Why am I running?
Good question. After 4 years in the legislature, my answer has changed.
• Every year, more than 1,000 bills are introduced in our 45 day session on subjects covering everything you can imagine. Of these, about 500 pass both the House and the Senate. About half of these are passed in the last week under high pressure from special interests. We need legislators who study the bills and speak out against bad ideas.
• One of the most common bad ideas is harsh criminal penalties. Legislators sometimes forget that felonies and class A misdemeanors destroy marriages, jobs, and self respect. Criminal penalties should be imposed with restraint.
• The wealthy can hire lobbyists but everyday people have to rely on their legislators to protect them. Legislators should never forget who they really represent.
• It takes time to learn the issues and the players. Legislators with experience have a responsibility to use that experience for the benefit of their voters.
Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRC’s):
CCRC’s are new to Utah and a big one is being built in Taylorsville. Retirement communities are not new but CCRC’s require large (around $300,000) “entrance fees” in addition to monthly charges. These large fees are returned when the resident moves out but only when a new resident takes his/her place. The elderly residents are unsecured lenders unless the law protects them. I worked on HB323 for more than a year to create a new chapter in the Utah Code to do just that. After difficult negotiations, it passed.
Rocky Mountain Power’s STEP program:
Rocky Mountain Power brought a bill to circumvent the Public Service Commission. Why? Because the bill helped their shareholders make more profit than the PSC might allow. Instead, RMP asked the legislature to make decisions that belong to the experts of the PSC. I spoke against it and the bill failed – until a small army of lobbyists talked legislators into reviving it over a 2 hour dinner break. It passed, unfortunately.
Although it may seem strange, your doctor is the main reason Utah does not have full Medicaid expansion. The Republican Governor, the Republican Speaker of the House, the Republican President of the Senate, and the Utah Hospital Association (and I) all supported full expansion paid for by a modest state tax on the medical community that would be receiving the hundreds of millions of new Medicaid dollars. The Utah Medical Association led the opposition and succeeded with help from the Koch brothers. This last session, we passed a partial expansion that will help the poorest of the poor and will be paid for with your sales tax dollars. At least it is a step in the right direction.
Landlords brought a bill to permit evictions without court approval, overturning long established rules designed to protect tenants from unfair treatment. Although I am a landlord, I spoke against it in committee and on the floor. In the end, the bill was amended and limited self-help to dealing with outright trespassers.
The Attorney General has been defending our current bigamy statute which was found unconstitutional by a federal trial court and is now on appeal to the 10th Circuit. The AG wanted to change one word in the statute but the bill brought up the question of whether we should keep polygamy a felony, as it has been for many years. Although the law is rarely enforced, the effect of making polygamous communities criminal organizations has been to foster terrible abuses in some. Incest, rape of 14 year old girls, expulsion of unprepared young men, abuse of welfare programs, all of these things are occurring and being protected by a culture of secrecy and fear. I proposed making polygamy an infraction ($750 fine, no jail) and focusing instead on the abuses. This failed but provoked a discussion of this important policy matter. The AG’s bill failed in the Senate.
The Senate and our House Law Enforcement Committee approved elimination of the death penalty but leadership stopped it from coming to the House floor. While I am not opposed to killing those convicted of capital murder (I knew Ted Bundy), the actual operation of the death penalty perversely hurts the families of those who were murdered. They are promised the death of the killer but have to wait an average of 25 years for the appeals to take place, all the while feeling they are still in a battle with the killer. I think it would be better to set the expectation at life in prison without the possibility of parole and deliver on that promise quickly. We would also save ourselves about $1.6 Million per death penalty in extra costs.