Archive for the ‘Utah politics’ Category
A couple of years ago I wrote a post on the gerrymandering going on in Utah, and the need to reform the districting process to focus on maintaining the integrity of communities and on eliminating the overwhelming advantage of incumbents. This year a movement has arisen to attempt just that. Fair Boundaries is promoting a citizens initiative to establish an independent, non-partisan commission to offer districting plans with those goals in mind.
While there has been some fairly high-profile bi-partisan support (including from former Representative Jim Hansen, with whom I rarely agree), the response of Republicans in the legislature has been less than enthusiastic. They deliberately ignored the implications of the initiative and assumed two redundant redistricting processes to inflate the published cost of the initiative. Utah House Speaker Dave Clark has staunchly opposed the initiative, complaining that the initiative would invite lawsuits (from whom and on what grounds, Speaker Clark appears to be less forthcoming), and assuring Utahns that the current redistricting process “embraces the system of checks and balances,” —seemingly ignoring the fact that the very nature of gerrymandering insulates incumbents from checks. When a poll on his own website went in favor of the initiative, it mysteriously disappeared. And most recently, Republican legislators attending “Conservative Day” at the University of Utah forced organizers to eject a Fair Boundaries booth staffed by a former Huntsman intern.
One of the central traits of conservatism is a healthy skepticism of government. It is the very nature of government to seek to protect and expand its power, conservative theory correctly asserts. Government should therefore be viewed cautiously. It should be structured in such a way as to minimize the potential for any given government entities to abuse government power, and to subject government entities to accountability.
Except, these conservative government officials seem to believe, when it comes to them. We should just trust them, because they are above reproach. To consider any checks to potential abuse is to insult their integrity.
Just as they did when they attempted to install the school voucher system against the wishes of the citizens of Utah, these Republican legislative leaders show a disregard for the democratic process and their status as representatives of the people.
No system of districting can be perfect. But it is reasonable to try to create a check on the power of the legislature and their incumbents with an independent commission. On such an important issue—and one in which the legislature has such a clear conflict of interest—the public should be able to decide. If you are a registered Utah voter, please go to Fair Boundaries, find out where you can sign the petition*, and if possible, help collect the signatures necessary to put this initiative on the ballot in 2010.
*I currently have a petition available for signatures.
With the Chris Buttars apparently jonesin’ for some capital punishment in the state, The Voice of Utah figured out the good senator’s game.
A fine bit of deduction, Voice.
With Utah having decided via constitutional amendment to restrict freedom of conscience among individuals and religions regarding homosexual marriage, Equality Utah has introduced the Common Ground initiative to ensure the protection of some basic rights for homosexual families.
The initiative has met vehement opposition from Utah’s formidable conservative political bloc, and it faces a very steep uphill battle in the legislature. One glimmer of hope has been the somewhat surprising support of Governor Huntsman. As popular as he is, he may enable some headway on the issue.
Huntsman deserves credit for taking this stand. I would encourage everyone who supports justice and civil rights to let him know you support him. And while you’re at it, email your legislators to encourage them to support the Common Ground Initiative, and sign Equality Utah’s petition.
Since the rest of the Utah blogosphere is abuzz with the news of Chris Buttars’ Christmas buffoonery, I might as well get into the game.
The West Jordan Republican is having a resolution drafted for the 2009 Legislature that he said asks retailers not to “exclude Christmas from your holiday greetings.” Resolutions, of course, cannot be enforced.
Buttars said he is seeking the resolution because he was contacted by several employees of a retailer he declined to name that had been told they couldn’t say “Merry Christmas” to customers.
“We have a war on Christmas,” Buttars said, invoking the battle fought this time of year by conservatives nationwide, including, since 2005, Fox News commentator Bill O’Reilly, who has said the issue is at the center of the nation’s culture war ( “Buttars says bah to ‘holiday’ greetings,” Deseret News).
