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Dabakis Diary Day 28

DO OR DIE FOR ROB BISHOP

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 A DC birdie told me that only Congressman Rob Bishop can save Utah from an Obama Antiquities Act Declaration. The story goes, in the last few weeks of his presidency, the gentleman from Chicago will choose the Sierra Club over the ‘in your face’ Utah legislature (HB 148) and make an AA Declaration. Single-handedly protecting forever the largest piece of road-less land in the bottom 48. Bishop must do the impossible—but if it is ever going to be done—it will be now. Getting the rural county commissioners, the demagogues, the legislature, the energy interests, and all the various environmental groups to agree on maps for a huge land trade—imagine it. Peace in the Middle East seems easier. Bishop probably cannot pull off an agreement, but it may be the last shot Utah input before an AA declaration. That has made serious Utahns get serious about serious talk.  The plan is Bishop’s grand compromise that would lock up lots of wilderness and allow for more energy development—a formula that outrages just about everyone closely involved. With a friendly, understanding Secretary of the Interior (a former outdoor recreation executive) and with the threat of an Antiquities Act declaration hanging over Utah, this is the last best hope. Do or die. My guess–don’t bet your federal oil leases on a Congressman Bishop’s ability to pull off a miracle.

NSA: WELFARE QUEEN?

SB 45. Voting coming this afternoon. It is the Utah legislature ‘welfare to NSA’ bill. That ‘franchise tax’ you pay every month on your utility bill. Well NSA says it should NOT pay its $6 million a year franchise tax on their $40+ million grab of Utah energy (that does not include any tax on 1.7 million gallons of water a DAY they will use). I asked the NSA to meet, wanted to hear it from the horses mouth. They sent me a link–I am doing all I can to send them a link–with a $6 million dollar invoice attached. They can pay just like the rest of us!

 DINNER WITH DINOSAURS

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Awesome dinner the other night with the Senate up at the Natural History Museum. It was nice to just be social with a lot of chocolate. There is a dazzling chocolate exhibition at the museum. During the annual dinner, political talk is not allowed. If you just dropped in, you would have thought ‘wow, what an interesting, funny, thoughtful, well-informed group of Utah folks from all around the state’….

MORE DINNER WITH DINOSAURS… LOL

Two Republicans that everyone listens to on floor debate are Lyle Hillyard from Logan and Ralph Okerlund from Monroe. They can sway the body.

FREEDOM OR DEATH?

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I put the following on Facebook:

Alright dear Facebook family (albeit sometimes dysfunctional). I think I know what I want to do but would like your two cents. SB 12 puts Utahs smoking age to 21. It is 19 now. Utah has the highest age for smoking in USA. Experts say it would save many, many lives…. I’m listening.

438 comments later, I am still torn. I love personal liberty. I hate cigarettes—they (along with her personal liberty) killed my mother at 62.

Three persuasive comments from the post:

Changing Utah smoking age to 21 won’t change smoking kids from smoking–but it might make it a little tougher. A worthy goal.

A very big drain on Medicaid and Medicare are lung and respiratory issues—we all pay for smokers ‘freedom.

19 is already the highest legal smoking age in USA, going to 21 is dumb. Clearly these are adults, let them make their own decisions—even if they are bad decisions.

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If you want to subscribe to the Dabakis Diary, email senatordabakis@gmail.com and say UPDATE.

Do you want to be a Dabakis Intern for the Day? Email my official intern, Zaida at zhill@le.utah.gov

Don’t forget to come to the Dabakis Kakis this Wednesday at 7am! We will be talking about Count my Vote. Senator Bramble will be there!

Also, don’t forget Wednesday night’s Public Meeting! We will have a fantastic conversation with state officials and the LGBTQ community. ​

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Dabakis Diary Day 21

I am from Pluto, are they from Neptune?

You might get the idea from my ‘occasional’ complaints that it is tough for me to go up to work at the Capitol every morning. That would be wrong. Dead wrong. I struggle with talking and voting ‘against’ so many things. However, on a personal level, I absolutely enjoy every Senator (now, the House, that’s a cat of a different color LOL). With so many of my colleagues it is like we are from two different solar systems. On one hand, we agree on 90% of the nuts-and-bolts of running a state. Where we do disagree though, it is often soooo different a view.

