In this video clip from Sutherland’s 2014 Legislative Policy Conference, Paul Mero asks two supporters of the Count My Vote initiative, LaVarr Webb and Kirk Jowers, whether they would drop Count My Vote if all their concerns were addressed – short of getting rid of the party caucuses.
The response was noncommittal. Webb, for instance, said, “It would be difficult to stop this thing at this point. … I haven’t made my mind up on that.”
Since then, Senator Curt Bramble’s bill, SB 54, which concerns itself with such election reforms, has been approved unanimously by the Senate Business and Labor Committee. Click here to read Count My Vote’s response to the bill. (Spoiler: They’re not thrilled.)
TheSalt Lake Tribune recently ran a story about how federal meat processing regulations recently stopped a local natural-chicken farming operation from processing the chickens of other small chicken farming operations, leaving no way for these latter farms to get their chickens processed and sold.
No one on these farms had done anything that caused a public health scare. No one had gotten sick from the chickens being processed. Regulators who were double-checking the federal rules on meat processing found that this natural-chicken farmer was not permitted to process the chickens from other farms, so they shut down the processing of chickens from other chicken farms “to protect the public.”
Consider that. What is the public being protected from? Certainly not an actual public health problem, since there was no actual health problem being caused by the chicken farming and processing. Instead we are being “protected” from the possibility of a public health problem that might, in theory, be caused at some point in the future by a chicken processing operation that is processing chickens from farms it does not control. So we are preventing innocent people from pursuing legal, legitimate ways of supporting themselves and their families for no other reason than the possibility that their way of doing business might happen, in the future, to cause a public health scare.
Count My Vote is not an issue high on the priority list for Sutherland Institute, and yet, it inexorably draws my attention. I’m stunned when the “reasonable” people – normally the adults in the room – behave like spoiled children. Count My Vote is a case in point.
The Utah Legislature is considering a bill by Senator Curt Bramble, SB 54, to implement Count My Vote reforms while holding onto Utah’s caucus and convention system. The Count My Vote initiative would make that system irrelevant by replacing delegate candidate selection with direct primaries. Supporters of Count My Vote cite several reforms that lead them to champion direct primaries. SB 54 addresses each of those reforms and defaults to direct primaries, if political parties fail to adopt the reforms. In other words, SB 54 gives Count My Vote supporters the victory they seek – SB 54 extorts desired reforms among political parties at the threat of exposure to direct primaries. It’s easy to understand.
You would think Count My Vote supporters would call it a win and go home. But not so. Unbelievably, these supporters actually take umbrage at SB 54.
In the Deseret News, LaVarr Webb expresses his opposition to SB 54. He calls it a “clever” bill designed to “destroy” the Count My Vote initiative. In the initiative’s defense he writes,
Count My Vote’s proposal asks voters to choose whether all voters, through a direct primary, have a voice in selecting party nominees, creating broader participation in our political system, instead of continuing to centralize power in a select few caucus attendees and convention delegates, many of whom do not reflect mainstream Utah positions.
He italicized the word all. Admittedly, I’m not a political process geek. I don’t know the stats for voter participation – and, as I’ve mentioned in front of Count My Vote supporters, voter participation is not my definition of responsible citizenship (I’ll say it again here: I’d like more intelligent, informed and principled voters, not just more voters). So I wasn’t aware that all voters participate in direct primaries. Common sense tells me that’s not so, but I’ll try to verify that point made by LaVarr. My guess is that he’s wrong about that point.
Neither am I an expert about Utah’s historic caucus and convention system, so I’m not quite sure about LaVarr’s concerns about voter participation, unless his true goal is to get rid of political parties altogether. Based on my own experiences, I think Utah’s political parties and the caucus/convention system permit any registered voter to participate in these party processes. The reforms in SB 54 remind us that some people have a more difficult time physically participating than others. But nothing in our current processes excludes the participation of any registered voter who identifies with a political party.
Testimony presented by Derek Monson, director of public policy, Sutherland Institute, on Feb. 14 before the House Revenue and Taxation Standing Committee of the Utah Legislature regarding HB 338 – Alcohol Beverage License Amendments:
Thank you Mr. Chair and members of the committee. My name is Derek Monson and I am policy director with Sutherland Institute. Sutherland opposes HB 338 and I appreciate the chance to explain why.
The “policies of the state” when it comes to alcohol are plainly stated in Utah Code 32B-1-103. Though the bill before you doesn’t explicitly seek changes to those policies, the debate surrounding this bill is really a debate about the goals and merits of policies in that section of Utah law.
