Tag Archives: Utah Legislature Watch

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: See what happens when voters pay attention?

So It's A Crime Scene?

Image by makelessnoise via Flickr

House Bill 477 has caused quite the stir up on Capitol Hill, Utah. Let me explain…

No, there is too much. Let me sum up:

Last week, Rep. John Dougall presented House Bill 477 to limit GRAMA (Government Records Access and Management Act) requests from including text messages and instant messages. Within 72 hours, it had passed both House and Senate. Meanwhile, the press and public, not having ever heard of HB 477 before Dougall introduced it, went to work and, in a word, freaked. Commentators and academics started comparing Utah to third world countries like Mexico.

“Point after point, Utah’s record laws are going to be more backward than a Third World country’s,” David Cuillier, an associate professor of journalism at the University of Arizona, said Sunday. “That’s not hyperbole.”

Cuillier pointed out that the Mexican Freedom of Information Act specifies that electronic records be public, greatly restricts what the government can charge for records and places the burden on the government to show why something should not be disclosed.

The Utah bill, HB477, would prohibit the disclosure of text messages and instant messages, allow government agencies to charge fees that can include administrative and overhead costs and require requesters wanting records protected by the government to show with a preponderance of evidence the records should be released.

“In Mexico they favor disclosure, not secrecy,” Cuillier said. “In Utah it would be the other way around.”

Then, just as suddenly as the bill appeared on the docket, legislators started back tracking. First this morning was Sen. Dan Liljenquist, a likely candidate for the US Senate in 2012:

Right behind him was another federal office hopeful, Rep. Carl Wimmer:

And then Holly Richardson, the House’s newest Representative who had gone to bat for the bill on her blog before taking a second look at the issue:

That wasn’t the end of it. Jesse Fruhwirth of the City Weekly reported that Democrats who had supported it were having buyers remorse, as well:

He also compiled a list of legislators who were backtracking that included Sen. John Valentine (a likely candidate for Utah’s Attorney General post) .

Currently, the bill is not dead, but with a threat of a veto hanging over it (a visit to the Governor’s Office will do that), not to mention a full scale public backlash that is as immediate as rallies, phone calls, emails, and 140 characters of Twitter can provide.

Herbert’s office issued a statement last week saying only that “this is a highly charged issue with strong emotions on both sides. He will carefully consider this issue and weigh all options.” Also, Herbert has said he was not involved in drafting the bill.” His office did not immediately comment on developments on Monday.

Meanwhile, the bill is currently in “recall,” meaning it could still be passed. Sen. Waddups, President of the Senate, and Speaker Lockhart have both indicated that they have no interest in angering constituents or fighting a veto from the Governor.

I can’t help but note that the first two people to respond were two politicians with big ambitions for high federal office. Those that followed shortly there after had similar ambitions, if for other elective offices. That’s the power of voters showing up, not just on election day, but when it matters.

Meanwhile, intrepid reporter Billy Hesterman wonders about how popular Angry Birds is up at the Utah legislature.

I can’t wait to see that GRAMA request roll through the House.

APROPOS: Kudos to former candidate Jeremy Votaw for getting love from Paul Rolly in the Trib for Votaw’s online petition to get HB477 vetoed.

(h/t to the City Weekly, the Salt Lake Tribune, and, of course, all of #utpol on Twitter)

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)

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.