Tuesday, June 30, 2015

NPR: Could Supreme Court Decision Lead To Death Of The Gerrymander? - Updated

Sounds like we need to add Utah to the list of states pushing for an independent redistricting commission, with or without a citizens initiative, no?

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Here's another interesting story for US Supreme Court watchers, via National Public Radio (NPR):
The Supreme Court's decision on Monday to uphold the constitutionality of Arizona's independent redistricting commission has some hoping their model could now pave the way for other states to adopt a less partisan way of drawing congressional lines.
"There are a lot of efforts around the country to try and get commissions enacted, and now I think those efforts are going to go full-steam ahead," said Nicholas Stephanopoulos, a law professor at the University of Chicago who studies elections and redistricting. "Now that the Constitution has been cleaned up, the green light is definitely visible through this."
So far, two states — Arizona and California — have adopted the independent commissions, each created by voter referendum. Had the court ruled against the legality of those bodies, it could have affected as many as one-third of congressional districts — spurring not just a redrawing of lines there but also impacting other states that have commissions involved in some capacity.
The court's decision gave hope to gerrymandering opponents, who have long advocated for better ways to draw boundaries than by those who would benefit the most from them. (Here's a brief history of "gerrymandering" and how it got the name.)
"Now with California and Arizona on safe constitutional ground, maybe other states will look to them as a model," said Stanford Law School professor Nathaniel Persily, who filed an amicus brief in the case.
Read up folks:
In light of this latest SCOTUS decision, Utah is one of the states which could benefit from taking a fresh look at the manner in which Utah legislative districts are drawn, or so it seems to us:
Sounds like we need to add Utah to the list of states pushing for an independent redistricting commission, with or without a citizens initiative, no?.

Update 7/1/15 10:29 a.m.: A couple of impressive followup pieces, via the Salt Lake Tribune:
"Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery," says the Trib editorial board.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Election Law Changes Spark Friction at GOP meeting

The Deseret News presents more evidence of crippling  Utah Republic Party dysfunction, with this morning's "telling story." Here's D-News reporter Lisa Riley Roche's lede:
SANDY — There was friction Saturday among members of the Utah Republican Party's governing body over how to comply with a controversial law changing the candidate nominating process that they're challenging in court.
The GOP's State Central Committee meeting at the Salt Lake Community College's Sandy campus started with a closed session with the party's legal counsel that lasted 1 ½ hours.
Afterward, a third of the 15 agenda items dealing with the details of the party's caucus and convention system for choosing candidates to represent the party were scrapped.
Debate erupted over several of the remaining proposals, including an amendment to the party's constitution stating that candidates with enough support at the party's convention "shall proceed to the general election."
Check out the full story, folks:
Sodden observation  If the Utah GOP wants to retain any credibiltiy and/or relevance in Utah, it needs to DROP its lawsuit, for starters.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Breaking: Supreme Court Legalizes Gay Marriage Nationwide

This may be the best term a solicitor general has ever had

Via the Huffington Post, which reports that marriage equality is now the "law of the land."  Here's the lede, folks:
WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 on Friday that it is legal for all Americans, no matter their gender or sexual orientation, to marry the people they love.
The decision is a historic victory for gay rights activists who have fought for years in the lower courts. Thirty-seven states and the District of Columbia already recognize marriage equality. The remaining 13 states ban these unions, even as public support has reached record levels nationwide.
The justices found that under the 14th Amendment, states must issues marriage licenses to same-sex couples and recognize same-sex unions that were legally performed in other states. Justice Anthony Kennedy delivered the majority opinion and was joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan, Stephen G. Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor. [Emphasis added].
Read the full HuffPo story here:
Needless to say, on the heels of yesterday's blockbuster SCOTUS decision, U.S. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli is "on a roll":
Keep your eyes on Weber County Forum, peeps, as we add important updates, whilst the inevitable pro/con reactions roll in throughout the day.