Oh, so many buttons. Where to begin? How about the fact that the entire War on Christmas is a complete canard? Or that trying to repair the integrity of Christmas through marketing slogans is oxymoronic? Rob of The Utah Amicus recently noted
…I don’t know of anyone who has been converted to a Christ-like-life by the words, “Christmas Sale.” Although I uphold any person’s freewill to patronize an establishment because they do use the word Christmas in their advertising, or when greeting customers, it is my opinion that the real war is within, and it’s not promoting Christ’s love when we force establishments to use the word Christmas so that we will give them our dollars regardless if they believe in the word, and it’s significance, or not…isn’t turning the words, “Merry Christmas” into a wedge issue to divide us, and forcing its use to insure the exchange of money about as un-Christ-like as it gets ( “Davis County Clipper Partylines—Is there still a war against Christmas?“) ?
Then there is the fact that the U.S. is not a Christian nation as Buttars believes. Not to mention the fact that such legislation is either an infringement on freedom of speech (by pressuring people to change the terminology they choose) or—as a resolution with no enforcement power—is nothing more than message legislation, and thus a pointless waste of legislator time and taxpayer money.
Buttars did it again. Every time you think he can’t get any more ridiculous, he trumps himself. If you were to try to dream up a caricature of the modern conservative, could you outdo him?
(It appears that since writing this post, others in the Utah blogosphere have linked to it as a rundown of the candidates. While I appreciate the love, I should make clear that I did not intend this post as a comprehensive rundown of the candidates. I just wanted to share my impressions of the convention and a few of the candidates who stood out to me personally. Additionally, when I first wrote the post, I accidentally neglected to include someone I saw there whom I had intended to mention. Sorry, Richard. The omission has been rectified.)
Life has been busy the last little while, and so I haven’t been able to post as much as I’d like. This can be stressful for those as enthusiastic about (ie, obsessed with) blogging as I am (nod to Bob for the cartoon). But it is probably healthy to take a bit of a step away every so often. Frankly, this lull may last for the next couple of months or more. I’m getting involved in a few new projects which will soak up more of my time. I’m also involved in some rather intense research on some broad topics about which I’d like to post in the future. No, there will be no closing down the site or going on hiatus, but It will be a little more quiet for awhile.
Sorry, no Mothers Day post this year. I haven’t come up with anything more profound or relevant than my post from last year.
My wife and I, both Democratic delegates, very much enjoyed the convention over the past couple of days. We couldn’t make the entire schedule (I really wish I had been able to make the meeting for the progressive caucus), but we caught a great deal. It was energizing Friday night to hear the speeches by candidates for the national convention; people like Glenn Wright who has walked his entire precinct multiple times, or [name withdrawn at the person's request], who has pounded the pavement despite MS, or Kelvin Davis, who was out trying to drum up support for Obama well over a year ago, or Erika George, who attended school in Chicago and knew Obama personally. I was impressed by stories of their efforts to mobilize their districts and promote liberal values in counties much less liberal than my own. It’s impressive not only to see their drive, but their renewed hope in the current political climate. I’m not about to handicap any races or predict any changes in the balance of power. But I can see for certain that more people have been galvanized by the national and local events of the past several years to become involved and are determined to make a change in Utah politics. There seems to be more excitement than I’ve seen before. Who knows what might be possible if all that frustration, determination, and hope translates into grassroots activism? Maybe we have reached a tipping point here in Utah.
I also enjoyed getting to know many of the candidates for state and national office. Jean Welch Hill is a very dynamic personality, and would be a good replacement for Shurtleff as attorney general. While Shurtleff has been more tolerable than many in the local party when it comes to some of the social issues (homosexual discrimination), I find it unacceptable for our AG to have tried to abuse his power to promote the interests of his party’s pet project, or to have been so cavalier about campaign finance laws (not to mention his relationship with payday lenders in his own campaign financing). Hill really impressed me with her knowledge. She seems very personable, and yet firm, and I believe would provide the sort of integrity we need in our attorney general.
The other person who grabbed my attention is Morgan Bowen, candidate for the House of Representatives district one. Morgan is very enthusiastic and articulate. I was impressed not only by his education, but his career background. Having an entrepreneur who focused on sustainable development and agriculture running for office is very appealing to me. After years of representation with an extremely anti-environmental, pro-corporate, pro-militarist agenda from my district, the prospect of Bowen is very appealing.
(I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention my friend, Kyle Roberts, running for Utah House seat 20. I think he’ll make a fine, conscientious, dedicated congressman. As will Richard Watson of district 23, a hard-working and smart Davis County Democrat whom I met while helping Rob Miller during the last election. And I’m glad that Steve Olsen, the prior Democratic challenger for seat 1, is coming back to run for the state legislature. Steve is a well-considered, well researched individual, and we’re lucky he’s running again.)
