2019 Legislative Lesson: Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce, Swamp Consolidates Stranglehold On Utah

The general session of the Utah legislature ended on Thursday and it was a major win for the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce and the elite swamp.

Let’s start with some temporary good news. Outcry stopped, for now, the Chamber’s HB441 tax reform which would have further socialized costs and privatized profits. Again, this is temporary as the legislature is planning a special session to address tax reform. I expect they will basically run HB441 with a bit more lipstick and stick residents with a larger portion of government/infrastructure cost while minimizing big businesses’ contribution (businesses represented by the Chamber), thus maximizing their profits.

Teachers were also unhappy with HB441 and should be reminded that it was the Chamber’s past president, Lane Beattie, who screwed up school funding in the first place. Senator Howard Stephenson also picked up on this as well on his March 9th radio show where he called out those behind this mess.

Stephenson: I believe they created a crisis to then have a solution that was basically cooked up behind closed doors and sprung on the legislature with only two weeks left in the legislature.
Dougall: So when you say “they”, you don’t mean the legislature created the crisis, others created the crisis was responding to…
Stephenson: Well we know who was involved in it: The Salt Lake Chamber, the Kem Gardner Institute and Natalie Gochnour, and the uh Representative Quinn and some others, who, nobody really knows who was part of this brain trust and when they were meeting or anything…

Next, the Chamber and politicians made another big step in pulling political power from citizens and into the hands of political power brokers and political elites (“the swamp”). HB119 modifies the rules on citizen intiatives/referendum to greatly increase the logistics (and cost) by carving cities up into separate districts and requiring signatures come from 75% of those districts along with having to hold town hall meetings. The bill also lets cities spend money to fight such initiatives (thus, they get to use citizens’ tax money to fight citizen initiatives). The bill was sponsored by none other than Brad Daw and chief Utah swamp creature (imported from Chicago), Curt Bramble. This junk comes on the heels of SB54 which shifted candidate selection from the neighborhood caucus (advantageous to citizens) to big money political campaigns and lobbyists/consultants. SB54 also resulted in candidates being selected with less than a majority. Somewhere, Kurt Jowers, his Alta Club posse and his “California friend” are smiling…

The Chamber and Legislature (BIRM) also pushed more high density housing onto local cities. This will make the Chamber’s developers very happy and will not help housing affordability – likely the opposite (note: read the op-ed but then read the author’s (Justin S) comments in the comment section, they are key). The Chamber is also behind the propaganda ads on this issue and note that the Chamber cites the Kem Gardner Institute in the article (you’ll never guess who sits on the board of the Kem Gardner Center…).

More cronyism is glaringly obvious with HB290 where the legislature decided to dish out your sensitive personal information (including SSN, mother’s maiden name, place and date of birth, physical characteristics, medical information, etc.) to the University of Utah (UofU) for their health and epidemiology studies. As I said when I highlighted this abuse of power:

I’ve been part of medical studies but voluntarily participated. The UofU is no better than any other university or other medical research group when it comes to this. They should adhere to the same standards as the rest. They should be ashamed for engaging in political cronyism and trying to get this type of preferential treatment to take our driver license information without asking. It’s another example of Bastiat’s “legal plunder”.

Our so-called elites continue their path of power consolidation and legal plunder. Unfortunately, we’ll be left holding the consequences these ignorant elites foist upon us.

Addendum: the Chamber also had limited success with their support of the irrigation water metering bill. They used the guise of water conservation for this bill but it was bunk – water operators stated it was easy to conserve water by simply limiting irrigation to certain days (turning of the system on ‘non-water’ days) etc. What they had attempted (pushing expensive water meters onto everyone) was likely to result in cheaper, smaller water operators being forced out and effectively creating water monopolies and to favor developers. That danger still exists and there’s a question if Utah’s aquifers will be harmed (irrigation water significantly replenishes the aquifer).

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HB290 (2019): Utah Legislature To Expose Your Sensitive Personal Information, Force You To Participate In UofU Medical Studies

Representative Lee Perry, a law enforcement officer ought to know better but I guess he doesn’t care. He’s sponsored a bill that exposes your sensitive personal information and gives it out to medical studies without your consent.

