Saturday, March 5, 2011

HB477: They Did It for the Legislators! (And that's why it was wrong)

Rep. John Dougall, (R - Giant Hypocrite)
Last night, via the Senate Site, an explanation of the fast-tracked, little discussed, and transparency defeating HB477, passed by the House and Senate both with little opposition. Read the whole thing yourself, but outside of anecdotal cost examples (which could be addressed numerous ways, with much more respect for the public trust), and a notion of protecting private information in legislative communications (which I would argue does not, and should not trump public confidence in an open, transparent government), it seems they "did it for the legislators!"  And that is exactly why it was wrong.

Our elected officials are entrusted with representing us, and often seem to forget that they work for us, not their own claim to power.  But more of a travesty  here is a disrespect for the role of the media.  The media, more so than any elected official, are a true extension of the people.

If there is indeed an over-reach by the media (keep in mind no legitimate example of such has been given) in the use of GRAMA, that is a necessary evil, and there are, again, far better options -- some that would take advantage of the very technology legislators have expressed concern about -- than restricting public access to the governing process.  Utah legislators should feel obligated to err on the side of protecting that relationship between voters and lawmakers provided by an aggressive and attentive investigative media.

With HB477, legislators, led by Rep. John "Champion of Open Government" Dougall, and Senator Lyle "My Law Clients Come First" Hillyard, have instead erred on the side of protecting themselves.

My comment on the Senate Site post:
So far, legislators, primarily Dougall and Hillyard have provided only anecdotal “evidence” of the cost. And even if cost really is an issue, this is perhaps the least creative “fix” to that, and one that happens to not just “lose the PR” battle, but paints the legislature as making a judgment call on “worth” not so much as “cost.”

Outside of cost, Hillyard spent a lot of time in the media briefing and on the floor pointing out that clients sometimes email him at his legislative address. I understand that concern, and I even sympathize to an extent that our legislators who have jobs outside of their legislative duties. But what was so disappointing for me, listening to Hillyard, was his complete lack of personal responsibility. Senator, you are an elected official, charged with representing the people of Cache Valley, not just your law office clients. If your clients are emailing you at your Senate address, you (and only you) need to take responsibility for correcting that. It’s not — in any way shape or form — the responsibility of your constituents, who expect an open and transparent governing process.

Finally, I love the outreach from our legislature online. Especially that of the Senate body. But in effect, the way this has been handled, and the decisions leadership have made in how to begin a dialog -- implied by their “we’ll get back to this later” message to Utah’s media -- undermines that very outreach. Those of us who know legislators personally or interact to a greater degree during the legislative session may be able to see past this and watch for a continuing dialog, but for the general public busy with their daily lives, HB477 and the process by which it became law this week furthers the notion that their lawmakers are only telling them half of the story.

The point of “sunshine” or “open government” initiatives are not only good government, but a more engaged and less cynical public. With this process, and this bill, the Utah Legislature has done more to feed that cynicism than fight it. I am disappointed that Senator Hillyard would be more concerned about the “trials and tribulations” of legislators than the bigger picture of encouraging public faith in Utah’s institutions.
Not a proud day for Senator Hillyard, or the legislative process in Utah.

Now Governor Herbert has a choice.

Help him make it.
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Fax 801-538-1528

5 comments:

  1. Jason:

    I think this is the very first post of yours I read that I wholeheartedly agree with. I'm not at all happy about Herbert's signature on the bill tonight. GRAMA could have used some minor edits but I was surprise at some of the names who signed this piece of garbage in the legislature.

    Worse, as a GOP, I criticized the backroom & rushed way Obamacare was passed--yet here's the exact same thing going on here at home.

    I can only surmise that a bad case of rabies is going around from feral cat bites.

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  2. "I criticized the backroom & rushed way Obamacare was passed"

    9 months, for the bill, of which discussion about has been around sense what 1917!?, multiple bipartisan summits, huge amounts of extra time given to the "gang of six", which passes via super majority in the senate via normal process, and the end product bill is on the net several weeks before Obama actually signs it, albeit I give you the budget reconciliation bill did make modifications to it.

