Friday, February 02, 2007

disasters in the making

There once was an idea out there to "professionalize" our state legislature by making it year round. If they passed bills like the ones I am going to describe below year round, no thanks. If it would attract saner politicians, I am all for it.

  1. the zombie RSL stadium is back:
    A bill emerged Thursday on Utah's Capitol Hill that could bring a Real Salt Lake stadium to Sandy and salvage Utah's two-year-old soccer franchise, which is being aggressively courted by investors in St. Louis.
    If the measure passes - it was crafted behind closed doors this week with the blessing of Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr., Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson and legislative leadership - it would snatch at least $20 million for the project out of Salt Lake County coffers, which critics allege could result in a countywide property-tax hike.
    The move to revive a stadium in Sandy spells the end of talk to relocate RSL to the Utah State Fairpark in Salt Lake City or the former Geneva Steel site in central Utah County.
    A separate bill - sponsored by Sen. Michael Waddoups, R-Taylorsville, and backed by Sandy Mayor Tom Dolan - threatens to redirect $15 million in annual restaurant taxes from the county to the suburbs.
    Corroon calls the new soccer bill "troublesome" and insists it could gut the county's ability to fund conventions and tourism.
    "It's regretful," he said. "It will end up hurting all the citizens of the county and the state."
    Good thing they didn't consult the public who would be paying for it.

  2. Rather than an abortion trigger bill, the Utah Legislature wants to be the test case to overturn Roe:
    "On its face, it is unconstitutional. But there are a lot of issues that are ripe for the Supreme Court to consider," said Senate President John Valentine, an attorney. "It's the kind of thing the citizens of this state would support."
    And citizens will have to support it - literally. Defending the bill could cost at least $2 million.
    The bill provides exceptions in cases of rape, incest or to prevent a woman's death or "substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function." Without allowing public comment on the new bill, committee members sent it to the House floor for debate.
    The Attorney General's Office estimates the legal battle will cost taxpayers at least $2 million - double that if an outside law firm is hired. In the early 1990s, the state's abortion ban cost more than $1 million to defend - not including plaintiffs' fees. That law was found unconstitutional.
    Once again, the legislature is going to be wasting the public's money without any input from them.

  3. Another dumb bill is the school voucher bill, one that will not help a single poor person go to private school but will give the rich a break on their bill:
    After weeks of back-room arm-twisting and spirited lobbying on both sides of the issues, supporters managed 38 yes votes to the 37 opposed -- there were no representatives absent. Surprise supporters included Rep. Brad Last, R-St. George, and Rep. Keith Grover, R-Orem - two former public school officials. Both said they had wrestled with a decision.
    HB148 will let parents spend public money on private school tuition. Every Utah family, with the exception of current private school students, would be eligible for a voucher ranging from $500 to $3,000 depending on family income.

    "The Parent Choice in Education Act, sponsored by Rep. Steve Urquhart, R-St. George, would give families a private school tuition voucher that would range from $500 to $3,000, based on income.
    The bill, which calls for $9.2 million in general, not school funds, would leave per-student spending over and above the amount of the voucher in the school system. So, an estimated average $2,000 voucher still would leave $1,500 in state spending in the school district where the voucher recipient lives for the next five years, unless the student graduates.
    The bill seeks $9.2 million, but the Office of the Legislative Fiscal Analyst also says it would put nearly $4 million back into the schools' budget in the first year. The program would require more funding in the coming years."
    Man oh man...I won't get into this any more, because Utah Amicus and others have written much more and better things about it. Count me in as agreeing with them

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Ed Bagley Rocks

Oh and the legislature hates brown people too:
Sen. Mark Madsen, R-Lehi, is again seeking to require voters to prove their citizenship and residency in order to register to vote.
"I don't want to disenfranchise people who are citizens," Madsen said. "In order to have confidence in the system ... it's worth a little bit of effort on everyone's part."
"I'm not sure what they're trying to solve," said Salt Lake County Clerk Sherrie Swenson. "It just creates a bit of a hardship for everyone. ... If someone poses as someone else, we should punish that person."

And even though Speaker handout doesn't think it is a big deal, the public wants ethics and campaign finance reform in their state government.

Oh and standing up to RSL and Sandy politicians was a popular move.

For those of you keeping score at home, that 70.5% approval for the RSL move and 67.5% approval of Carroon in general. Unless something goes horribly wrong, like San Fransisco Mayor Gavin Newsom's affair with a substance abusing wife of an aide, he will win reelection in a landslide.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Clark is in?!

Good news for me. It seems that Wes Clark is IN!

So he will probably announce this weekend at the DNC winter conference/on Hardball. With him in, the field goes to 10 (just like 2004). So, let's take a look at the field and see who's up, and who is down (and who should be out):

1. Obama: his timetable legislation is specific and tough, with a date far enough away to be realistic and not 'too liberal' it forces other candidates to either make their time tables sooner (and seem to be followers or 'too liberal') or reject timetables altogether (and be labeled as Joe Lieberman clones).