Perry is sponsoring HB290. The third substitute which already passed the House and is now in the State Senate (sponsored by Lyle Hillyard). It gives out your personal information found in Driver’s License records which includes social security number. This also includes your children if they have their license. Here’s where they do it in the bill under a section on who can access driver license personal identifying information:

(v) to the University of Utah for data collection in relation to genetic and epidemiologic research; or
(vi) to a government entity, including any court or law enforcement agency, to fulfill the government entity’s functions, or to a private person acting on behalf of a government entity to fulfil the government entity’s functions, if the division determines disclosure of the information is in the interest of public safety.

First, the University of Utah really refers to the Huntsman Cancer Institute but the wording certainly doesn’t limit disclosure to Huntsman, the information will go to the entire university as long as they’re conducting an epidemiological study. The UofU and Huntsman do important research but so do plenty of other universities as well as private research outfits. However, they have absolutely no right to take and use anyone’s personal information without getting their permission first.

I’ve been part of medical studies but voluntarily participated. The UofU is no better than any other university or other medical research group when it comes to this. They should adhere to the same standards as the rest. They should be ashamed for engaging in political cronyism and trying to get this type of preferential treatment to take our information without asking. It’s another example of Bastiat’s “legal plunder”.

Second, the “or to a private person acting on behalf of a government entity to fulfill the government entity’s functions” is extremely vague. Any government ‘entity’ or contractor can get extremely sensitive personal information. The bill doesn’t restrict the disclosure to those directly related to public safety and licensing nor limit what it discloses to the scope of their needs/program. There is also no prohibition on thereafter selling or sharing the information with another person/company. Thus, they will spread your information all over the place to who knows how many databases, computers and thumb drives. This greatly increases your exposure to identity theft.

Contact your Senator and ask them to oppose this bill. It is disrespectful to Utah residents and their youth drivers as well. It is simply unacceptable.

 

Socialist Capitalism and Utah’s HB441 Tax Reform

As you may have heard, the Utah House of Representatives rushed out a sweeping tax bill (HB 441) that was developed behind closed doors and slammed it through its first committee hearing. It is unlikely that the bill will be able to be thoroughly vetted as the session is coming to an end.

I’m trying to get time to fully delve into the 260 page, 8,023 line bill but probably just won’t be able to before the legislature votes (with the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce running things up there, it will likely pass). However, even if this bill were good, I would oppose it because it is something that should’ve been developed in the open and given plenty of time to be reviewed and tweaked if/when unintended consequences etc. are found. The last minute, behind-closed-doors nature of this bill is a non starter. They can hold it and deal with it via interim committees until the next session.

I’m sure they’ll squawk about the bill fixing the penalty they knowingly applied to Utah’s families last session but that is something they could fix with a small bill rather than using it as a fig leaf to try to ram sweeping legislation through that hasn’t been publicly vetted. Don’t fall for this snake oil salesman line if they trot it out.

In terms of the bill itself, here’s what I understand so far:

  • It will reduce taxes some companies pay to avoid multiple taxation. For example, I buy raw material and pay sales tax, then sell my product to another company and charge them tax, they make something else with my product and charge the next producer tax and so on until the consumer finally pays the last sales tax.Sounds fair, right? On the face yes, that would be good BUT it depends on how that’s implemented and from what I can tell, it’s implemented very poorly and only benefits the crony capitalists while leaving small businesses unprotected. More on that in a moment.
  • Lowers the corporate income tax rate to 4.75%
  • It will “fix” the increased tax penalty on Utah families. Again, that can easily be done with a small, self-standing bill (see above).
  • It will increase the sales tax on everyone by taxing services although we are told that the drop in the sales tax rate and income tax rates will be revenue neutral (at least for the next 15 minutes or so).

The first bullet point notes cleaning up the multiple layers of tax placed on an item before it get’s to the consumer. They botched it and probably intentionally at the behest of the Salt Lake Chamber of Crony Capitalists. They have it set up so that Utah taxpayers subsidize certain politically-connected businesses.