For example, apparently there is a serious decline in interest among the young Utahans in hunting. Last week on the floor there was a bill allowing some special inducements to try and get more young people into the sport. There was no controversy on the bill. It did not cost the state any money. I had prepared a short barb about how I was a fan of bowling and how, in order to promote the non-growth sport of bowling, I was preparing a bill. However, as I listened to the Senators, one after each other, speak of the experience of their youth and of their traditions of preparing, camping, hiking, and hunting, I started to change my mind.  As they described the bonding with their fathers and families and how hunting makes up some of the warmest memories of their lives, it became clear to me that I should just shut up and give no wise cracks about bowling. I should stand down. I don’t understand hunting. I bristle at the idea. I have never gone; I never will. I don’t like guns. However, hunting is a very important link in the lives of many in our state and to ridicule it or be disrespectful of it would be wrong. Clearly, my urban experience is completely different than that of so many of our legislators that grew up in rural Utah. I can respect that. No need for me to belittle things that are important to others, especially things I do not understand.

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On the other foot, it reminded me of one of the most hurtful bills introduced this session: HB0087. The bill defines gender identity as whatever a person’s “phenotype” is. It makes children use the restroom that correlates with their phenotype instead of their gender. It makes the state an official bully. The bill would make life even harder for our state’s transgender children. The transgender bill in the House, frankly, was the equivalent of me making hunting laws or belittling hunting. I doubt that the bill’s sponsor has ever met a room full of Utah trans children. I doubt he has ever sat with parents who are bewildered and frightened by something they do not understand in the life of their most precious child. I doubt the bill sponsor has ever talked to the family of a 14 year old trans child who killed himself in Utah because of the constant, inescapable bullying.

As legislators we have an obligation to represent our people, with vigor, but always with an eye toward our own prejudices and the recognition of our own inexperience, hopefully with civility and respect.

Much Cleaner air in 2015 or 2030?  SUPPORT SB 164

What if Utah could cut tailpipe emissions by 70-80% and fast? This is not some secret elixir from Harry Potter–it is on the way to America, thanks to the EPA! Question is, when will clean tailpipes arrive in Utah? Will it be in 2016-17 or long, long, long beyond that?

harry potter (dabakis)

I am talking about Tier 3, the latest round of federal EPA air pollution standards designed to clean up tailpipe emissions. The new standards that EPA requires beginning in 2015 will allow much cleaner air to come to the Wasatch Front soon… or it might not happen until the 2030s. It depends what the legislature does in the next few days.

Tier 3 is both new engines (which all new model cars must have beginning 2015) and cleaner gas (starting in 2017). Tier 3 will lower tailpipe emissions by 70-80%. However, the EPA is letting refiners ease into compliance. Nationally, refiners will only be required to convert 80% of their product. So, 20% of production will keep on polluting at high levels. Great news. Except, guess which states will get the 20% dirtier air? Drum roll…the dirty air will stay with those states that do not require Tier 3 gas.

Right now the lowest possible EPA standards for air quality are de facto the maximum level Utah laws allow. Dumb. Unless Utah changes its law and allows for regulations higher than EPA minimum national ones, Utah is likely to get the 20% allotment of dirty, dirty air. SB 164 will let Utah decide its clean air standards not DC bureaucrats. A hope for significantly cleaner air–is to pass Senator Gene Davis’s clean air bill. It will repeal the ugly law requiring EPA minimum standards to be our Utah maximum standards. This bill must pass this session if we are serious about changing our dirty air to clean air. This is the test for everyone who says they are for clean air.

 **For more information, read below.

 Insult to Judges?

judge judy (dabakis)

Here is what upsets me about Representative Ken Ivory’s (from West Jordan) H.B. 120: the bill would require Utah judges and state and local government lawyers to attend a seminar every two years to “study the constitution” and to examine “sovereignty, supremacy and jurisdiction.”  My guess is that the intent is no normal, fair, historic, balanced study of the constitution.  My concern is that this mandatory seminar will be an ‘out there’ Tea Party extremist, Mike Lee version of the constitution–and we will require our judges and lawyers to spend valuable time taking this one dimensional view of the constitution.

Is this a bit  insulting to our attorneys and judges? Perhaps a bit of an  imperial legislative mandate to the judicial branch? Is this an attempt to make sure everyone is thinking alike? Like some kind of Soviet style propaganda training to make sure everyone is drinking the kool-aid properly. Will there be grading? Will there be sanctions on those who disagree?

