Showing posts with label ethics. Show all posts
Showing posts with label ethics. Show all posts

Monday, September 6, 2010

Why do we allow Howard Stephenson to drive Utah's education agenda?

Here are the current bills being prepared for the 2011 Utah state legislative session on the topic of education:

http://le.utah.gov/asp/billsintro/SubResults.asp?Listbox4=00790

10 of 19 bills are from Senator Stephenson. (These numbers will change as we get closer to the session. The 10 of 19 is as of Sep. 6, 2010.)

A quick look at the bills reveals:

2 curriculum bills,
2 charter school bills--one specifically about financing, probably taking district property taxes again,
Converting public schools to charter schools,
School "restructuring,"
Public School Accountability,
Public School Teacher Tenure Modifications,
Funding of Online Learning,
Engineering Education in Elementary and Secondary Schools

So basically, make more public school mandates--"engineering education," "accountability," messing with teacher tenure, and both curriculum bills (Is Howard Stephenson going to jump on his buddy, Oak Norton's bandwagon and demand we teach Cleon Skousen as "real" history? Oak told Howard during the March 13th Red Meat Radio broadcast that his group gave copies of The 5,000 Year Leap to the Alpine School Board as examples of appropriate curriculum material.)--while giving more of the limited pie of public education funding to charter schools and online programs that will not be subject to those same requirements. Plus dictating "restructuring" and possible conversions to charter schools.

Howard Stephenson thinks public education is socialism (Very end of post). He runs public education bills to benefit specific companies, hypocritically overriding local control and increasing the costs of public education when it's one of his pet projects. He constantly misrepresents his bills and abuses the legislative process in order to pass controversial provisions with little or no scrutiny: 2008 (plus an ongoing $190,000 annual expenditure of education funds just to spite an employee of the State Office of Education who ran against Greg Hughes at the county Republican convention. Seriously.), 2009, 2010. He is unabashedly conflicted as a paid corporate lobbyist--he is the only legislator whose entire livelihood depends on the issues he supports and how he votes on those issues. Combining his last two issues--he literally ran a bill in 2010 authorizing conflicts of interest for charter school board members as a sneaky provision in a larger charter school bill.

Senator Stephenson is on all public education interim and Senate committees in the state of Utah and is literally the sponsor of half of the education bills for 2011. I believe all claims by the legislature that their ethical safeguards are sufficient can never be taken seriously while this well-paid corporate shill is allowed to not just hold public office, but be one of the leading policy makers in the legislature. I also believe Howard Stephenson would be voted out of office in a heartbeat if the public paid attention, but unfortunately they don't and he'll probably be voted in for 4 more years of self-interest come November.

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Friday, August 6, 2010

Harassment of ethics petition gatherers in Utah County and an old story from Washington County about Dave Clark abusing authority

An elderly couple from Salt Lake County has been working hard to gather signatures for the Utahns for Ethical Government initiative petition since last year. They worked many hours personally and helped organize others in their Senate District, achieving the necessary number of signatures in that district some time ago. In all that time and after speaking to hundreds of people, they had some polite disagreements, but no bad experiences with anyone.

This afternoon, they volunteered to drive to Utah County to help in the last county where the initiative needs enough signatures to qualify. The couple knocked on doors in northern Utah County very successfully for a few hours. The wife was discussing the initiative in Pleasant Grove with a man on the sidewalk who had a pen in his hand to sign the petition. Another man pulled up in his car, rolled down his window, and began loudly yelling to not sign the petition. The woman gathering signatures didn't catch everything he said, but the man was apparently repeating the unique Utah County Republican Party lie that the initiative restricts local Mormon leaders such as bishops and Relief Society presidents from serving in the legislature. The woman had not ever heard this argument in Salt Lake County and tried to tell both men it wasn't true. The man about to sign quietly told the woman that he didn't want to anger his neighbor and walked away without signing. The woman started down the street to knock on more doors, but the man in the car followed her, continuing to yell arguments about the initiative, and calling her "evil." The woman rejoined her husband and they were both shaken by the man in the car continuing to harass them. He didn't stop until they finally got in their car and drove away.

I think the incident speaks for itself.

Another interesting incident happened in Washington County back on April 15th when Utahns for Ethical Government volunteers were turning in signatures in an attempt to qualify in time for this year's ballot. Remember, the legislature had also recently passed the openly biased SB 275, allowing them to track down signature signers for an extra month and pressure them to remove their names from the petition. Carmen Snow walked into the Washington County Clerk's office that afternoon with a stack of petition booklets. Speaker of the House, Dave Clark, was behind the counter at the County Clerk's office as the employees accepted the submission of the petition booklets, just waiting to get hold of those names and start tracking them down. As I recall, the temporary injunction barring the names of the signers from being released was issued that afternoon, but UEG still does not know if Dave Clark got copies of those names before word reached Washington County.

The legislators want to us to believe they never abuse their power, but why was this non-county employee in the work space at the county office? Does anyone believe that "ordinary" citizens are allowed behind the counter at government offices when it is convenient to them?

I heard both of these stories secondhand from others who had spoken directly with the people involved.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Local educational software company gets statewide contract AFTER making $12,000 in campaign donations in 2009

There was a nice article on KSL a few weeks ago about Imagine Learning software helping non-English speaking students learn the language. It's not a rigorous piece with one school's personnel and a company representative giving a glowing review of the program. But notice the small paragraph near the bottom:
Utah lawmakers funded a statewide license for this program, so any Utah school can address this growing need without hurting its budget.
Now I am not commenting on the effectiveness of this program. I have no experience with it and hope it is truly awesome. I often work with students learning English and any effective tool would be great.

However, I am concerned with the process. Why did this software company get a "statewide license?" This generally means any school in the state can sign up for the program and the state budget will cover the individual licenses, so basically a no-limit contract. How much is each individual student license? How many schools with how many eligible students have signed up? When was this passed? If it was in the 2010 session, I didn't hear anything about it and I followed the education budget debates closely. There have been crushing debates for two years in a row as the recession has killed public education budgets. The cuts have gotten deeper, class sizes are going up while other services are getting axed, and the projections for next year are for even more cuts. Legislators, schools, and the public debated about which "pet projects" and programs to fund and which to get rid of. Music, art, busses, science programs, merit pay plans, pension cuts, etc. have all been part of the debate.

I think that debate is legitimate and necessary in the rough economic climate. I just wonder if Imagine Learning was part of that debate or just slipped in somewhere. I have searched the three base education funding bills from the 2010 session, SB 2, HB 1, and HB 4, and I can find no mention of funding for Imagine Learning or English language software.

Making the matter even more murky are the large campaign contributions made in 2009 by Imagine Learning to key legislative leaders, especially conservative leaders. The August financial disclosure for 2009 showed donations to Senate President Michael Waddoups and Merlynn Newbold, education base budget sponsor and common co-sponsor of Howard Stephenson's bills. Imagine Learning's year-end financial disclosure for 2009 revealed donations to heavyweights: Greg Hughes of the House Education committee, Ron Bigelow--Chair of the Executive Appropriations Committee, $1,000 to Howard Stephenson--member of the Senate Education Committee and 2 interim education committees (and influential lobbyist), and $5,000 to Gary Herbert.

At the very, very least, this creates the perception of "Pay to Play." Make donations to the right people--maybe conservative lawmakers who usually oppose funding to education programs they are not personally sponsoring--and get a lucrative, statewide contract. That perception is real whether Imagine Learning is a wonderful program or a sham.

The donations are large and uncommon in the industry. I scanned the entire list of corporations that filed state financial disclosures for 2009 and didn't see any other company selling educational material--correct me if I'm wrong. (And for fun, go through the list and look at the donations from your favorite or least favorite company. The nearly $300,000 spent by Energy Solutions on both parties in 2008 and 2009 is especially impressive. All these corporations are spending tens and hundreds of thousands of dollars because of their civic mindedness, not because they expect anything from the legislators. Right ethics reform opponents?)

Really, does anyone think Red Meat Radio Howard Stephenson would support funding a statewide, educational software contract in a terrible budget year if these donations were not made? The bright minds at Imagine Learning spent $12,000 in profits without expecting influence and return on investment? It's a happy coincidence that the last educational software program to heavily lobby the legislature also got a large contract directly from Howard Stephenson in 2008?

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Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Revealing conversation while gathering initiative signatures

One afternoon, I was gathering signatures for both the Utahns for Ethical Government initiative and the Fair Boundaries initiative. I ran into two professionally dressed people wearing real estate nametags. I explained the Fair Boundaries petition to polite interest and nods, and then I started explaining the ethics petition.

"If this were to pass, next year state legislators could not take any gifts from lobbyists, period. Including meals."

One of their eyes lit up and the person said "I'll sign that" while grabbing a pen. I continued to explain that it would prevent a person from being a lobbyist while serving in the legislature and that one of our state senators representing Utah Valley is a lobbyist. They nodded and grinned. But as the person started to print their name, they paused.

"Wait. Maybe we shouldn't. Don't we do this?"

"Lobby? Yes. The realtors' associations are the biggest lobbyists in the state."

They discussed if anyone would be mad they signed the petition. I told them that they should be aware that Taylor Oldroyd is strongly opposed to the initiative and in fact had mixed his Republican Party interests with his County Realtor Association position and gotten signature gatherers kicked out from in front of the Home Expo. I also explained SB 275 and the GOP plan to call people after the fact and convince them they should remove their names from the petition because it is anti-Mormon.

"So yes. If this gets enough signatures to get on the ballot, you probably will get a call from Taylor Oldroyd."

"Listen. These are both good. But we're both new in the profession."

