Tag Archives: Utah House of Representatives

Does the public really care about HB477?

Does the public really care about HB477 ?

It’s a fair question. Because while the media is stirring a tempest, without public support, it will never get outside of the teapot.

When the bill changing Utah’s decades old GRAMA law was proposed in the closing days of the Utah Legislative session, the press went crazy. Bloggers went crazy (not all…some were just extensive). Radio hosts (cough–Doug Wright-cough) went crazy. We saw public protests, editorials written to and by the newspapers, and a referendum petition. (And yes, the law did fly through the Legislature at far higher than normal speed.)

The Utah Legislature listened, and the Governor listened. Governor Herbert reversed himself (he had signed HB477, and now he wants it repealed), several legislators admitted it was a bad choice and that they will support repeal, and an official working group was formed to reevaluate the law. Finally, tomorrow, at the call of Governor Herbert, the Legislature will meet to consider the law.

But does the public care that much?

I ran into a buddy of mine who was up on the Hill for the official Working Group, in a staffing capacity. When I asked him how it went, the most notable thing to him was the lack of the public’s presence. Sure, there were all sorts of media types, reporters, and camera crews, but the public was noticeably absent. Further, he noted, out of a state of over 2 million, the live stream only had, at max, 70 people logged on to watch and listen to the proceedings.

Does the public care?

I believe they do, even if they couldn’t all drop what they were doing to watch or drive up Capitol Hill. However, we, the public, could do a better job of making our voice heard.

Do you care?

You should. The transparency of government is important for our democracy (or republic, as it were).  The Working Group has identified 36 issues/questions about HB477 that need to be addressed in the law, posted them online here, and asked for your input. You can listen to the audio of the discussion at the first meeting here.

So do something. Speak up.

If you can find the time to care, put in your two-bits and prove it. Take a moment to say something, to comment on the Utah Senate or Utah House website, however small and short the comment may be.

You can find the 36 questions on the Utah Senate site and Vox Populi, the Utah House Republicans’ site.

APROPOS: For an interesting perspective on GRAMA, HB477, and, of all things, Wikileaks, check out “Killing Conspiracy: Wikileaks and GRAMA” on Phil Windley’s site.

Utah Legislature Watch: The HB477 Working Group is Up

With House Republicans calling for repeal and the Governor saying the same, the Utah Senate announced the working group on House Bill 477 this afternoon.

They will meet for the first time this Wednesday at 9 AM. A website to keep the public updated is planned for GRAMArevisited.com (or HB477.com). Check back there later for more information.

The group is diverse, but still lacking a few notables, such as, anyone from the Salt Lake Tribune. Lane Beattie will chair the effort (and good luck to him).

Here’s the list as posted on the Utah Senate site:

House of Representatives:

John Dougall – Utah State Representative
Holly Richardson – Utah State Representative
Brian King – Utah State Representative
Steve Handy – Utah State Representative

Senate:

Steve Urquhart – Utah State Senator
Curt Bramble – Utah State Senator
Stuart Adams – Utah State Senator
Patricia Jones – Utah State Senator

Governor’s Office:

John Pearce – General Counsel

Attorney General’s Office:

Laura Lockhart – Assistant Attorney General

League of Cities and Towns:

Mark Johnson – Ogden City

Traditional Media:

Randy Wright – Daily Herald
Linda Peterson – Valley Journals
Geoff Liesik – Uintah Basin Standard
Paul Edwards – Deseret Media Group
Jeff Hunt – Utah Media Coalition

New Media:

Jason Williams – KVNU-FTP host and blogger
Jesse Stay – Social media technologies consultant
LaVarr Webb – Utah Policy Daily

Public Members:

Michael Wilkins – Former Supreme Court Justice
Janet Frank – Utah Valley Regional Medical Center
Liu Vakapuna – SLCC Student Body President
David Kirkham – Tea Party Leader
Phil Windley – Web & Technology Pioneer
Lane Beattie – Salt Lake Chamber

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PHILADELPHIA - MARCH 19:  Jimmer Fredette #32 ...

Image by Getty Images via @daylife

Also, Jimmer Fredette doesn’t appear on the working group list. That’s  mistake that I hope doesn’t come back to bite. As if he couldn’t handle the assignment from anywhere five feet behind the three-point line (also known as “Jimmer Territory”). Mark my words: he could teach the legislature how to Jimmer.

