Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Senate President: The Best Deliberation Is No Deliberation

We're on week two of Utah's nearly 7-week Legislative Session, and we may already have the quote of the session.  And, it comes from Senate President Wayne Niederhauser.

First, some background:

SB100 is the current bill number for a bill that has been floating around the Utah Legislature for 6 years.  It is currently sponsored by St George Republican Senator Steve Urquhart.  It adds sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of things that you can't be discriminated for in the state of Utah.  The list currently protects people from getting fired (among other things) on the basis of race, religion, sex, and family status.

It's similar to laws passed by several cities in the past several years, including one in Salt lake City that was supported by the LDS Church.

Oh, and it's an issue that a recent Salt Lake Tribune poll says that 60% of Utahns support.  The Deseret News has the number at 72%.

However, Urquhart can't get his bill heard.

On Friday, he held a press conference encouraging Utahns to let their Senators know they want the bill to be heard.  He encouraged people to come to the Capitol and post "blue notes" on the Senate Door.And, people came.And by the time the Senate reconvened on Monday, the door and doorway were covered in blue notes.

And, what did that mean to Niederhauser?  Well, it was further proof that the bill SHOULDN'T be heard.That's right.  If you want a bill heard by the Utah Senate, don't tell anyone.  Especially the Utah Senate.

From the Tribune:
Senate President Wayne Niederhauser, R-Sandy, said Monday the notes are proof "there is a lot of emotion out there" over same-sex marriage and related issues.
But, he added, the Legislature should stick with plans to let the issue cool down and not deal with more changes until the courts consider Utah’s appeal to a federal ruling that struck down its ban on same-sex marriage.
"This is an emotional time," Niederhauser said. "Let’s stop and pull our faculties together and address other issues this session and wait for the process [in court] … to take place and we’ll come back at another time to address religious liberties and other types of discrimination."
Because the Utah Legislature never, ever acts based on emotion.

Wait, what court process is he talking about? Oh yeah, the gay marriage lawsuit.

You see, Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes told the Legislature that they shouldn't take up any bills relating to gay people because they don't want the state to show any animosity towards gay people, since the whole basis of the case hinges on "'The Utah Government is being mean to gay people.'  'No, we're not!'"Well, that's what it sounds like, at least.

And, what better way to prove that the state doesn't not like gay people than by keep the Legislature from talking about gay people.

Yeah.  That will work.

However, the killer quote from President Neiderhauser comes at the end of the Tribune article:
"It is most important for us right now to take some time," Niederhauser said. "Let’s not get too anxious. The best kind of policy is the policy that takes some time and has had a lot of deliberation."
Did you catch that?  We need to deliberate the bill, so we're not going to deliberate it.

It may just be me, but I would think that allowing the bill to be discussed over the remaining 37 days of the session would be a great way to deliberate it.

Especially a bill that's been around for 6 years.  How much deliberation will be enough?

Thursday, January 30, 2014

A Former Unicorn on Uintah's Unpaid Lunches

Did you know that elementary schools have mascots?  I don't know why, but they do.  Usually, they either have some alliterative name (i.e. the Crestview Cougar) or are something mystical (I have no idea if West Kearns' Royal Lion is more mystical than a regular lion, but it's going here).  Students of Salt Lake City's Uintah Elementary, located at the corner of 1500 East and 1300 South, are known as the Unicorns.

How do I know this?  Well, from Kindergarten through the sixth grade, I was a Unicorn.  I have fond memories of my time at Uintah.   As soon as I read the article from the Tribune about kids having their lunches stolen from them, it transported me back to second grade, when my Garfield lunch box was stolen.  As I read the account of kids having their lunch taken, I pictured it happening.

Well, in my mind, it happened in the Uintah Elementary Cafeteria of my day, located somewhere near where Uintah's southern soccer goal is now.  I've never been in the "new" school they bult 2 decades ago, but I imagine the cafeteria being the same.

The story wasn't about a bully stealing some kid's lunch, it was about a bully stealing 40 kids' lunches.