Updates 6/25/15: Just like clockwork, conservative heads are beginning to explode like popcorn in hot oil, all over the webosphere:
Marriage equality advocates and various other civil libertarian-types are greeting today's decision with open arms, of course:

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Breaking: Obama Gets A Gigantic Win As Supreme Court Rules ACA Subsidies Are Constitutional 6-3

Over on the Republican side of the congressional aisle: Wailing, weeping and gnashing of teeth

Great news this morning for fans of the Affordable Care Act. Here's the lede from Politics USA:
In a decision that crushed Republican hopes of using the judicial system to gut Obamacare, the Supreme Court ruled by a 6-3 margin that the subsidies are constitutional under the ACA.
This defeat means that the Republican efforts to gut Obamacare have come to a grinding halt. The King v. Burwell case was the GOP’s last chance to get a court ruling that would effectively gut the ACA. Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Kennedy sided with the majority and wrote the opinion.
Read the full story, Peeps:
Here's the money quote:
The Supreme Court said that subsidies were available to all Americans. The size of this victory for President Obama and Democrats can’t be underestimated. Republicans have been crushed by the High Court today as 6.4 million Americans will get to keep their affordable healthcare.
Over on the Republican side of the congressional aisle:  Wailing, weeping and gnashing of teeth:
Comments anyone?

Utah Policy: Constitutional Defense Council Declines to Use Public Money to Pay Legal Fees for Embattled County Commissioner

Lyman supporters – including GOP Gov. Gary Herbert – will insted donate private money to Lyman personally for his appeal and his trial costs

Following up on our earlier post on the topic, the Utah webosphere is ablaze with the good news that Utah taxpayers are "off the hook" for San Juan County Commissioner Phil Lyman's legal bills. Here's the encouraging lead from this morning's Utah Policy story:
Who says a public outcry can’t make a difference?
Or the threat of lawsuits?
Or an upcoming election?
After a closed meeting Wednesday, the state’s Constitutional Defense Council and the Utah Association of Counties came to an understanding:
The state WILL NOT spend $100,000 of CDC money to defend San Juan County Commissioner Phil Lyman, should he decide to appeal his recent conviction in federal court for leading an ATV ride on a dirt road closed to such activity by the Bureau of Land Management.
Read the full story, folks:
Here's the interesting upshot, WCF readers:
Instead, any number of Lyman supporters – including GOP Gov. Gary Herbert – will donate private money to Lyman personally for his appeal and his trial costs.Herbert, who seeks re-election in 2016, will donate $10,000 to Lyman, said Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox, who chairs the CDC.
The $10,000 check will be written from Herbert’s political action committee, not personal funds, gubernatorial aides told UtahPolicy.
Added bonus: Utah Policy provides this interesting glimpse into one of our own Weber County Commsioner's stance on the use of taxpayer funds in support of scofflaw Phil Lyman's post-conviction defense:
Former GOP legislator, current president of the Utah Association of Counties, Kerry Gibson, a Weber County commissioner, told UtahPolicy that he had the votes on the CDC to provide UAC with the $100,000 requested to defend Lyman.
But after the closed session – in which Assistant Attorney General Tony Rampton briefed council members about the legal implications of the state getting involved in an individual’s criminal conviction appeal – Gibson and his fellow UAC members present decided to withdraw their official request for the $100,000.
So the CDC, their membership here, never took a vote, [Emphasis added]..
Write it down, so you don'r forget it, Weber County voters.

The rest of the Utah online media is all over this story, too:
A Weber County Forum Tip O' the Hat to Alliance for a Better Utah, whose "threatened" lawsuit seems to have made all the difference.

That's right.  Even in Utah"Sometimes the good guy wins. Now that's a Better Utah!" 

Monday, June 22, 2015

Rolly: Big Debt Has Some Utah Republicans Grumbling

With the 2015 Utah GOP organizing convention looming in a short two months, we'll confidently predict that Evans' leadership days are "numbered."

