Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Governor Huntsman openly stated that he views most of the omnibus bill as "statutory"...which is clearly prohibited by the Utah State Constitution

From the Utah State Constitution, Article VI, Section 22:
Except general appropriation bills and bills for the codification and general revision of laws, no bill shall be passed containing more than one subject, which shall be clearly expressed in its title.
"Appropriation" and "codification" bills can have more than one subject. If a bill addresses more than one subject of statutory change or addition, it is not legal according to the Constitution of the State of Utah. The fact that our National Congress passes pork-laden omnibus bills all the time because our national constitution doesn't explicitly prohibit them is completely irrelevant. In fact, doesn't relying on that argument admit that SB2 is in fact an illegal statutory omnibus bill as defined by the Utah Constitution?

The legislative leadership's argument that the bill address only one subject, education, is laughable on face. (See my last post) And claiming that the title "Minimum School Program Budget Amendments" clearly states the subject is...is...pick an adjective here ...impossible ...absurd ...dishonest ...desperate ......wrong.

You can't come up with a title that clearly states the subject of SB2 precisely because the 12 logrolled bills aren't the same subject. Having something to do with with education is not an acceptable standard to meet an objective constitutional test. That would allow the legislature to use titles like "12 Things That Have To Do With Education" (which would at least be more honest than SB2's current title) or "A Bunch of Immigration Stuff." I'm trying to think of a common sense test we could run with a legislator to help them see beyond the blinders. Maybe we could walk the street in any city of Utah and question people on the street. We'd give them a quick overview of what "Minimum School Program" is, hand them a list of the 12 different programs/budgets/policies established by SB2, and ask them if they thought the title, Minimum School Program Budget Amendments, clearly stated each one. I bet 100% would find the assertion ridiculous.

That the process was non-transparent and dirty is unarguable, and I believe the fact that the bill's subjects and title on-face violate the simple language of the state constitution is obvious too. I don't know what the court will rule, but all should remember the legislature's attitude towards transparency, open debate, and education, regardless of whether they successfully split legal hairs or not.

Anyway, here is the text from the March 22nd Salt Lake Tribune article discussing those who were disappointed Governor Huntsman did not line-item veto portions of SB2. I have underlined Huntsman's rationale for signing the omnibus bill into law and another admission from Senator Stephenson that omnibus bills are usually financially wasteful.

Critics fail to derail omnibus school bill
SB2 was a fusion of 12 bills, some that didn't pass on their own
By Lisa Schencker
The Salt Lake Tribune
Article Last Updated: 03/22/2008 12:58:37 AM MDT

Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. signed a $2.5 billion education bill in its entirety Thursday despite protestations from the Utah Board of Education.
Huntsman signed a second substitute of SB2, which includes $1,700 raises for educators and a 2.5 percent increase in per-pupil spending. It also, however, includes the contents of 12 education bills that were rolled into SB2 late in the session, though several of the bills had already failed in the House.
The school board recently asked the governor to consider using line-item veto power to erase parts of SB2, especially the parts that failed in the House. Board members argued that because the bill appropriates money, Huntsman should have the power to veto parts of it.
They sent the governor a letter recently saying they were "appalled" by the process of passing the omnibus bill. The letter also suggested the process might have been unconstitutional.
Huntsman, however, signed the bill without any line-item vetoes Thursday. The governor's spokeswoman, Lisa Roskelley, said vetoing parts of the bill was not an option.
"Line-item veto only applies to appropriations items, and most of [SB2] was actually statutory," Roskelley said.

Kim Burningham, the state school board member who led the charge to send Huntsman the letter, called Huntsman's signing of the bill without any line-item vetoes "disappointing."
He said it's not fair to roll so many bills, including some that were already defeated, into one. He said that forced legislators to vote for the whole bill even if they didn't like parts of it.
The omnibus bill included the contents of several bills that failed on the House floor, including one to fund an at-home software pilot program for preschool-age children and another that asks school districts to help pay for charter school students. A third bill included in the omnibus, to pay math and science teachers more, didn't pass out of a House committee.
"We ought to be debating each item on its own merit," Burningham said. "That, to me, is the bottom line."
Sen. Howard Stephenson, R-Draper, who sponsored the bill, said it was the best way to pass many major education reforms in a coordinated way as the end of the session approached. Stephenson said, however, that he generally doesn't like the idea of passing omnibus bills, and there were several parts of it he didn't like, even though he was the sponsor.
"Overall, I felt the package was good legislation," Stephenson said. "But I would want to avoid omnibus bills in the future. I think they disallow the scalpel approach to precision budgeting."


Tom said...

You're right about the MSP. "Minimum School Program" is a term of art used in the Utah Code (53A-17a), and defined in 53A-17a-103 to be: "[P]ublic school programs for kindergarten, elementary, and secondary schools ..."

By definition, the MSP doesn't cover, for example, preschoolers (or computers for preschoolers).

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately neither of you are actually reading the title; one subject and clearly expressed in the title.