This bill came about when Rep. Ivory was disappointed in the results of a lawsuit. Among the bill’s required lessons are the history and workings of the 10th Amendment which grants states control over powers not specifically designated to the federal government. It also requires coaching on how and when challenges should be made to federal rules, and outlines which state powers are meant to be checks on Washington. The state will pay costs.

Spoiler alert. Looks like this nasty little bill might become law. It passed committee by 7-1 vote. Only Rep. Rebecca Chavez-Houck, D-Salt Lake City, opposed the proposal. She questioned requiring a course not sanctioned by the Utah State Bar for attorneys who are already “expected to have a certain level of expertise.” YEA REBECCA!

I get it, some have a very strong view of the constitution. Very strong. So do a lot of other Utahans. The reason that the document has served America so well and endured as a model for representative government everywhere is that it is so few words. It is simple and flexible. The document does not lock generations into trivial policies—it covers the 50,000 foot level of principle and allows the document to breathe, with time.  I fear presenting our judges and lawyers only one idea in a market place of ideas. I grant everyone their right to see the constitution with their own twist. Where I have, and I suspect many Utahans have problems with this bill, is that it insists that one peculiar view is the ‘correct’ view. The sacred view. The ‘real’ constitution.  Their’s is just another look, and frankly, in my mind a very narrow, dangerous, and limited view of our most important unifying national treasure.

** More Information from Matt Pacenza :

1. What is Tier 3?

It’s the latest round of federal standards from the EPA designed to clean up tailpipe emissions, both by requiring low-sulfur gas (10 parts per million, down from 30 ppm now) and more robust pollution controls in cars.

2. Could the state of Utah require Tier 3 without a change in the law (the fed minimum our max)?

The car part would be very difficult if not impossible. The gas part we think Utah could do, either to accelerate the process (more below) or by closing a loophole that could prevent Utah from getting the gas. The EPA proposed that any given refinery company could “average” 10ppm, so a big company (like Chevron) could theoretically choose to drive their bigger refineries even lower (7, 8 ppm) and keep Utah higher. That’s a loophole the state could and should close.

3. When do Tier 3 requirements take bite nationally?

The Tier 3 standards require refineries to produce lower-sulfur gasoline by 2017 and carmakers to begin phasing in advanced vehicle pollution control systems beginning in 2015. However, since Utah’s refineries are considered “small” refineries, they would have an extra three years, until 2020. It would be great if either the Division of Air Quality or the Air Quality Board could accelerate that process.

4. How much would all Tier 3 help air along the Wasatch?

When the rules are fully in effect and most cars on the highway include the new technologies (by the late 2020s), tailpipe emissions will be reduced by 70 to 80 percent. Since cars produce roughly half of total emissions, and accounting for growth of all sectors, a rough guess is Tier 3 could cut our total pollution by perhaps 25 percent, reducing both the number and severity of red air days.

5. How much more would Tier 3 cost at the pump?

Estimate range from less than a penny per gallon to a 2-3 cents.

6. If Utah does not change its current Fed max, Utah minimum, would Utah be less likely to get Tier 3 from refiners?

Yes, but later than some states and it is possible one or two of our refineries might not at all. We need to close those two loopholes (the “small” refinery one and the “credits” one) to make sure we get the gas here as soon as possible.

7. Is Tier 3 a fuel or engine?

Both! They work together. The gas by itself delivers an immediate emissions benefit (cuts pollution by 10-15 percent right away) and then when paired with the new technologies in motors, you get to the 70-80 percent.

Dabakis Diary Day 19

WHEN YOUR FRIENDS GET ARRESTED 
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 (The 13 brave souls right after being released from jail)

My friends were arrested this week at the Utah Capitol for blocking entrance to a Senate Committee room. A few of my colleagues asked, “Don’t you think that getting arrested is terrible for your cause? Aren’t you embarrassed?” My answer is simple: no, no, no. I am immensely proud of my friends. It is a fundamental principle of this country that we not only have the right, but I would submit, the obligation to ‘redress the government for our grievances.’ With the shameful lack of discussion on SB 100, the distortion, the decision to kill the bill without public discussion (although supported by 72% of Utahns—Deseret News poll), these brave ‘arrested’ friends believed this was the only way to get their government to listen to them. They were willing to pay the price for that level of protest. The embarrassment, from my prospective, is that Utah people are forced to be arrested to make their government listen to them.

