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COME TO THE UTAH HOUSE DIST. 57 CANDIDATE FORUM!

Friday, October 19 at 7:00 p.m. at the PG Rec Center 

On the Issues: Practical, Not Partisan

As I’ve spent the last several months going door to door and talking with voters in our district, I’ve heard their concerns. I've summarized my thoughts below on several of the issues that have been raised along the way. Generally speaking, though, I believe that the best legislation happens in the middle, in the area of overlap between multiple viewpoints and perspectives. It's one of the reasons I felt drawn to the United Utah Party - our slogan is "practical, not partisan." That centrist approach isn't for everyone, which is fine. But if  you've felt a little like a fish out of water in the national political parties, I invite you to consider my more moderate take on the issues facing our district and state.

 

 

Cost of Living/Affordable Housing

This issue takes several forms. For millennials, it’s the spiraling increases in rent. For those who have children who are just starting out as adults, many of them remain at home because they can't even get into an apartment. For seniors on fixed incomes, it’s the increasing tax burden that threatens their ability to remain in the home they paid off years ago.  The root cause of all these challenges is the fact that we have 40,000+ more households in Utah than we have housing units. We stopped building during the Great Recession but our children kept growing into adults and people kept coming into our state because of our strong economy.  I believe the best government is the one that’s closest to the people. As a state legislator, I plan to work with municipalities by respecting their authority over zoning and other local issues and by supporting them in a collaborative way on the state level.

 

Economic Growth

Simply put, capitalism works. At the same time, I believe that the lifestyle of an average American before unions - children and adults working 18-hours days, six days a week, often in an unsafe environment - was not the healthiest for individuals, families, or our nation. I believe we need a tempered capitalism, one that "raises all boats." We need to strive for the ideal of providing equal economic opportunity without falling into the trap of trying to guarantee equal economic results.

 

Education

In our information-driven economy, we cannot afford to be at the bottom of the heap when it comes to education. We need to trim potential waste where we find it (such as with high-priced consultants or overpaid administrators), we need additional funding for education to increase the Weighted Pupil Unit and, above all, we need innovation born of competition so we're actually improving our educational system instead of merely maintaining it.

 

Environmental Stewardship

As a gardener, I have a very practical approach to the environment: you cannot poison the air, the soil, or the water and expect your "bit of earth" to thrive. If we want to thrive, we need to be good stewards of our environment as we utilize the resources available to us. As one who loves to hike, camp, and canoe, I also appreciate the value of wilderness and support reasonable designations to preserve our history, our open lands, and our wilderness.

 

Faith

Freedom of religion is truly our First Freedom. I strongly believe that freedom of conscience and religious practice rightly belong in the public sphere. As a member of a religion that was once a persecuted minority, I support the right of everyone to worship as they may as well as the right to not worship at all. 

 

Family

It almost goes without saying in Utah - family is a big deal. In some ways, it is THE big deal, and I fully embrace the view that the family is the fundamental unit of society.  Among other things, this means I support addressing head-on the scourge of domestic violence that harms multiple generations. It means I support well-crafted laws that empower families to take care of their own when a family member is struggling. It means I reject the national Republican Party's extreme stance that a mother's life is worth less than her unborn child's and the national Democratic Party's extreme stance that an unborn child is worth less than her mother's convenience. Instead I take a more nuanced stance, one that aligns with such diverse faith traditions as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, the Episcopal Church, the National Association of Evangelicals, and some branches of Islam (among others).  I am opposed to abortion for convenience, for selecting the sex of a child, or for other lifestyle reasons because I believe in the sanctity of life; however, if a woman had no choice regarding her pregnancy (such as cases of incest or rape), if her own life or health is endangered by the pregnancy, or if the fetus has a terminal birth defect, I consider it government overreach for the state to make that highly-personal choice for a woman. 

 

Governmental Reform

A government that is "of the people, by the people, for the people" should be willing to work in full view of the people. For that reason, I support government reforms that increase transparency (such as greater transparency of proposed bills and open legislative caucus meetings), that encourage wider citizen participation in government (such as Vote By Mail, open primary elections, and term limits), and that promote patriotism over partisan loyalty (such as ethics reform, campaign finance limits, more non-partisan races, and independent redistricting).  

