Thursday, March 14, 2013

2013 Utah Legislative Update: Two 2013 Bills (One Bad, One Good) "Completely Gutted"

Getting manhandled by oafs like Sen. John Valentine after you've invested so much hard work's gotta REALLY hurt, we'll boldly conjecture

In the interest of kick-starting yet another morning discussion, we'll pursue a novel reportorial angle and put the spotlight on a couple of 2013 Utah legislative bills (one good, one bad) which oppositional state legislative "leaders" didn't have the "guts" to kill outright, but which were so heavily amended during the legislative "process" that they emerged in forms which rendered them virtually unrecognizable to their original sponsors. Curiously, in neither case, did either of these bill's sponsors utter even no much as a murmur of complaint however, when their bills were effectively "gutted" by their "ever-helpful" Utah legislative colleagues.

1) The Bad:  Following up on yesterday's Salt Lake Tribune story, reporting that  Utah House Rep. Jake Anderegg's  bone-headed  HB391 "message bill," was likely to be "killed" in the State Senate, we find that the bill has nevertheless survived, "zombie-like," with a final "lurch" to "passage" yesterday in the that same upper state legislative body where it was prematurely pronounced dead.  Turns out however that contrary to that the bill's original intent, i.e., to "summarily "shut off the possibility of tapping into federal funding for expanding Medicaid to cover an estimated 131,000 uninsured, low-income Utahns," and additionally [to] thwart Governor Herbert's better-reasoned approach of carefully studying the Affordable Care Act's true fiscal impact by means of an already-commissioned cost/benefits study," those objectionable prohibitive operative provisions have now been completely "stripped" from the the final amended bill, and Governor Herbert's reason-based decision making authority has been left mostly intact, as this morning's Kirsten Stewart story's lead paragraphs set forth:
A bill prohibiting Utah’s governor from opting into Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion passed through both the House and Senate late Wednesday — after senators stripped it of the prohibition.
A substitute version of HB391 represents a 180-degree turn from its predecessor, which Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, feared would have prematurely cut off debate on one of the most important policy decisions of the year.
"One of the lessons I hope we’ve learned is bringing out a brand new bill at the end of session and limiting public comment is probably not a good idea," said Weiler, referring to a controversial attempt two years ago to overhaul Utah’s open-records law.
Weiler’s amendments would free the governor to decide whether to stretch Medicaid to cover up to 131,000 poor and uninsured Utahns, but only after public release of a twice-delayed cost study and "thorough analysis" of charity care alternatives by the legislative Health Reform Task Force. Should Gov. Gary Herbert opt into the expansion, he would have to seek funding approval from the Legislature.
The substitute bill passed unanimously, 27-0, and then passed the House with the sponsor’s blessing, 51-23.
Read the full story, folks:
In essence, through Senator Todd Weiler's "fail safe" amendments, which he'd "kept in his pocket" "just in case" this knuckleheaded bill "somehow [might] make its way" to the Senate floor for a vote (which it did), the bill has been "completely gutted" of its original intent, which does represent a victory of sorts for reason and logic, we suppose.
    2) The Good: And while we're speaking of 2013 bills that have been "completely gutted," we'll refer to a story appearing yesterday on the Standard-Examiner website, reporting on the "progress" of North Ogden homeboy Rep. Ryan Wilcox's HB 228, which would have mercifully eliminated from Utah liquor-licensed restaurants Utah's "weird" and "comical" Zion Curtains. Seems that this aspect the "Big Gummint Nanny State" will persist in Utah restaurants for at least another year, and that victorian era throwback Senator John Valentine was of course creepily true to his word, when he predicted that "[HB228] has little chance to pass the Senate in its current format. He said he will work with Wilcox and other House leaders to find a potential compromise." The S-E's lead paragraphs provide the gist of reporter Antone Clark's disappointing 3/14/13 story:
    SALT LAKE CITY — The Zion Curtains will stay, but fines for serving minors will go down in a compromise bill crafted by House and Senate leaders Tuesday.
    Sen. John Valentine, R-Orem, introduced an amended version of HB 228, which includes portions of three separate bills, as proposed changes to the state’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Act.
    Valentine said he met with House leaders, including Rep. Ryan Wilcox, R-North Ogden, to find common ground on the compromise, avoiding a rush on the last day of the session.
    Here's the full above-referenced S-E writeup:
    Although Senator Valentine still refers to his "bill gutting" amendments as finding "common ground and compromise," it doesn't take a rocket scientist to "cut through the crap" and recognize it for what it really is (to the extent that Wilcox may have gone along with Valentine)... good old fashioned Utah legislative capitulation... inasmuch as Wilcox's reason-based HB 228 has now been "stripped" of it's key component, elimination of Utah's ridiculous Zion Curtains. In this case, unlike the "health care" matter referenced above however, we'll chalk this up as a bitter "reason and logic" defeat.

    We'll nevertheless offer this morning a Weber County Forum Tip O' The Hat to North Ogden "homeboy" Rep. Ryan Wilcox for aggressively pushing this rational (and sane) Utah liquor law reform legislation; and we'll likewise cheer him on when he brings his bill back in 2014, and 2015 and every other legislative session after that, if necessary.

    Yesiree, we do believe that Rep Wilcox is a smart, intellectually honest, clear-thinking and persistent Utah legislative up-and-comer, and that sooner or later he'll outlast retrogressive and senescent legislative antiques like Valentine.

    Additional kudos to Wilcox for his gentlemanly "tactfulness,"  by the way, in pretending that this so-called "compromise" was a "good thing," on balance. Getting manhandled by oafs like Valentine after you've invested so much hard work's gotta REALLY hurt, we'll boldly conjecture; so Wilcox should be congratulated, wethinks, for ever-so-politely "biting his lip."

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