Utah First

Last week I had the opportunity to hold town hall meetings in West Valley City and Kaysville, Utah. I appreciated the many hundreds of people who took time out of their evenings to visit with me and discuss important issues facing our country. Despite the snow flurries, technical difficulties, and the landing of Air Force One and visit by the President of the United States, the town halls were well attended and a great success.

The Wall That Heals

Mar 20 2015

Last Friday, members of my St. George staff visited The Wall That Heals during its four-day stop in St. George. Organized and operated by the Vietnam Veterans MemorialFund, The Wall That Heals is a traveling museum that helps bring closure and healing to the many millions of people who have been impacted by the Vietnam War.
Earlier this week I delivered my annual report to the Utah House of Representatives and the Utah State Senate. During every year of my Senate service, I have taken the opportunity to visit with the fine men and women of these legislative bodies that make Utah one of the best-managed states in the nation.

Today the Senate voted on an amendment I proposed to the bill to authorize the Keystone Pipeline, which would have limited the amount of fees attorneys can collect when suing the federal government under the Endangered Species Act.

According the Department of Justice, more than 500 ESA-related lawsuits were filed or opened against the federal government since 2009. As a result, federal agencies have to spend their time, energy, and taxpayer-funded resources fighting lawsuits instead of protecting endangered species.

While the amendment received 54 Republican votes, it didn't receive the 60 votes it needed to pass.

There is a lot of work to do to reform the implementation of the Endangered Species Act. This amendment is just one of many reforms that I am developing with my colleagues in the House and the Senate. Hopefully, our future efforts will succeed in providing relief for Americans who have seen their property rights undermined and their economic opportunities diminished by policies that ineffectively protect the environment and disproportionately benefit well-funded activist groups and lawyers.

Today I spoke, via Skype, with a group of students from Independence High School of Provo, Utah, and their U.S. Government teacher, Mr. David Miller. After spending a few minutes telling the students about the legislative process in the U.S. Senate and explaining my constitutional duties as an elected representative, we had an exciting conversation about current events and policy hot topics that were of interest to the class.

I was honored that members of my staff could attend the First Annual Utah Fallen Heroes Family Day at Neptune Park in Saratoga Springs.  This event was organized by The Patriot Guard Riders of Utah, Blue Star Mothers, Survivor Outreach Service Support, and the City of Saratoga Springs.  The event was held to honor and show gratitude to the families of our military and first responders who gave their lives in service to our country and communities.

fallen heroes

Today I attended a conference hosted by the National Association of Counties to discuss the importance and future of Payment in Lieu of Taxes funding.  I appreciated the opportunity to speak to this group, so I could share my thoughts on how we can ensure that a dispropotionate share of the costs and burdens of federal land ownership aren't concentrated in counties with high levels of federal land.

pilt fliers

Materials from the conference that highlight the problematic relationship bewteen PILT and federal lands

In my remarks to this group I identified several areas that we need to focus on as we work together to improve the PILT program and make it more reliable for the counties that rely on the federal government to keep its promise to offset the costs associated with high concentrations of federal land.

I emphasized that PILT is not an entitlement program. It is an affirmative obligation of the federal government. It must not be legislatively partnered with subsidies or other entitlements, because, as we have seen, PILT is being used as a politcal football.  I will continue to work toward funding PILT as either a standalone bill or any other vehicle where Congress can focus on fully funding PILT with a long term bill that provides certainty to counties.

pilt speech

I also pointed out that the most important thing we need to focus on in improving the PILT program is to educate those who come from states with little federal land about the nature of this program.  Every day I work to educate my colleagues about the unique challenges faced by states with high levels of public land.  However, this education effort needs to be promoted by everyone who is concerned with the future of PILT.  I am hopeful that those who attended this conference today will join me in this effort.

 

Today members of staff from my office were invited to attend a ceremony in the Utah State Capitol Building to honor 181 of the 17,000 Utahns who fought in the Korean War.  They were presented with the South Korea Ambassador for Peace Medal.

south korea ambassador for peace medal

south korea honors utah veterans

In a recent trip to St. George, I was invited to tour Switchpoint: a new facility in the area that provides temporary shelter and support for the homeless community in Washington county.  I was joined by St. George City Councilmembers Bette Arial, Michele Randall, and Jimmy Hughes; Mayor John Pike; and City Manager Gary Esplin.  Carol Hollowell is the director of Switchpoint, and she led the tour.