First, it will reduce the cost of a product (no tax built into the cost) by passing that cost to consumers who buy the product. That’s totally fine if the product/material is bought by a Utah consumer. However, if the product is shipped out of state to California, Mexico, Europe or Asia etc., then those purchasing consumers or businesses don’t pay the tax while Utah consumers do.

For example:

Acme Beauty in Utah produces for nail clear coat and charges $10/gallon (price includes corporate tax costs). I buy it in Utah and I have to pay about $10.70 (paying both the reduced corporate tax portion and sales tax). Meanwhile, if I buy it in France, I pay $10 and have only paid the reduced corporate tax in the product. Thus, the business reaps the profit while Utahns shoulder a large part of  taxes that paid for the infrastructure, environmental, educational etc. ‘overhead’ costs that made it possible for the company to ship the product and have employees here. Folks in France only paid the reduced corporate tax portion and transferred the rest of overhead costs incurred by the state to taxpayers.

Furthermore, if you are a business offering a service you are still hit with multiple layers of taxation. Using the above example, if I run a nail salon and buy the clear coat, I pay $10.70/gallon and incorporate that in my cost of my manicure service ($5/nail). With new tax on services, I must then charge sales tax raising the price to about $5.35/nail. I have thus double collected tax on the final cost a Utah resident pays (once for the clear coat and then for the service).

Ultimately, the way the tax reform appears to be set up is designed to socialize the costs while privatizing the profits. Utah consumers pay much more into the overhead when certain privileged businesses reduce their tax burdens and reap additional profits from lower costs. On top of that, nonresidents reap the benefits of purchasing goods that were exempt from sales taxes on their inputs.

This whole things sure sounds like ‘socialist capitalism’ to me.

The tax scheme appears to benefit big business (which is more likely to produce materials and do business outside of Utah) and disproportionately impact small business (such as mom & pop services within the state) and Utah taxpayers. This type of scheme is right in line with the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce which has a history of looking for ways to push costs onto others and spinning it like they care about the particular vehicle they’ve decided to employ in that endeavor.

I suppose the legislature could remedy this by requiring a tax be paid on items purchased by nonresident addresses but that too would need to be studied and there isn’t enough time for it. The more I type and think about this, the more it really sounds like another Chamber of Commerce crony capitalist gambit to slam something through before anyone can figure out the full effects.

Further reading: The Salt Lake Chamber also  directly supports Medicaid expansion as well as indirectly through the United Way. The Chamber likes expansion as it pushes healthcare costs from business onto taxpayers. Click the link and look at the sections on the “Health Systems Tax Force” and the United Way. UPDATE: Speaking of Medicaid expansion, I forgot to mention that it is funded with a sales tax increase. That is how the Chamber made sure they would push the cost onto residents and, by running through this tax reform bill, they further shift the cost onto residents as they further reduce their remaining exposure to sales tax.

End Exploitation: Illegal Immigration, Tax Credits, ID Theft, And The Border Crisis

I was tipped off to a 2015 KSL article in the comments (thanks Jen). The report is super as it has several illustrations for today: Republicans say Obama giving immigrants ‘amnesty bonuses’

Armed with new Social Security numbers, many of these immigrants who were living in the U.S. illegally will now be able to claim up to four years’ worth of tax credits designed to benefit the working poor. For big families, that’s a maximum of nearly $24,000, as long as they can document their earnings during those years.

Obama has issued executive orders shielding about 4 million immigrants from deportation. Some were brought to the U.S. as children; others are parents of children who are either U.S. citizens or legal residents.

They’re referring to the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). It’s something that should sound familiar if you’ve read this blog. It involves illegal aliens not only engaging in identity fraud but tax fraud as well and the IRS basically doesn’t care. To catch up, read the posts on WTHR’s Bob Segall’s outstanding investigative reporting on this issue. Better yet, check out all his reports from the source: WTHR Tax loophole investigation.

Based on the above, it may be possible for one of the illegal aliens who used a fake ID to ‘game the system’ and get a huge EITC for ineligible family members to turn around and file again (thanks to Obama’s unconstitutional amnesty) but under the new social security number they were assigned. Thus, they could double their take of taxpayer funds.

One means that this may be prevented is if the IRS flags their earnings documentation as having already been reported under a different SSN but, given Segall’s findings, that appears unlikely.