In case you or or kids haven't been in a school for a few years, I'll tell you how the system works:  You put money into an account for your kid, the kid gets a PIN number, and at some point when he's getting school lunch, he enters the PIN number on a pad like you do when you use your debit card.  This system is great, because none of the kids knows who is paying full price and who gets reduced or free lunch.

I remember making fun of the kids in Jr High that had the red or blue lunch tickets because their families were poor.  I feel bad about that.  It's nice to know that kids today don't have that stigma reigning over their heads.

Unless, of course, they run out of money in their accounts.  Then, if it's a system like they have at Uintah where kids pick up their lunch and then enter their number, if you are out of funds, they take the lunch and throw it in the trash.

The school district claims that they give notice to families that the funds are low or empty.  I know that in some cases, those notices don't get to the parents.  Sending messages home with kids isn't exactly Western Union.

However, if you have 40 kids (nearly one-and-a-half classes worth) that have accounts below $0, maybe you should look at how the communication is sent to the parents.

For instance, whenever there was something my parents really needed to see, they had to sign it.  This let the school know that the message got there.

Also, if a school has a higher-than-average rate of students running out of money, maybe you should have the payment pad at the front of the line.  It's much less traumatizing.

The last thing you should be doing is taking food directly out of kids' hands.  Ya big bullies.

Sunday, January 05, 2014

Gay Marriage: Mark Shurtleff Said This Would Happen

Last week, my dad reminded me of something that I had forgotten about Amendment 3: Mark Shurtleff, who was the Attorney General in 2004 when the Amendment passed, was against the amendment.

 I looked it up, and dad was right.

 Deseret News, August 7, 2004:

All three candidates for Utah attorney general oppose a state constitutional amendment to prohibit gay marriage because of its potential negative effects on heterosexual marriage.
In a joint statement released Friday by the Don't Amend Alliance, Republican Mark Shurtleff, Democrat Greg Skordas and Libertarian Andrew McCullough announced their opposition to Amendment 3, on which residents will vote Nov. 2.

All of the candidates agreed that the second part of the proposed amendment, which forbids granting "the same or substantially equivalent legal effect" as marriage to other relationships, could also prevent heterosexual common law couples from having basic rights, such as inheritance, hospital visits or powers of attorney.

"This amendment goes too far," Shurtleff said in a statement. "It could forever deny to a group of citizens the right to approach its legislature to seek benefits and protections. This is a bad law and should be rejected."

Shurtleff did make clear that he opposes gay marriages, and supports the current state law that defines marriage as only between a man and a woman. His concerns center primarily around the second part of the amendment, and he urged voters to oppose the amendment so that he can work with legislators to draft a better one.

"Amend, yes; but not this amendment," he said.

 And this, from Deseret News, September 17, 2004:

Shurtleff said the arguments over the amendment ultimately won't matter.

"It will end up in the U.S. Supreme Court," he said. "The only amendment that's going to matter is the U.S. Constitution."

So, there you have it -- Mark Shurtleff knew that the amendment was a bad idea that would go all the way to the Supreme Court, and he was right.

Friday, January 03, 2014

2013: A Year of Change

2013 was a year of big changes for me. The highlights:

In January, I took a leap and applied for a job in the hotel industry. I got the job, and I loved it! It's the first job I've had in quite a while that I can say that I truly enjoyed. Well, the first job that I can say that about that I've gotten paid decently.

In March, I bought a car. I car that I picked out and financed all by myself. I feel so grown up.

In April, I finally moved out of my parents' house, thus ending the stereotype of a blogger living in his mom's basement.

In May, my parents, who had planned on dying in the house we lived in since 1990, were offered a large sum of money for their house.It was significantly more than the house was worth, and they took it. They fell in love with another house, bought it, and moved in the space of two months from the initial offer. It was hard to sort through 23 years' worth of stuff, but we did it. As we were moving, more and more things started breaking in the house, and we were glad that my parents made the move. The new owners tore down the house in the fall.

In November, I got a call from a friend offering me a job at another hotel. This was similar to the job I already had, but with a few differences: less work, better job title, better pay. I took it, and am even happier than I was before.

And, in December, my Grandfather went to meet his maker after a 3 year battle with cancer. He was someone who I looked up to greatly, and even though we knew his passing was coming, it has still left a big hole in my life.