"Yea. We can't afford to get on the wrong side of Taylor right now."

I told them it was sad, but I understood that they didn't want to risk their livelihoods. I explained the rest of the leadership arguments about supposed loss of free speech, invasion of privacy, and their twisting to pull the anti-Mormon stuff out of the bill, and why I thought they were good provisions that improved the political process. They both said they agreed, but didn't want to antagonize Oldroyd. I thanked them and sent them home with information to give to others they knew.

I spoke with some other realtors I knew about the incident, and they laughed. They explained that Taylor is not even a realtor, but merely their hired gun to lobby and administrate.

(I hope some of you comment, but I may not respond for a couple days. It's not you; it's me. I'll respond when I can in a few days.)

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Utahns for Ethical Government and Fair Boundaries initiatives -- Utah County SOS

This post is short (for me). Please read my request for help at the end.

I support both the Utahns for Ethical Government and Fair Boundaries initiatives. The deadline for signatures for both is April 15th. I also support the citizen initiative process. Local politicians talk the "We the people" talk when dealing with the federal government, but become downright defensive when confronted with that same reality on the state level--that their authority is derived completely from the people they represent.

Article I, Section 2 of the Utah State Constitution.
All political power is inherent in the people;


Article VI, Section 1
of the Utah State Constitution.
(1) The Legislative power of the State shall be vested in:
(a) a Senate and House of Representatives which shall be designated the Legislature of the State of Utah; and
(b) the people of the State of Utah
as provided in Subsection (2).
(2) (a) (i) The legal voters of the State of Utah, in the numbers, under the conditions, in the manner, and within the time provided by statute, may:
(A) initiate any desired legislation and cause it to be submitted to the people for adoption upon a majority vote of those voting
on the legislation, as provided by statute;

State legislators constantly use a false example to make their cause seem just. "California is bad! If we make laws by initiative, we will end up liberal and bankrupt like California! Honest!"

It is faulty, ego-driven logic to argue that passing any citizen initiative will turn Utah into California, yet I have seen this argument both in print and in person from legislators. It's silly, shallow electioneering just like sticking a picture of Ted Kennedy or Barack Obama in a commercial about a political opponent and shouting "Ooga booga!" The legislators should represent us to the best of their ability, not protect their power and act like their wisdom is irreplaceable.

The legislature has exercised their procedural authority to make getting the citizens' voice on the ballot via initiative almost impossible. The signatures of 10% of all Utah voters must be gathered, including 10% out of the individual State Senate Districts. Only widespread active advocacy can succeed.

So here's my point tonight. The head folks at both Utahns for Ethical Government and Fair Boundaries are necessarily putting on a confident face. With only 2 weeks left until the April 15th deadline (which the legislature arbitrarily moved from June until April in retaliation after the citizens voted down the voucher bill...SB 54 sponsored by a Democratic senator and Republican Kevin Garn in the House), I think the threat of not gathering enough signatures is greater than the threat of initiative opponents knowing which districts to target--they'll know after April 15th anyway.

The difficulty does not lie in the message or the bill itself--it lies in apathy. Most voters have still not heard of either initiative. Not enough of those supportive of the concepts of the initiatives have signed them or volunteered to gather more signatures. I can speak from personal knowledge that the signature totals for both petitions in the Utah County Senate Districts are not going to pass unless more people volunteer to get one packet worth of 20 signatures immediately.

That's my plea. Get a signature packet from either or better yet, both of the initiative organizations, and get 20 signatures in the next week. There are contact people on both websites who can get you signature packets.

Here are the contact links for Utahns for Ethical Government and Fair Boundaries.

We need fast, low-hanging fruit from every neighborhood in the Senate Districts of Senator Madsen, Stephenson, Valentine, Dayton, Bramble, and Hinkins. There are a lot of people supportive of putting ethics reform and fair political redistricting on the ballot that just need to be asked. If you are politically interested enough to be reading this blog, then you know 10-20 people among your family, friends, and neighbors that would sign the petitions. The active volunteers have already gotten the signatures of their neighbors and are doing the tough stuff door-to-door or standing outside public places. That is rewarding and effective (In my experience, 75-80% of those who will listen to explanations of the initiatives sign.), but slow. 50 people gathering 20 signatures each from their circle of friends is what is needed.

Utah County residents, please just make one phone call to the contact person for the initiatives. Spend a couple hours in the next two weeks and gather 20 signatures. Determine whether inspiration or guilt is more effective in your particular case, and consider me sending you whichever is required. I think both are merited for these causes to improve our state government.

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Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Utah County Republican Party made $22,000 of anti-healthcare money, but will use it to fight the ethics reform initiative

The Daily Herald reports that the Utah County GOP made more than $22,000 in donations Tuesday night at the local precinct caucuses. There were record numbers of attendees at most precincts (3-4 times the 2008 total in my precinct), and many were attending their first caucus to express their displeasure at the Washington establishment and the passing of the comprehensive Democrat healthcare bill. Utah County Republican Chair,Taylor Oldroyd, affirmed the same reasoning in the article above:
"It's frustration with what's going on in Washington," Oldroyd said. "The health care debate -- perfect timing for the Republican Party."

That passion was readily channeled into record donations. Unfortunately, if any of those new caucus goers pay attention to what their money will be used for, they will find that a large chunk of that money will not be used on anything remotely related to national healthcare, combatting the Democratic Party, or even Bob Bennett's Senate race. Instead, it will be used to promote and print distortions and untruths about the ethics initiative and those gathering signatures to place it on the ballot. The county and state parties have announced that they will expend resources both to persuade petition signers to remove their names (Ironically, their plan is to use fabricated and misinterpreted "secret" effects of the proposal in order to accuse the signature gathers of deceiving those who signed the petition.) and to campaign against the measure if it makes it onto the ballot in November.

So the party leadership and incumbent legislators will channel the enthusiasm and grassroots energy of these new political participants to protect the position of incumbents, to protect their uncapped source of "no strings attached," multi-thousand dollar donations from lobbyists and special interest groups, and to allow Howard Stephenson to continue to earn his living by advancing his clients' causes in the legislature. National politics makes everyone cynical because everyone hears about it. State and county politics make everyone cynical who is paying attention.

Please go read up on the Utahns for Ethical Government voter initiative. Then use the contact information on the site to sign a physical petition and make a difference.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Utah County GOP ethics purity pledge and false info about the LDS church distributed at caucus meetings

The Tribune reported on the plan of the Utah County Republican Party to require their candidates to sign a form stating whether they had signed the Utahns for Ethical Government voter initiative seeking to put an extensive ethics reform law on the ballot in November. I called it weird in my other headline, but I actually am coming to expect stuff like this from leadership and incumbents protecting their turf. The whole opposition campaign is being approached dishonestly. I hope some brave soul or two will be brave enough to fill out the form and proudly own at the county convention that they signed the ethics initiative as well as the Fair Boundaries initiative. In the article, I underlined the responses of the Republican Party Chairs from Davis and Weber Counties where they explain the initiative is not “against the Republican Party” or a litmus test in their conventions as signatures were even being gather at the caucus meetings.

The Utah County Republican Party anti-ethics offensive extended to distributing a misleading flyer to every single caucus attendee in the valley. It contained similar charges and the web address to this site full of misrepresentations and outright lies about the effects of the ethics initiative, but the caucus flyer was significantly toned down in terms of language. The first false charge, that local leaders of the LDS church will be prevented from running for political office, was couched in the caucus flyer in terms of “some even say it reaches so far as to limit LDS leaders from serving.” The website comes right out and claims the initiative will prevent LDS leaders from running for office. No local LDS leaders such as bishops, stake presidencies, Relief Society presidents, etc. have anything to do with controlling the supposed paid lobbyists employed by the LDS church. Various legislators were offended at times this session when others “misinterpreted” or twisted the words or provisions of their bills to mean things other than what was intended. The incumbent protection crew is now trying to twist the definitions of the initiative to claim horrible collateral damage to freedom and justice. (I will post more in a few days about other false claims made by the website.) It is ironic that they are using untruthful techniques to undermine a bill that they claim will lead to “Those who purposefully make fictitious or groundless complaints…”

The anti-Mormon claim is an intentional ramping up of the GOP’s strategy to persuade people to remove their names from the initiative. They hit the caucus attendees—many of whom were first time attendees this year who knew nothing about the current initiatives or history of ethics reform battles in the legislature—with an opening salvo. If the initiative gathers enough signatures by April 15th, the county and state GOP will be contacting those who signed, especially registered Republicans, and telling them they were tricked by those dishonest volunteer signature gatherers who didn’t tell them that this was an anti-Mormon attempt to allow liberals to take over the legislature. They will use the time granted by the unequal bill, SB 275, allowing them to run a signature removal campaign for one extra month after the required signatures are due to the county clerks.

The Utah legislative leadership and some Republican Party leadership are using dishonest arguments to derail a citizen initiative on ethics. In the last two years, they moved the signature gathering deadline from June 1st to April 15th claiming the clerks were overburdened, then showed that to be a false rationale by giving citizen initiative opponents (naturally the establishment since citizen initiatives are attempting to bypass the legislature) an extra month to try and convince initiative signers to have their signature removed. But, please… please… think of the poor clerks. Read the bills, read the legislature’s claims, read the websites of the initiatives themselves, and I think you will see the sad irony as the legislature proves its need for outside action through its own campaign to resist far-reaching ethics reform.

Tribune article on weird Utah County Republican plan to screen out candidates who support the ethics initiative

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http://www.sltrib.com/news/ci_14752201

Utah County GOP wants candidates to declare stand on ethics initiative
Politics » Initiative official says, 'Ethics reform is a nonpartisan issue.'