Last November, I delivered a speech about reducing poverty entitled, Bring Them In.  In this passage from the speech I highlighted one of the principles for reducing poverty that is often forgotten in policy debates:

We usually refer to the free market and civil society as “institutions.” But really, they are networks of people and information and opportunity. What makes these networks uniquely powerful is that they impel everyone – regardless of race, religion, or wealth - to depend not simply on themselves or the government, but on each other. For all America’s reputation for individualism and competition, our nation has from the beginning been built on a foundation of community and cooperation.

In a free market economy and voluntary civil society, no matter your career or your cause, your success depends on your service. The only way to get ahead is to help others do the same. The only way to look out for yourself is to look out for your neighbors. 

As I toured Switchpoint, I was convinced that their model that relies primarily on the institutions of civil society is a model that policies that are intended to reduce poverty need to follow.  The institutions of government had a small role to play in helping Switchpoint secure their building.  One of their innovations of the facility is to designate an area where 17 non-profit partners and local government agencies can be available to those who visit the facility.  The bulk of the effort that is utilized to run this facility is provided by volunteers.  Local organizations of contractors and local businesses donated materials and labor for renovating and modernizing the facility.  Another group donated computers that can be used by those who visit the facility to search for work, fill out forms and paper work, participate in job training programs, and develop new skills. Religious groups donated crucial resources and volunteers as well.

switchpoint rooms

Donated Materials and Bedroom Furniture

Computer kiosks

Computer Kiosks for Donated Computers

Aside from this community assistance, much of the operation of the facility will depend on the volunteer work of those who are receiving its services.  While I was touring the kitchen, a woman who was receiving assistance from Switchpoint was helping maintain the kitchen and preparing lunch.

Switchpoint kitchen

Learning About Kitchen Volunteer Program

I was certainly impressed by Switchpoint's innovative approach to making poverty more temporary, but I was not surprised to see this innovation coming from from my fellow Utahns.  This is why as part of my Conservative Reform Agenda, my proposals that are designed to provide opportunity and upward mobility to those who are struggling focus primarily on shifting power from Washington DC to the states, local governments, and local communities that can truly make a difference to those they serve. 

Americans need a new, comprehensive anti-poverty agenda that not only corrects – but transcends – existing policies, and I believe Switchpoint is an organization that proves we can meet this challenge.

Yesterday I joined with the Salt Lake Chamber and the Governor’s office to host the Utah Solutions Summit.  This event provided a venue for Utah business leaders and government officials to come together to discuss the vast and uncertain regulatory state with which businesses are required to comply. The event was also an avenue to find solutions to government imposed burdens placed on economic development. In addition to providing information about the role of regulation and regulation compliance through panel discussions, Senator Lee facilitated industry specific roundtable discussions. In these roundtables, industry leaders discussed ways to alleviate the burdens these regulations have on their companies with a representative from Senator Lee’s office, a representative from the Governor’s office, and others.

solution summit lee

The summit began with an opening speech by myself, and I was followed by a keynote speech given by my friend, Senator Tom Coburn. Both speeches focused on over-reach at the federal level.  I compared the federal government to a “helicopter parent,” with 80,000 pages of new federal rules handed down in 2013.

solution summit coburn

After the opening speeches, there were two panel discussions: A local regulation panel consisting of city officials and business leaders, and a state regulation panel consisting of economists, business leaders, and an agency director. These panelists examined and provided insight regarding the relationship between regulation and economic development.

panel

Lt. Governor Spencer Cox spoke to the group at lunch where he presented examples on how regulation negatively affects innovation in the economy.

In the afternoon, attendees dispersed into industry specific roundtable discussions. The goal of these roundtables was to bring together representatives of businesses and industries to discuss the regulatory burden under which they are required to comply. Participants were asked to bring their most burdensome regulations to the summit as well as potential solutions they would like to put into place to address these problems.

We held roundtable discussions on these topics

  • Real Estate & Commercial Construction

  • Banking & Finance

  • Technology, Entrepreneurship, & Small

    Business

  • Healthcare, Medical Devices, &

    Pharmaceuticals

  • Transportation

  • Energy, Natural Resources, & Public Lands

Mr. Wayne Crews, an expert from the Competitive Enterprise Institute in Washington, DC, provided a presentation on federal regulation for those attendees that did not participate in the roundtable discussions.

I am grateful for the time set aside and the effort made by those in attendance.  The ideas driven through dialogue produced important strategies to address the vast regulatory burden your business faces every day.