So, on to 2014. When I started a blog clear back in 2001, I wanted it to be full of more personal posts like this one. Over the years, as politics became a bigger part of my life, this blog became all politics, but I had no outlet for other, non-political, things. Then, as Facebook and, to a lesser extent Twitter, came in, I found myself using this as less and less of an outlet. I decided a few months ago that I wanted that outlet again. After talking with some folks, I've decided that I will go back to blogging, and use two blogs -- this one will be more political, and another one (that has had a few incarnations in the past) will become my journal of life. Stay tuned, as this will involve some restructuring of things on both blogs.

And, moreover, thanks for reading.

Friday, December 27, 2013

The AG's Office Needs Help to do Their Job?

Imagine my shock when I read this from the Tribune:

The state of Utah has turned to outside counsel for help with its efforts to stop same-sex marriages, a move the office said Thursday would temporarily delay its application for a stay to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Outside help.  Which means one of two things:

1) There are no attorneys in the office that are willing to go pursue the case further.   I doubt it.

2) The AG's office is out of ideas.  Given their arguments to date, and how resoundingly they have been shot down already by lower courts, I find this highly likely.

Which makes you wonder: isn't part of the AG's job to defend the state in lawsuits?  I realize that Sean Reyes has only been on the job since Monday, but shouldn't he have hit the ground running?

The Attorney General’s Office planned to file a stay request Thursday but said the application would be made on Friday or Monday as it coordinates with the outside firm, which it has not yet identified. 

In other words,  the state of Utah is saying "This is such an emergency, we needed a few days to think this over.  But could you grant us the stay, anyway?"

The AG’s office also hasn't provided any information about how much it will spend or from where it is drawing the funds to pay the outside counsel.
But, I can guarantee that once we know who the outside counsel is, good government watchdogs, including myself, are going to be pouring over the Herbert Swallow and Reyes campaign donations.


Monday, December 23, 2013

Utah's Gay Marriage HAS affected my marriage

Since Friday's ruling, I've written several versions of a post about the fact that people can get married in Utah whether they are gay or straight.

None have been quite right.

Most;y it was a rehash of this post from 18 months ago about my position on marriage.  Since then, I've learned that my Great Great Grandfather Aagard was also a polygamist.  That's him down front in black.  He was thrown in jail for practicing a "non-traditional" form of marriage.

However, I don't want to get into the past.  I want to look to the future.

I'm a straight single Mormon.  I'm also nearing my 35th Birthday, which puts me at least a decade into "menace to society" status.  While finding a nice woman and getting married has been a desire of mine, it's hasn't been a top priority.  That all changed last night with this picture from the Tribune of people camping out at the Salt Lake County Government Center:

That's right.  People were camping out to be the first in line to get a marriage license.  Have you ever seen anything like that?  It was 30 degrees and precipitating most of the night last night, and these people were so excited about getting married that they camped out like they were waiting for concert tickets or a really good Black Friday deal.

That's commitment to marriage.  I don't know too many heterosexual couples that would do that to get their license.  At one point, the line was reported to be 1000 COUPLES long.  Amazing.

People who didn't think they could ever get married 72 hours before are waiting overnight in the cold and standing in long lines just for the privilege, and I can't ever muster up the ability to get a date?  Things need to change for me.

So, a big thank you to the Gay Marriage Pioneers who got married last Friday and today.  You made me more committed to getting married.  Because if it's that important to you, it should really be more important to me.  And maybe I'll be headed down to the Clerk's office soon to get my own marriage license.  in the meantime, I'm really going to enjoy your wedding reception at the City and County Building tonight.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Utah Democrats Need Better Vision

Anyone else notice something wrong with the invite they got to this year's Utah Democratic Party Legislative Gala?

Well, for one thing, The subject line on the email said that the Gala was on January 25, not the 26th. For another, January 26 is a Sunday, not a Saturday as the picture suggests.

Maybe if I pay the $300 entry (plus a $17.49 processing fee), they'll tell me which day it's on.

Not a good way to kick off the 2014 campaign.