Archive for category David Litvack

The Legislative Freak Show Unveils Its Acts

It’s impossible to attend the Utah State Legislature year after year as I have without developing a sense of cynicism. The majority of Utah’s legislators strike me as well meaning but useless when it comes to actually effecting changing. The few commonsense proposals that actually make it to the floor are usually killed by the majority which follows sheeplike the wingnuttiest of their colleagues (yes, I do mean you Chris Buttars). Their reflexive conservativism tends to keep our legislative majority from really thinking through the proposals before them. If it’s conservative, they figure it must be a good idea, if it strays from their party line groupthink, the figure its bad. And this year is looking like a banner year in the wingnut circus on the Hill. Read the rest of this entry »

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ENDA, Trans, GLB and Politics

If you’ve been following the saga, you know by now that Congressional leaders – including Barney Frank – realized that ENDA (Employment Non-Discrimination Act) would not pass if it included protections for transgender persons, so the trans protections were dropped.

This has led to some serious brouhahas (I don’t like the way that sentence reads but it feels right).  Here’s the deal – on one side, you have folks arguing passionately that dropping protections for transpersons from ENDA is a violation of integrity and justice, while folks on the other side are just as passionately arguing that the goal is to pass the best version of ENDA we can at this time, then start working to fill the gaps. 

John at Americablog offers what seems to me a sensible narrative:  the gay community has been – largely through executive fiat – slowly changed from the “gay” community to the “gay and lesbian” community and then later to the “lesbian, gay, bisexual” community (generally listed as LGB).  As recently as 10 years ago, the “T” for transgender was absent.  Some organizations haven’t added transgender at all.  The broader community was never invited into the discussion and so support is a mile while and a quarter inch deep.  It’s not a lack of sympathy for the struggles of transgender persons, but more a question about “Exactly why are transgender persons being included?  What’s the connection?”

In a post entitled the The transgender fiasco, John writes:

I remember being at the beach with a bunch of gay friends about 6 or 7 years ago. There was an Advocate or OUT magazine on the table and it was open to some article about the transgender community. The details of the discussion now elude me, but I remember there being a lively debate about just how and when transexuals became part of the gay community, and vice versa – the consensus was that nobody knew how it happened, and nobody was quite sure that they agreed with the inclusion. Read the rest of this entry »

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Does It Really Matter? Why do you get involved?

On a regular basis, I can count on someone saying to me, “Why do you get involved in that politic stuff? Does it really make any difference? Does it matter? You know, all politicians are crooks and the whole the political world is dirty. I can’t imagine why you’d get involved with it.”

The core idea for many of these people is the last one – the whole political world is dirty and you shouldn’t get involved with it and maybe if you’re involved, you’re dirty too. The sludge of corruption from Bush and the Republicans since 2001 only serves to reinforce the idea. The partisan witch hunt over Bill Clinton’s blow job was part the problem too – it created the impression that even a basically good man like Bill Clinton must be dirty to get ahead in politics. Whitewater – which after almost a decade turned up NO wrongdoing by anyone affiliated with the Clintons added to the overall impression of politics as a dirty business. Dishonesty, corruption, graft are all assumed to be part and parcel of the political game.

The historic levels of corrutpion achieved in US politics in the last 7 years is responded to with a world-weary shrug and people go about their business. After all, they tell themselves, it is the nature of the beast and of course politicians expect you to pay to play and Tom Delay’s mistake was getting caught. There’s no passion to reform the system because people are convinced reform is pointless – politics itself corrupts and is corrupt. The system is flawed and there’s no reason to get involved – good, average people will only be corrupted by exposure. So good, average decent people keep their distance.

Which makes it easier for the corrupt and dishonest to operate without fear of being voted out of office.

Which makes it easier for good people to get tired and to stay away from the system. It becomes a feedback loop. The reformist zeal of previous generations of Americans hasn’t died, but it needs rekindled, reignited into a fire to demand honest politics.

I deplore the tactics of so many politicians – from George W. Bush’s brutal savaging of John McCain in 2000 to Hilary Clinton’s careful triangulation and double speak to the average politico on the street’s mudslinging a la Dave Buhler – but ultimately, most of the pols I’ve met are basically decent, more or less honest people who are trying to do what they think is right. They just don’t feel passionate about remaking politics into a more transparent and democratic system because they don’t know where to start. They know the influence of money is negative and they want to reduce it, they want more average citizens involved. They just don’t know how to make it happen and they don’t see a passion for it in the citizens they talk to.

State legislators in Utah say that 10 phone calls from constituents on a single issue is a veritable flood on that issue. 20 emails on a single issue is almost unheard of. In a sick way, the influence of groups like PCE are great because they use their massive mountains of out of state and Overstock.com dollars to get people emailing our legislators. I honestly think our legislators were shocked when they found out a majority of Utahns oppose vouchers. They weren’t hearing that during the session or in last year’s election. The influence of money is playing out negatively. But they also have to pay for re-election campaigns and they aren’t getting any cheaper.

The system – and it is a system – creates disincentives for the kinds of reforms that would really make a difference. Conversely, those who advocate for such reforms don’t feel they have the backing of the voters, even though they do.