Then there’s the identity theft aspect that goes hand-in-hand with illegal immigration:

How does Social Security know when it receives taxes from immigrants who are in the U.S. illegally? There is no foolproof method, Goss said. One way is by tracking reported wages in which the Social Security number does not match the name the agency has on file.

Some of these are clerical errors or unreported name changes, But Goss estimates that a majority of these wages come from immigrants who have made up Social Security numbers or used someone else’s.

The numbers are huge.

It’s well known and well documented that illegal aliens engage in identity theft (along with credit fraud and medical ID theft) and leave plenty of innocent victims in their wake (besides those murdered, drunk/other vehicular deaths, and sexual assault and decades long humanitarian/drug border crisis). Amnesty, HB116 and/or cheap labor proponents like the media, Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce, and Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints prefer to ignore it and hope no one notices the one-sided compassion for the perpetrators and blind eye to victims. But so does the Federal Government.

The IRS upper echelon obviously doesn’t care. Even before Obama’s amnesty, Segall found frustrated IRS officials upset at the abuse and blind eye to the identity theft. The Treasury Inspector General wasn’t happy either. With Obama’s amnesty, the “supporting documentation” they provide will clearly, again, indicate earnings via a fraudulent social security number. Fortunately, you can count of IRS chief, Koskinen, to thumb his nose at victims, citizens/legal immigrants, IRS workers and the IG.

The IRS accepts these tax returns without reporting the taxpayers to immigration authorities, IRS Commissioner John Koskinen said. That encourages the workers to pay taxes.

“We don’t enforce the Social Security laws, we don’t enforce the immigration laws,” Koskinen said of his agency. “In fact, the reason illegal immigrants file taxes with us is they know we aren’t sharing that data with anybody. We treat it as taxpayer-protected information.”

The IRS was supposed to finally take action with a rule change but I have no idea if it was ever implemented (Segall’s investigation ends there).

Finally, the article ends with a line that unwittingly exposes and condemns the Chamber of Commerce:

“Let’s not forget that these workers receive the lowest wages for what they contribute to their communities and local economies,” said Ellen Sittenfeld Battistelli, policy analyst at the National Immigration Law Center. “What do we as a nation gain by further impoverishing them?”

This is an admission that points that illegal aliens are getting paid below market rates (thereby likely artificially depressing wages and innovation) and underpaid employees are dependent on these credits. Unscrupulous employers (and the Chamber of Crony Capitalists) are quite happy to have taxpayers subsidize their lust for cheap labor.

This exploitation of various victims needs to end. The wall must be built and it is essential that E-Verify be implemented to turn off the magnet and perverse incentive to hire underpaid, illegal labor for competitive advantage.

Bountiful Power Pamphlet Shorts Out

This month a pamphlet was included in the city power bill. Overall, the pamphlet is a good representation of Bountiful City Light & Power. It includes several factual statistics (customer number, kilowatt hours sold etc.) and discuses their employees.

First, I do want to point out that the section on their crews’ dedication and service is right on the money:

…crews are available to respond when required: day or night, on sunny days, and snowy days…Bountiful Power crews work quickly and safely to get the power back on so your life can go back to normal.”

I can attest, first hand, that the power department folks are courteous and dedicated and I appreciate their outstanding crews. If you’ve dealt with them, I’m sure you’ve found the same (tip: it’s always a good idea to call HQ and with feedback and ask that they recognize a good employee).

Anyway, I didn’t know how to title this post and, with scant time as usual, I just went with the above. So how does the pamphlet ‘short out’? It’s the line that “public power results in…reduced taxes”.

As demonstrated here, it does not. At best, it transfers who collects the revenue. At worst, it is used as a defacto taxing entity by city politicians manipulating and over-charging customers on their power rates to collect additional revenue and thus also cloak the true tax/government burden on citizens. Bountiful City politicians employ the latter tactic, unfortunately. This tax hiding results in a higher overall burden, in my estimation, as most citizens aren’t aware of the revenue transfer from power department to the city and don’t realize how much government actually costs them, particularly for political crony/pet projects.

I don’t know who decided to add the last page with the “reduced taxes” sophistry but it’s too bad as it detracted from the rest of the message.