By Cathy McKitrick

The Salt Lake Tribune
Updated: 03/24/2010 08:17:44 PM MDT

Utah County Republican leaders will ask each of their party candidates next week to fill out a form disclosing whether they signed petitions for a pending ethics reform initiative in what some view as an odd type of pre-election screening.

The expansive initiative, sponsored by Utahns for Ethical Government, served as the goad for lawmakers to pass several bills in the recent 45-day session, including legislation to form the state's first independent ethics commission.

But GOP legislators and the state Republican Party criticize the initiative as over-reaching and poorly drafted.

"We've already decided that as a party we oppose the [UEG] initiative," said Utah County GOP Chairman Taylor Oldroyd. "So we're asking candidates to declare one way or the other."

The candidate form also asks candidates to pledge to support only Republicans running for office and, if elected, to maintain the highest standards of honesty, morality and integrity.

After a question about which, if any, parts of the party platform the hopeful disagrees with, the form inquires whether the candidate is a supporter of the ethics initiative.

The information will be tabulated in time for the county's April 24 convention, where delegates will cast votes to thin races with multiple contenders.

"There's a few that have a different opinion and that's fine," Oldroyd said. "We just feel the voters and delegates need to know."

So what if a candidate skips the declaration?

"There is no punishment for not signing, but delegates and voters may not view this favorably," Oldroyd said in an e-mail to The Salt Lake Tribune .

Dixie Huefner, UEG's communication director, puzzled over Utah County GOP's new requirement.

"It seems to be inconsistent with Republican values of freedom, choice and liberty," Huefner said. "I don't understand the narrowness of their view since ethics reform is a nonpartisan issue."

In Davis County -- as heavily Republican as Utah County -- candidates will not have to divulge their support or opposition to the ethics initiative.

"We just require that they register as a Republican," said Davis County GOP Chairwoman Shirley Bouwhuis.

"The initiative hasn't even come up here," Bouwhuis added. "Unless it's something against the Republican Party, we believe in freedom of choice."

Weber County Republicans also make no such inquiry of candidates.

"Absolutely not," said Weber GOP Chairman Matt Bell, noting that someone was gathering initiative signatures at his crowded caucus meeting Tuesday night.

"That's Utah County," Bell said. "They can do whatever they want."

cmckitrick@sltrib.com

Ethics legislation versus initiative

The citizens' initiative would create an independent ethics commission that holds an open hearing on any non-frivolous complaint. The Legislature's new panel conducts the entire screening process behind closed doors.

The initiative allows any three individuals to file an ethics complaint against a lawmaker. The new law allows two residents to lodge a complaint, but at least one must have firsthand knowledge of the alleged violation.

The initiative contains campaign caps. Utah is now one of four states lacking such limits.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

SB 188, Howard Stephenson sneaks provision into charter school bill specifically allowing conflicts of interest

At the end of my budget post last week, I mentioned that I generally have no beef with charter schools, but that I have problems with legislators using them for financial gain. Howard Stephenson sponsored a bill that could possibly reap direct financial benefits for sitting legislators and other influential GOP insiders on charter school boards. The most ethical full-time lobbyist on the hill--so ethical that he can earn his substantial living by being paid to advocate for laws that benefit his secret clients--yet NOT have any important conflicts of interest as a legislator, pushed this bill which dealt with another substantial policy issue, removing the cap on charter school enrollment.

SB 188. The frustrating part is that those in charge of acting as gatekeepers were asleep at the wheel. The executive summary of the bill mentions on Line 20 that it "modifies conflict of interest provisions applicable to charter school officers."

Click on the link above and then listen to the file, Senate Education Committee 2/24, of the Senate Education Committee hearing for the bill. The relevant sections are about 17-18 minutes long, but the relevant part to this post is only about a minute and 5 seconds long, from 4:00 minutes into the audio to 5:05. Senator Stephenson has a staff lady basically read the executive summary and explain it to the committee, and she explains the basics of allowing conflicts of interest in that minute. Following this, the State Superintendent of Public Schools, Larry Shumway, (whom I generally like and applaud for his ability to work with legislators), some State Charter School Board members, and the legislators get sidetracked off onto a minor issue: whether the new non-voting member of the State School Board should be called a delegate instead of a non-voting member. They chew on this over and over and never even talk about the principal issue of the bill, whether the enrollment cap should be lifted, let alone the conflict of interest provisions or committee to review charter school loan requests. I have reservations about lifting the cap purely because of funding considerations, but charter schools are serving a lot of children well.

Next, you can click on the link to the floor debate in the Senate (scroll down to near the bottom of Part 2 and look for SB 188). It's 12 minutes long with another minute for voting. I watched the video; I'm assuming the audio is the same length. Once again, Senator Stephenson gives the short explanation of the conflict of interest provision from 1:35 to 1:57. The Senate debates about the "non-voting delegate" amendment for the majority of the time and the bill passes without one question being asked about the other provisions. Does no Senator see any problem with this?! Now I can understand that possibly this was dealt with extensively in interim, but I know all of the legislators who talk so much about poorly informed people signing voting initiatives did not read this bill. I don't think Senator Stephenson was even very familiar with it in committee. They just trust each other because they are all so trustworthy and stuff. I blogged about this last year as well.

Now to the floor debate in the House (The SB 188 video is about halfway through Part 2). At first I was happy with Representative Lockhart's presentation. She first moves a technical amendment. From about 1:30 to 2:30, she gives a much better summary of SB 188. She focuses on the change in the charter school enrollment cap and lists some other provisions. However, she curiously omits both the conflict of interest change and and the new non-voting member of the State School Board that the first two debates fixated upon. Representatives Allen and Cosgrove at least ask some questions about other sections of the bill. Small little bravo as it is also obvious they are not familiar with the bill and haven't read it. No one else asks a question. At about 6:30, Speaker of the House, Dave Clark, says there are no other questions and turns the bill over to Rep. Lockhart for final summation. At this point, when debate has been cut off, she mentions those last two items she omitted from her initial explanation. At 6:35, she brings up the new position on the State School Board. From 7:00 to 7:17 she "explains" the conflict of interest provisions. Here's my rough transcription:
"And then there's also at the end of the bill some issues having to do with members of charter school boards and potential conflicts of interest and how they deal with those conflicts of interest as it relates to their individual schools."
Whether on purpose or not, this is a dishonest description. The relevant part of the bill is on lines 270-282. The original text of that section of law read:
A charter school officer or a relative of a charter school officer may not have a financial interest in a contract or other transaction involving a charter school in which the charter school officer serves as a charter school officer.
There was NO potential for conflicts of interest. The new bill text reads as follows (The underlined parts represent the additions or changes being made to the current law.):
270 (3) (a) [A] Except as provided in Subsections (3)(b) and (3)(c), a charter school officer
271 or a relative of a charter school officer may not have a financial interest in a contract or other
272 transaction involving a charter school in which the charter school officer serves as a charter
273 school officer.
274 (b) If a charter school's governing board considers entering into a contract or executing
275 a transaction in which a charter school officer or a relative of a charter school officer has a
276
financial interest, the charter school officer shall:
277 (i) disclose the financial interest, in writing, to the other charter school officers;
278 (ii) submit the contract or transaction decision to the charter school's governing board
279 for the approval, by majority vote, of the charter school's governing board;
280 (iii) abstain from voting on the issue; and
281 (iv) be absent from any meeting when the contract or transaction is being considered
282 and determined.
The bill doesn't "deal" with potential conflicts of interest; it puts them into code!! The board members of a charter school used to not be able to make money off of the school, and now they can. OK, they can't be part of the meetings to decide. But did any legislator think about what it would be like to work closely in a policy group (like the legislature or a charter school board--management being respectively the executive branch and the school administration) with someone who provides a service, omit them from a meeting on purchasing that service, and then have to tell them at the next meeting that their company did not provide as good a service as a competitor? They didn't think there would be any undue pressure there? They honestly thought this was a section of code that needed changing to better serve the charter school students of Utah? Or did they even know about it?

Following this non-explanation, Speaker Clark immediately opened the unanimous voting in favor of the bill.

Did no one in the House even read the executive summary?! Even if Rep. Lockhart didn't bring it up until it was too late to comment on it, was no one curious about the conflict of interest section? Couldn't that provision have been easily amended out, leaving the actual meat of the bill? Let's place unprovable bets on what percentage of the legislators in both houses had read the bill at this point. I would feel confident saying under 10%.

The Trib's education reporter, Lisa Schencker, who does a sporadic job of in-depth coverage as opposed to the other papers who only cover controversial school legislation, covered the story both in committee and after final passage. She reported the main point about the removal of the charter school enrollment cap, but just got a quote from Stephenson the first time, repeated it the second time, and didn't dig any deeper.

I'd love to hear any justification for allowing conflicts of interest at public charter schools. I'm serious. Is there some wonderful service out there currently not being provided to the charter school students that some charter school board member will now provide? Is this wonderful service worth allowing someone's close colleagues to vote on whether he/she personally profits from their position of influence at a charter school? Who thinks Senator Stephenson knows at least one person by name who just happens to be a legislator or GOP donor and will immediately profit from this bill? Maybe even someone who contributes secretly to the Utah Taxpayer's Association?

1. So, please be angry at the end result of a tiny section of this bill expressly permitting conflicts of interest in charter school board expenditures.

2. Please be angry at the lack of review given this bill through a committee hearing and three separate floor hearings. There were a total of two questions asked not about the member/delegate semantics debate. This criticism does not just include legislators, but education representatives, including Superintendent Shumway.