Many of the same colleagues who asked if I was embarrassed are also quietly telling me, “Don’t worry, everything you want for equality is going to happen. Now is just not the right time.” That is what they have been saying to the LGBT community in Utah for SIX years. My question back to them is “When is the right time? Will you tell me when you are ready for my equality? When will the Utah House be ready to treat all Utah citizens the same? When will the Utah Senate be ready to extend ‘liberty and justice to all’? When will the Governor be ready? When exactly, will Utah Church leaders be ready to understand that diversity is not a curse but a blessing? Will you tell me, my friends, when will you be ready to grant Utah LGBT citizens their full rights?”

The words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. again inspire me. Dr King was in Birmingham Jail when a group of white allies came to him and said, “Dr King, we are with you but you have to wait, the south is just not ready.” Dr King replied:

You deplore the demonstrations taking place in Birmingham. But your statement, I am sorry to say, fails to express a similar concern for the conditions that brought about the demonstrations. I am sure that none of you would want to rest content with the superficial kind of social analysis that deals merely with effects and does not grapple with underlying causes. It is unfortunate that demonstrations are taking place in Birmingham, but it is even more unfortunate that the city’s white power structure left the Negro community with no alternative. 

Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say, “Wait.” But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate filled policemen curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six year old daughter why she can’t go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see ominous clouds of inferiority beginning to form in her little mental sky, and see her beginning to distort her personality by developing an unconscious bitterness toward white people; when you have to concoct an answer for a five year old son who is asking: “Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?”; when you take a cross county drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you; when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading “white” and “colored”; when your first name becomes “nigger,” your middle name becomes “boy” (however old you are) and your last name becomes “John,” and your wife and mother are never given the respected title “Mrs.”; when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance, never quite knowing what to expect next, and are plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of “nobodiness”–then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait. 

 There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair. I hope, sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience. You express a great deal of anxiety over our willingness to break laws. This is certainly a legitimate concern. Since we so diligently urge people to obey the Supreme Court’s decision of 1954 outlawing segregation in the public schools, at first glance it may seem rather paradoxical for us consciously to break laws. One may well ask: “How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?” The answer lies in the fact that there are two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that “an unjust law is no law at all.

Every civil rights march is different. But, the movements have one thing in common—that is, they succeed because Americans and Utahns are basically fair, honorable, and decent people.  To my brave friends who spent time in jail, I salute you for your special brand of patriotism and for putting our freedoms to the test.

Dabakis Diary Day 15

All this Olympic talk has got me fired up. And reminiscing.

Guess I can talk now. When the world came to Utah in 2002, I was a volunteer ambassador for Team Russia. Soon after they arrived in Utah, one of my first responsibilities for Team Russia was to get them 50 cell phones. The Team business director had gone to CrossRoads Mall and learned that a local could get cell phones for $30 rather then the out-of-state $300. I went down and signed up for the phones. Put them on my credit card. Many months later, the FBI showed up. They wanted to know WHY it was, that my cell phone had a very suspicious series of phone calls during the Olympics. Calls from a certain French ice skating judge to a certain shady businessman from Uzbekistan. Why were the calls so close to the skating events? How did I meet these people? As Sargent Schultz used to say. “I know nothing.” And of course truthfully, I knew absolutely nothing.

Another note that history probably has not recorded. The Russian team arrived at SL Int’l with cases of vodka. Cases. Big crisis. Upon arrival, one call was made and in total disregard for our local laws and customs, the vodka was quickly OKed (thanks Mitt) and was on its way to ‘Russia House’ within minutes. All of it. Now, despite weeks of paper work and begging, cases of Chobani Yogurt destined for Team USA sit in a New Jersey warehouse, unapproved for import into Sochi. Utah was a great host!

Just Another Day at the Governor’s Office?

 Protest

Protesting for one’s values is a long held American tradition. Non-discrimination is a Utah value. Every poll shows that more than 70% of Utahns believe in statewide non-discrimination. Yet, for the 6th year in a row, the Utah legislature has refused to bring a bill to the floor for a debate and vote. This year was particularly egregious, as SB 100 was killed in a closed caucus without any outside discussion. The support of the LDS Church in the SLC non-discrimination ordinance, the Salt Lake Area Chamber of Commerce support, and overwhelming support of the Utah public didn’t seem to matter.

In America and in Utah, society does best when issues are openly debated and discussed, not shoved under the rug. I understand the frustration of the protestors and of so many Utahns.

If you could ‘Turn Back Time’, would you still hire Shaerr? 

