American people over the past eight years. Offering up a list of things he and the first family learned from hardworking Americans would be brilliant.

Like Washington, he could warn of foreign threats, the challenges of divisive political party rhetoric and the need for Americans to be good and do good for the country to be great.

Obama could close his goodbye by telling the American people what he is going to do in the days and weeks ahead while admitting that he sometimes fell short of these ideals. Something like this: “My fellow Americans, I know we aren’t always the UNITED States of America. Over the past eight years we haven’t always agreed on specific policies and programs — and that is OK — that is part of what makes us strong as a nation.

“Today I am asking you as your president, as your soon-to-be-former president and as a citizen of this great nation to unite with me on three action items: (1) Pray for the new administration every day. I never realized how important and powerful prayers, positive thoughts and good wishes were until I walked into the Oval Office. (2) Regardless of where you are on the ideological spectrum, join me in elevating the dialogue in our homes, in our communities and especially online. We are a nation founded on big ideas, and we are always at our best when we debate and discuss those ideas in ways that uplift and inspire. (3) Do something, anything, to serve someone in your neighborhood or community who is in need. We need to get back to watching out for each other, serving and doing good — because we can.

“Many think that hope and change were just catchy campaign slogans. As your president, I have come to learn a lot about hope. I know hope is never to be found in a political party or a person — but in the American people. Change will continue to come — as a country we will create and drive it to build a better world for everyone. Change is the essence of who we are.

“In saying goodbye, I say hello to another new chapter in our nation’s history and the forward march of liberty and justice for all.”

That kind of goodbye would get George Washington’s approval, do wonders for the nation and lead to the right kind of legacy — one that would actually last.


A glance at Utah’s Medicaid expansion

Activists have been pushing to expand Medicaid in Utah for some time now. Pressure to do so increased when a large portion of Obamacare was predicated on Medicaid expansion. Multiple legislative sessions in Utah held many debates – sometimes contentious – about whether the state should expand Medicaid, and if so, by how much. Full expansion was rejected, as was Governor Herbert’s Healthy Utah plan and the Legislature’s compromise bill Utah Cares.

Finally, in 2016 the Legislature passed a form of Medicaid expansion. It balances various stakeholder concerns regarding providing insurance to the neediest Utahns in a way that protects the taxpayer. Here is the new population covered by the expansion:

  • Parents with dependent children earning up to 60 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL)
  • Adults without dependent children earning up to 5 percent of the FPL who are:
    • Chronically homeless
    • Involved in the justice system through probation, parole, or court-ordered treatment for substance abuse or mental health treatment
    • In need of substance abuse treatment or mental health treatment

With the amount of money allocated to expansion, officials expected it to cover 16,000 people, but costs were underestimated. Since the funding is fixed rather than open-ended, there can’t be cost overruns like those feared with the previous expansion plans. Instead, about 10,000 people will be covered by the new expansion plans.

Since Medicaid is a federal program and the majority of the money comes from the federal government, Utah must ask permission to enact this change. Expansion was passed in early 2016 and then a public comment period was held throughout the following summer.


Click here to dig deeper into this issue at Utah Citizen Network.