Ivory's Interim Update
Much has happened since the 2017 legislative session. Although we are a part-time legislature in Utah, the work is certainly not part time and I’d like to share with you some of the things I have been working on the past few months in an effort to improve the quality of life for the people of Utah and to prepare some of their concerns to go before the legislature in less than six months from now.
Restoring Governing Balance - Federalism
A few years ago, I passed legislation to create the Utah Commission on Federalism, which I now chair. Federalism is the unique governing system devised by our Founders, which divides governing powers between state and national governments “as a double security to the rights of the people.” (Madison).
Over the past few decades, states have lost sight of their crucial constitutional role in that balance. As a result, the power of the national government has grown larger and the voice of the people has grown smaller….much, much smaller.
Since the session, I have been working with our Federalism Commission and with state leaders around the nation to bring a renewed recognition and respect for the roles and responsibilities divided between the states and the national government. Last week, I presented at the annual meeting of the American Legislative Exchange Council the HJR17 Joint Resolution to Restore the Division of Governmental Responsibilities Between the National Government and the States, which I passed earlier this year. I also presented on the important work we are doing in our Federalism Commission to engage our federal partners, through the measured dispute resolution mechanism we created, in order to restore respect for our governing roles and divisions.
Next week, I will be presenting this framework we are calling a “Federalism Starter Kit” at the National Conference of State Legislatures in Boston. Given the accelerating growth of the national government, states around the nation are coming to the same realization: we need to restore clear limits and divisions of governing power., Many states are beginning to adopt the framework we have developed in Utah.
Brian Head Fire
During the early stages of the Brian Head Fire, I toured the affected areas. Everyone from the shopkeepers to the servers in the restaurants, from the senior citizens to the sheriff, commented that they knew this catastrophic fire was coming. They knew this with certainty because of the fuels loads had been allowed to dangerously increase throughout the Dixie National Forest.
This massive fire burned through the Panguitch City municipal watershed and the contaminants in the runoff are now threatening rivers and lakes, including Panguitch Lake, which is a world famous trout fishery. I saw deer and elk that were burned alive by the blaze and experienced first hand the extraordinary air pollution which, according to a recent Georgia Tech University study, is worse than lighting an oil refinery on fire. The economic consequences to the local residents, businesses, and the state in general are immediate, but will also be felt for years to come.
Sadly, in the second driest state in the nation, under distant federal management, 80% of our forested lands in Utah are in the same overgrown, tinderbox condition threatening the entire state watershed.
In our governing system, the State has the duty to protect the health, safety and welfare of our people. However, federal land management agencies have blocked state and local governments from preventing this known, catastrophic risk.
This week, our Federalism Commission began following our measured dispute resolution process to assert our jurisdiction and protect the people and the lands of Utah. We are working closely with our congressional delegation and with the Task Force on Intergovernmental Affairs created by U.S. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, which our own Congressman Rob Bishop chairs.
I will continue to keep you posted on our efforts to protect our people and our lands through restoring the foundational structure of our system. If you have thoughts on specific areas for our Federalism Commission to focus on, please give me a call.
Trauma Informed Decision Making in the Criminal Justice System
Over the past two years I have passed bills to provide greater protections against childhood sexual abuse and to afford victims greater ability to hold their abusers accountable for the damages they caused. I also passed a bill this past session to require greater accountability and transparency in the decisions of the Board of Pardons and Paroles in the release of convicted felons.
Working closely with victims of violent crime, it appears that our criminal justice system often neglects the safety, the voice and the respect for the impact on the victims throughout the criminal justice process. In many instances, victims of violent crimes are re-traumatized by the manner in which the criminal justice process deals with their offenders.
For example, a young lady in my district was sexually abused by her stepfather from the time she was 4 until she was 15. After finally mustering the courage to tell someone about the abuse, her stepfather received a sentence of 5 years to life. After a few years he had a parole hearing and this young woman was invited to present a statement. However, no one explained how the process really works and she was provided little support for this daunting experience.