Here it is:

General Description:
This bill provides funding for the Minimum School Program and other education programs.

Highlighted Provisions:
This bill:
establishes the value of the weighted pupil unit at $2,577;
establishes a ceiling for the state contribution to the maintenance and operations portion of the Minimum School Program for fiscal year 2008-09 of $2,497,012,086;
modifies provisions related to the funding of charter schools;
modifies requirements regarding instructional materials;
authorizes the use of appropriations for accelerated learning programs for International Baccalaureate programs;
modifies the positions that qualify for educator salary adjustments and increases the
salary adjustments for those positions;
establishes and funds the following ongoing programs:
a pilot project using a home-based educational technology program to develop
school readiness skills of preschool children;
a financial and economic literacy passport to track student mastery of certain concepts;
the Teacher Salary Supplement Program to provide a salary supplement to an eligible teacher;
stipends for special educators for additional days of work;
an optional grant program to provide an extended year for math and science teachers through the creation of Utah Science Technology and Research Centers;
the High-ability Student Initiative Program to provide resources for educators to
enhance the academic growth of high-ability students;
the English Language Learner Family Literacy Centers Program; and career and technical education online assessment; makes one-time appropriations for fiscal year 2008-09 for: pupil transportation to and from school; the Beverley Taylor Sorenson Elementary Arts Learning Program to provide grants to integrate arts teaching and learning into selected schools; and classroom supplies; provides a repeal date for certain pilot programs; makes nonlapsing appropriations; and makes technical corrections.

Monies Appropriated in this Bill:
This bill appropriates: the following Minimum School Program Monies: $2,438,692,586 from the Uniform School Fund for fiscal year 2008-09; $26,499,500 from the Uniform School Fund Restricted - Interest and Dividends Account for fiscal year 2008-09; $31,820,000 from the Uniform School Fund for fiscal year 2008-09 only; and $280,000 from the Uniform School Fund for fiscal year 2007-08 only; and the following other education program monies: $3,000,000 from the Uniform School Fund for fiscal year 2008-09; $150,000 from the Uniform School Fund for fiscal year 2008-09 only; $1,000,000 from the Uniform School Fund for fiscal year 2007-08 only; $250,000 from the General Fund for fiscal year 2008-09; and $50,000 from the General Fund for fiscal year 2007-08 only.
Other Special Clauses:
This bill provides an effective date.

This bill coordinates with H.B. 1 by providing superseding and substantive amendments.
Utah Code Sections Affected:
53A-1a-502.5, as last amended by Laws of Utah 2007, Chapter 344
53A-1a-513, as last amended by Laws of Utah 2005, Chapters 9 and 291
53A-14-107, as enacted by Laws of Utah 2007, Chapter 349
53A-17a-103, as last amended by Laws of Utah 2007, Chapters 107 and 372
53A-17a-104, as last amended by Laws of Utah 2007, Chapters 2, 344, 368, and 372
53A-17a-108, as last amended by Laws of Utah 2007, Chapter 344
53A-17a-120, as last amended by Laws of Utah 2007, Chapter 368
53A-17a-126, as last amended by Laws of Utah 2003, Chapters 221 and 320
53A-17a-127, as last amended by Laws of Utah 2001, Chapter 73
53A-17a-153, as enacted by Laws of Utah 2007, Chapter 380
63-55b-153, as last amended by Laws of Utah 2007, Chapter 216

53A-1a-1001, Utah Code Annotated 1953
53A-1a-1002, Utah Code Annotated 1953
53A-1a-1003, Utah Code Annotated 1953
53A-1a-1004, Utah Code Annotated 1953
53A-1a-1005, Utah Code Annotated 1953
53A-1a-1006, Utah Code Annotated 1953
53A-1a-1007, Utah Code Annotated 1953
53A-13-110, Utah Code Annotated 1953
53A-17a-156, Utah Code Annotated 1953
53A-17a-157, Utah Code Annotated 1953
53A-17a-158, Utah Code Annotated 1953
53A-17a-159, Utah Code Annotated 1953
53A-17a-160, Utah Code Annotated 1953
53A-17a-161, Utah Code Annotated 1953
53A-17a-162, Utah Code Annotated 1953

Be it enacted by the Legislature of the state of Utah:

UtahTeacher said...


Whooaa. You left out the title, Minimum School Program Budget Amendments. They can put "Long Title" and afterwards list a General Description and Highlighted Provisions, but I don't think anyone has argued that all of that is actually the title referred to in the state constitution. The Title of the bill is Minimum School Program Budget Amendments in every listing from the state website.

And even if you allowed the general description to be part of the title, as I said, I don't believe a court can rule that funding for a "bunch of education stuff" meets any sort of enforceable standard to meet the wording of the Utah State Constitution. Plus, it's dishonest to say it's just funding. the bill text creates new programs and then assigns funding---that's statutory.

And I don't think any non-invested observer would buy they are one subject. It's not even sort of believable.