As stated in that law, one primary goal of alcohol policy is to “reasonably satisfy the public demand” for alcohol. I submit to you that HB 338 clearly does not meet this goal. First, in reality there is no significant excess public demand for alcohol that this bill would meet. This is illustrated by the fact that most of the establishments on the waiting list for a dining club license are already in business and selling alcohol under another kind of alcohol license. Beyond that simple fact is the reality that drinking adults in Utah have literally hundreds of options to choose from for their desired alcohol consumption. In other words, the public demand for liquor is already well provided for, making HB 338 completely unnecessary from this perspective.
Other primary goals of Utah alcohol policy are “to protect the public interest, including the rights of citizens who do not wish to be involved with alcoholic products,” and to “promote the reduction of the harmful effects” of overconsumption and underage drinking. According to credible research HB 338 does not accomplish these goals, and in fact undermines them.
The Community Preventive Services Task Force is an independent, unpaid panel of public health experts that seeks “scientifically proven” public health solutions that save lives, increase lifespans, and improve quality of life. In 2007, a team of researchers with the task force reviewed all available studies on the impact of changing the number of alcohol outlets in a given area. After identifying 30 studies from the last 40 years that met sufficient quality of rigor and research methods, they reported a positive association between the number of alcohol outlets in a given area and “excessive alcohol consumption and related harms” to public health and safety. In short, HB 338 actually undermines the public interest in health and safety and encourages overconsumption and its related harms.
For these reasons, we encourage you to oppose HB 338. Thank you.
A high school sophomore told the Senate Education Standing Committee recently that she was able to testify to them (in the middle of a school day) in support of requiring parental notification about the Statewide Online Education Program (SOEP) because she was “not permitted to be on school grounds” at her public school at that particular time. Why? Because that time slot in her school schedule was filled with an online class, and rather than accommodate that child the school decided to kick her off campus and then make her come back when her next on-campus period began.
Shortly after that, a mother of children who had taken some classes through the SOEP – while continuing to take most classes at their local district school – also testified. Her children up in Logan and Cache school districts were “not allowed to be on campus at any time for any reason” during their online class time because it supposedly created “a safety issue” – the presence on campus of a child in an online class evidently threatened the safety of others.
All of this makes one wonder why school districts are ostracizing and discriminating against children who enroll in a few online classes? What do school districts accomplish by kicking children off campus and labeling them as safety threats for trying to improve their education through digital learning?
No person thinking rationally would conclude that enrollment in an online class is a sign that a child is a threat to the safety of other children at school. Though they might rationally conclude that child’s action is a threat to their state funding, since a portion of it follows the child to the digital learning provider. But one hopes that no school district official in Utah would be as selfish and demeaning as to view a child primarily in terms of their monetary value, or act on a child’s sincere desire to improve their life through digital learning by punishing that child for negatively impacting their bottom line.
So why are some Utah school districts discriminating against children seeking digital learning opportunities? We can’t know for certain without further evidence, but the logical conclusions based on the facts we do have are not encouraging, neither for the children seeking a better education through digital learning nor for the adults being employed by taxpayers to watch out for their well-being.
A new analysis by Jonathan Ingram of the Foundation for Government Accountability and Derek Monson of Sutherland Institute explains why Utah should opt out of Medicaid expansion:
Utah’s Medicaid expansion plans put the state’s truly needy citizens at great risk. It is important to remember who would actually qualify for Utah’s Medicaid expansion. The Medicaid expansion does not cover the elderly, individuals with disabilities or even poor children–groups considered among the most vulnerable. Instead, Utah’s plan simply expands Medicaid eligibility to a new class of able-bodied, working-age adults. …
This will ultimately create a two-tiered system of care, where able-bodied adults are prioritized over the truly needy.
At a time when policymakers are concerned with rebuilding Utah’s cash reserves and paying down existing state debt, creating a new entitlement for able-bodied adults is a significant risk when there is no reliable way to project how much the expansion will actually cost.
Thank you, Mr. Chair, and good afternoon, Senators. Stan Rasmussen, representing Sutherland Institute.
We commend Senator Stephenson for his efforts in developing this proposal and bringing it forward.
As has been described, the bill establishes a pilot program wherein school districts would develop a blended-learning program for elementary and secondary students.