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The new, ‘special’ attorney hired by the Attorney General should resign or be fired. The AG has more then 200 attorneys on staff, can’t we find one to do a federal appeal?

Apparently not. So the state has agreed to pay $200,000 for a couple of months work to Gene Shaerr. he was hired from an east coast firm to defend Utah’s ban on same-sex marriage has a terrific conflict-of-interest. Mr Shaerr, has some kind of secret deal for $$$ with the rabidly anti-gay Sutherland, right-wing think tank. That cash deal from Sutherland certainly makes the appearance of divided loyalties of Mr Shaerr a serious ethical breach. In my opinion, it is a conflict of interest that makes it impossible for him to represent the state of Utahn with fidelity. For example, the lobbying from Schaerr to Republican legislators played a key role in killing the non-discrimination bill before it got a hearing. It certainly gives the appearance of divided loyalties between the client the state, and Sutherland.  Was Schaerr lobbying non-discrimination, as he says to help the states appeal to the 10th Circuit or was he lobbying for his paymasters at Sutherland? It’s a very serious issue. Additionally, the attorney general’s office should inquire into the issue and disclose to the people of Utah what arrangement exists between Mr Shaerr and the Southerland Institute. It was in a smoke-filled back room, closed GOP cacaus that Schaerr gave his do not let non-discrimination be passed suggestion.

Policy in Closed, Smoked filled (metaphorically speaking) Rooms?

smoke room (dabakis)

Why would the Republicans to continue accept discrimination? The people of Utah are against it. 73% (Deseret News-Dan Jones poll) yet in a CLOSED meeting, the GOP decided in secret closed caucus to kill non-discrimination. From personal experience, I can say it feels a lot better to come out of the closet and make decisions out in the open.

Insults to Teachers?

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All political blah, blah aside I think the only thing that has prevented a complete collapse of the Utah education system over the last generation is dedicated, vision-led hero teachers. The legislature thinks, in many cases, that teachers are superfluous. Not necessary in an age of computers. An expense to be phased out on the way to non-human warehouses of hundreds of children sitting before laptops. (Some of them hungry, if their parents have not put money on their lunch cards). I disagree vehemently. Teachers are the heart. They will remain so. New technology can be a tool but it will NEVER replace teachers. As a part of a long term degradation of teachers, in 2008, the state basically ended professional development time. A childless class period here and there to prepare, correct papers. Develop. The sate saved $80 million a year. But it crushed teachers. Crushed.

Finally, after years of stalling, the legislature has come back this year with SB 103. To deal with this glaring open wound in our classrooms. Finally, a solution to the demise of professional development for our teachers. But, here is what they did. Instead of re-funding our hardworking teachers prep time again, the Senate decided to LOWER the days required of students to be in the classroom, and allow up to 6 days less of children in the classroom to be used as teacher professional development time!

Cheap decision. Bad decision. Fewer days with students in the classroom is not the solution! Australia spends 200 days in school, China has 260, Japan has 220, South Korea has 200 and Utah has… 181. Compared with other countries, schools in the United States provided a relatively low number of instructional days.

Clean Air, Not Hot Air!

clean air (dabakis)

Just because you keep saying something a lot does not mean it is true. There is a totally misleading ‘fact’ up here at the Capitol that needs enlightenment. The myth, repeated again and again says, “About 60% of Utah’s air pollution comes from vehicles, 30% from everyday life, and 10% from industry.” Pants on Fire. What the mythmakers do not say is the area covered. If you take an area around northern Salt Lake County and Southern Davis County combined the percent of pollution caused by industry is huge. They just fudge the numbers so that it seems like only 10% is from industry, when in truth industries cause much more air pollution.

Wendy Touched My Heart  

Yesterday Wendy came to the Capitol. A lot of people come. I love people. Meeting people (even some that call me an idiot) is a great part of the job. Within a few seconds, I fell for Wendy. Hard. After we spoke for a while, I had to turn my head so she could not see how emotional I was feeling. Wendy inspired me. A very attractive young woman of about 30, Wendy had a brain injury when she was 15. She cannot speak. She is paralyzed. Her hands are deformed and it is with tortuous difficulty that Wendy typed individual letters into a specially designed keyboard. Her mind was clearly zooming at 100 MPH yet her crippled body was moving messages impossibly slow. Wendy was interesting, opinionated, outspoken, a little naughty, and one of the most interesting people I have ever met. More than anything, Wendy says she wants a job. I will do whatever I can to take her skills and try and help her get a job. Wendy depends on the state of Utah 100%. I am proud as a taxpayer to be able to help Wendy. This is state government at its finest.

