Category: Utah State

Delegates trade one Cox for another for Utah House seat

The Salt Lake Tribune

Jon Cox says Sanpete County residents are fiscal conservatives and that’s why they chose him to replace Rep. Spencer Cox in the Utah House after Gov. Gary Herbert chose Spencer Cox to be his new lieutenant governor.

“We didn’t want the state to have to pay for another nameplate,” Jon Cox joked Friday on Twitter, a day after delegates in House District 58 chose him as the replacement.

Jon Cox — who is a distant cousin of Spencer Cox — serves as a Sanpete County commissioner, a seat he took after Spencer Cox won his seat in the Utah House in 2012.

Jon Cox worked for five years as a constituent liaison in Sen. Bob Bennett’s office and now is an assistant professor of history at Snow College.

Under Utah law, the state party will forward Jon Cox’s name to Herbert, who will formally make the appointment to the House seat, which represents Sanpete and Juab counties.

“I’m honored and humbled by this opportunity to serve rural Utah in the Legislature,” said Jon Cox, who won nearly 65 percent of the delegate vote. “Spencer was a tireless defender for Sanpete and Juab counties, so I have some incredibly big shoes to fill.”

Herbert picked Spencer Cox last month as his new lieutenant governor, replacing Greg Bell.

Herbert wants state to hire more veterans


495px-Gary_Herbert_cropOn the eve of Veterans Day weekend, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert issued an executive order directing state departments to identify ways to bolster hiring of military veterans.

“Our veterans have freely given their time, sweat and blood to serve this great state and nation,” Herbert said in a statement. “Each and every veteran deserves an opportunity to continue that service through employment opportunities here at home. The state of Utah will serve as a model employer for our veterans.”

Utah has more than 165,000 veterans, military personnel, National Guard troops and reservists. Unemployment for veterans in the state remains higher than the overall jobless rate.

The governor’s order directs the departments of Human Resource Management, Workforce Services and Veterans and Military Affairs to determine what percentage of the state workforce veterans represent and develop a strategy to increase or maintain the levels of veteran employment.

The order also calls for increased outreach among veterans groups.

Committee delays vote on prison relocation bill again

Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — The makeup of a board that would oversee possible relocation of the Utah State Prison and redevelopment of the land where it now sits remains a sticking point for state lawmakers.

“As we’ve gotten into this, everybody feels like they need representation on the board,” said Sen. Scott Jenkins, R-Plain City, sponsor of SB72.

The bill now calls for an 11-member Land Management Authority Board with two subcommittees — one with seven members to oversee relocating and building a new prison, and the other with nine members to manage development of the current 690-acre prison property.

Draper, which has the 62-year-old prison in its boundaries, would have to two members on the board. But City Councilman Troy Walker wants a third, saying the city should have “significant” say in the decision making.

Members of the Senate Judiciary, Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Committee raised concerns about possible conflicts of interest on the board and the public perception that the relocation project is on a fast track. The committee did not vote on the bill Monday.

The cost for moving and building a new prison is estimated at $550 million to $600 million. Jenkins said at least two-thirds of the cost would be covered in the savings from a modernized prison and the sale of the current property.

Building a new facility would save an estimated $20 million annually in operating costs, while the land would bring at least $140 million, he said.

Proponents of the project see the current prison site being developed as a technology center. The relocation committee estimated it would bring $25 billion in economic development to the state along with 30,000 to 40,000 jobs.

Opponents say it would allow land developers to get rich and leave taxpayers holding the bag when the economic returns don’t materialize.

Mark Shurtleff expects another 5-4 decision in health care case

Deseret News

Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff predicts a 5-4 decision, one way or the other, in the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case on the federal health care reform law.

“I’m feeling pretty good about it actually,” he said after Monday morning’s oral arguments.

Though not arguing the case, Shurtleff has a front-row seat in the courtroom as Utah is among 26 states and the National Federation of Independent Business challenging the constitutionality of what some have dubbed “Obamacare.”

“This may be the most important court hearing of our lifetime because of the impact it will have on the reach of the federal government and our individual liberties,” he told KSL Radio.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act changes certain aspects of the private health insurance industry, increases coverage of pre-existing conditions and aims to extend insurance coverage to more than 30 million Americans. It requires individuals to buy insurance or pay a penalty beginning in 2014.

Obama signed it into law two years ago last Friday after Congress approved it mostly along party lines.

As of January, two of four federal appellate courts had upheld the law; one declared the individual mandate unconstitutional and a fourth ruled the issue couldn’t be decided until taxpayers begin paying penalties.

The Supreme Court scheduled an unprecedented six hours of oral arguments over three days, concluding Wednesday. A decision is expected in June. Former U.S. Solicitor General Paul Clement is representing the states.

Monday’s hearing centered on whether an obscure 1867 tax law prohibits lawsuits, like the one challenging the health care law, from going forward until someone actually pays the penalty for not buying health insurance.

Shurtleff said the justices asked probing questions about that issue Monday.

“They’ve done their homework. They were very engaged,” he said.

Should the court decide that law applies, the case would not be “ripe” until 2015. But Shurtleff said he doesn’t think the court will go that direction, though it would be a “political out” for the justices on a “politically charged” issue in an election year.

Tuesday’s arguments are expected to focus on one of the more controversial aspects of the law: the mandate for individuals to buy health insurance. The Utah Legislature passed a bill in 2010 that expressly prohibits a Utah resident from being required to purchase health insurance, which gave the state standing in the Supreme Court case.

“If the (federal government) can get away with this, frankly they can get away with anything,” Shurtleff said.

Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, expressed the same sentiment Monday, saying it would allow the government to tell people how much to spend on leafy green vegetables for health reasons.

“If Congress is given the power, there’s no logical stopping point,” he said. “It leads to tyranny if you have unfettered power at the federal level.”

Like Shurtleff, Lee predicts a 5-4 decision in which the Supreme Court finds the health care law goes too far and invalidates the individual mandate.


Collective Bargaining Raises Wages

By bargaining collectively, union members are able to negotiate higher wages. Union members earn almost 28 percent more than nonunion members. The union wage benefit is greatest for people of color and women. Latino union workers earn almost 51 percent more than their nonunion counterparts. Union women earn almost 34 percent more than nonunion women. For African Americans, the union advantage is 31 percent. The union advantage for white male workers is almost 21 percent. For Asian American workers the union advantage is close to 1 percent.


Collective Bargaining Raises Wages

BLS, “Union Members in 2010″, January 2011, table 2

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