Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Voucher Referendum Lunacy

One more time into the breach that is the 'voucher war'. KSL is reporting that, despite the recent opinion offered by the AG that a referendum will do nothing to end vouchers, that referendum supporters are forging ahead to collect signatures. As such, the following becomes the 'quote of the day'.

"I don't think it suggests a huge endorsement of vouchers or against vouchers. I think what it suggests is they've got abilities to collect the signatures and will likely do that."
Doug Holmes-Utahns for Choice in Education
This essentially creates a new category of people known respectively as pro-referendum, and anti-referendum. Do you, A support the referendum just to prove to the Lege that you have a 'voice'. Or do you, B, not sign the referendum. Are we even worried about vouchers anymore, or is this becoming a spitting contest?

Another point. The AG points out in his legal opinion(pdf) that the Voucher program could yet be challenged in court on Constitutional grounds, yet the pro-voucher (or is it pro-referendum) folks couldn't care less. They are too busy decrying the AG for being obtuse to the fact that we can, in fact, collect 90,000 signatures.

Well, we can collect that many signatures. And, we must because we are referendum people!


Davis Didjeridu said...

How is this lunacy? The Utah Constitution states:
"All political power is inherent in the people; and all free governments are founded on their authority for their equal protection and benefit, and they have the right to alter or reform their government as the public welfare may require."
Utah Const. art. I, § 2
PCE has been against the Utah public involvement on the issue since all their candidates (Garwood, Jacobs, Bagley, Reid, etc) lost in the 2006 election (to Shurtliff, Allen, Morgan, Griener, etc.) Since then, they have used legislative log-rolling, confusion, and intimidation to try to derail the effort. They have decided they cannot count on the electoral system to achieve their desired result. They are free to do this, but you should recognize why they use influence-peddling instead of direct democracy. In fact, since most of the $ and political will for this comes from states where voucher efforts have all failed at the initiative and referendum level, they know they shouldn't necessarily count on Utah to be any different.
You act as if the referendum effort is worse than a court challenge. In fact it is better. The referendum petition drive costs you relatively little tax $ (just administrative work at the Lt. Gov. and County Clerk's offices), as Utahns for Public Schools is using their money and their volunteers. While if there was immediate court action, it would cost the state a lot of $ in court costs. The election could cost a lot of money, but only if there was a special election for it. If the governor chose to put on the general election ballot, that would save a lot of $.
And do not think that pro-referendum folks are going on some sort of quixotic quest to just to prove their power. They have a legitimate interest in the state of education in Utah and have chosen this avenue because it is the cheapest, most popular, and in most ways easiest method express that interest on this specific issue.

Tyler Farrer said...

Davis Didj.,

I have no doubt that a referendum can lead to a vote of the people. I support the constitutionality of it, I just don't think it's practical at this point.

When the AG suggests that a voucher referendum will lead to unintended consequences, and referendum supporters ignore his argument-that is lunacy.

Jeremy said...


The legislature's Republicans took half a million dollars in donations from groups pimping this legislation and they delivered its passage even though most Utahns are against it. Now that tens of thousands of Utahns have signed the petition many Republicans (including the AG) are worried that their efforts will be overturned. The referendum doesn't overturn the worst provisions of the voucher program but it definitely makes it easier to beat the program back in future court battles. It also shows the Republicans that most Utahns disagree with their ideological crusade to waste taxpayer money subsidizing private schools

The actual lunacy is that our legislature and governor acted on this in the face of a majority of constituents who are passionate enough in their opposition that they're willing to go through this process to overrule them. 80% of Utahns want this to be an issue decided by the people...not the Republican politicians who are on the take. 55% of Utahns are opposed to tax payers subsidizing private schools.

You ideological crusaders who want this foolish plan implemented at a cost of millions of dollars in new administration costs and even more in certain court costs with no evidence that it will provide any public benefit need to check yourselves. If it is voucher lunacy you're looking for you'll find it among your partisans.

Allie said...

So Tyler, you are saying that because the AG said that the referendum isn't going to stop vouchers, that the majority of Utahns who do not want vouchers should just roll over and accept them?