3. And really think about the broader issue this one example represents of how the legislature works. A registered corporate lobbyist with secret clients sits as a Senator in our state legislature. He has frequently misrepresented his bills in committee and floor presentations (Example 2009, Example 2008) and abused legislative process (Example 2010) in order to push his pro-corporate, anti-school, money-making agenda.

This same Senator passed a bill, SB 275, allowing voter initiative proponents--almost exclusively establishment Republicans who oppose sharing power--to have an extra month to go door-to-door claiming that "deceptive signature-gathering practices" result in "lemon laws." He and the rest of the legislative leadership claim that no one is reading the initiative due to "half-truths and misrepresentations" and they don't know about the secret, horrible provisions that are unfair to the virtuous legislators.

Think about this post and think about their position. Be angry that the legislators reflexively trust each other and excuse their repeated lack of proper review of laws (Self-admitted example from 2007--this link is to a really long post full of great examples and quotes, relating both to bad legislative decisions and their attack on voter initiatives and referendums. It's worth the read.) while constantly insulting the public who are easily fooled by "hucksters."

I think this perspective helps better understand Dave Clark's comments about wanting Kevin Garn "back with us" and the standing ovation he received. Too many legislators instinctively and instantly rally to their own little club and defend it against all outsiders. Sign the voter initiatives for Fair Boundaries and ethics reform and take a larger step toward limiting conflicts of interest and money in our state legislature.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Part 3 of Utah County ethics initiative hearing: mostly commentary on shouters out and some questions and answers

I’ll start off giving a little bit more of Craig Dennis’ remarks. I was tired and probably didn’t do them justice. As usual, my inserted comments will be in parentheses.

Craig Dennis: Washington and California are even worse at incumbent protection. California has some legislative districts almost as big as congressional districts. (Really?) Our state has very low voter turn out (among lowest 5 state in the nation) and low public engagement. Addressing ethics will raise voter participation. Should the legislature accept gifts or use campaign funds after they leave office? That is inappropriate.

On a business board, we have training and address conflicts. The public demands ethics. Take part. Take this bold step after endless delays.

During Mr. Dennis’ remarks, a lady from the back yelled “Please speak louder!” This was a repeated occurrence for the rest of the night. Now, in one sense this is a perfectly reasonable request. There were 20-30 people standing at the back of the room, including most or all of the Utah County legislators, and the doors were open to the hallway. On the other hand, I could hear everything fine seated from my seat near the back of the room and we were in a conference room on the 3rd floor of the Provo Library with little or no foot traffic out in the hall. The microphone seemed to be working fine. I think the main reason that the crowd in back, and this semi-shrill woman standing near the door in particular, had to keep yelling for the speakers to be louder is because they were the main source of distracting noise in the room. The people standing in back were almost 100% friends and family of the legislators (As I mentioned, the majority of the legislators and those who came with them arrived after the meeting had already begun.), and they were buzzing back and forth arguing points under their breath and talking the entire night. The low roar got worse as Ms. Jensen finished up her presentation and into Mr. Dennis’ remarks, and they quit even trying to be polite during the Question and Answer session. That particular woman, and some others, yelled out for people to speak more loudly every few minutes all during the 2nd hour of the meeting, but would not shut up themselves. I think any person attending that is not part of that group would confirm my account of the noise and interruptions coming from the back.

And while I’m on the topic, the legislative friend group had one other extremely annoying “public meeting strategy." The first time I wrote down when it happened was during the second answer in the Q&A session, but I took specific note of it because it wasn’t the first time it had happened. When the presenters, usually Janet Jensen or Karl Snow, would make a point that the legislators disagreed with, the little group in the back would loudly guffaw, nudge each other, and look around at each other for confirmation of how ridiculous the argument was. You could hear Senator Bramble specifically more than once, but it was widespread in the back. They seemed to think that this was an excellent persuasive tool to convince those in the room that ethics reform was unnecessary. In reality, I think it demonstrated to any seated in the room the arrogance of many in the legislative coterie and their inability to see anything from another point of view.

The Question and Answer Session:

Ned Hill explained that those in the audience had to write their name, county of residence, title, and question on 3 by 5 cards that were passed out in order to speak. He said that gathering the names, county, and title of everyone was a requirement of the Lt. Governor’s office for the public meetings. We were supposed to hand the cards to Don Jarvis who was in the aisle, who then passed them to Ned Hill. Mr. Hill then shuffled the cards and would pick one randomly from the stack in his hands, giving that person 2 minutes to comment or question. At first, the questions were short; as the session went on, people started using more of their 2 minutes trying to convince the crowd of their view, asking a question at the end of their speech. I think Mr. Hill did a good job of randomly choosing—both sides were represented and there was a stretch where 4 or 5 opponents of the initiative in a row were called to speak. (Of course, his wife was called as the last question before the meeting adjourned. I 85% believe that was random.)

Here, I will also note that while Senator Bramble indeed yelled out questions more than once, he was singled out a bit unfairly in the Paul Rolly column last week. There had been one out-of-turn question from the audience during Ms. Jensen’s presentation while she was fiddling with the Powerpoint, and others yelled out questions besides Bramble. The incident Rolly recounts when Bramble was shouted down was the 2nd or 3rd question Bramble had yelled out, but immediately before, another guy seated in the window alcove a few feet from Bramble had yelled out a question and gotten a response. I do, however, think it is fair to ding Bramble for hypocrisy, having watched his debate with RaDene Hatfield last fall. There was one moment in their debate when Bramble made a statement about something the legislature had done well. I can’t remember what it was—something like they had budgeted well—but some true statement of accomplishment. RaDene Hatfield quietly burst out “That’s true,” and nodded. Maybe it wasn’t the perfect behavior while your opponent is speaking, but it was an innocuous statement and it was obvious Hatfield had no intention to expound further. Bramble, however, stopped mid-sentence, glared at Hatfield, and brusquely asked something like “Can I finish? Do you want my time?” He had an icy look and was obviously affronted. The comment was nothing and if Bramble had just continued speaking, no one would have recalled it 30 seconds later. So Bramble has a double-standard. It’s OK to purposely yell out if he disagrees with the content of a meeting, but an insignificant aside while he is speaking is a cause of great offense.

Back to Rolly, it was also obvious that he got his info from only one source. While unquestionably the majority of the interruptions came from the standing crowd in back, there was a fair amount of shouting out by both sides at the questions and answers. Many times, someone would stumble over a fact, both questioners and Janet Jensen while answering—stating the wrong number of people, mixing up the pool of commission candidates and the actual commissioners, leaving out facts about the pay, etc. The mistakes were mostly innocent I believe, but the opposing side in the room would shout out corrections as the person spoke. I was glad the clarifications were made on both sides—they were often things I was thinking too—but it was half rude, half just disorderly. It should be mentioned that the loudest loudmouth of those in favor of the initiative was semi-public figure, John Talcott. I had only ever seen his name online, where he is a very opinionated and brash and recently resorted to insulting the appearance of someone he disagreed with. (He was actually seated only one or two rows in front of that particular blogger, and I hoped they wouldn’t see each other. I didn’t notice any interaction.) He was wearing the nametag we were given and loudly yelled out several times. He would correct people, rudely shouted out when Senator Valentine approached the front of the room by invitation of Ned Hill, and was the loudest voice shouting at Bramble that he had to wait his turn like everybody else. He was not the only one, but he was the loudest, even though he frequently yelled out himself.

On to the questions. I caught many of the names of those who asked questions and will include them. I apologize in advance to anyone whose name I misspelled. I missed other names, and will probably leave off a few names of questioners whom I criticize. I want everyone to get a true picture of the tone of the meeting and questions, but I don’t think every individual signed up for the by-name criticism an elected official receives. (And the questions will necessarily be imperfectly summarized. As I know from experience, it is tough to ask a clear, coherent question in a large public setting, and many of the questioners stumbled, restated, etc. as they asked their questions. I tried to summarize it accurately and think I did a mostly good job.)

Jon Morris from Pleasant Grove – How do you think taking the campaign funds left over at the end of a campaign benefits candidates or increases the number of people wanting to run for office? If they lose the money, what incentive will they have to return and be involved and run again? Janet Jensen – They only forfeit that money after 5 yrs. They can run again anytime within the next 5 years and use the money. Who does the money go to if it’s taken? To the school fund or to the charity of the candidate’s choice.

Blair Bateman – The ethics commission is chosen from 20 names. Who chooses the 20 names and how are the 5 commissioners chosen from those 20? Janet Jensen – The 20 people must be legal citizens, live in utah, be at least 25 years old, demonstrate leadership and service, be capable of neutral decisions even if a member of a party, and cannot have been a lobbyist, politician, or party officer within the last 5 yrs. The 4 leaders of the legislature, the head Republican and Democrat of both the House and the Senate, must choose 20 names unanimously. (This is one of the spots where a speaker messed up and corrections were shouted out. Jensen had trouble naming who those 4 people were and was corrected by people in the crowd. It was disorderly, but helpful because she was being unclear. Many of these corrections didn’t have the rancorous tone some of the other shouted comments did.) The 5 names for the commission are drawn at random from the pool of 20 names agreed on by the legislative leaders. This is an incentive to get good people. Since the legislators can't insure their "toady" will be picked, they will choose honest, trustworthy people. If the legislative leadership cannot agree on candidates, the pool of 20 will be chosen by the 5 people helping organize this initiative called "czars" on that handout you received. (The legislative crowd in back laughed loudly at that.)

Bramble shouted out here “Who are the czars?” Janet Jensen stumbled over the names, but Karl Snow and others helped her out. They are Chase Peterson, Karl Snow, Cassia Dippo, Jordan Tanner, former Republican Utah House Representative, and Carol Petersen, former chief clerk of the Utah House. Some people in back said “They’re the ringleaders of this thing.”