 

Immigration

Immigration is primarily the domain of the federal government, and they've managed to really mess it up. Our system is so broken that even in the face of walls, fences, rivers, deserts, armed guards, and border checkpoints, it's quicker, easier, and cheaper to enter and work in the US illegally than it is to immigrate legally. As long as that's the case, we're going to have illegal immigration. Unfortunately, there's not much a state legislator can do to help fix that mess, but to the extent that I can have an influence, I support simplifying and expanding legal immigration, cutting back on demand for illegal immigrant labor through tax reform, and adopting a compassionate approach for those otherwise law-abiding immigrants who have come here illegally. In particular, priority should be placed on keeping families together whenever possible.

 

Second Amendment

The right to defend oneself is an inalienable right woven throughout our jurisprudence. It finds expression in due process (the right to defend oneself in court) and in our slander and libel laws (the right to defend oneself in the court of public opinion). It also finds expression in the Second Amendment right to bear arms. As a responsible gun owner, I support Second Amendment rights. Even inalienable rights are not unlimited rights, though, and I support laws that preserve due process while keeping firearms out of the hands of those who demonstrably intend to harm or have harmed themselves or others.

 

Taxes and Regulations

I find it instructive to look to our Founding Fathers when it comes to taxes. They started with the Articles of Confederation and realized within a handful of years that it is in fact possible to have a government that's too small.  Learning from that experience, they replaced the Articles with the Constitution, creating a stronger federal government with expanded powers to tax and to regulate trade. We need a government that's just big enough to implement the will of the people but not so big that it can go beyond their will. Mercy Otis Warren, one of the mothers of the Revolution, put it well when she said that "the origin of all power is in the people, and they have an incontestable right to check the creatures of their own creation."  Such checks can include tax reforms that close loopholes and ensure that everyone - wealthy or working-class - pays a fair share.  Another important check is regularly reviewing the effectiveness, unintended consequences, and continuing relevancy of government regulation. 

 

Transportation

Local roads throughout our district have been a cause for concern for many residents. Class C road funds have dwindled because for years our legislature neglected to raise the gas tax to keep up with road maintenance needs.  Last year, Pleasant Grove was forced to ask itself some tough questions about how we’ll fund our roads, in part because of that state-level neglect. Unfortunately, it was a very difficult and divisive conversation. I was propelled into this race by a desire to rectify that neglect and make sure cities have the resources they need to maintain our common goods like roads.

 

A couple of additional thoughts.

There are two major issues that are rarely mentioned on the doorstep but that are significantly impacting our communities:

Suicide

According to https://utahsuicideprevention.org, more Utah adults have thought about or attempted suicide than anywhere else in the United States, and our suicide rate has been consistently higher than the national average for the past decade. Every 16 hours a Utahn dies by suicide. The reasons behind this epidemic are complex; even our Utah geography works against us when it comes to suicide. Still, there are some things we could be doing better according to a recent report by the Utah Foundation available at http://www.utahfoundation.org/reports/addressing-suicide-in-utah/. There are still a lot of unanswered questions about what's driving Utah’s suicide epidemic, and we need better data to guide legislative policy in regards to prevention. However, "ultimately, intervention requires individualized care and thus the promotion of access to highly trained mental health professionals." Access to individualized mental health care is key to saving lives when people reach a suicide crisis, and that's something the legislature can work on improving right now.

 

The Opioid Epidemic

Like our suicide rate, the opioid epidemic has hit our state hard for reasons that are complex. According to presenters at Senator Lee’s Solutions Summit, Utah is in the top 10 states for opioid overdose deaths, although we are starting to make some headway. For that, our state leaders should be commended. There’s still a lot of work to be done, though.  I support implementing practices that have been shown to be effective elsewhere, such as limiting the number of prescription opioid pills that are dispensed at a time, as well as thinking outside the box for Utah-specific solutions to our unique challenges.

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