Annual Warning: LDS Church Publicly Announces Soft Target Status, Demonstrates Some Lives More Valuable Than Others

Each January, I check to see if the LDS Church has renewed it’s firearm ban and publicly announced itself to be a soft target for terror and/or other violent crimes (and, yes, islamic terrorists have specifically named the LDS Church as a target). The trend continues this year. However, there is something else I picked up on during the last year and I was reminded of when reading their January 9, 2019 legal notice:

NOTICE OF FIREARMS PROHIBITION Notice is hereby given that, pursuant to Section 76-10-530 of the Utah Code Annotated, firearms are prohibited in all houses of worship, including temples, meetinghouses, chapels, stake centers, tabernacles, the Assembly Hall, the Tabernacle and the Conference Center, of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the “Church”), except for firearms in the possession and control of individuals who (a) are specified in Section 76-10-523(1)(a)-(e) of the Utah Code Annotated or (b) are otherwise engaged in the protection of Church members, visitors, personnel or facilities and hold a written authorization issued by the Managing Director of the Church’s Security Department. This notice is effective upon publication and shall remain in effect until revoked or the first anniversary of the publication of this notice, whichever first occurs. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints 50 East North Temple Street Salt Lake City, Utah 84150 1238909 UPAXLP [Emphasis added]

First, “members” with “written authorization” does not apply to general membership. Trust me, if you’re not in upper church leadership that bold section doesn’t apply to you. You’re expendable.

Earlier this year, I attended a couple of meetings where the church’s president was in attendance. Both were in a church facility where the gun ban applied. In both instances he had an armed security detail. They either were advertising to potential trouble makers that they were armed or didn’t do a very good job concealing their weapons. It’s another instance of “good for me but not for thee”.

Members should be aware of three things:

1. Upper leadership is afforded protection that you and innocent members (particularly children) are not. Apparently, their lives aren’t as valuable as others (‘some lives are more equal than others’?…). As far as I’m concerned a child’s, middle-aged mother’s, or sleepy 75-year-old member’s life is just as important as the Prophet’s or other General Authority’s life. If they refuse to let members protect themselves, they should at least either provide security or active shooter (and first aid) training.

2. Just because an armed security detail is in a meeting you attend, do not count on them protecting you or your family. Their priority is the individual(s) they’re assigned to. If crap hits the fan, they’ll get them out of the danger which may mean neutralizing the threat (if you’re lucky) but more likely, just getting out to safety. It’s possible they’ll come back to engage the threat but there will be a long delay (they have to secure their client) and most of the damage will be done. Basically, you’re on your own.

3. Given the two items above, you need to plan for your own security, reaction and egress. You should hold a family home evening on it. I would also suggest looking into some sort of trauma first aid training to help in the aftermath if you survive. Here are a few resources to start off:

Everything You Think You Know About an Active Shooter Situation Is Wrong
Recognizing 8 Signs of Terrorism
How Situational Awareness Can Save Your Life In A Terror Attack

Notes on the videos:  In Auburn’s you’ll notice everyone concentrate in one corner of the room. That isn’t best practice IMO (see the Ohio video where they mention spacing out). Also in Ohio University’s video, note the “…bring along a weapon in case you encounter the shooter along the way” comment. The best weapon (IMO) has been denied to you so grab what you can quickly (don’t waste time evaluating/looking for something, however). Remember, ALICE  means Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate.

There are plenty of other resources so check them out but be sure to apply them to your situation as each method will have deficiencies for different scenarios (e.g. differing room type, size, configuration, obstacles, number of shooters, etc.). Try to play out realistic scenarios in your mind (don’t get into fantasy where you come out the hero). Plan on casualties and steel yourself mentally for the screaming, gore and likely death you will encounter.

Finally, The LDS Church remains one of only two churches in Utah with this dangerous policy. I hope the LDS Church will reconsider their policy just as another congregation did when faced with a threat. It should also be noted that prior to the change a few years ago, concealed carry had been allowed for decades in LDS facilities without incident.

