Friday, March 07, 2008

time management

Yesterday, I railed on the "saved by the bell" excuse that the legislature uses every session to justify its actions. But as I have said many a time, those bills that do make it through the gauntlet of the last few days show us where the legislature's true priorities lie. Let's review what bills suffered what Sen. Pres. John Valentine calls "the tyranny of the clock" and which blessed bills managed to "magically" get through.
Rep. Curt Oda, R-Clearfield, tenaciously fought to clarify weapons law, pushing a bill that would allow open carry in all areas but college campuses.
The same can be said for several other bills, ranging from exempting university housing from eviction laws to the prohibition of gang activity.
But others slipped in during the waning hours of the session.
A bill that would increase the minimum auto insurance liability coverage amounts passed late Wednesday night, much to opponents' chagrin.
"Anytime you raise the coverage amount on a person's motor vehicle policy you impact the premium because you are buying more coverage," said Chris Purcell, a claims attorney for State Farm who lobbied against the bill. "People at the current minimum required level won't have a choice."
Also, the Senate allowed a bill that had drawn the ire of the American Civil Liberties Union and the League of Women Voters to die on the calendar. The legislation would have required proof of citizenship to register to vote, and many worried it would deter eligible voters from registering and hamper registration drives.
In another late-night move, the seventh version of a bill to regulate licensed midwives passed just under the deadline.

Another article had the audacity to compare what the voters said they wanted and what the legislature actually did:
The Legislature again failed to act on any legislation aimed at strengthening ethics regulations in the body. Sen. Greg Bell, R-Fruit Heights, introduced legislation this year to limit gifts lawmakers may take and restrict how they can use their campaign funds.
And Rep. Roz McGee, D-Salt Lake City, proposed legislation to create an independent ethics commission to investigate complaints against lawmakers. The House and Senate now police themselves.
Seventy-two percent of those surveyed supported the creation of such an ethics commission.
This session, Sen. Chris Buttars, R-West Jordan, was replaced by Bell as chairman of the Senate Judicial Confirmation Committee after Buttars wrote a scathing letter to a judge who ruled against his friend - a case McGee suggested could have been brought before an independent commission.
"There is a denial that there is any problem. Even bringing it up people seem to be insulted," said McGee, who is retiring at the end of the year, but hopes someone else takes up the cause of ethics reform.
Bramble, who is chairman of the Senate Ethics Committee, said he favors the current structure.
Why would Bramble want to keep the system as it is?
Sen. Curt Bramble, the majority leader, and Rep. Becky Lockhart, the vice chairwoman of the Executive Appropriations Committee asking the president of [Mountainland Applied Technology College (MATC)] whether his students would build a float for the Utah County Republican Party.

It is hard to believe that the president of MATC would not interpret a request from two legislators with enormous power over his appropriations as more than just a casual favor, no matter what they said it was. And why did this request come from these two people and not the chairman of the Utah County Republican Party or the head of a float committee? What are they doing getting involved with a float anyway?

The answer is clear: They knew exactly what they were doing and how they could use their power to gain an advantage for their party. How could [campus President Clay] Christensen say no? How could he not arrange some sort of deal for them?
Remember, Christensen made "a time sheet outlining 29 hours of work that a welding instructor spent on the party's float totaling $580.09, which included parts for the project as well. Another time sheet logged six hours during which Utah College of Applied Technology President Robert O. Brems' son, Chris, a full-time employee at the college, transported the float between Lehi and Spanish Fork. Additional supplies for the float were billed at $416.14." And authorities had the audacity to accuse Christensen of "disregard for the law and use of his position to override internal controls to detect and prevent improper disbursements." I guess it never occured to Bramble that a state-funded college is a separate entity from the Utah County Republican Party. And the irony of this is that the last group that needs help from the state is the Utah County Republican Party. So Bramble was thugish merely for the sake of thugishness.

Will someone in the press please call legislators on the "oops we ran out of time" excuse next time something the people want--especially ethics reform--dies without a vote? The Republican leadership in the legislature has the power to call up any bill for a vote at any time, and can do so at the last minute so that no one can read the darned thing before they have to vote on it. So please, next I hear about the tryanny of the clock, I am going to ask these legislators if they have a day planner, because clearly their time management is poorly utilized towards things the voters elected them to do.

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