Someone yelled out “What if they die?’ Janet Jensen answered that "Of course there is a replacement mechanism.” I had read the bill and wrote down that I thought that wasn’t true. It isn’t and Karl Snow corrected that statement later in the meeting.

OK, I’m sorry, but I’ve had less time then I thought I would. I will have to extend this once again to another post. The majority of the questions and answers are yet to come.

.

Friday, September 25, 2009

A collection of a few articles about the inadvertent gift ban passed by the legislature..."Accidental ethics reform is better than none"

The newspaper sites keep articles up for various lengths of time. I didn't save the text on some and they are gone. But I have the original links. I have other articles I saved and will paste in here. All underlining was added by me.

First - Articles discussing the original intent of the two ethics bills passed in the 2009 legislative session.

This empty link was a Standard Examiner editorial that I saved under the title "Standard Examiner editorial: Gift ban is a joke HB 246, Brad Dee defends "transparency", but didn't copy the text.
http://www.standard.net/live/opinion/editorials/170430

My bad. It is gone, but it looks like it was a good one. (I tracked it down on Weber County Forum as well, but the link there is dead too.)

I did save the excellent Tribune editorial though:

Meal ticket
Lobbyists keep lawmakers well-fed

Tribune Editorial
Updated: 04/15/2009 05:37:20 PM MDT

So far this year, state lawmakers have gobbled up $92,000 worth of meals, tickets, trinkets and other gifts from legislative lobbyists.

While golf courses and stadiums and concert halls are popular places to woo legislators -- lobbyists like to reserve big blocks of time to better ingratiate themselves with elected officials -- the most popular path to a lawmaker's heart runs through the stomach.

And, despite what has been hailed as reform, the kitchen won't be closing any time soon. It's safe to say that lawmakers' appetite for free food during the 2009 session far exceeded their appetite for meaty ethics reform.

Legislative leaders made big promises before convening, including -- gulp -- a gift ban bill.

House Speaker Dave Clark said he would back a proposal that would allow only nominal gifts worth $5 to $10, and meals offered at an event or proffered to the entire Legislature. But it appears that Clark and his compadres bit off more than they could chew.

Instead, lawmakers approved Senate Bill 156, which should have been titled the "Small Potatoes Act." It bans absolutely nothing, but does change the reporting requirements to make lobbyists reveal the recipients of tickets to all recreational and artistic events plus meals that cost $25 or more. Previously, the reporting threshold for meals was $50.

Theoretically, that would result in names being attached to a lot more gifts. (Of the $92,000 worth accepted so far this year, the recipients were only disclosed for $5,213 of the spending.) But more likely, lawmakers will alter their diets.

By lowering the reporting threshold for meals, lawmakers who don't have the stomach for owning up to these trysts have consigned themselves to moderately priced restaurants. No more linen tablecloths, silver spoons and crystal glasses. We expect there will be considerably more chicken and a lot less lobster bought by lobbyists starting next month.

SB156 sponsor Rep. Brad Dee, R-Washington Terrace, said his bill will add more transparency to the process, but defended the practice of lobbyists paying the tab.

"If someone wants to go and have a dinner with a lobbyist, that's fine," Dee said. We agree. But they should go Dutch. And if lawmakers don't want to pay their own way, and they still feel it's essential to hear what the lobbyists have to say, then why not meet at the office?

Holding a public office should entitle lawmakers to a salary and the right to represent the people who elected them. And nothing more. The Legislature needs to enact an absolute gift ban.


So the original intent was just to report gifts over $25, banning nothing. It looks like Brad Dee was the go-to quote for both editorials.

Second - Articles addressing the legislature's "Oops moment," or the fact that SB 156 actually contained language banning legislators from accepting any gifts worth more than $50.

The quotes in these articles are terribly revealing. You see both Republican and Democratic legislators publicly saying that they think the gift ban should be repealed. Ethics reform is strictly to be promised, never delivered. The D-News articles and KSL story are still up at the links; I'm pasting in the Tribune article and Standard Examiner editorial. Enjoy.

August 14, 2009 - http://www.deseretnews.com/article/705323605/Legislative-gifts-ban-over-50-stand.html

August 19, 2009 - http://www.deseretnews.com/article/705324477/No-gifts-over-50-to-lawmakers.html

August 20, 2009 - http://www.ksl.com/?nid=148&sid=7607037

http://www.sltrib.com/news/ci_13172665
Lobbyists' gifts of primo tickets now taboo for lawmakers
Freebie limits » Some lawmakers surprised by $50 limit on entertainment

By Cathy Mckitrick

The Salt Lake Tribune
Updated: 08/20/2009 08:24:39 PM MDT

Some state lawmakers, surprised by the reach of a newly enacted lobbyist gift ban, already are giving reasons why the statute needs to be revised.

SB156, which overwhelmingly passed the House and Senate last March, limited lobbyist gifts and meals to those valued at $50 or less. That bans many Jazz tickets, pricey golf rounds and trips.

Senate Majority Leader Sheldon Killpack, in an interview with The Tribune this week, didn't say anything about repealing the gift ban. But he did tout the merits of addressing lobbyist gifts with disclosure rather than outright prohibitions.

"I personally am a believer in full disclosure. I think that's the way to go," Killpack said. "Once you get into a lot of the ban issues, it complicates things."

While many lawmakers in the Democratic minority support gift bans, at least one hopes to roll back the new law.

"It took me by surprise," said Sen. Brent Goodfellow, D-West Valley City. "I think it should change back to how it was."

Goodfellow, who served for years in the House before moving to the Senate, has in the past been one of the biggest recipients of premium court-side Jazz seats.

Some legislators have said the change was inadvertent, even accidental, and slipped through unnoticed by many. That's because the ban was enacted by a change in the definition what constituted a gift to include tickets to sporting, recreational and cultural events.

Rep. Brad Dee, R-Washington Terrace, who sponsored SB156 in the House, said the $50 gift cap -- including events -- was no secret.

"As legislators, we have to come to grips with that," Dee said. "I'm OK with us buying our own tickets and I can pay for my own golf."

The new law mandates disclosure of gifts over $10, a step that Dee believes should be taken even further.

"If there's a lobbyist who buys something for me, including a gift or ticket, it ought to be disclosed in any amount," Dee said. "Until we reach that point, I'm not sure if we're ever going to get it."

House Speaker David Clark said he would be fine with a limit lower than $50, but he believes his colleagues are honest.

"I don't think it's an integrity issue for the Legislature," Clark added. "It's a perception issue on the part of the public."

One lawmaker called the whole discussion "ridiculous," because ethics and gift-giving are personal matters.

"We're sitting here with mountains of problems -- immigration and unemployment -- and we're spending hours on ethics," said Sen. Chris Buttars, R-West Jordan. He was one of just two senators to vote against SB156.

"I said this is wrong, you're opening a Pandora's box and they're going to come after you for more," Buttars said of ethical reforms. "We're in a real mess now."


The debate rages for a reason, said Kirk Jowers, director of the University of Utah's Hinckley Institute of Politics.

"There will always be a great deal of tension with ethics reforms because it is the unique situation where individuals are forced to regulate themselves," Jowers said.

"While the public sees no disadvantage in pushing for ever-more stringent controls, lawmakers feel every miniscule restraint."

cmckitrick@sltrib.com
--

Freebies

The Utah Legislature has debated lobbyist gifts for years, along the way killing any number of attempts to outlaw them.

For the most part, lawmakers have handled the issue by requiring disclosure of freebies over a certain dollar value. But year in and year out most gifts have been reported without identifying the beneficiary.

Under a new provision that some say was accidental and others insist was deliberate, gifts valued at more than $50 are banned.



August 25, 2009 - http://www.standard.net/live/opinion/editorials/181266/
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
OUR VIEW: A 'giant step' for ethics

Utah legislators may have thought they were taking a "baby step" forward with Senate Bill 156, legislation that was intended as a gift disclosure bill.

However, the bill, sponsored last year by State Sen. Greg Bell -- who will soon become Utah's new lieutenant governor -- contained wording that prohibited legislators from accepting "gifts" that are valued at more than $50.

We're pleased as punch that SB156 is law and we're more than happy to offer Utah legislators our congratulations for finally passing a gifts ethics bill that has more than baby teeth.

The gift ban should still be absolute but this is a great, "giant step" forward.

It effectively ends the disgusting practice of lawmakers accepting high-priced tickets to sporting events from lobbyists or meals from same at upper-tier restaurants. And they can forget about a round of golf at many courses. However, we know of a lot of low-budget golf courses. If lobbyists and lawmakers need a list, we'll provide one.

There's always bowling too. It's not too expensive at the alley and a game goes well with nachos and cheese and a soft drink.

Frankly, we've always been of the opinion that if lawmakers want to attend a Jazz game, or another sporting event, they should do what their constituents do -- pay for it.

There are still cheap-seat Utah Jazz and University of Utah hoops tickets that lawmakers can mooch from lobbyists, but they better be careful about how many refreshments they scarf; refreshments can be pricey at those venues.

Besides the gift ban, SB156 states that any sports ticket purchased by a lobbyist must include in a report the legislator for whom it was bought. Meals and beverages over $25 and other gifts over $10 also must list the lawmakers' names.

Our strong support for ethics is not an inference that lawmakers are dishonest. Rather it is the expectation that those who are honored to represent us behave in the highest ethical standard. No lawmaker should receive any gift or meal or ticket, etc. that the least of his constituents could not receive. If that mantra was followed, public opinion for elected officials would rise.

