Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Keeping Tabs On Vouchers

How many of you are reeling, as I am, from the slings and arrows cast in the last week on the voucher imbroglio?

This is the problem with the 24 hour news cycle. There is often no time to sort things out. Well, consider this moment, an eddy on the river of the news from which you can rest your paddles, and long for the days of yore when the news blackened your fingers instead of your thoughts.

The Players

  • Steve Urquhart -- Legislator, Attorney, and Sponsor of the Voucher Bills/Laws
  • Kim Burningham --Not only the Chairman of the State School Board, but a founding member of Utahns for Public Schools. Burningham presided over the board on a controversial decision to hold the Voucher law implementation until answers could be given to the board.
  • Parents For Choice in Education--Non-profit, funded from outside of Utah, but founded by two Utah entrepreneurs, and heavy contributer to the campaigns of voucher supporters. Most notably, Kim Burningham's opponent in this last election. Clearly, if they are conspiring, they were not very good at ousting the entrenched Burningham, although they have waxed the proverbial floor with others.
  • Utah Supreme Court (less Chief Justice Christine Durham) will hear arguments from both sides on June 8th.
  • Democratic Legislature--A group unanimously opposed, not only to vouchers, but to those who promote them.
  • The Senate Site--Not the Republicans majority caucus-proper, but the anonymous version of the same. Supporters of all things voucher.
  • Mark Shurtleff --Attorney General of Utah, and advisor to the State School Board and Governors Office. The A.G. has advised the State School Board to implement HB.174.
The Timeline

2/12/2007: HB148-Voucher Bill narrowly passed by one vote, exposing it to the threat of a referendum, is signed by the Governor.
3/6/07 : HB174-Bill intended to "fix" the first voucher bill passes by a much larger margin, 2/3rds majority, and signed into law making it "referendum-proof".
4/30/07: Voucher Referendum Certified by the Lt. Governor
5/15/07: Ballot language written and mailed to the Lt. Governor. Language has HB148 in the title.


Before you ask, I can't say that Governor Huntsman is a player, although he's jumped in and out on this issue. He just hasn't demonstrated strong leadership, one way or another. He doesn't seem to like to play 'hot potato'. Neither am I trying to be predictive about if, or when we do get to vote on this, or another bill. It seems that we might have a special session to clarify, and we might just leave this for the courts to sort out.

Update: My apologies. I neglected to mention Mark Shurtleff as a player in the voucher dispute. Although this list was never intended to be comprehensive, it was to include the 'major' players. For the same reason that I leave off the Governor, I must remember to include the A.G. Shurtleff has been a stand up guy in all of this. Giving his views, and sticking by them. Some will call him 'arrogant' for this, but he is taking a legal viewpoint, which is his job. The news today reveals that he has fired two Attorneys for misrepresenting the view of the Attorney Generals Office, and giving contrary advice.


The Senate Site said...

Senate Republicans are only mostly for vouchers. A few are proudly anti. The cleanest (but maybe not the most practical) way to solve this problem is to do it through an Initiative. You get to vote on both bills, not just one; you don't circumvent the Rule of Law; and the People still get to make the final decision.

Loved your first paragraph, by the way. Eddy on the river... the days when news blackened your fingers instead of your thoughts... Good writing.


P.S. The Senate Site isn't a voice for the Republican Party, just the majority caucus in the Utah Senate. Sometimes the distinction doesn't matter much - but sometimes it matters a lot. We don't speak for them.

Jeremy said...

I'm a little curious how you can call Shurtleff a real player.

Sure...he has an opinion...but he doesn't have any more legal authority than I do to force vouchers into being through HB174.

Shurtleff advised the School Board that he thinks they are legally obligated to ramp up the voucher program. So what?

Jeremy said...

Your dismissal of Huntsman's role in all of this seems to be based on the fact that he is saying things that don't help your side of the debate. It was less than two weeks ago that he said:

"Right now there are several lawsuits moving through the judicial system and I will be watching with great interest to see if clarity results. If the voters of Utah are not given understanding from that judicial process within a reasonable amount of time, I will do whatever is necessary to ensure an up or down vote.

"I consider the public's voice on the HB 148 referendum to be the ultimate decision on Utah's voucher policy. I will call the Legislature into a special session if necessary to assure the finality of the November vote."


Those don't seem to be the words of someone who isn't a "player" when it comes to vouchers.

Huntsman clearly doesn't buy the argument your side has been making that the Utahns should be disenfranchised on vouchers because of a technicality. He's right.

Tyler Farrer said...

I support Urquhart's plan of convening a special session to take care of the unintended confusion as to whether one bill merely amends the other, or stands on its own. If the law is unclear, than it is not the job of the courts to make up the difference. The legislature can clarify and then we can have an up or down vote on vouchers.

That's all I want.

The problem with Huntsman is that he is unwilling to let the buck stop with him and actually convene a session.

The Judicial should not be legislating. They don't have the answer to this one--or, at least, they shouldn't have the answer.

Jeremy said...

I totally agree with you on how this should all be solved. Urquhart is absolutely correct and I think his proposal was made in good faith with the hope of clearing everything up and providing and absolute up or down vote on vouchers in November. Unfortunately there are people on both sides of the debate who seem to think that they'll benefit more from the present confusion than they would from a clear choice on vouchers.

That really stinks and it has caused me to seriously quesion the intentions of the major combatants on both sides of this issue.

Tyler Farrer said...