I applaud those who are working so hard to bring the issue to a vote. How wonderful to have so many people involved in our state political process. It's just too bad that our elected officials couldn't represent the majority to start with.

Jesse said...

The legal opinion is a major blow to them not because of what remains in HB174, but rather because the entire petition could be invalidated over misrepresentation. It's being sold as a "overturn vouchers" petition when it would likely not have that legal effect. It seems though, as our state government is wont to do, the law will be ignored for the sake of political expediency. Kinda like with the 4th Congressional seat.

I still maintain that ending the voucher program is a secondary concern at this point for the anti-voucher activists. I didn't understand why a lawsuit hasn't yet been filed against HB146 and/or HB174 until I realized what the petition drive is: an effort to embarrass legislators with a public rebuke. I have no doubt that if it fails, the lawsuit will be filed within a week on the dubious and vague "constitutional problems" argument. I'm eager to see if the anti-voucher crowd can offer a rebuttal of the recent legal opinion from a lawyer or two. That The Utah Amicus hasn't used their legal resources to address that opinion is telling, especially since they make about 5-7 posts a week about vouchers.

Tyler Farrer said...


I'm not saying that voucher opponents should roll over, but they should address the AG's arguments head on. Why are they acting like the argument doesn't exist.

Don't quit, but do debate it.

If a vote on vouchers will get rid of vouchers, then tell me why?

Tyler Farrer said...


You begin to answer the AG's argument in your first paragraph, but then branch off into other arguments that don't really apply to the subject of this post (i.e. reasons for or against vouchers don't apply to this discussion).

For the clarity of those who may vote for or against the referendum, you'd better make your position clear. People want to know what their vote will do. Most have made up their minds about whether they like vouchers or not.

Is this referendum going to help your cause? Expound upon that. The AG gave the Anti-voucher people some good ammunition in his comments about Constitutionality, but I've seen little comment on it.

By not arguing that point, you concede it.

That is crazy.

Davis Didjeridu said...

Tyler: First, the AG's opinion was "informal" and has no legal standing. If you wanted it to have legal standing, you should have told that to your legislators in 1988-2000, when they immasculated the Democratic-controlled Van Dam and Graham AG's offices, including removing the power to issue legally-binding advisory opinions. Secondly, legal experts can disagree and it could end up in the courts, but it will be because the voucher supporters want it there, not because the voucher opponents do. I do believe that Utahns for Public Schools will offer up a rebuttal to the AG, but it may have to wait until after April 9. The goal of the petition is to repeal HB 148; each petition packet states that, has the text of the bill, and asks if the registered voter would like to see the bill repealed. It is the voucher proponents who are confusing the issue by pushing the argument that a clearly-flawed HB 174 could stand on its own, with or without court challenges.
The petition drive is not an effort to embarrass the legislature and Governor, though it hopefully will cause them to consider whether they are actually acting by their constituent's wishes. It is the most basic application of petitioning the government for redress of grievances.
The reason they have not yet filed the lawsuit is because, as I stated above, they want to use the petition power as a relatively less expensive first option. For all their money and supposed power, the PCE pack is reluctant to engage in a fair fight on the public playing field, i.e. in an electoral battle because (as I said) they have always lost at the ballot box. Instead, they want to derail the effort, confuse the issue, and intimidate people by sending false and threatening letters. I reiterate they are free to do this, but we should judge their true motives by their actions.

Tyler Farrer said...

Davis D.,

Look, I'm fine that the AG has the authority that he has--limited. Let's debate this before this is decided at the ballot. I'm certainly in favor of a fair and open debate. I'm simply surprised that pro-ref. folks think that the AG's opinion isn't worth the paper it was written on.

Everyone keeps implying that the AG is in PCE's back pocket, and that it is the millions of dollars that they have spent that has done this, but I have yet to see the link between the AG's office, or person, and the PCE PAC.

Where are the "false and threatening letters"?

Natalie said...

I saw one of the false and threatening letters today. PCE is threatening principals with criminal action if they allow parents to collect signatures on school grounds.

Tyler Farrer said...

Can elected, or appointed, public officials endorse one side of a referendum issue legally?

It sounds like there could be legal grounds for such a 'threatening' letter.

'False'? Are signatures being collected on school grounds?