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During legislative meetings at the Utah Capitol it is not uncommon to regularly see the same people in attendance—staff, government employees, and lobbyists. Citizens are in the minority. In a desire to better understand the degree to which citizens have engaged in the legislative process, Libertas Institute conducted a brief survey earlier this week.
We randomly surveyed 500 Utah voters on November 18, 2013 via an automated phone system. Sampled voters were contacted and administered a questionnaire. Half of respondents were contacted on their mobile phone, half on a landline. The margin of sampling error is ±4.38%.
1. Have you spoken with your state Senator or state Representative in the past year?
The Governor’s Office of Economic Development exists, in its own words, to “provide rich business resources for the creation, growth and recruitment of companies to Utah and to increase tourism and film production in the state.” In layman terms, they try to attract businesses to the state by luring them in with tax credits. In exchange for setting up shop in the state and meeting certain criteria (such as employing a projected number of people), their tax burden is reduced on a “post-performance” basis.
GOED’s board of directors met last week, in part to fulfill this mission. In less than an hour, and with no discussion prior to voting or any dissenting votes, the board unanimously approved over $4 million in tax incentives for two businesses, and over $1 million in similar incentives for five films looking to use Utah for part or all of their locations. (There was discussion on each motion, but, oddly, the questions being asked and things being said were deferred until after the votes were already taken.)
The first of the two companies being offered a tax credit was Frontier Communications—a telephone and broadband provider operating in 27 states, including Utah. They want to expand their operations and create a customer service center, and were deciding between Colorado and Provo, Utah. “We’d obviously like to see them here,” said Jerry Oldroyd, the board member presenting the motion. With a forecasted employment of 550 employees and $11 million in revenue for state coffers over the next ten years, the board unanimously agreed to reduce Frontier’s tax burden by 20% with a tax credit not to exceed $2.2 million. The revenue projections and tax credit for the second company, Exeter Finance, were similar in size and impact.
Utah is blessed with some of the most amazing landscapes in the country. From the curious rock waves of Zion’s slot canyons to the Salt Flats in the west desert, tourists from around the world want to visit this state. Utah is also a bustling hub of energy and resource development, providing valuable jobs and affordable energy. Balancing these usually competing interests has been a difficult challenge, and not just since environmental activist Tim DeChristopher hijacked an oil and gas auction in December 2008.
IACX Energy, a Dallas-based helium gas producer, decided to avoid the possibility of litigation or activist-inspired regulatory compulsion by going directly to their would-be adversary and working together to craft a “win-win” agreement that augments drilling in a proposed wilderness area. By drilling horizontally to the intended underground helium dome instead of vertically, IACX gets its gas and the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance protects valuable wilderness. “Let’s face it—when you’re on federal land, you have many stakeholders,” IACX president Scott Sears told KUER. ”And I think the worst thing you could do is just barge in like a bulldog and say, ‘This is mine and I’m gonna do whatever I want and to heck with the rest of you.’”
Derek Monson, Director of Public Policy at Sutherland Institute, recently had an op-ed published in which he advocated for a policy proposal his organization will be pushing in Utah’s next legislative session, which begins in January 2014. Sutherland is hoping to reduce the legal blood alcohol content level from 0.08% to 0.05%.
Back in May, I wrote an article comparing the proposal to that of gun control—that if the sole quest to “save lives” then we must, to be consistent, support other restrictions on personal property and behavior. Derek commented on that article, indicating that the comparison was in his view invalid, since, “Alcohol, by its chemical nature, impairs human reasoning and judgment, slows reaction time, etc. in ways that guns do not.”
Despite clear differences between the two, I believe that the comparison remains apt, as you’ll see below.
Last night, the Controlled Substances Adivsory Committee met in a packed room full of Utah parents, legislators, activists, and media. Created just a few years ago by the legislature, this group exists “to serve as a consultative and advisory body to the Utah Legislature” regarding the classification of “controlled substances”—a legal term for banned drugs.
Rep. Froerer has committed to sponsor legislation to facilitate the legalization of this medicine, and was present at the meeting to introduce the subject. Also present were a few individuals from the Realm of Caring—the Colorado-based non-profit organization that produces the strain of cannabis that is high in CBD (the beneficial component) and extremely low in THC (the psychoactive component). They provided anecdotal stories, medical reports, and clinical analysis of their medicinal product for the committee’s review.
Jennifer May, whose story we shared in August, offered the perspective of a parent who needs this medicine for her child. Joined by many other parents of children who suffer from the same epileptic syndrome, she stressed the urgency with which this decision needs to be made. Existing medical treatments don’t work, are costly, and actually cause harm to the children using them. These kids are short on time.
Conversely, cannabis offers hope to these parents who see other children like theirs being almost completely healed of their constant seizures. The thought of their children having a restored quality of life is not a far-fetched desire in light of the profoundly positive response epileptic children are having to the medicinal extract in Colorado.
During Q&A, the Realm of Caring representatives stressed the nature of the testing and caution used with their product for children. Treatments are properly dosed and administered under the direction of a consenting pediatric doctor.