The Senate Bill of the Day

Also, a new bill today: SB139, quadruples licensing fees for hybrid vehicles, and significantly increases registration fees for electric and natural gas vehicles.  The argument is that these energy efficient vehicles use much less gas, thus they are not paying their fair share in road taxes. In that spirit, maybe a bill to allow Hummers into HOV lane for free!

Dabakis Diary Day 8

Utah Concealed Weapons Permits – Make Texas pay more?

Because Utah’s concealed weapons permits are looser then Julia Roberts in ‘Pretty Woman’, we are flooded with applications from people OUT of Utah. In fact, 165,000 permit applications were filed last year. Of those, 132,000 (or 80%) were from non-Utahns. We only charge a $5 fee for out of state applications, which is not even enough to pay for the background checks necessary. So, Utah school kids are subsidizing out-of-state concealed weapon permit holders. I say, tax the crap out of these out-of-state Texas and Florida folks. How about adding on a $50, $100 or even $500 fee to out of state applications? If they do not like it, oh well! My friend Representative Oda disagrees, saying that any increase in the fee would be a tax increase. Damn right! Bring it on. If I had my way, the out-of-staters would not get that permit out of this Senator’s cold, dead hands!

UTAH SCHOOL CHILDREN MUST NEVER GO HUNGRY

As everyone knows, there was an incident at Uintah Elementary School involving food and children. It was ugly and clearly mistakes were made. However, in my mind this was not a SLC School District issue or a Uintah issue. Instead, the incident pointed out a serious flaw in the entire way Utah looks at feeding children in school. I am much more interested in changing policy than I am in a ‘pound of flesh’ from a bureaucrat. Kids go hungry every day in each and every Utah school district. This is simply not tolerable! Statewide, we must be strong and clear in sending a message—and in funding it. First and foremost, above all else, even the ‘sacred’ 2nd Amendment, NO CHILD IN A UTAH SCHOOL MAY EVER, EVER, EVER go hungry.

No child in a Utah school can ever be refused food. Even if a Huntsman kid has fallen seriously in debt on his food card, the kid in line gets fed, end of cafeteria discussion! Go after parents and lock ‘em up, or grab their cars, or seize their stock accounts. However, a child should never be ripped out of a food line and either refused food or be given a ‘penalty meal’ like a glass of juice and a piece of fruit. Senator Todd Weiler and I are putting together a few bipartisan ideas to get a uniform policy statewide. Todd and I had lunch with a group of 4th and 6th graders at Uintah on Thursday and they were bubbling. It was not much about food, but a lot about their science fair, what great kids. It is a wonderful school with a very committed principal. Lets focus on the good of this incident—we may not have another child sitting in a Utah classroom, unable to learn because all they can think about is how hungry they are.

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TRANSGENDERED KIDS ARE EQUAL, TOO!

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HB87 is the single most misplaced piece of legislation I have ever seen introduced in Utah. It is cruel. The bill would erase trans people from our schools by denying them access to restrooms, although Utah politicians do seem willing to create a “segregated” bathroom alternative. It would further isolate children over gender-identity issues. The bill redefines “gender” in state law as “the male or female phenotype” of an individual as documented by a birth certificate or a letter by a doctor “based on a physical examination of the person’s genitalia.” This is humiliating and unnecessary. The bill, I suspect, is not born of malice but rather a lack of understanding about trans students. These precious young people must be protected, valued, loved, and cared for. Like all of Utah’s children, they do not deserve to be personally attacked by their own state! The first rule of the legislature, like medicine, must be– do no harm.

FABULOUS DEMOCRATIC LEGISLATORS UNITE ON CLASSROOM HUNGER

Here is more on hunger from our awesome Democratic legislative leaders, Minority House leader Jen Seelig and Senate minority leader Gene Davis. These leaders have vision!

Gene Davis, Jennifer Seelig

Utah Senate and House Democrats believe that no child should ever sit hungry in a Utah classroom. The recent unfortunate events at Uintah Elementary School have exposed the fact that there are children in many Utah schools who simply do not get enough to eat. Here are the facts:

  • Utah ranks last in the nation for providing school breakfasts to low-income kids.
  • More than half of Utah teachers surveyed say hunger is a problem in their classroom.
  • 1 in 5 Utah children live in households where the family struggles to afford enough food (food insecure).