One more thing: We wouldn't put it past the Legislature to attempt to "correct" SB156 to restore the gifts legislators unwittingly lost. If that effort is made, shout in protest, readers, and then shout louder.

Part 2 of Utah County ethics initiative hearing: a little Karl Snow, a lot of Janet Jensen, and a dash of Craig Dennis

Back for more ethics reform rehash...

First, I want to add a note to my last post. I am glad the rude woman passed out literature opposing the initiative. I had already been contemplating whether to ask the lady in front of me who already had a copy if I could see hers. I think we all need the most information possible and I have constitutional concerns about the bill, though I am still processing much of what I heard last night and haven’t had time to do any research. I just strongly disagree with her interrupting a presentation blatantly and rudely. She could easily have passed out the information at the door after the meeting. Or if she felt it was important that those attending have those arguments during the meeting as the various points were discussed, she should have planned ahead and been there early enough to pass out the papers to the citizens as they arrived at the meeting. I stood at the check-in table for a few moments looking for all the information available and would have snatched up those bullet points. Disagreeing strongly with something and running late aren’t excuses to behave like a jerk.

Here’s the last bit of Karl Snow’s presentation, with some commentary in parentheses and links thrown in by me:

One man had $300,000+ of campaign money in a bank account. He donated liberally to other Republicans and became Speaker of the House for 2 terms. (This was Greg Curtis and Snow did not mention his name, or the fact that he was a brash, combative man, worked during and after holding office to use his influence to make sweetheart deals for his clients, and became a lucrative lobbyist for the tobacco industry among others as soon as he left office, causing even the entrenched GOP enough embarrassment to pass a 1-yr moratorium for departing legislators to work as lobbyists.)

There were over 30 ethics bills introduced, few made it out of committee, and those that passed had very little effect. (The only significant reform was unintentional.)

Is the current system working? The Standard Examiner, the Tribune, and the Deseret News have editorialized in favor of the initiative. That’s 3 major papers. He also mentioned KSL editorializing in favor of the initiative. (But failed to mention the editorial in favor with lukewarm caveats from the Daily Herald, which considering the rightwing tone of that editorial page ever since Obama's candidacy gathered steam last year, is the equivalent of a banner ad in favor of reform anywhere else.

We're widely acknowledged as one of the best managed states. Why should we not also be recognized as one of the most ethical?

Karl Snow then introduced the next presenter, and the person who answered most of the questions about the initiative text and legality as the meeting went on, Janet Jensen . She had a list of qualifications: law school, medical lawyer, some other stuff.

Janet Jensen’s remarks: She helped write the initiative. She said they sent the draft to constitutional law scholars at other universities and law schools to check if the law would pass constitutional muster. (She repeated this point several times during the meeting and included “deans of law schools” later, but never mentioned exactly which draft or which parts of this wide-ranging proposal the drafting group supposedly sent. She also never mentioned any of the actual people or schools they consulted. I’m left wondering if the entire proposal as it currently stands received wide approval.)

Democracy is hard work. The members of Utahns for Ethical Government all volunteer, no one has been paid a dime.

We support elected representatives doing their duty, but when unresponsive, the people act. We have seen that sadly the legislators respond more to people who give them money than ordinary citizens.

The legislature has raised the concern that the state will be overwhelmed by initiatives. (or “run by initiatives like California.” That is a quote from Senator Bramble at a citizen meeting a year ago speaking of just the voucher referendum and high bars for referendums and initiatives.) The concern is overblown.
Oregon has had 349 voter initiatives in its history.
Califonia 331
Utah has had only 20 voter initiatives in the history of the state.
(I’m assuming these numbers reference state-wide referendums, but I don’t know. County or municipal initiatives could be included in those numbers.)

Article 1, Section 1 of Utah State Constitution establishes 2 sources of legislative power—the legislature and with equal power, the people. ( I don’t know if I wrote that wrong or Jensen quoted it wrong--wouldn’t surprise me either way--, but I think she mixed up 2 separate relevant articles. Article 1, Section 2 of the Utah State Constitution refers to all political power being inherent in the people, and Article 6, Section 1 says what she explained, that legislative power is also specifically designated to the “people of the state of Utah” so that “the legal voters of the state of Utah” may “initiate any desired legislation” and pass it by a majority vote, as provided by statute—i.e. the signature requirements and deadlines imposed by the legislature.) This is fascinating to me. Initiatives and referendums are specifically designated in the state constitution.

You can read the whole initiative at www.utahethics.org
It has three basic parts:
Independent Ethics Commission
Legislative Code of Conduct, enforced by legislature
Outlines procedures to implement above

It is a non-partisan, neutral ethics commission. There will be 5 individuals in staggered terms on the commission. (Missed stuff here.) They are not paid. (I wrote in my notes here [per diem, not count?] I had read the bill and knew they receive the per diem. This came up later and showed some lack of preparation by Jensen and hypocrisy by legislators yelling from the back.)

(This is another part where I thought Jensen was fuzzy on specifics.) Jensen was addressing the concerns that any 3 people can bring charges to the ethics commission against a legislator.

What I heard was that under current statute--any one person may launch a criminal complaint against a legislator. Under the new process of complaint if the initiative were to pass, any 3 people could complain to the ethics commission, paying their own legal costs. (I didn’t get this. Currently, only 3 other members of the House or Senate can bring ethics charges to the current ethics committees. I suppose anyone can accuse a legislator of a crime, but that will be the same regardless of whether the initiative passes next year or not. I think she’s comparing apples to oranges. Right now only other legislators can bring ethics complaints to the committee; under the new law, any three people would be able to bring ethics charges to the commission. Anyone can file a criminal complaint against a legislator now; anyone will still be able to file a criminal complaint then. It seems this point is a very weak justification if any.)
The legislator complained of gets his/her legal fees paid. The commission merely makes a recommendation to the legislature. They can do what they want with the recommendation, even ignore it completely.

There will be mandatory ethics training. I am surprised at how many legislators don’t understand when they have a conflict of interest. (This is where Jensen inserted some snide jabs. This sarcastic side was often funny to me since I agreed with the jokes about campaign money, but it also came out in some rougher remarks during the back-and-forths in the Q&A session later. The angry remarks often made Jensen appear less sympathetic and sometimes condescending. My relative thought she just cracked a little under the hostile scrutiny and attention from the legislative buddies in the back as evidenced by her sarcasm increasing toward the end of the session after several opposing questions.) They don't understand ethics. They don’t always understand the law since they are not lawyers. They just don't understand. I shouldn't be surprised, but I am.

There will be no more personal use of campaign money allowed. Legislators will not be able to contribute to other campaigns w/ their own campaign funds. They cannot be lobbyists while serving or for 2 years after serving in office. There will be a complete gift ban, except for neglible refreshments at public events.

A legislator can ask for a written opinion or interpretation from the commission on a certain issue. This is commonly done in congress and other federal areas—these “safe harbor” letters make the congressman immune from prosecution if pursuing a course permitted by the commission via this letter. .

Legislators cannot threaten courts—we had a very public case of this recently—or interfere with them or members of state government. The legislature cannot accept donations from corporate, union, or non-profit organizations. Corporations have never been able to donate to federal campaigns. If money remaining in a legislator’s campaign account is not spent in 5 yrs, the money will revert to the school fund or to a non-profit charity of the legislator’s choice. The legislators must disclose conflicts of interest in much more detail than currently allowed. The disclosures will be available to public. File contributions w/ Lt. governor’s office. Legislators cannot be on corporate boards where they were hired just because of their position. (Many of these last points were explained more fully, but this is the gist.)

She then clicked through her powerpoint, repeating most of these points since she had forgotten to click on the applicable slides while speaking.

A guy sitting down asked a question while she fiddled with the powerpoint and she answered. This was before the formal, structured Q&A later. The man asked for clarification of when any ethics charges become public. The Executive Director of the commission vets initial complaints along with staff. This is not public. They don’t do discovery, research, subpoena, anything like that. It is informal inquiry to those involved and the accused is an informal participant. If the Executive Director finds that the charge has any basis, the charge goes before the full commission and is made public. The commission can subpoena documents and witnesses. The legislator is a full participant and can defend his/herself with lawyer of their choice. Cross examination and facing the accusers are part of this process. The hearing(s) of the commission where all this takes place is public. The deliberations of the 5 commissioners to make a decision are not public. However, when they decide, they must release written findings and recommendations which are public. They send these findings and recommendations to the legislature. The legislature can choose to hold their own hearings, debate, to investigate, reject, adopt, modify, etc. They can do whatever they want with the recommendation—it does not legally bind the legislature to a course of action. All these deliberations would be public too. (Though I don’t think that last assertion is correct. I believe the legislature could continue to hold closed hearings like the ethics hearings last year if they chose. The initiative would not bind them to open meetings like the commission would be.)

Craig Dennis, former publisher of Daily Herald, served on numerous editorial boards, member of Provo Rotary Club, on Board of Directors of United Way of Utah County, registered Republican, upstanding, forthright individual, etc. blah blah, then briefly endorsed the initiative. I think he was mainly there for name recognition and endorsement purposes.

Craig Dennis' remarks severely summarized: “Do the right thing and sign the petition.”

That’s all for tonight. I'm tired. I blame any typos on the legislature. I’ll get to the Q&A session which got contentious in a post this weekend.

.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

What a difference a day and one county further south make...Part One of a summary of the Utah County ethics initiative hearing

Wow. As I expected, the Utah Valley hearing of the Utahns for Ethical Government Initiative was not the calm affair described in Salt Lake County.