2. Clinton: she went to Iowa and demonstrated how much press and people she can attract. But some seemed non-plussed with her who weren't already firmly behind her beforehand. And then her big splash in NH got canceled due to a family illness. I hope they get better.

3. Edwards: with Hillary and Barack in, he is a front runner who is running against the media this time who is hell bent on making this a two-way race. Obama timetable outflanks Edwards who cannot do anything other than make a speech. (that's the downside of not being in office). But he can hang out with primary voters and raise money all day long (that's the plus side).

4. Richardson: His Darfur peace treaty seems to be holding up, and his resume is pretty impressive. But the fact that he was part of the When Ho Lee scandal (as Clinton's Energy Secretary), and the rumors of philandering may kill his candidacy before it starts. Plus, he lost NM for Kerry.

5. Clark: he starts off much better off than last time. Like Edwards, he learned a lot by running last time. He now has a real organization behind him (WesPAC/VoteVets/etc.), he has campaigned for candidates all over the country in 2006 by request, just like Obama. His wife, who was against it in 2003, learned to love campaigning in 2004. A general who make a lasting peace in ethnically divided land and ran a competent war (save the embassy bombing) seems like a pretty good selling point in 2007. Now who is he going to hire? Where is his money coming from?

6. Vilsack: he keeps going lower and lower in Iowa, where he was governor for 8 years. If he can't win Iowa, how can he win nationally? Plus, that name is terrible.

7. Also rans (Dodd, Biden, Gravel, Kucinich): none of these guys have a prayer. Dodd said he is competing with the margin of error in polls. A paper replied, you wish, the MoE is 5.4%, you are at 1%. Ouch. Biden made news today by making a racist-sounding "compliment" to Obama. This from a guy whose whole strategy is to convince South Carolinians that he is just as racist as the worst of them (saying that Delaware was once a slave state and wished it could have joined the Confederacy, mean old Maryland and DC where in the way). Gravel will never be heard from. Kucinich is trying to capture the Nader vote, so I guess that is useful, but he is a joke.

To me, the biggest threat to Democrats wanting the White House is no longer John McCain, but ex-AR Gov. Mike Huckabee. He really sounded great on the Daily Show. My wife remarked that she had no idea that he was a GOPer until the label appeared. His anti-fat campaign is something that many Americans can get behind. After all, there are lots of overweight people in America. His story of losing hundreds of pounds is about as inspiring as Obama's to some.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

why RSL must die

I don't know about you, but I am sick and tired of the political drama of Real Salt Lake and its stupid soccer stadium. Clearly, Sandy's Mayor and representatives in the Legislature (especially the Speaker) miscalculated SLCo. Mayor Peter Corroon. Same with Dave Checketts. They all assumed that Corroon was a normal politican and would bow to their whim because they were "powerful" and "influential."

But Corroon decided that he needed to do what was in the best interest for the taxpayers of the County, and in his judgment, that was not selling the farm to rent a cow to milk. He wanted real hard numbers, and so did the County Council after Corroon led the way. And when those numbers finally came in, it was clear that they were about as forthright and reasonable in their assumptions as Enron's financial statements (or President Bush's Budgets). So Carroon and the Council said no dice.

And guess what? The voters love them for it. And the Speaker almost lost his seat last fall because of this chest-beating exercise.

It is good that someone finally stood up to professional sports teams when they ask cities to pay for their stadiums or threaten to leave. The economics behind such sweet-heart deals just isn't there. That's why Portland's voters said see-ya to the Trail-Blazers. Now the Speaker is going to punish the County while trying to punish Corroon by taking away the hotel tax money.

I would love to see how that turns out. But really, I don't want to hear another story about that soccer team. I am tired of it by now, aren't you?

Monday, January 29, 2007

Utah's legislature: corrupt, male chauvinist pigs

Tribune opinion columnist Rolly notes that "The Utah Legislature has consistently rejected legislation mandating that insurance companies cover birth control for women. At the same time, the Beehive State is the easiest place in the country to get Viagra." Could it possibly have something to with the fact that the average state legislator is male, middle-aged, alumni of the U or BYU, and LDS (90% of them are) with dozens of grandchildren.

Meanwhile, those same legislators who are sexists can't bother be ethical either.
The tickets were so good that [a legislator] took an elbow from Jazz forward Matt Harpring, who was chasing after a loose ball.
[He] accepted the bruise and the gift, as did Senate Minority Leader Mike Dmitrich and Senate Majority Leader Curt Bramble.
Bountiful GOP Sen. Dan Eastman rounded out the quartet. But he paid Stokes for the ticket.
The cost: $500.
"Because of the price of this seat, I just thought it was appropriate that I pay for it," Eastman said. "I was always taught to avoid the appearance of evil, and if there is some there we ought to avoid it."
Bramble shrugs off concerns about perception. He says he routinely disagrees with Stokes and that the Jazz game will not buy his vote.

The gift limit is technically $50, but no one will enforce it against Bramble, who wants to eliminate the restriction altogether. Because you know, it won't buy his vote, at least that is what he says. And how dare we citizen's question his morality?