The attitude that all politics is dirty creates a different feedback loop. Voters tell themselves politics is dirty and politicians are dirty. So they stay away. They tell themselves they have no influence, no power, no ability to be part of changing the system. When things go wrong, they tune out because they expect corruption, deceit, graft and failure. People get further and further away from their government – they stop voting, they stop knowing the name of their member of Congress, state legislature, city government. When elected leaders utterly and completely fail as impressively as George W. Bush, the citizens don’t get angry because, well, it’s a dirty business and they don’t want to get involved.

A couple years ago, I was talking about my experiences at the State legislature when friends of the family said, in horror, “Why would you get involved in such a dirty, dishonest business with such a bunch of dirty, dishonest people?” I told them, “If good people don’t get involved, then it will be a dirty, dishonest business. I’m an honest person and I want the system to be honest. And I’ll be up there letting our legislators know I’m watching.”

Getting involved does make a difference. I was at the bill signing ceremony for Utah’s hate crimes law – Pete Suazo was fighting for Hate Crimes Legislation the first year I was advocating for it. Then David Litvack. I was furious the year one Republican said it was BOHICA legislation – Bend Over Here It Comes Again (I’m sure he didn’t mean the double entendre). But that guy is gone and the bill was signed and I was in the room for it. At the table with legislators and activists and the Governor. We never stopped fighting for what was right.

I think the reason so many volunteers have been out walking for Ralph Becker, so many people have given up their friday nights to help out at campaign HQ and have given money and energy is because they see in Ralph Becker a man of incredible integrity. He’s not just honest, he cares about the system working the way it should – involving voters, engaging people. He’s not boring – no, he’s exciting because he cares like we do. The system should be honest and it should be ethical and it should work for all the people.

I’m helping him because he’s the kind of elected leader I want to see in my community.

At the end of the day, if I can help get more decent, honest, hard working people with integrity elected and get them listened to in the halls of power, every second I’ve spent will be worth it. And it does make a difference. For the people this year who have dental and vision because of the Medicaid I helped fight for, the it’s worth it.

And every decent, honest person who gets involved is one more person who is saying, “No more. No more corruption. No more pay to play. No more ethical problems. No more selling the government to the highest bidder.”

I love my country and I love it enough to fight for it be better – to live up to the promise it holds, not give it up to the people who shrug and say, “That’s how the game is played.”

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That’s About Right

Today’s Tribune has the best article on the dynamics of the State legislature I have seen. 

I’ve said before that I am a citizen advocate at the state legislature and I haven’t missed a session in years.  In that time, I’ve seen legislators come and go, I’ve seen bills pass, fail, be brutally murdered, stabbed and killed by their sponsors (including a memorable year when David Litvack delivered a speech in committee that was guaranteed to kill the hate crimes bill he was sponsoring).  In that time, the only that has remained unchanged is the petty power-grabbing, glad handing of our state legislators.  Year after year, committee chairs treat their positions as personal fiefdoms, designed to inflate their egos and provide them an arena in which to exercise “power”. 

Rebecca Walsh writes:

. . . some state lawmakers were petty and mean-spirited – character traits that emerge every year. 

Legislation routinely is used to reward friends and family. 

[Rep. Greg] Hughes, who sponsors a boxer, managed a wholesale shift in the way the state oversees the sport. Kanab Republican Rep. Michael Noel created an income tax check-off to generate funds to help counties fight for off-highway vehicle access on public lands. His son-in-law was a plaintiff in one of those legal battles. And property manager Michael Waddoups, a Republican senator from Taylorsville, made it easier for landlords to evict renters. 

Of those who have irked lawmakers, the easiest to pick on is the Utah Education Association, the teachers union. Groundbreaking new legislation this year will prohibit school calendars from referring to the name of any teacher associations – as in “UEA weekend.”

. . . This year’s behavior is not unique. It’s just more of the same we’ve watched year after year.

Years ago, an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation featured a scene in which one character said to another, “You’re just a small man who feels a rush of power in his belly and likes it far too much.”  It’s difficult not to think of that scene when surveying the behavior of our so called leaders.

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Utah Rep Litvack Smack Down on Anti-Choice (Abortion) Law

David Litvack - Utah State RepresentativeAlways the courageous voice of reason and truth, Utah Representative David Litvack reminded his Republican colleagues of the hypocrisy of their lofty perch on the rickety podium of “protecting the sanctity of human life.”

Listen to his summation in the committee hearing on Paul Rays unconstitutional abortion law, January 31st.

The story made NPR.

Transcript:

The role of government is also to protect rights under the current law. And we struggle with that. And we struggle with that balance here on this issue in particular

We took an oath on the first day to uphold the constitution of the nation. I believe it is extremely irresponsible of us to pass legislation and move forward and, whether it through a litigation fund, and it will use tax dollars to and an irresponsible use of those tax dollars, to defend such a blatantly unconstitutional law.

It seems every year that we have to debate this issue…I’m starting to feel like I’m a bit of a broken record because we know how inadequate of a job we do as a state in preventing abortions. R approach has always been lets make it more difficult lets restrict it lest require court consent, and now we ought to just outright ban it except for the most extreme.

When are we going to start seeing the proposal that says lets spend more time and resources addressing prevention?

Lets spend less time with our head in the sand pretending like sexual activity does not occur among out young population.
Read the rest of this entry »

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