I was surprised as I approached the room at the Provo Library and grabbed a name tag from the table. The room was obviously too small and I think the organizers could and should have planned better to allow more people to attend comfortably.

The room filled by the beginning of the organizer’s presentations and a standing crowd eventually formed at the back. I only saw Craig Frank and Curtis Bramble in the room when the meeting started, but most or all of the Utah County legislators arrived by the end of the meeting. I will complement the Utah County legislators in that they stood and allowed others to take their seats. I’ll criticize their obnoxious behavior, along with some others I perceived as mostly associates of the legislators gathered around them, snorting and yelling out in the back.

I’m going to give a blow-by-blow account of the hearing as well as I can. If it bores you, skim I guess. I think many will be interested in the tense atmosphere that developed and the strange offhand comments that I managed to record. I think a meeting like this is where a blog can really fill a need, not having the space limitations of the newspaper. I think I did a pretty good job of getting a lot down, but I know some of the facts, figures, and quotes will be a little fudged since I was trying to listen and summarize at the same time. I’ll indicate when I am extra unsure of what I heard. I also apologize in advance to anyone whose name I mess up. There were many participants whose name we only heard announced once, but could not see written, and I’m sure I did not get them all.


The meeting opened with Ned Hill welcoming the attendees and introducing Karl Snow, former BYU professor and Republican President of the Utah Senate. Hill emphasized Snow’s service as a Republican every this and that for 30+ years as well as his serving as a Mormon ambassador to the United Nations last decade.

Karl Snow, speaking along with a powerpoint presentation: We've waited 20 years for ethics reform. Why? 40 states have independent ethics commissions of some sort. He mentioned the 4-4 votes on multiple charges in the Hughes bribery hearing last year, all split along party lines. (Actually they just said the votes happened during the hearing of “a legislator.” The presenters did not use the names of any legislators or companies when making their case, but I’ll add those names that were obvious to me.)

The Legislature is controlled by special interest money. 81% of campaign donations come from the contributions of special interests. There are no limits on contributions of any type in Utah—1 of only 6 states w/o campaign contribution limits. Corporations are not allowed to contribute to federal races, but 2.45 million in corporate donations were received in Utah within the last…I missed this because of typing and maybe the lady I will mention just ahead. Since 2008 maybe?

Since 2006, one corporation spent $500,000 contributing to Utah politicians of both parties. This corporation contributed to 80% of sitting legislators and frequently has business before the entire legislature. He didn’t say, but I’m pretty sure he had to be referencing Energy Solutions. In Utah, a politician can become a lobbyist one year after leaving office. (He did not mention that this restriction only became law this summer after dozens and dozens of prominent legislators have gone on to lucrative jobs as lobbyists immediately after service over decades, including Greg Curtis, Mike Dmitrich, and Mark Walker this past session.) A legislator can be a registered lobbyist at the same time as serving in the legislature. (Howard Stephenson would be the most prominent here, although there was at least one other, a Democrat woman in the legislature during the 2008 session.) Snow thinks all of this should change.

[ A lady went down the aisle during these last comments, passing out two documents listing arguments against the initiative with the word “DRAFT” in big red letters on the top, blithely ignoring Karl Snow as she interrupted him and obstructed the view of many as she whispered to each row saying something to the effect of, “These were outside and weren’t passed out.” At least one of the documents was authored by Lyle Hillyard, possibly both. I’ll detail the arguments in a different post, but it pulled one current GOP buzzword out to rally opposition that came up later in the meeting. There were 2 numbered points calling the members of the commission “czars” and the sponsors of the initiative “super czars.” Funny. Don’t link them to Ted Kennedy, instead link it to Van Jones and the national healthcare reform debate. As the woman reached the front, right in front of Snow, blocking everyone’s view, and then turned back down the aisle passing out the papers to the other side, Ned Hill stood and said “I wish you would have asked before passing this out. The woman said something vague about Don Jarvis (who was helping with sign-ups and ushering in the back) telling her that her paper “should probably be in here.” Hill told her that opponents could hold their own meeting and pass out things. Much of the crowd cheered that remark.

The kicker is that I overheard a well-dressed woman who was against the initiative discussing the flyer after the meeting, as discussions broke out in little groups all over the room. She referenced the woman passing out the flyers by name, said she went in without permission, recounted what Ned Hill had said about holding your own meeting, and quoted the flyer-passer-outer as saying “I didn’t know” with an exaggerated shrug, all of this while laughing, strongly implying that the woman had been dishonest while intentionally interrupting. (I can’t remember either name, the woman speaking afterward possibly had the last name of Sherrill.) I’ll have more on this woman’s comments in a different post as well.]

I will have to finish this in a different post or maybe even two. Sorry I didn’t even get to the real presentation or the public questions. I have a crick in my neck from where I fell asleep while sitting at the computer.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Attend a public hearing on the proposed ethics initiative tonight or tomorrow

Below is the schedule of public hearings as cut and paste from the Utahns for Ethical Government website.

Salt Lake County had a hearing last night and I was surprised to see that only one person spoke against the initiative and only 3 House members showed up, all Democrats. The Utah House leadership has encouraged the legislators to attend the hearings and argue that the initiative is flawed and unconstitutional.

Now don't get me wrong--I absolutely think the legislators should participate in these hearings. The discussion would not be as valuable without opposing viewpoints. The lawmakers are the ones directly affected by this proposal, though I believe their actions and public perception of that behavior affects us all. I've learned from attending meetings the last couple of years that the legislators are also usually more polished, practiced, and direct speakers than the average citizen. It can be intimidating to disagree with them in a public setting.

I think the Utah County delegation will show up to the meeting tonight in full force. Read the Executive Summary and the whole initiative, noting that the lion's share of space is given to the many, many rules concerning the independent ethics commission while the excellent campaign money restrictions, lobbyist restrictions, interference with other officials restrictions, etc. are on pgs. 11-14. Then show up at the meeting, ask questions, make your opinion heard, and participate in the hearing closest to you!

(Also note the typo on the Uintah Basin Region meeting which is scheduled for the non-existent date of Wednesday Sep. 24. Find out if the meeting is really tonight, Wednesday Sep. 23, or tomorrow, Thursday, Sep. 24. Tell your friends. We don't want anyone driving from a different county on the wrong day.)

Tuesday, September 22, 2009–7-9 p.m.
Wasatch Front Region (Davis, Morgan, Salt, Tooele, and Weber Counties)
SLC Main Library, 4th floor conference room
210 East 400 South
SLC, UT 84111

Wednesday, September 23, 2009—7-9 p.m.
Bear River Region (Box Elder, Cache, and Rich Counties)
Cache County Office Building, Multipurpose Room
179 No. Main St.
Logan, UT 84321

Wednesday, September 23, 2009—7-9 p.m.
Mountain Region (Summit, Utah, and Wasatch Counties)
Provo City Library, Brimhall Room
550 No. University Avenue
Provo, UT 84601

Wednesday, September 23, 2009—6-8 p.m.
Southwest Region (Beaver, Garfield, Iron, Kane, and Washington Counties)
Washington County Library, St. George Branch, Conference Room B
88 W. 100 South
St. George, Utah 84770

Wednesday, September 24, 2009–7-9 p.m. NEW!
Uintah Basin Region (Daggett, Duchesne, and Uintah Counties)
Uintah Basin Applied Technology Center, Multipurpose Room
450 No. 2000 West
Vernal, UT 84078

Thursday, September 24, 2009—7-9 p.m. NEW!
Southeast Region (Carbon, Emery, Grand, and San Juan Counties)
Grand County Council Chambers
125 E. Center St. (w. entrance)
Moab, UT 84532

Tuesday, September 29, 2009—7-9 p.m. (An optional 8th hearing)
Weber County
Mound Fort Middle School, Media Center
1400 Mound Fort Drive
Ogden, UT 84404

Thursday, October 30, 2008

More omnibus fun: SB 35 -- High quality smoke and mirrors brought to you by Howard Stephenson and Greg Hughes

I shouldn’t be surprised, but I am. Howard Stephenson still surprises me with his relentless drive to attack public education so that his secret big business clients (Click on About Us and read the history and the 5th bullet under Association Purpose and Objectives) who bankroll the Utah Taxpayers Association can pay fewer taxes, regardless of the effectiveness or truth of the measure. I knew there were problematic aspects with SB 35, but I hadn’t realized exactly how much this bill had deceptively morphed into something much different than originally proposed, even when I briefly wrote about the timeline of its votes. I also listened to Greg Hughes interview Senator Hillyard last Saturday on Red Meat Radio (Senator Stephenson is the driving force and most frequent host of the show) and forcefully claim that the legislature is already ethical and transparent, and it’s just the unethical media who misportray the truth. Talk is cheap my legislative overlords, and stuff like I’m about to document is why people don’t trust you. I belatedly caught one more instance of ideological, secret agenda pushing here 8 months after the fact...how many more go unseen among the wheels within wheeled amendments at the legislature?

SB 35 was another bill logrolled into the omnibus education bill, SB 2. Unlike the million dollar laptop program, this bill had seemingly passed the Senate. Its path was a tortured one however and the bill that passed the Senate was NOT the same one that got illicitly passed in the omnibus.

First, the original SB 35 passed a vote in the Senate Education Committee on Jan. 22nd and then the first of two required floor votes in the Senate on the 30th. The bill was relatively short. If you read the Highlighted Provisions summary and the actual bill language, it directed the State School Board to annually survey the schools for difficult-to-fill science and math positions, create a “criticality index” to rank which positions were the most difficult to fill, and give $5,000 more dollars to a math or science teacher who accepted one of those positions. This rankled some teachers, but I thought it was a relatively good idea. If you need to pay teachers more at schools where fewer people want to work, that may be necessary in order to help kids. I had an acquaintance who moved to Dugway for a year to teach. I bumped into him the next summer and he was ecstatic about leaving. I personally think it’s noble, but there’s no way I would take my family to a rural school in the state.