The whole process was itself traumatizing. Though the hearing officer recommended that her violent offender should remain in prison for at least 15 years, she found out, only by accident, that within a few weeks of the hearing the Parole Board would be releasing her offender. When the victim asked for an explanation for his release, she was given only a simple form with most of the checkboxes unmarked as explanation.
This particular victim from our district and her mother told me it was so traumatizing that it was like being victimized all over again. As a result of many stories like this one, I have formed a working group with a number of victims advocates to review our criminal justice system from start to finish to address opportunities for what is known as trauma informed decision making throughout our justice process to afford greater respect and safety for those who have been victimized by violent crime
If this is something you would like to help with, please contact me.
Fighting The Challenge to Our Childhood Sexual Abuse Laws
For decades, Utah law required victims of childhood sexual abuse to initiate civil legal action within less than four years of turning 18. The latest science in this field confirms that, on average, it takes until age 42 for victims of childhood sexual abuse to overcome the manipulation and coercion to appreciate and assert their legal rights.
In 2016 I passed the landmark bill HB279 that revived the right of victims of childhood sexual abuse to bring civil claims against their perpetrators. Later that same year, Terri Mitchell brought a civil case against the federal prosecutor who sexually abused her when she was the star witness at the murder trial of a serial killer. Terry was only 16 at the time of the trial.
In 1980, Terry was the only survivor as she and her two friends were shot in Liberty Park. The prosecutor told her if she told anyone of his sexual conduct with her, the murderer would not go to jail. The prosecutor went on to become the chief judge of the D.C. federal district court. Because he is on audiotape admitting to sexual misconduct with Terri during the course of the trial, he is defending himself by trying to invalidate the HB279 law that we passed to protect victims.
The question of the validity of our law has now been sent to the Utah Supreme Court to render an opinion on whether the Legislature has the authority to revive civil claims when we expressly intend to do so to protect the public welfare. This legislative power has been recognized throughout the country and in Utah since our statehood.
Working with my legislative colleagues, House and Senate leadership approved having the Legislature file a “friend of the court,” or amicus, brief to defend our legislative right and power called into question by the defendant in this case. Stay tuned for more updates as this important case moves forward.
Attending the Historic Convention of States
With a growing sense that Washington will never stop overspending and mortgaging our children’s and grandchildren’s future, 27 states, including Utah, have now issued a call for a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Earlier this year, the Arizona Legislature issued a call for states to officially adopt rules for conducting a convention of states under Article V of the Constitution for this limited purpose.
This will be the first official convention of states since 1861. I have been selected, along with other three other members of the House and two senators, to represent Utah as this historic convention of states. We will convene at the Arizona House chambers on September 12, 2017 and continue until we produce an agreed upon set of rules for conducting the Article V Balanced Budget Convention once the call of 34 states has been reached.
Look forward to a full report of the proceedings of this historic convention in the coming weeks.
Tour of Southern Utah
On April 19-20 the House and Senate did a sweeping tour of southern Utah with stops at the Intermountain Power Plant, Gunnison High School, Delta High School, Piute High School, the Scatec Solar Farm, Southern Utah University, Bryce Canyon, as well as the State Prison in Gunnison.
One of the major takeaways for many legislators was how much these rural communities are being deprived of the opportunity to prosper by federal regulations and federal control of their lands. Legislators were stunned to learn that Garfield County can only operate for 16 days on the property tax it collects from the 3% of the county that is private land. Wind and solar farms are developed on the small amount of private lands in these counties because the federal government will not authorized them on federally controlled lands. A major potash project that could revitalize these communities and make the state a major player on the world market has been stalled for more than a decade by federal regulators.
As the economies in these communities suffer, funds for education dry up stifling opportunities for these children. As you know, this is an issue I have and will remain actively engaged on.
I Need Your Input
Over the next few months I will be reaching out to as I prepare for the upcoming Legislative Session. You may receive a call asking if you would be interested in giving me 20 minutes of your time to get your input on what is important to you and your neighborhood.
If you are interested in visiting with me, I hope you will contact me so that I can effectively represent you and address the challenges facing our community and our state.
I am grateful for the opportunity to represent our district and look forward to your feedback in the coming weeks.