Democratic Solutions:

  • Ensure a review of all school policies that prioritizes the health and stability of Utah’s school children – leading to a broadening of enrollment in low and free lunch programs, and more leniency on those who do not qualify.
  • Implement a School Breakfast Program in every school that has at least 40% or more poor students participating in the school lunch program.
  • Implement a Summer Meals Program for at least 30 days in any school district that has a school with at least 50 percent of its students certified for free or reduced-price school meals.

Dabakis Diary Day 4

IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO SUBSCRIBE,

PLEASE EMAIL JIM.DABAKIS@GMAIL.COM AND SAY “UPDATE!” 

Governor Herbert’s State of the State

The Governor’s speech was interesting. The event took place in the House Chamber. No seats for Senators. It is a very big and beautiful hall. There were sooo many members there. Everyone was talking. No order. No decorum. Those House people are just ‘out of control’. Nonetheless in the sea of chaos, I finally found a friendly face in Senator Steve Urquhart. We sat on the last bench in the far corner. Outer darkness. Good spot for Steve and I.
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The Governor took a couple of lines that we suggested on respect to non-discrimination for LGBT people. While still defending “traditional” marriage, he made clear that “there is no place–and I repeat, no place–in our society for hatred and bigotry.” He was so close, but the rest of the sentence SHOULD have been ‘and that’s why I support, along with 73% of Utahns, Senator Urquhart’s statewide non-discrimination bill.’
 Schedule Thursday, January 30th
I just cannot believe anyone loves their job as much as I do. I just love being a Utah State Senator. The alarm doesn’t go off until 5:30, but it is only is 5:03AM and I gotta get up now. I’m a little too excited to get going.
6:45AM Meet my ‘day’ intern Matt at Capitol (I have an official intern Zaida, who is amazing. I also have an unofficial-shadow intern for most days. Today, for example, Matt from the U is the shadow intern). Matt and I will head out to Grand America.
7:00-7:15 Breakfast with Utah Petroleum Association reception. I get the idea that maybe they don’t like me all that much but I like them. I also like to make sure we have plenty of clean air and not-ravaged land for Utah.
7:15-8:00 Meeting with delegation to plan Diversity Day. Gonnna be a rowdy, racious, rolling rally at the Capitol!
8:00-11:00 Zero based budgeting meetings continue with Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environmental Quality Appropriations subcommittee. Or, as I refer to it sometimes, the ‘remind me again–what does the constitution says about the feds owning 66% of Utah lands gripe committee’. Really I enjoy this committee and have learned a lot about water rights, prairie dogs, and how genuinely warm and decent our rural Senators are. I would be proud to call any of them my friend. For example, David Hinkins (84.65 voting WRONG on the DabakisMeter) is a delightful guy that I would trust with about anything.
11:00-12:00 Floor time. The bills start a rollin’ and we start a votin’. I need to have read every bill by the time they get on the board, although some bills get skimmed more then others. We will have more than 1,300 bills in the next 43 days. I am a real conservative–I say lets limit it to 10 bills a session with sessions every 3 or 4 years.Now, it gets tricky. Want to know why I have put on a few extra pounds?…
12:00-12:08 Pop by amazing Young Democrats Lunch at Capitol Board Room
12:15-12:45 Head to Uintah Elementary School for lunch in the cafeteria and briefing on crisis in school lunches. More about this meeting in the next DD.
12:48-1:30 Regular Lunch with Democratic Senate Caucus
1:30-2:00 Run to office for short staff chat about constituent emails, phone calls (I owe Tom Love a call), and my pending bills
2:00-4:00 Zero based budgeting with Executive Offices and Criminal Justice Appropriations subcommittee.
4:00-4:30 Meet with Dean Peterson, President and CEO of Harmons about his dazzling, new(ish) City Creek store in my district. Jobs! The store was greatly needed downtown and I hope we will have time to chat about how Harmon’s can help us get more Utahns registered to vote.
5:00-5:20 Go home to pick up Stephen (together in sin for 27 years, married 17 days, now who knows) and zoom over to Governor’s Mansion for a legislative reception (no booze). I will tell the Governor how proud I am of his fight for Medicaid Expansion. Time for a quick laugh (and a policy issue or two) with other legislators.
5:20-6:00 Run to Channel 4 for the ‘every Thursday’ 4 minute joint appearance commentary with former GOP Chair Thomas Wright. We hammer away at issues. Thomas is VERY tough on me. Plus he is young and photogenic–in a Justin Beiber kind of way. However, you can’t just find better folk than Thomas–although he frequently needs my tutelage on complex issues. Stephen will be dragged along.
6:00-6:10ish Thomas Wright and I live on ‘Together for Utah’ news segment.
6:30- 8:00 Stephen and I enjoy a dinner with our old neighbors Rick Schwartz and Faith Gartrell.