The blended approach, that includes digital-learning methods and experiences, allows for the personalizing and customizing of a child’s education. Instead of simply perpetuating the standardization of what and in what order the student learns, a more blended approach has the potential to tap into and encourage the child’s inherent desire to learn. Instead of the child being in a large group of students trying to learn the same things, in very similar ways, at the same time – notwithstanding the dedicated efforts of a caring teacher tasked with managing the large group – the enhanced personalization available in a blended approach increases the opportunity for the student to learn in his or her individual manner and sequence.
The proposed pilot program would create a context for developing and refining approaches that respect and reflect the fact that individual children learn differently – in different ways, at different times and at different rates – and thereby a context for improved student learning.
For these reasons, we consider it prudent to explore how to bring this potential into public education schools by means of the proposed Student-Centered Learning Pilot Program and urge your support of this bill.
This post is a transcript of a 4-minute weekly radio commentary aired on several Utah radio stations.
During a radio interview this week about the state’s defense of Utah’s marriage law, my host along with an opposing guest expressed incredulity about my references to “ordered liberty.” They didn’t get it. Those words, “ordered liberty,” were foreign to them. In the context of the same-sex marriage debate, those words were unrecognizable. Frankly, I’m amazed that two intelligent people like them don’t get it – then again, maybe they don’t want to get it.
I must own two dozen books about that subject alone. Ordered liberty is the basis of a free society. And it’s easy to understand.
A free society – people who are both free and who live together in society – requires recognition of both order and individual liberty. Just think about traffic laws. We’re free to drive where we want, when we want and – 99 percent of the time – we get where we’re going safely precisely because we have rules for the road. Driving is a combination of individual liberty and order. A free society is no different.
If you’re old enough you might recall that wonderful series on PBS titled “The Constitution: That Delicate Balance” – well, that delicate balance is between order and liberty. That balance is in constant flux.
Sutherland Institute filed an amicus curiae brief Monday with the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in the state’s appeal of Kitchen v. Herbert – the case in which the judge struck down Utah’s Amendment 3, briefly allowing same-sex marriages to be performed.
Judge Robert Shelby wrongly “characterized the ‘goal’ of Utah’s marriage amendment as ‘imposition of inequality’ as if legislators had gathered in a brainstorming session to determine how to harm the chances of same-sex couples, and came up with a thing called marriage to which these couples could be intentionally excluded,” the brief says.
Marriage and family are “pre-political institutions,” it says. “Given that marriage and family are pre-political and not mere instruments of state policy, they are fundamental to a system of ordered liberty …”
“All of this is not to say the state has no role to play in regards to marriage and the family. The state can, and ought to, provide a legal structure for the family to be recognized and it can protect the integrity of that structure.”
Testimony presented by Derek Monson, director of policy, Sutherland Institute, before the House Revenue and Taxation Standing Committee regarding HB 311 – Budgeting Amendments and HJR 11 – Joint Rules Resolution on Executive Appropriations Committee Budget Responsibilities:
Thank you, Mr. Chair. My name is Derek Monson, representing Sutherland Institute. I am here to speak in favor of these bills. We view them being really about sustainability and the future. The information that HB 311 creates will create security in knowing we are making budget decisions in the context of the “big picture,” not just in the context of a couple years ahead or behind.
This better information will lead to greater prudence in budgetary decision-making than would be possible otherwise. And perhaps most important impact is that will create more public trust among both current and future generations that we are going to have the service which we all want from our government, including public education, transportation, and a social safety net.
As an example, as a young father I have one child; a 2-year-old girl. And now these issues are on my mind much more, given the world we live in with things like instability and gridlock in Washington, D.C., and other issues we have to deal with that have not existed at the same level in the past.
We think these policies are a step in a good direction to address these issues. And we would encourage your support of them. Thank you.
On Point presented by Sutherland Institute focuses on the political and policy issues facing Utah, hosted by an all-female panel of Utah’s political insiders. Today’s show features Holly Richardson of the “Holly on the Hill” blog, Michelle Mumford, assistant dean at the BYU Law School, and Brooke Adams, reporter at The Salt Lake Tribune. The panel discussed prison relocation, women in prison, recidivism, unforced errors in the Amendment 3 case, women in politics and education funding.
Testimony presented by Stan Rasmussen, director of public affairs, Sutherland Institute, before the House Education Standing Committee of the Utah Legislature on Feb. 6, 2014, regarding HB 96 – Utah School Readiness Initiative:
Thank you, Mr. Vice Chair and good morning, Representatives. Stan Rasmussen representing Sutherland Institute. We appreciate Rep. Hughes’ attention to public education and his earnest efforts over the past many years. We have some concerns and a statement to share on this proposed legislation.