Utah Media Bias Chris Jones (KUTV) Style

Waste is always worthy of being exposed and addressed. It’s the pretentious nature and condescending attitude Jones has toward parents (i.e. ‘outsiders’) coupled with his failure to disclose conflicts of his go to “expert” and one-sided reporting that torpedoes his credibility. His bias was on full display.

Here’s a snippet from his report (“APA charter school blew nearly $500K in botched expansion plan”):

American Preparatory Academy [APA] is in the middle of a lengthy, expensive legal battle that has cost Utah taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars, all thanks to what critics suggest is poor planning and a sense of entitlement.

“It was an expensive, dubious project to undertake,” said Carol Lear of the Utah State School Board.

He goes on to go after APA’s actions but here’s what Jones left out of his report:

  • He didn’t disclose Carol Lear is a counsel attorney to Lear & Lear, LLP, a competing law firm (specializing in education law) to the one paid to represent the charter school in Jones’ report. Her firm is one which, just a few months ago, bid on a state school board contract resulting in conflict of interest concerns: “State board mulls possible conflicts after firms of 2 school board members bid on $40,000 contract“.
  • Jones didn’t disclose Lear’s apparently passionate involvement prior battle with this issue and APA which occurred and was reported on over a year ago. She certainly wasn’t one of the “board members [who] were more moderated in their communications, while still hinting at discomfort over the issue.”
  • In the televised newscast, he concluded, telling the KUTV anchors, that charter schools aren’t managed well because parents sit on the board instead of an elected politician or a professional education administrator.

Believe it or not, parents have a vested interest in the school’s operation (they pay for school and often volunteer) and their kids are directly involved and may be harmed. Meanwhile, a politician’s interest is in a career path. Of course, the media is in bed with professional political swamp, so not much of a surprise here that KUTV would want to promote the latter.

Charter schools are far, far more responsive to parents than a traditional school. I speak from experience. Obviously, not all charter schools are good (conversely, plenty of traditional schools suck too) but they are overall much more responsive and, at least, bear the consequences of their actions (decreased enrollment, funding, and eventual closure). Traditional schools generally don’t have this level of feedback. In economics, it’s been long known that the closer an individual or organization is to the funding source of their service, the better job they do – just read the section on public and private education pros and cons in Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations.

I looked through several KUTV “Beyond the Books” reports and I didn’t see such a ‘tenacious’ report on waste and poor management from the traditional public schools and I’m sure there’s plenty (some options: student data sharing, school fee abuses, Taj Mahal buildings, apparent violations of Utah code and district policy). Maybe he’ll go after them with the same zeal but I’m not counting on it.

I’m sure Jones has never found any problems with any politician’s decision…well, besides those he politically disagrees with. But he can sure run some exposé when it’s someone outside the anointed Utah political insider club like a bunch of parents on  a board…ugh that icky rabble should just stay out of the playpen.

All this begs the question given the one-sided nature of his “reports”: Who’s feeding Jones the attack information so he can act as their hired gun? At least one of his benefactors is the left-wing Alliance for a Better Utah who sicced him on School Board member Lisa Cummins and I suspect he’s happily aligned with them and/or just plain lazy and happy to regurgitate what he’s been told.

I already linked to this above, but if you really want to know what’s going on with the APA issue in a much more objective manner read this in full: Should Utah charter schools be allowed to seize private land? Maybe Jones should ask the article’s writer, Benjamin Wood, to mentor him. Otherwise, he and KUTV are always welcome to the world of blogging where he can spout his opinion rather than feigning objectivity.

Note: I’m not affiliated with APA nor at all enamored with their actions based on what I read in Wood’s actual reporting (last link above). I’m just sick of pretend journalists (“fake news”). If you’re going to advocate, fine,  just be open and explicit – don’t call yourself a journalist.

Side note for potential future reference: I stumbled on this. Apparently Carol Lear isn’t a fan of concealed carry and weapons training in schools:

“It’s a terrible idea,” said Carol Lear, a chief lawyer for the Utah Office of Education. “It’s a horrible, terrible, no-good, rotten idea.”
Utah educators say they would ban guns if they could, but legislators left them with no choice. State law forbids schools, districts or college campuses from imposing their own gun restrictions.[I believe this the opinion of the UEA]