Upside Down
Riveting Salt Lake Tribune column this morning, from journalistic heavyweight Paul Rolly.  Break out your Kleenex folks. We know this is gonna break your hearts:
The Utah Republican Party seems at first blush to be basking in its success and popularity.
After all, Republicans hold 24 of the 29 seats in the state Senate, 63 of the 75 seats in the House of Representatives, all five statewide elective offices, all five seats in Utah's congressional delegation and dominant roles in the county commissions around the state.
In most of the big races, Republicans usually win by 20 percentage points or more.
But underneath the surface, things don't look too rosy.
The state party is $118,000 in debt and insiders say that after the expenses of putting on the state convention in August, that deficit likely will rise to $200,000.
Check out Mr. Rolly's tantalizing full column, peeps:
Under the "leadership" of Utah GOP Chairman James Exans, Utah GOP fundraising efforts have all but dried up. 
Much of the buzz about the party's money problems centers on GOP State Chairman James Evans and puts the blame on his decisions to cozy up to the right wing of the party, leading to the alienation of larger group of party centrists.
In summary, we'll take particular note of this comment from savvy Trib reader MillsLevan:
Another casualty of one-party rule. Why donate when they're going to win everything anyway? There are no battles to fight, nothing to rally the troops. Add to that the lack of leadership on the part of the state chair and it's no wonder they're in trouble.
With the 2015 Utah GOP organizing convention looming in a short two months, we'll confidently predict that Evans' leadership days are "numbered."

Eh, folks?

Friday, June 19, 2015

Standard-Examiner Editorial: Our View: Taxpayer-funded ATV Defense (Insulting)

Utah: "the most fiscally responsible state" (except when it's not)

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In the inerest of kickstarting some possible Weber County Forum discussion, we'll shine the spotlight on this morning's strong editorial from the Standard-Examiner.

Here's the lede:
The Utah Commission for the Stewardship of Public Lands made a big mistake when it supported using taxpayers’ money to assist the legal defense of San Juan County Commissioner Phil Lyman, who was convicted last year of a misdemeanor when he drove an ATV in Southern Utah’s Recapture Canyon, which is federally protected. The commission wants a legal analysis of the case.
However, the commission’s Republicans, which include Plain City State Sen. Scott Jenkins, are angling to have Utah’s Constitutional Defense Council spend as much as $100,000 to defend Lyman, who faces sentencing later this summer. The council, which will meet later this year, decides money to be allocated for states’ rights tussles with the feds.The 6-2 party-line vote by the commission is an insult to Utah taxpayers, who should not be given the legal tab for a county commissioner’s instance of political activism. If lawmakers want to pay the court bills of Commissioner Lyman, pass the hat among legislators, or pursue assistance from an interest group that sympathizes with Lyman.
Check out the full editorial, Peeps:
Remember, folks, Mr. Lyman has already been convicted at trial by a jury of his peers; so whatever taxpayer money that is wasted on this fool's errand will be devoted to a possible appeal:
The Standard deftly "nails it," in this "thumbnail" summary:
We respect that Utah lawmakers have an interest in states rights and any potential conflicts with the federal government. But that should not extend to paying the tab for law-breakers, which Lyman is. A Democratic member of the commission, State Sen. Jim Dabakis, Salt Lake City, has it right when he said, “He (Lyman) made the decision to have a public protest. Now he has to face the music.”
This is an editorial board "firing on all cylinders," wethink.

Utah: "the most fiscally responsible state" (except when it's not.)

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Utah Policy: Legislature Approves Wasting $2 Million for Public Lands Effort

Utah: The "best-managed state?"

Despite recent withering public relations setbacks,it seems that Utah House Rep Ivory's  crackpot quixotic land grab scheme is still gaining traction within the Utah Legislature, Peeps: Here's the lede, via Utah Policy's eye-opening morning story:
The Utah Legislature will hire three of the most respected and expensive local lobbyists to work on public land issues, but oddly enough the three won’t be able actually to lobby – since it is illegal under Utah law for the state to use taxpayer dollars to lobby.
Doug Foxley and Frank Pignanelli are well-known on Utah's Capitol Hill. They, along with former Utah Democratic senator Blaze Wharton, are part of the Davillier Law Group, a specially-grouped New Orleans legal/public relations team soon to be on an up to $2 million contract accepted Tuesday by the state Stewardship of Public Lands Commission.
Later in the day, (surprise of surprises) the Legislative Management Committee also approved the new contract. [Links added.]
That's right, people; the Utah State legislature is aboout to devote Two Million Taxpayer Bucks to this "fool's errand."

Read the full story, WCF Readers:
Utah: The "best well managed state?"


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