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New Data on Asset Forfeiture for 2016

July 7, 2017  |  Posted in: Blog  |  2 comments

We have previously proposed legislation—which received unanimous support—that requires the government to furnish data each time it takes a person’s property through asset forfeiture.

The latest report, compiling data for 2016, was just released by the Utah Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice.

The report finds, among other things:

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In Education, Small Amounts of Funding Can Go a Long Way

June 16, 2017  |  Posted in: Blog  |  No comments

As the media and public begin to focus more on taxpayer funding for government schools, one program with very little funding has had an enormous impact on the education those with special needs—an important demographic of children who can often be forgotten in government schools.

The Carson Smith Special Needs Scholarship was established in 2005 by action of the Utah Legislature and the signature of Governor Jon Huntsman. It provides private school scholarships to K-12 students who have a wide variety of special needs. With a current appropriation of only about $5 million, it serves over 900 children who can then get the specialized education that they need from the institution of their parents’ choice.

Bearing the name of the son of one of the program’s greatest advocates, Cheryl Smith, the program has steadily grown since its inception and is administered by the Utah State Office of Education. The success of the program has been well documented in legislative hearings and reports. Some important statistics include:

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Quasi-Government Entities Need Increased Oversight

May 30, 2017  |  Posted in: Blog  |  No comments

Interlocal agencies, independent entities, special service districts, Associations of Governments (AOG), and conservancy districts—each of these is a type of government-sponsored or -created organization given control of some aspect of administration, localized policy making, or government service. In short, they have control over a portion of your tax dollars and/or your life.

Who are these mysterious organizations that, up until recently, have hidden their operations in the shadows? To be clear, they hold some public meetings, report to the Utah Legislature periodically, and probably even have up-to-date websites. However, they probably would rather you not know about the size of their budgets, nor their too frequent misappropriation of funds.

The average Utahn might recognize these government organizations from the media attention they have received over the past few years:

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Combating Skyrocketing Healthcare Costs with “Right to Shop”

May 10, 2017  |  Posted in: Blog  |  No comments

With healthcare on the front of everyone’s minds as Congress continues to formulate a replacement to ObamaCare, here is an idea that could revolutionize the industry and drive costs down tremendously.

One of the largest factors driving up health care costs today is the lack of transparency of the true costs of health care services and the lack of incentives for consumers to pursue high quality, low-cost options. In short, a person doesn’t know how much a certain procedure or test costs and even if they did, they would have zero financial incentive to investigate where to find the best price for that health care service.

This is where having the “Right to Shop” comes into the picture.

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Changes Needed to Utah’s Domestic Violence Law as Part of Larger Mens Rea Reform

May 3, 2017  |  Posted in: Blog  |  No comments

Earlier this week, we released a short video about the need to alter the current state statute on domestic violence. As it stands, the statute is a prime example of how too often the law does not judge a person’s intent, but instead only looks to see if the person violated the strict letter of the law. Domestic violence laws are meant to be used to prohibit and punish those who injure or harm others they live with—spouses, partners, roommates, etc.

But as government inevitably does, the current statute goes too far and punishes innocent people. This comes about because in Utah if you “commit any offense against property,” specifically “the property of another,” you are also committing domestic violence. On its face that seems fine, until you think back to your recent joint tax return that you filed and you realize that all your property is jointly owned with your spouse. Therefore, that property you just smashed on the ground is considered to be “the property of another”.

All of a sudden, depending on the cost of the property, you might be looking at charges up to a 2nd degree felony.

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New Poll Shows Large Majority in Utah Favor Moving Away from the Death Penalty

February 9, 2017  |  Posted in: Blog  |  No comments

A new poll conducted by Public Policy Polling, and commissioned through the Utah Justice Coalition, reveals changing attitudes toward the death penalty by Utah residents. The survey of 784 Utah voters, conducted from January 13 to 15, shows that 64% favor alternatives to the death penalty for people convicted of murder.

The results contrast against a poll conducted last year by Dan Jones and Associates which contended that 52% of Utahns say the death penalty is the proper punishment for heinous crimes like murder. Today’s poll finds that only 29% prefer the death penalty.

Read the poll results here.

Libertas Institute previously published a public policy brief explaining the problems with a government execution policy and suggesting the need for repealing the law to reduce costs, spare victim’s families, and most importantly, ensure that innocent people wrongly conicted are not then executed by the state.

New Poll Shows Utahns Aren’t Sold on State Income Tax Increase for Public Education

February 6, 2017  |  Posted in: Blog  |  No comments

Earlier today, the Trafalgar Group (TFG) released a public opinion survey commissioned by Libertas Institute and Americans for Prosperity. The survey showed that only 50% of likely voters support the proposed state income tax increase when asked the same biased question being asked by polls commissioned by Our Schools Now. Here is the response to that question:

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TFG Senior Strategist Robert Cahaly was quoted in the press release, “Like most issues, public opinion reveals itself based on the presentation of the question. When presented with a single digit fraction the income tax seems insignificant, but when the true cost of the tax increase is revealed there is a major opinion shift.”

