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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.

Read more »

Here’s What Utah’s SWAT Teams Have Been Up To in 2015

August 1, 2016  |  Posted in: Blog  |  3 comments

Utah is the only state with a law requiring police transparency regarding “forcible entry” (no-knock or knock-and-announce) warrants and the use of SWAT teams. Last year’s report provided the first look into the use of force in Utah. This year’s report—showing data for 2015—has just been released.

As with last year, many law enforcement agencies did not comply with the law, and failed to complete the report when contacted by the Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice. 149 agencies were contacted, and 110 completed the report. As the report summary notes, “the information presented… is only as accurate as the data reported by each individual law enforcement agency.”

Here is a summary of the data that was provided:

Read more »

Announcing Audrey Mortensen, Our New Policy Analyst

July 19, 2016  |  Posted in: Blog  |  2 comments

As Libertas Institute’s success rate continues to climb, and as our portfolio of policy work keeps expanding, our need to hire additional staff members grows. As such, we are excited to announce a new policy analyst joining the Libertas team!

Audrey Mortensen brings a wealth of experience to this position, having worked for several years in related fields. Most recently, she worked in New Mexico both in the governor’s office and the Republican Leadership office in a variety of capacities—legislative analysis, constituent liasing, office management, event planning, and more. Audrey comes recommended with extremely high praise from those she worked with in these offices, all of whom commended her for her excellent work and great personality.

Before that she worked for the Republican Party in New Mexico, training and managing hundreds of volunteers and interns, and for the Republican National Committee, helping with fundraising and finances.

Audrey is a graduate of the University of Utah, where she double majored in political science and international relations, also receiving a business minor. While in school, she interned at the Utah Legislature and the Scottish Parliament.

Send Audrey an email at audrey@libertasutah.org.

With this new hire, Josh Daniels—who has previously been serving as policy analyst—has been promoted to Director of Policy.

Our Lawsuit Over HB43 Settled: A Victory for Free Association in Utah

July 14, 2016  |  Posted in: Blog  |  No comments

Last November, along with the Utah Taxpayers Association, we sued the state seeking to overturn a clearly unconstitutional law requiring disclosure of information about our donors. Today, due to the great work of attorneys from the Center for Competitive Politics, who represented our organizations in this lawsuit, we are happy to announce a settlement—and a victory for free association in Utah.

House Bill 43, passed by the legislature in 2013, was sponsored in response to a political consultant’s illegal use of non-profit organizations to hide the identity of the source of his donors—from the payday lending industry—to fund a negative campaign against Representative Brad Daw, who had sought to regulate the industry’s practices. The bill passed the Senate 20-8 and passed the House 60-13.

The law compels private non-profit organizations—such as Libertas Institute—to publicly disclose the personal information of their donors when the organization spends $750 or more on political activity in a single year. This creates a substantial chilling effect, harming our potential to raise funds from people who may not wish to be publicly identified with their ideological and financial support, whether for family, business, religious, or personal reasons.

Read more »

Utah Governor Calls for State’s Withdrawal of Common Core Education Standards

May 4, 2016  |  Posted in: Blog  |  17 comments

Following a defeat at the State Republican convention where the Common Core education standards were a central point of contention between gubernatorial challenger Jonathan Johnson and incumbent Governor Gary Herbert, the latter has just issued a letter to the State Board of Education asking them to dump the standards.

This comes as a shock to many, as Herbert has long been an ardent proponent of the standards, dismissing and denigrating the concerns raised by critics.

The letter takes an about face, conceding that “there are legitimate concerns that I share with those opposed to the Common Core” and asking the Board to “consider implementing uniquely Utah standards, moving beyond the Common Core to a system that is tailored specifically to the needs of our state.”

The Governor also states that “it is critical that we not repeat past mistakes made during the 2010 implementation of the Common Core standards,” noting that “we must work with parents and students to understand what works and what can be improved.” We find this interesting, as this argument was the basis of our lawsuit against the State Board of Education. Utah law specifies that in “establishing minimum standards related to curriculum and instruction” the Board shall consult with local school boards, teachers, parents, and others.

This was not done. To rebut the arguments outside of the court, the Governor asked the Attorney General to review some of the concerns about Common Core—concerns that Herbert has not conceded until today. That legal analysis, signed by Attorney General Reyes, inaccurately states that the language regarding consulting parents was not in statute in 2010 as the Board was adopting Common Core. That is completely incorrect; the statute had been in place for years prior. It was utterly disregarded during the rushed process of adopting the Common Core standards.

It is important to note that the Board of Education adopted an experimental set of standards for which there was no evidence. No trials had been done. Nothing had been tested. They rushed the state into its adoption not because of any empirical data, but because its adoption was required in order to qualify for a potential federal grant that, in the end, Utah did not receive. For filthy federal lucre, hundreds of thousands of Utah children were turned into pedagogical guinea pigs.

We welcome the Governor’s newfound concern with the Common Core standards and encourage the State Board of Education to follow suit—this time actually consulting with the parents and teachers who are impacted by their top-down decisions.

In a pre-written letter released mere minutes after the Governor’s letter to the Board, Board chairman David Crandall states that the Board “is cognizant of the issues surrounding the 2010 adoption” and that they will “always look for ways to improve upon” the standards. Nothing is stated in direct response to the Governor’s suggestion about the Common Core standards specifically.

Read the Governor’s letter here.

Yet Another Poll Confirms High Support for Medical Cannabis

April 27, 2016  |  Posted in: Blog  |  No comments

Poll after poll confirms what is now common knowledge: a majority of Utahns want to see medical cannabis legalized statewide. The latest survey, done by Dan Jones, finds that 66% of adult Utahns support the legal change, while 28% are opposed and only five percent don’t know.

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The ideological breakdown revealed that 90% of Democrats and 76% of independents are in favor, whereas 55% of Republicans support legalizing medical cannabis. Even more “very conservative” respondents are in favor—49% versus 44% of them who oppose.

Despite LDS Church opposition to Senator Madsen’s recent bill, a majority of Mormons still support legalization—55% to 40% in opposition.

With recent legislation having failed, medical cannabis patients and advocates are now looking to file a ballot initiative that would give the option directly to the supportive public, rather than allowing the skeptical House of Representatives to substantially restrict (or opt not to pass) a medical cannabis program.

 

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