A second thing that bothered teachers only emerged gradually: it wasn’t all math and science teachers who would qualify, only those teaching selected advanced classes, excluding other sciences such as Biology and implicitly the vast majority of jr. high math and science teachers.
70 (2) The money appropriated in Subsection (1) shall be used to provide a $5,000 salary
71 supplement for a full-time-equivalent position as a teacher of:
72 (a) mathematics level 3;
73 (b) mathematics level 4;
74 (c) chemistry;
75 (d) physics; or
76 (e) integrated science.


I’m not specifically clued in on the hiring difficulties of districts, but I was still mostly OK with this if it would help get some teachers to less desired areas. It was a relatively straight forward “market incentive” geared towards filling areas of need. There was nothing about teacher qualifications since the bill specifically addressed “teachers,” and all teachers already need a teaching certificate which requires a bachelor’s degree.

Senator Stephenson then amended his own bill on Feb. 5th, just before it passed the 2nd floor vote in the Senate. The new amended text now required that in order to get the $5,000 bonus, teachers that filled these positions of critical need had to have a bachelor’s degree or equivalent through later class work in the content area specifically, not the teaching specific degree that the vast majority of teachers get. So a Physics Teaching major who went to work on the Indian reservation school wouldn’t get the bonus because she didn’t get her bachelors in plain old Physics, and then pay the much more expensive post-graduate rates to earn the teaching certification. She would instead be punished for earning the certification as part of her undergraduate degree and moving quickly into the teaching area of greatest need. This angered a lot of teachers. Many debated if a Math major who later certified as a teacher was necessarily better than a teacher who entered teaching directly via a Math Teaching degree. And philosophically, this seemed to go against the supposed main thrust of the bill which was to find good certified teachers for hard-to-fill positions. It reduced the potential pool of qualified applicants by over 90% as very few secondary teachers have taken this route to certification. The change wasn’t consistent with the stated objective of the bill.

The bill passed the 2nd Senate floor vote, but I would be very interested in what debate took place and whether the legislators, with no time to study as the bill was passed soon after the amendment, fully realized the rather large shift in emphasis.

The amended SB 35 was then sent to the House and introduced on February 5th. It was sent to the House Education Committee on the 7th. This next sidenote worries me. I had thought that the bill records kept online were accurate and independent of politics. The official status log has no record of an Education Committee vote, but just shows the bill sitting in committee, not voted on, until the 27th. I took that information at face value when I was making my timelines and wondered why the bill got stuck.

I was recently fishing through old material and came across an update the UEA sent out on March 4th about the omnibus bill. It was talking about the defeated bills tacked on and specifically mentioned Senator Stephenson’s SB 35 as having been defeated in the House Education Committee on a tie vote. Hmmmm. Fishy. I checked back and the status still does not show that vote as having occurred. However, a new section has recently appeared on each bill’s information page titled Audio Recordings of Debates. (Did I miss an announcement of this at the Senate site?) This is great news! It absolutely was not there in early June when I previously wrote about this bill. This section contains a link to a House Education Committee debate on Feb. 27th, while the status still says no vote happened. Was it really debated and not voted on? Or is the UEA claim correct and there is something wrong with the record? And regardless, what discussions and negotiations happened in the 3 weeks from Feb, 7th until the bill was debated on Feb. 27th? An important factor was apparently the discovery by Greg Hughes that Margaret Bird, an employee of the State Board of Education, was going to exercise her constitutional right to run against him that Spring in a bid to win the Republican nomination to his House seat. I remember reading about Hughes angrily saying he couldn’t trust the state board back in February over this, but I didn’t save the articles. Bird and Carol Lear recently testified to the House Ethics Committee about the incident during an ethics hearing on charges against Rep. Hughes. Senator Stephenson apparently got in on the attacks as well.

I haven’t had time to listen to the debate yet, but I want to so I can gain some insight into the vote as well as the next transformation of SB 35. That same day, Feb. 27th, voted on or not I do not know, the bill was sent back to the House Rules Committee. That committee’s vice-chair happens to be Greg Hughes and it is chaired by voucher sponsor, Steve Urquhart. The bill was then substituted by Rep. Hughes on Feb. 29th and that is the end of the status of the original SB 35. Another strange inconsistency emerges at this point in the bill timelines. The original SB 35 status shows the bill being sent to rules on Feb. 27th and substituted on the 29th. The new 1st substitute inherited the voting history of the original bill, but now showed something different for those last days in February. There are two new entries, one on Feb. 27th and one on the 28th, both apparently sending the bill to the Legislative Fiscal Analyst (LFA) for fiscal analysis. Both timelines then agree that the substitute bill was put forth on the 29th. So what gives? Which bill was evaluated by the LFA, the original or the substitute, and why the discrepancy between the two status reports?

A substituted bill is in effect a new bill and must pass both houses in its new form to become a law. So SB 35, 1st Substitute now needed to pass both committee and floor votes in both chambers in order to become a law in the face of stiff opposition from teachers and legislative education supporters…except that Senator Stephenson was actively planning his SB 2 omnibus at this point and just decided to pass the bill the easy way—attach it to teacher raises and hold them hostage. He waited for the fiscal note, apparently for the correct version of the bill, from the LFA on March 3rd and immediately inserted the bill into the omnibus, SB 2, which was created that same day.

The new bill bore little resemblance to the original SB 35. The original bill called for 7 million Uniform School Fund dollars to the State Board of Education to be distributed through the districts as $5,000 bonuses to those teachers in critical need positions. The substitute was now over twice as long and featured an utterly bizarre set of new expenses.

First, it created a new “restricted” sub-account called the Teacher Salary Supplement Restricted Account, within the existing Uniform School Fund.

Second, it allocated $127,000 this year and an ongoing $190,000 every year hereafter from the General Fund to the Department of Human Resource Management to create an online application system to determine teacher eligibility for the bonuses, which then forwards the information to the Division of Finance, which then distributes that money to the districts, who then include the bonus in the teacher’s check. In other words, in order to do the same work the State Board of Education was prepared to do as just part of their duties, Hughes and Stephenson, the supposed “small-government” advocates, created a special account of education money specifically not accessible to the State Board of Education, and then inserted not one, but two additional bureaucracies as middlemen between the state and the teachers, all at an annual cost of $190,000. Stephenson regularly claims that public schools waste too much money in spite of class sizes consistently approaching 35 students, yet these two jokers can afford to spend $190,000 a year to redundantly sidestep the State Board of Education in order to teach some Board employee an important lesson about not running against incumbent Republicans because it hurts their feelings. And then Stephenson, co-chair of the committee that sets the board’s budget and the person who had just called Bird specifically to pressure her to drop out of the race, righteously claims that “he was careful not to pressure her.”

Third, the allocation for bonuses was also increased by $646,100, despite the fact that the bill’s provisions substantially reduced the pool of possible recipients. Finding 1400 spots to be defined as “critical shortages” in order to distribute the original $7 million was going to be a stretch anyway, depending on how you defined “critical.” Now in the substitute bill, I don’t believe for a second that Sen. Stephenson and Rep. Hughes thought they would find 1529 teachers holding one of that very limited range of degrees in order to distribute the $7,646,100 of annual bonus money available from the Uniform School Fund. I would be surprised if more than 5% of secondary science or math teachers held those degrees. It forces me to speculate that they are purposely withholding more Uniform School Fund money in that special “restricted” account than is strictly necessary to administer the bill in order to punish schools for opposing it.

Additionally, HB 35 1st Sub completely gutted the original purpose of the bill and revealed what appears to have been Stephenson’s intention all along, to delegitimize teachers as professionals and frame them as inferior to “real” mathematicians and scientists. The bill sneakily includes language about filling critical shortage in its Highlighted Provisions summary (Lines 20-22), despite there being absolutely no mention of that in the bill itself. I guess this would satisfy those legislators who only read the summary. The actual portions of the bill that are concerned with teacher salaries rather than four-bureaucracy-deep payment protocols decree that any teacher can now receive the $5,000, whether teaching in Parowan or the Wasatch Front, as long as he/she received a bachelor’s degree in a selected “hard” science and later became a teacher. “Critical shortages” are not addressed at all, and biology teachers and jr. high teachers are once again found less worthy than the high school teachers. The bill’s implicit purpose now apparently became to remake the teacher ranks by persuading scientists and mathematicians to become teachers by paying them $5,000 more than their colleagues. This was confirmed in the press conference introducing the omnibus on the afternoon of March 3rd when Senator Margaret Dayton rambled for a few minutes about how differentiated pay was going to make Utah "the feeder state for NASA.” (You can click through to the video and watch her speak if you wish.)

It seems to just be common sense that $5,000 won’t change much. I don’t believe there’s this huge pool of higher quality people than our current math and science teachers, just waiting to switch careers if only they could make an extra $5,000 a year.

More to the point of this post, Senator Stephenson and Representative Hughes surreptitiously changed the purpose of SB 35 to something completely different than originally voted for and what its own Highlighted Provisions purported it to be, added $190,000 of completely unnecessary duplication of services to grind a personal ax, and then dishonestly avoided debate by sticking it all into an enormous omnibus bill two days before the close of the session.

Dishonest. Unethical. Sneaky. Power hungry. Irrationally ideological. Take your pick. Trust is not won in an ethics hearing; it is won through transparent actions in the best interest of those citizens whom you represent.