Importantly, doctors in Utah are lending their voice to the discussion. Three of them, including the University of Utah’s top pediatric neurologist, support the legalization of this medicine. “I would like to express my strong belief that [cannabidiol]-based oils (referred to here in Utah as Alepsia) should be available as soon as possible to Utah children with severe epilepsy,” wrote Francis Filloux, chief of the University’s Division of Pediatric Neurology. “The substance is not psychoactíve or hallucinogenic, it contains less THC than do other materials that can be legally purchased in Utah, and it has absolutely no abuse potential.”
Editor’s note: The following is a lightly-edited transcription of an interview with Kimberlie Kehrer, former state school board candidate whose candidacy was terminated by an arbitrary process before she could appeal to voters. Click here to learn more about this process.
Libertas Institute: What led you to declare your candidacy for the state school board?
Kimberlie Kehrer: I had just resigned from being president of Wasatch Home Educators Network, an online group created to connect families that were looking for educational opportunities and resources for their children. The group had grown so large since I began that we needed to create a board. Families were leaving the public education system in droves and I had been involved with many of them finding solutions for their children. The parents of these children were educated and tired of a failing system.
Parents for Choice in Education sent out an email asking if I would participate in the school board elections for my area. I started listening to the online meetings for the Utah State Office of Education and reading various articles about their work. It appeared that the state office was interested in improving the state’s education standards, and I was all for improving these standards because through my experience I had seen how the system had been dumbed down.
I was initially hesitant to become a candidate because I was homeschooling one of my children at the time. I asked friends utilizing the various educational systems (public, private, or homeschool) what they thought and if they felt I would be able to represent them. I reviewed their opinions, reflected on my availability, responsibilities, current involvement, costs, and sacrifices needed to inform my large district. After serious consideration of what it would involve, I decided to do it. On March 15th, 2012, I went to the Provo county clerk’s office and declared my candidacy.
I have never tasted an alcoholic beverage in my life. I don’t see the need, I have no desire, and recognizing the dangers drinking can produce, I caution others to avoid it.
In other words, I am like many Utahns: socially conservative with adherence to a health code that requires abstinence from certain substances. But I differ from many of these individuals in that I do not believe I have the authority to impose my health code and personal preferences upon other people.
Hyde Park, Utah, has long been a “dry” city where alcoholic beverages are legally prohibited. An ordinance allowing for licensed, limited alcohol sales narrowly passed the city council last year on a 3-2 vote. Some residents, upset with the outcome, collected enough signatures to put the ordinance on hold and put the question before the city’s 4,000 residents.
“Taxation is theft!”
While true, shifting the debate over taxation to its logical conclusion at the outset causes many people to simply ask: “Then how should government services be funded?”
Much of the debate over this question can only be resolved by determining which services the government should actually be providing. What, in other words, is the proper role of government?
Let’s address Utah specifically, where (for example) the state is constitutionally obligated to provide educational services to the children of its citizens—a requirement that deviates from government’s proper role. How should these schools be funded?
This article was written by John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute. It is published here with the author’s permission.
“Democracy means that if the doorbell rings in the early hours, it is likely to be the milkman.”—Winston Churchill
It’s 3 a.m. You’ve been asleep for hours when suddenly you hear a loud “Crash! Bang! Boom!” Based on the yelling, shouting and mayhem, it sounds as if someone—or several someones—are breaking through your front door. With your heart racing and your stomach churning, all you can think about is keeping your family safe from the intruders who have invaded your home. You have mere seconds before the intruders make their way to your bedroom. Desperate to protect your loved ones, you scramble to lay hold of something—anything—that you might use in self-defense. It might be a flashlight, your son’s baseball bat, or that still unloaded gun you thought you’d never need. In a matter of seconds, the intruders are at your bedroom door. You brace for the confrontation, a shaky grip on your weapon. In the moments before you go down for the count, shot multiple times by the strangers who have invaded your home, you get a good look at your accosters. It’s the police.
Before I go any further, let me start by saying this: the problem is not that all police are bad. The problem, as I point out in my book A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State, is that increasing numbers of police officers are badly trained, illiterate when it comes to the Constitution, especially the Fourth Amendment, and, in some cases, willfully ignorant about the fact that they are supposed to be peacekeepers working for us, the taxpayer.
Investigative journalist Radley Balko has published six articles in a series about efforts in Utah to reform the way police handle drug enforcement cases and the “militarization” trend we’ve become familiar with. Balko, author of the new book Rise of the Warrior Cop, also published a paper in 2006 on the same subject, “Overkill: The Rise of Paramilitary Police Raids in America.” Download a free copy here.
Our proposal, and our president’s profile, is included in the third article. The entire series is worth reading. Here are the articles:
- How A Drug Raid Gone Wrong Sparked A Call For Change In The Unlikeliest State In The Nation
- As The Drug War Escalates, SWAT Teams Become ‘Bullies With Badges And Guns’
- Meet The Activist Who’s Bringing Conservatives On Board The Police Reform Movement
- An Occupy Activist’s New Cause: Drug Raids And Police Abuse
- An Unexpected Reformer Fights To Hold Police Accountable
- A Police Chief Tries To Reform The System From Within
Within a few weeks we hope to announce details about our proposal to establish better guidelines regarding how and when officers may forcibly enter a person’s home. “Like” our Facebook page to stay up to date!