8:00 Home. Get to a zillion emails, read all bills for Friday, make phone calls, etc. Sometime after 11pm, I predict, Stephen will declare, “If you don’t get your nose out of that computer you will be part of Utah’s first gay divorce!” To which I will answer, something along the lines of “the Governor has stayed ALL actions concerning marriages–I just don’t see how you can divorce me.” Pretty much impossible.

Dabakis Diary Day One!

The “Clean Air, No Excuses” rally (great nod to the whole team who put the rally together) on Saturday was exhilarating. A clean Air Voting scorecard came up with a numerical and letter grade for every Utah legislator. The GOP just loves grading–just ask our teachers. For clean air, there were 12 A’s. There were 27 F’s. The Clean Air folks wanted me to read the names of the F’s to the thousands at the rally. Right. In a clear political, gutless, pander to some of my low scoring good friends in the Senate for the next 45 days, I negotiated to read the 12 A’s not the 27 F’s.  Biggest surprise on the Senate scorecard, Senator Evan Vickers the pharmacist from Cedar City, who is truly one of the classiest guys I know, got a 100% score and an A. Of course rest of the Senate A’s were Democrats. DD (Dabakis Diary) gathered together a group of some of the clever protest signs.

Clean Air Rally Signs (40 of 101)

If you would like to see more pictures,

click here: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/8uq8l9dp14syys8/QzEObA8jHQ

Utah Senator and fabulous candidate for 2nd District US Congress Luz Robles was shocked when her long-time boyfriend, Arizona Representative Juan Carlos Escamilla, was surprisingly granted a few moments of Senate floor time and he used the opportunity to pop the question. I released the following:
“Our heartfelt congratulations go out to Senator Luz Robles and her new fiancé, Arizona Representative Juan Carlos Escamilla, who we trust will be moving to Utah. I am trying to work out a trade where we ship a couple of GOP Utah representatives to Arizona in exchange for Rep. Escamilla. Negotiations are ongoing.”

Luz

Maybe the Governor and I are back on track after a patch of tough sledding last session. Although, I was sorely disappointed when he did not select me to serve as Lieutenant Governor when the vacancy came. We spent 45 minutes together last week. Brandie Balkin was there. It was a productive chat. Despite a little grumbling from a few Dems, I am there 100% to support Gov Herbert on his gutsy decision on not rejecting Medicaid Expansion. The easy tact would have been to just say NO, NO, NO. Lots of red state GOP Governors have done just that. Good politics. Terrible, heartless policy but it keeps the red meat rank-and-file satiated for a while. Don’t know where we are going with Expansion but with Gov Herbert’s decision, a lifeline of healthcare for 123,000 Utahns is still on the table.

utah gov herbert

Wow! It was a pretty tame opening day on the Senate side, but on the House side sparks were flying at the opening as Speaker Lockhart went after Governor Herbert. In a world where passive-aggressive is king, we haven’t seen a direct assault that out-front since… Jon Huntsman endorsed John McCain over Mitt. Speaking of the Speaker, congratulations to Speaker Lockhart. In addition to a few duties over the next 45 days, her beautiful, enthusiastic daughter Emily married Max Britton on Friday. Emily met her new husband as they were both interns in the legislature! Had a chat with the Speaker in her office last week. She was all wrapped up in a shawl, fighting off that dreadful flu. Hope it all went away before the blessed event. Presumably the state of Utah will have no objections to Max and Emily’s marriage. LOL.

Becky Lockhart

Senator Margaret Dayton, represents Provo and is conservative very, very, very conservative. Did I say very? But truth be told (and at some risk to her political future), I like Margaret. The Senator is completely upfront. She is a believer. I am a believer. We just believe in different things. I can respect that, we are both representing our constituents with passion.  When we disagree, there is always respect, civility, and a dose of good humor. There are times we find common ground. I reckon that Senator Dayton and I will find at least one bill (like we did last session) where the two of us are the only NO votes!

Dayton