Tuesday, February 23, 2010

priorities, part duex

Here are bills that caught my eye, one which passed, and the other which failed. And their respective faits tells you a lot about the Utah state legislature.
Sponsored by Rep. Chris Herrod, R-Provo, HB143 was hailed as a way to challenge federal control over certain public lands that have remained untapped because of access issues.

Despite legal analysis by state attorneys that says the measure would not withstand court scrutiny, private attorney Mike Lee said he believes it is a fight worth fighting. Lee is a Republican candidate for U.S. Senate.

"I cannot rule out the possibility of victory in this case nor can I assure it," Lee told members of a natural resources committee on Tuesday. "I believe we have a good faith basis for an argument here, an argument the likes of which has yet to be addressed as far as I am able to discern. It is argument that strikes at the heart of the sovereignty of the state."
Two other bills sponsored by Rep. Ken Sumsion, R-American Fork, also seek to wrest control of public access to property held by the School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration, and specifically that property Sumsion and Herrod said has been devalued by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to yank back 77 oil and gas leases that had been offered at auction.

"Most of the land is not in production. We cannot tax it and it cannot provide for us," Herrod said. "But the rewards of going after that land are in the billions and billions. I am not a gambling man, but if someone were to say I could put a quarter in a machine and had a chance to get a billion dollars, I would put that quarter in.


Those quarters for the legal fight come with Sumsion's HB323, which provides up to $3 million for up to three years to take on the federal government.


"Utah PTA is very concerned about the risk involved with this," said Tyler Slack. "Despite the articulate argument of Mike Lee," this is gamble, he added. "The odds are not very important when you are gambling with someone else's money."
So we have a bill, which proposes the state attempting to exercise eminent domain over the federal government, which will result in an instant, expensive, and doubtful legal battle. And the handpicked attorney? Why it is Republican insider-favorite challenger Mike Lee, who is running for Senate and must need the cash.

Someone in the comments section of this article taked about the equal footing doctrine, showing they paid attention in Constitutional Law class, or got notes from someone who did. However, Utah didn't quite enter the union on equal footing. In the later half of the 19th Century, Radical Republicans in Congress made a list of damands that the state had to agree before it would admit Utah into the U.S. Most famously of course was to ban polygamy and separate Church from State. There is a whole line of cases that fleshes out the equal footing doctrine to be more complex that Utah's rights=Alabama's rights.

Moreover, remind me the last time that a state exercised eminent domain against the feds. There is another doctrine out there, one which is actually written in the Constitution, so people like Scalia are happy. It's called the Supremacy Clause. So any law that a state passes that violates the U.S. Constitution or the constitutional laws of the U.S. preempts any state law. And it is not as if U.S. laws on this subject have not "occupied the field" as the magic words go. So really, while it would be a fun topic to debate at academic forums, it is not worth the state's money.

But hey what's three million dollars in the scheme of the entire budget?
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - A Utah lawmaker wants school districts to get ready to shore up buildings against earthquakes.

Many education officials say it's too expensive to even get started.

Rep. Larry Wiley, a West Valley City Democrat, is sponsoring a measure in the Utah Legislature that would require districts to get a seismic evaluation of every school building.

Deputy state schools superintendent Martell Menlove says the seismic evaluations would cost nearly $2 million and building upgrades more than $9 billion. Menlove says there's no money for any of that.

The Utah Seismic Safety Commission says an informal 2006 survey suggests around half of Utah's schools are vulnerable to collapse from a major quake.
So let's see, we would rather take a $3 million gamble, which I thought was against the religion of most of the legislature, on a dubious legal claim so we can stick and eye in the Democrats in Washington Federal government than spend $2 million to find out just how much at risk a plurality of our population is to an earthquake. Is the legislature's plan to pay $3 million in legal fees, win the case or settle favorably, strike oil in school trust lands and then turn around and fix our schools before children die? Somehow I don't think they are planning on taking that next step.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

I'm not alone

About a month ago, I wrote a screed wherein I talked about how the government is broken and the system has failed us.

Finally, CNN commissioned a study asking whether government is broken. The results?
Eighty-six percent of people questioned in the poll say that our system of government is broken, with 14 percent saying no. Of that 86 percent, 81 percent say that the government can be fixed, with 5 percent saying it's beyond repair.

Full results (pdf)

The number of Americans who think the government is broken has grown eight points since 2006. "That increase is highest among higher-income Americans and people who live in rural areas," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "Maybe it's just a coincidence, but those are the groups that make up the bulk of the Tea Party activists today."
My question is, who are these 14%? Do lobbyists and their employers really make up 14 percent of the population?

Sound like those who voted for Obama and those who go to Tea Party events do have something in common: they think the government is broken and not going a good job. "Teabaggers" think we are turning into a "socialist" commune. Obama voters are thinking that they voted for change and mostly have gotten minimal results.

For example, credit card reform is one of the few changes that happened. The credit card reform finally went into effect, but the bill was rigged so that just after it passed the credit card companies jacked their rates up for no reason whatsoever other than they wouldn't be able to do that anymore after the bill went into effect. Gee, I wonder why that happened.

It's the same reason why the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee is one of the crookedest in Congress. There's money in it.

Voters handed Democrats the keys and expected things to change. They expected Democrats to pass the agenda they campaigned on, crazy I know. But health care reform, cap-n-trade, financial regulation, and lots of Obama appointees are indefinitely stalled. They don't care who's to blame for this. And that's the genius behind the GOP approach...politically. Practically, our country is in big trouble and no one is stepping up to the plate and taking any risk to make things work.