Daily Archives: March 4, 2011

And the funniest guy on the Supreme Court is…


Image via Wikipedia

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. And Chief Justice Roberts has taken that to heart.

On Monday, while the Supreme Court was taking oral arguments and handing down opinions, the Chief took several opportunities to poke fun and to shoot off a witty question.

After handing down a unanimous opinion rejecting AT&T’s argument that because corporations can be considered persons for free speech purposes, they can also be considered to have privacy rights like persons, too, Roberts, writing for the Court, took AT&T to task, denying that corporations have anything like “personal privacy” for purposes of FOIA (Freedom of Information Act). As reported by Slate writer Dahlia Lithwick, the Chief had started during oral arguments for the case:

[T]he chief spent the better part of the hour poking fun at AT&T’s claim that the adjective personal means the same thing as the noun person, such that the statute’s treatment of corporations as “persons” means that corporations are also somehow capable of getting “personal.” As he explained at argument, that claim makes no sense. “I tried to sit down and come up with other examples where the adjective was very different from the root noun,” he observed at the time. “It turns out it is not hard at all. You have craft and crafty. Totally different. Crafty doesn’t have much to do with craftSquirrelsquirrely. Right? I mean, pastor—you have a pastor and pastoral. Same root, totally different.”

It didn’t stop at oral arguments, either. The opinion took a jab, too.

“The protection in FOIA against disclosure of law enforcement information on the ground that it would constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy does not extend to corporations. We trust that AT&T will not take it personally.”

Catch the article, including when Justice Scalia got into the act, too, over at Slate.com.

APROPOS: court artist Art Lien added a few extra flourishes to his work on Monday to accentuate the lighter mood, drawing Justice Scalia as a cat and Chief Justice Roberts with a cob of corn in his hand.


Utah Legislature Watch: a few bills I’m following

Conservative, moderate or liberal: there have been a few bills that bug me this session of the Utah Legislature, and there have been a few that I liked that just aren’t making it. Here are four that sample both.

  • One I liked: As biker, I liked Senator Niederhauser’s bill that would have allowed bikers at a stop sign to just slow down and not come to a full stop. I do that already, but it would have been nice to do it without looking for a police car. On a vote of 11-11, the Senate killed the bill. Arguing against the bill, Sen. Van Tassell from Vernal (do people ride bikes around in Vernal?) compared bikes to semi-trucks…? You know, because of the size similarities and how much bikers and semi-trucks are alike when it comes to the ability to hurt others.  Regardless, the bill is dead, and bikers will keep doing what they did before; slowing, then continuing through stop signs.
  • One I disliked: As a human being, I have not been impressed with the bills that Stephen Sandstrom has proposed to deal with immigration. I agree that the US immigration system is complicated, that a ton of people move here without going through the system (i.e. by way of the”the Southern Border Triathlon” consisting of run, climb, or swim), and I think that it needs to be fixed. However, it has become a source for demagogues to grandstand, and I think Sandstrom’s bill does little to help the problem. In fact, it uses standards that are very likely discriminatory, expensive, and likely unconstitutional.  Fortunately, Senate President Michael Waddups recognizes questionable language when he sees it, especially when it leads to racial profiling: “It did matter,” Waddoups said. “Everyone associates that as dealing with racial profiling. We don’t want to have that in there.” Besides, I’m not really convinced that the state’s have any business enforcing immigration in the first place without cooperation of the federal government.
  • One I am unsure about: HB477 makes changes to Utah’s GRAMA law. Proposed by Rep. John Dougall, who Speaker Lockhart called “an idea guy.” I’ve met him, listened to him pontificate on his ideas, and he is a smart and articulate guy. He does his homework. The intent of the law is to keep open records requests reasonable so the already slow workings of government can’t be overwhelmed by responding to the requests, usually by the press. It’s laudable. However, so is the reason we have the law in the first place–to make sure government and politicians are accountable. It’s a balancing act, and I am not sure which way the HB477 changes will tip the balance. And that’s why I’m unsure about it. (Also, check out this piece of “gotcha” journalism when a bored reporter chased down the Governor on this bill)
  • One more I like: Statewide Online Education Program sponsored by Sen. Howard Stephenson. The bill allows access to school materials anywhere in the state, but withholds most of the payment until most of the course is finished, to ensure completion. Some on the left have complained that it takes money from public schools–I’m ok with that, since the people using it aren’t getting any benefit from the public schools, anyway. This bill just appears to redistribute to them the value they would have received if they were in the school.

This isn’t a comprehensive list, but a sampling. There are lots of bills still floating around the marbled halls of the Utah Capitol, and I do mean lots. Which are you following?

Utah Legislature Watch: The numbers

Map of USA with Utah highlighted

Image via Wikipedia

The Utah legislative session is almost over. As they say on Marketplace, “let’s do the numbers.” (as of mid-day yesterday)

There have been 223 bills passed at the 2011 General Session. There were 498 House bills introduced and 132 substitute House bills. There were also 19 House concurrent resolutions, 49 House joint resolutions and four House resolutions. This brings the total for the House bills to 702. Of those, 125 bills were passed.

There were 319 Senate bills introduced and 77 substitute Senate bills. There were also 18 Senate concurrent resolutions, 31 Senate joint resolutions and one Senate resolution. This brings the total for the Senate bills to 446. Of those, 98 bills were passed.

In the 2010 General Session, 672 House bills and 428 Senate bills were introduced. This totaled to 1104 bills and 481 were passed (44 percent pass rate). Of those, 299 passed were House bills and 182 were Senate bills.

In 2009, 643 House bills and 389 Senate bills were introduced. This totaled to 1032 and 451 bills were passed (44 percent pass rate). Of those, 272 passed were House bills and 179 were Senate bills.

(h/t to Salt Lake Tribune’s Political Cornflakes and Tribune intern Rinna Waddhany)