Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Utah's legislature: double standards edition

Remember how the legislature couldn't spare $1 million for HPV inoculation? Or how they feel too much money is being spent in schools?
A bill asking for $30 million to lower class sizes - consistent with Gov. Jon Huntsman, Jr.'s budget request - passed a House Education Committee Monday. But HB94, sponsored by Rep. Carol Spackman Moss, D-Holladay, suffers a political disadvantage compared with the more modest HB149 sponsored by Rep. Karen Morgan, D-Cottonwood Heights.
That bill carries a $5 million price tag and comes with accountability requirements demanded by some legislators.
Sen. Howard Stephenson, R-Draper, has long voiced concerns that class size reduction money comes with no strings attached. He's lamented that some schools still have 30 or 40 kids per class even though the Legislature spent $74 million to reduce class sizes last year.

But they can spare money for a quasi-private, quasi-religious failed business:
A year after Republican leaders slipped a $2 million dollar bailout for This Is The Place Heritage Park into the state budget without discussion or debate, the public-private operation has its hand out again - this time for an additional $100,000 in annual funding.
House budget Chairman Rep. Ron Bigelow, R-West Valley City, was startled to see the $100,000 request on the Department of Natural Resources budget for the park that celebrates the Mormons' arrival in the valley.
The foundation, which took control in 1998, had convinced wealthy donors to build more than 35 pioneer-period buildings, but neglected to set aside money to maintain them.
The park's attendance has never matched expectations.
The state, which owns the park, found itself in a corner.
The DNR did not want to take over what had become a 450-acre money pit. But any hope of the foundation surviving would require a massive infusion of taxpayer money.
The state already pumps a yearly $700,000 into the park. It also has gotten hundreds of thousands in county Zoo, Arts & Parks (ZAP) funds.

I am sure that if this park had nothing to do with the LDS Church, it would have been left for dead years ago. Your tax dollars at work, bridging the church-state divide.

Ethics is for suckers. And those suckers are Utah voters apparently.
Today, the Utah House passed a lobbyist gift bill that would require more disclosure of legislators who take gifts from lobbyists paid to influence them.
Rep. Greg Hughes speaks Monday on a measure that would increase disclosure requirements on gifts from lobbyists. The measure passed in the House, but Hughes backs a bill that requires full disclosure.
Rep. Greg Hughes speaks Monday on a measure that would increase disclosure requirements on gifts from lobbyists. The measure passed in the House, but Hughes backs a bill that requires full disclosure.
However, the GOP majority in the House exempted all meals up to $50 from the disclosure measure — a disappointment to the reform-minded lawmakers who want to curtail such gifts.
A Deseret Morning News examination of all gifts given to legislators in 2006, published last month, found that lobbyists paid for $67,196 worth of meals for the 104 part-time lawmakers — or on average $646 per legislator.
But by far most of those meals were less than $50, so lobbyists didn't name which legislators took the free meals.

This week's posturing bill: the Pledge of Allegiance
A resolution, HJR12, which reaffirms the phrase "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance unanimously passed the House Government Operations Committee Monday. The intent of sponsoring Rep. Kerry Gibson, R-Ogden, is to ensure that the pledge remains the same as it has been since 1954, when the phrase was added.
"This nation was founded on a belief in God," Gibson said. "This needs to continue to be part of our pledge."

I am glad such an urgent need is being met in the few days our legislature is in session. Since the Founders were Deists, not Evangelical Christians, and since the Pledge is a recent creation to combat those godless communists, and not secularism in America, this is a joke. As a child, I always felt that the Pledge had a very facist feel to it and I never really liked it. And the Supreme Court wussed out on addressing the issue last time, taking the standing angle to avoid having to hold that forcing children in public schools to say "One nation under God" every day does not establish religion.

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