Sutherland understands the desire to help truly at-risk children improve their educational opportunities – children whose home situations make it difficult if not impossible for them to prepare for successful academic pursuits. We share that desire, in fact. And we believe such needs are best assessed and efforts to help are most appropriately undertaken at the local level.
As a state-driven, top-down policy instrument, HB 96 must use state-level measures to determine “at risk” status, such as whether a student qualifies for free or reduced-price lunch. By this measure, in 2012 nearly 40 percent of all children in K-12 schools would be considered “economically disadvantaged” and therefore “at risk.” Clearly, the number of truly “at risk” children in need of in-class preschool services does not approach anywhere near four out of every 10 children in Utah. This underscores the point that such determinations are best made at the local level.
Instead of crafting a statewide preschool program that could end up unnecessarily taking many children who are not truly “at risk” out of their homes, Utah should recognize the fact that local school districts are better situated to determine “at risk” status and craft targeted preschool programs for children in need. At the very least, if the state feels compelled to craft a statewide preschool program, it should follow the principle and support the policy articulated in Utah Code 62A-4a-201 (1)(e):
It is the public policy of this state that parents retain the fundamental right and duty to exercise primary control over the care, supervision, upbringing, and education of their children.
– and do so by expanding in-home preschool options, such as the UPSTART program.
Although it is roundly mocked in the media and elsewhere, the so-called “Zion curtain” required in Utah restaurants helps prevent alcohol-related disasters and improve public safety. It does this by discouraging something that may be hard to measure but exists nonetheless: a culture of drinking. Paul Mero, in a new essay in support of Utah’s alcohol-control laws, writes,
Over the past year or two, Sutherland Institute has argued that the “Zion curtain” law addresses a culture of drinking and, at least based on real complaints about how the law actually suppresses liquor sales and consumption in restaurants, that it actually does what its supporters thought it would do. Sutherland Institute has argued (1) there is a self-evident culture of drinking, easily observable in a bar setting, (2) this culture of drinking should not be encouraged as a matter of public safety, (3) one way to discourage this culture of drinking is to limit this culture to bar settings (to keep this culture, as much as possible, out of restaurants) and (4) the “Zion curtain” is an innovative way to dampen a growing culture of drinking in Utah restaurants.
What about a drinker’s personal liberty?
A significant irony for liberty-loving utilitarian thinkers – and a pattern of thought embraced entirely by libertarians today – is that viewing law only as an individualistic matter drives a growing police state. If law is essentially contractual, without considering law as a reflection of prevailing morals and social norms, only police have a role in enforcement, meaning increasing lawlessness only can lead to a growing police state. If, in the name of personal responsibility, laws are seen as inherently insulting to “consenting adults” and bad personal behavior (leading to harmful personal and societal consequences) is just “the price of liberty,” police work would be little more than trying to clean up a never-ending supply of garbage. …
This post is a transcript of a 4-minute weekly radio commentary aired on several Utah radio stations.
When Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman went on his post-championship game rant against the San Francisco 49ers, I thought, wow, this guy has some issues. He referred to himself as the best cornerback in the league – that seemed classless. He berated his opponents – that seemed thuggish. My impression of him was, let’s say, less than stellar.
And then I read about his personal story – a ghetto kid who made it against all odds; a Stanford University graduate; and, yes, perhaps the best cornerback in football. My initial impression of Richard Sherman wasn’t a true impression of the man. In the heat of the moment, in the glow of the aftermath, he was obviously excited. His team was heading to the Super Bowl and, prior to the game, his defeated opponents spent all week demeaning him. Even the best of us lose it once in a while.
It’s amazing how quickly we judge people. Growing up I always heard people say, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” So I don’t typically – although I have to say that the rule has its exceptions. But there seems to be a new standard of judging people: not by the cover of the book, but by a typo or misplaced comma or inarticulate phrase. Political correctness moved us away from the old book cover standard. But this new standard is hardly different. We now judge people on a moment in time, a moment when they’re not their best selves, but a moment hardly reflective of the real person.
If all I knew about Richard Sherman was that moment in time, during that interview, right after the football game, my judgment would have been mistaken. More than that, I would have deprived him of his personhood, dignity and humanity.
Another trend today in judging people is the lack of a sense of humor. Political correctness has just about killed humor. Consider, for a second, this weird Twitter conversation between state Representative Jake Anderegg and Senate President Wayne Niederhauser (or his intern or whoever replied).