Utah Legislature Watch: “Lawyers should be good lobbyists…”

“..but really, they’re pretty lousy.”

Ironic, I know. But that’s the word from Doug Foxley.

Last week I attended a Utah Bar CLE entitled “Utah State Bar Day at the Legislature.” Except, we really didn’t get over to the legislature itself. We sat in an auditorium over in the Capitol Office Building, and the closest we got to a legislator was several lobbyists and the Lieutenant Governor, Greg Bell, who is a former legislator.

So, not quite at the legislature. More near the legislature.

Details aside, however, they morning CLE was geared towards how to better influence and affect Utah’s legislators when we actually got over to see them. (Presumably, this is a “do it yourself” project, or a “do it on behalf of your client” project, perhaps.) But if we do get over there, don’t tell them you’re a lawyer. Or at least, don’t introduce yourself as a lawyer.

Yep. That’s what Doug Foxley said.

But, wait, you say, doesn’t that establish credibility? Not exactly.

You see, chances are, the legislator does not have as much education as you, the lawyer-lobbyist, has obtained. In fact, a recent study bears this out. Adam Brown found that of the 99 legislatures in America, the Utah House ranks #90 in education after high school with only 32% carrying an MA, 4% a JD, and 7% a doctoral degree of some sort.

With that in mind, remember that when you tell the legislator you’ve got some feedback on his legislation “because I’m a lawyer,” he’s not likely to take it so well. After all, who likes to be told what to do by someone who thinks they are smarter than you?

How do you get around this problem? Inadvertent or not, lawyers, intending to establish their credibility by stating their credentials, are actually hurting their efforts. Chris Kyler, who shared the stage with Foxley and Pignanelli, had some common sense advice:

At some point, it is important to let them know you’re a lawyer. Just not right off the bat when you shake their hand.

That said, here are a few other tips for communicating your message to legislators:

  • Remember that the legislature can be an emotional place. Frank Pignanelli called it an “emotional body.” Further, he said, “[l]ogic and reason have no place in the legislature.” Act accordingly.
  • There are hundreds of bills in the legislature, and it’s a really fast session–just six weeks! Legislators have a short attention span; get your presentation down to a two-minute elevator speech.
  • Don’t categorize legislators. Remember that politics makes strange bedfellows. Don’t get sidetracked by a legislator’s apparent ideology.
  • Last: make time to talk to the legislators. If email is your only way to contact them, likely you’re just educating a 20-year old intern, not the legislator.

Looking to follow the Utah Legislature?

Utah House of Representatives
Image by Steven Vance via Flickr

…but don’t want to leave the couch? Pull out a laptop, and pull up these sites for updates on the comings and goings (and “saunterings“) of your legislators:

Don’t miss this over at Blue in Red Zion:

Legseption

Opening of the Utah legislature

I’m here, up on “the hill” (which also happens to really be a hill, or at least a steep drive up towards Ensign Point) at the Utah State Capitol to watch the opening of the Utah legislature. They say that law making is like sausage making: you don’t necessarily want to know what goes into either of them. They also say that no one is safe when the state legislature is in session. With all those Brownings down on the floor, though, I feel pretty safe…

I don’t know who “they” are, but I’m here, today, to watch the opening ceremonies, meet a few legislators, and learn a little about sausage mak–er, law making.

At the prompting of Joe Pyrah, I’m over at the House (rather than the Senate). There’s been a bit of a kerfluffle over the last couple weeks as a result of Rep. Craig Frank finding out that he actually lived outside of his district. It was looking like there would be drama much over his being seated this morning, despite the state constitution prohibiting it. He, however, resigned on Friday, thereby enabling the legislature to dodge the bullet of solving the problem during the opening hour of the legislature. Meanwhile, the Senate is looking to take up a bill to redraw his district to get him in it, allow a special election in the coming weeks, and get a representative seated for that district (57). Less drama, but a problem still to be solved.

Meanwhile, I’m up here checking it out, today, and when ever I can get a few minutes away from the office. Got a tip, suggestion, or idea. Please drop me a line.

APROPOS: Speaker Becky Lockhart was just sworn-in as the first woman speaker of the Utah House of Representatives. How’s that for progressive in this Republican dominated legislature?