Instead when voters are informed of the monetary repercussions of such an action, support for the initiative deteriorates. This survey was conducted in such a way that likely voters were not pressured by live interviewers to write a blank check for public education. Even when voters were informed about Utah’s last place per student spending ranking, support hardly increased.

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Pollster Robert Cahaly also stated, “The question on cost per student affirms that in the abstract the public is willing to consider additional education support. This poll demonstrates that most Utahns share the current American consensus opinion on spending and taxes: ‘We want everything considered important to be well funded and we don’t want to pay more in taxes to make it happen.'”

Today’s new survey shows that majority support for a state income tax increase is not a foregone conclusion. Not only are voters against raising the state income tax, but they also have a negative opinion towards most of the other alternative tax increase proposals. We suggest that the legislature instead find a way to restore K-12 public education funding that has been earmarked for Higher Education. As we have written before, increasing funding for public education is not correlated to improved outcomes.

You can find the full poll report here.

Libertas Institute Hires Longtime Advocate of Liberty as Director of Development

January 23, 2017  |  Posted in: Blog  |  No comments

Libertas Institute is excited to announce our new director of development, Bryan Hyde.

A longtime supporter of the Institute’s work, Bryan has helped broadcast our challenges and successes to a loyal radio audience in southern Utah since our inception. His joining our team marks the conclusion of a successful, 20+ year career in talk radio.

Like many commentators, Bryan started out as a red meat thrower. However, as patient friends and mentors exposed him to the principles of liberty, he recognized that anger alone would never be enough to convey its value. To this end, he became a seeker of truth and voice of reason specializing in helping his listeners better understand the world around them and then utilize their influence starting where they were currently standing.

Liberty and the need to break free from partisan shackles became common themes of Bryan’s program and weekly columns. His ability to discuss highly polarizing topics without becoming contentious has spurred deeper discussion throughout his audience. He encouraged his audience to think more deeply and take ownership of their worldview, whether they agreed or not.

Through building relationships and earning the trust of his readers and listeners, he persuaded many minds that had been closed like a steel trap to slowly begin to open.

Bryan has followed the efforts of Libertas Institute since its inception and has had the privilege of lending his voice to some of their early materials. He’s overjoyed to add his voice and his passion for liberty to the efforts of the Libertas staff.

Bryan’s role will involve fundraising, networking, grant writing, and more.

To contact him, please email bryan@libertasutah.org.

Announcing our new Director of Policy

September 2, 2016  |  Posted in: Blog  |  No comments

Libertas Institute is excited to announce our latest hire, filling an open position for our Director of Policy role.

mm2Michael Melendez has been a liberty activist since his days in high school. His involvement includes work with the Campaign for Liberty, Young Americans for Liberty (YAL), and Students For Liberty. Michael served as the Utah state chairman for YAL from 2013-2015, helping recruit, educate, and mobilize college students throughout the state in support of the cause of liberty.

Michael has managed and worked on dozens of campaigns for liberty-minded candidates all over the country, including South Carolina, Kansas, Michigan, Illinois, and Utah.

During the 2013 and 2014 legislative sessions, Michael served as a staffer to state senator Howard Stephenson, helping pass significant reforms in education, government drone use, and civil asset forfeiture. Most recently, he worked at the Waterford Research Institute, a digital education non-profit, as their state government affairs manager.

A native Californian and Brigham Young University graduate, Michael is a historian by trade and enjoys genealogical research, watching old films, and talking about old baseball heroes.

Contact Michael at michael@libertasutah.org.

William Penn and the Fight for Religious Freedom

August 14, 2016  |  Posted in: Blog  |  One comment

Students of history understand how precious religious freedom can be, since governments of ages past so often tended to regulate and restrict a person’s religious behavior and belief. In America, the freedom of religion can be traced in part to the bold civil disobedience of William Penn, 346 years ago today.

portrait_tAmericans are familiar with Penn as the founder of the province of Pennsylvania, a colonial refuge for religious dissidents. But his contribution to the cause of religious freedom came many years before his migration.

Despite being born into a distinguished Anglican family as the son of an Admiral, young William decided to join the Religious Society of Friends, or “Quakers,” at the age of 22. Two years later he wrote a pamphlet titled “Truth Exalted,” in which he criticized all religious groups except Quakers. He soon thereafter published his second, titled “Sandy Foundation Shaken,” a doctrinal critique of the Trinity. This led the Bishop of London to order Penn to be indefinitely detained until he publicly recanted his fiery theological attack.

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