My wife and I look forward to supporting these candidates over the next few months. I’d encourage anyone who longs for a more progressive atmosphere in Utah to do the same. This just might be our year to turn the tide.
The Voice of Utah is one of my favorite local blogs; their satire is second to none (and their research seems to be pretty accurate). Their recent entry, “Buttars’ illegal-immigrant/lifestyle ancestors give one pause,” is just about their best yet in exposing the hypocrisy of those who veil their prejudices, ethnocentrism, and even outright bigotry behind the thin gauze of “law and order.”
Courtesy of Utah Moms for Clean Air:
Our big focus right now is the Utah legislative session in progress, and we’re writing to ask you to contact your legislators regarding important clean air legislation.
Home energy use is a major source of air pollution in Utah. Inefficient homes burn more natural gas, more coal, and more wood to heat, cool, and power electric appliances—all of this burning fuel creates air pollution. House Bill (H.B.) 199 Tax Credits for Energy Efficient Residences, sponsored by Fred Hunsaker of Logan will address this problem, but it has been stuck in rules since February 14. The end of the session is approaching and we need to get this bill out of House Rules and to a friendly committee so it can be passed to the floor for a Yes vote.
There are two ways you can help get this bill passed and improve air quality in Utah.
- Write the members of House Rules
Contact the members of House Rules and ask them to send the bill to a friendly committee.
House Rules Committee
Stephen H. Urquhart, Chair email@example.com
Gregory H. Hughes, Vice Chair firstname.lastname@example.org
Jackie Biskupski email@example.com
James A. Dunnigan firstname.lastname@example.org
Kevin S. Garn email@example.com
Mark W. Walker firstname.lastname@example.org
Michael T. Morley email@example.com
Neal B. Hendrickson firstname.lastname@example.org
- Write your Legislators
Call or email your Representative and Senator to voice your support of House Bill 199 – Tax Credits for Energy Efficient Residences. You can find contact information for you legislators here. You can read the full text of the bill and learn more about its progress here.
Legislators have told us that hearing from constituents makes a difference in how they vote. They recognize that each individual email and phone call they get represents many others. So, please, make your voice heard!
Background for HB 199
This bill is great for Utahns and Utah’s air quality. Energy efficiency is the easiest, cheapest, most readily available energy resource; and the state should encourage energy efficiency with appropriate incentives.
Only one half of the buildings we will be using in 2030 have not been built yet, so there is great opportunity to create more energy efficient homes for the future. New energy efficient homes save energy over their entire life (which for some homes can by 100+ years). This bill provides corporate and individual nonrefundable tax credits for highly efficient (above code) new home construction, which is critical as Utah’s new homes market continues to grow.
For existing homes, this bill provides tax credits for energy efficiency retrofits such as premium evaporative cooling systems, high efficiency furnaces, water heaters and boilers, insulation, windows, and duct and air sealing which will save energy and prevent pollution starting now.
Rules for qualifying for the tax credits will be made by Utah Geological Survey, and the Utah Tax Review Commission will study the tax credits.
Benefits to Utah’s Homebuilders
- Highly efficient new homes would receive a tax credit ranging from around $1,300 to $2,000 per home.
- Highly efficient homes are part of a growing niche market of high performance and “zero energy” homes that will give Utah ‘s home builders a competitive advantage.
- Today’s slowed housing market is a perfect opportunity to help the industry “re-tool” to provide high efficiency homes for Utah citizens, which will help homeowners reduce rising energy bills.
- Energy efficient home retrofit projects would be eligible for tax credits up to $1,000.
Benefits to Utah’s Homeowners
- Energy efficient homes are more comfortable, have lower operating costs, and higher re-sale values.
- Compared to a Utah home built to current code, highly efficient homes (30-50% above code) can save between $650 and $1350 per year in energy costs.
- Lower mortgage rates (Energy Efficient Mortgages) are available from many leading home lending institutions for energy efficient homes.
Thank you for all you do!
Cherise, Dana, Cameron, Travis, Michelle, Pat, Deborah, Lori, and Jennifer
The Founders of Utah Moms for Clean Air