    Good heavens So what does a not rushed bill look like, how many years of debate do you need?, is a super majority not enough?, maybe we need a super douper majority(with a pony)!.

    Albeit, all we got was the 1994 republican health care alternative bill with Obama's name on it, But I guess using the republicans own ideas is a bad way to start with bipartisanship !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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  3. RD:

    I don't care about the gang of six. None of them represents me, my state, my views, or for that matter my party. As a body they hold no constitutional authority.

    The final bill was not 9 months, but produced rather only hours before the Senate vote during Christmas vacation. Keep in mind that there are plenty of ways to make sausage and here are some of my beefs with the way Obamacare was made:

    (1) Obama promised healthcare negotiations would be open and on CSPAN. Never happened nor was CSPAN even approached
    (2) The Senate voted on Obamacare on CHRISTMAS EVE; the House held their final vote on a rare Christian Sabbath Day
    (3) Democrats passed "Slaughter Solution" or "Deem-and-Scheme" to deem the bill having been passed without voting on the bill.
    (4) No GOP Amendments were allowed.
    (5) The bill was onerous in complexity and practically no elected official could admit to having read it once it became released in its final version.
    (6) Harry Reid dropped a Democrat-only-backroom-negotiated 338-page amendment just before the Dec 2009 Senate vote on top of the 2000+ page bill
    (7) Waivering Democratic Senators such as Nelson (Cornhusker Kickback) and Landrieu (LA purchase) were given sweetheart deals in exchange for their votes to overcome the GOP filibuster.
    (8) Speaker Pelosi in her own words: "we have to pass the bill for you to find out what's in it." http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KoE1R-xH5To

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  4. That bill at the end of those 9 months was the culmination of those 9 months.

    1.

    I watched floor debate on the bills on cspan all of the time, their where the summits, town hall meetings(albeit often interrupted by bused in out of state miscreants), tons of public debate and otherwise.

    Personally I would like to see more "Professor Obama", It's a shame that the gop put an end to bipartisan public forums after that.

    2.

    Well yea, after the gop used every trick in the book to stop it, after Obama put all kinds of gop'y things on the table and pre negotiated all kinds of conservy type goodies into the bill, after the public option was stripped at the behest of the GOP, after the the insurance corp exemption of trust/monopoly laws was left in at the behest of the GOP, after the national insurance commissioner was stripped out at the behest of the GOP, after end of life counseling(living wills) was removed from the bill at the behest of the GOP, Mccains fundamentally broken "high risk" pools where put into the bill, subsides in the exchanges can be used for GOP favored high deductible junk insurance, States where given the ability to form the exchanges according to their needs and regulations AND form interstate compacts for insurance across state lines(but in a responsible manor as opposed to a national exchange).

    3.

    That was talked about but never used.

    4.

    Their are hundreds of GOP amendments in the bill, some of which where poison pills and are coming back to roost(individual mandate, 1099 forms, etc).

    5.

    Well that is just the nature of the health care system as a whole, And they pretty much knew what was in the bill just not the exact words of it. And the bill is written in legal terms as well, so about 2/3 of the wordage of fluff anyway(titles, sections, references to current law, etc).

    6.

    Actually, the managers amendment had a whole bunch of stuff from Snowe and Colins, it is what stripped the public option as well.

    7.

    Those where removed in the reconciliation bill, And thank heavens it cost Mary her job, next election maybe we can get bill halter back up their =p.

    8.

    The public has been thrown so much disinformation on the bill that only its passage could bring the real truth. Fact is any bill that isn't passed can have anything claimed against it and because of amendments technically be plausible. Her comment was pointed at lies like death panels, and government takeovers, etc. By passing the bill the reality of what it is can no longer be distorted.

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  5. This type of insurance policy is one type of permanent life insurance. With a permanent policy, the insurance is designed to last as long as you pay the premiums. Whole life insurance guarantees this lifetime protection. Universal life does not have these guarantees but there is now instant term life insurance where you can add a feature that guarantees that the insurance will last the rest of your life.

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