The Utah legislature does not hold its monthly interim meetings during the month of July. I am busy, however, with several legislative efforts in this off-month.
I am preparing to host a symposium on the common core educational standards. I have had several constituents ask questions concerning the common core and its adoption by the Utah State School Board and by local school districts. The symposium will be a day-long event to which I have invited experts from the Utah State Office of Education as well as private institutions. The proposed topics and agenda for the symposium are posted on my blog on my web site at www.housepowell.com The public is welcome to attend the symposium, which will be held Tuesday, August 7 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Rocky Mountain Middle School in Heber City.
Next, as a result of action taken last month, I believe that Republicans in the Utah legislature are poised to make a big mistake. For many years, Utah law has allowed unaffiliated voters to affiliate with a political party on the day of the primary election.
Because the Utah Republican Party closes its primaries to all who are not registered Republicans, this law has promoted participation by unaffiliated voters in the Republican primary, as long as they are willing to affiliate as Republicans when they show up on primary election day. But in its June meeting, the Government Operations Interim Committee, which I co-chair, voted to support a change that will bar unaffiliated voters from registering with a political party less than 30 days prior to an election. The practical result of this change will be to prohibit unaffiliated voters who show up on primary election day from voting in the Republican primary. I voted against the change, but I was the only Republican to do so.
Why would my fellow Republicans want to make this change?
From my conversations with some of them, they seem to think that any voter who is not registered as a Republican 30 days before the primary is not a real Republican. They don’t want to let these “lukewarm” Republicans have a say in determining the local, state and federal nominees for the Republican Party.
With all due respect, I see the matter quite differently.
During my four years so far in the legislature, I have always started from the premise that I represent all residents of my district, whether they be Democrat, Republican, unaffiliated, or something else. I speak with, meet with, and introduce legislation for my constituents of all political persuasions. For this reason, I hope to see at every election, including the Republican primary, the largest number of voters possible turn out to vote. That gives me as a representative the best available barometer of public sentiment. In the 2012 primary election that was just held, a large portion of Utah residents who voted in the Republican primary were unaffiliated when they showed up to vote. They were able, and willing, to affiliate as Republicans that day in order to cast their ballot in the Republican primary. These voters are every bit as valuable to the Republican Party as someone who has been registered lifelong as a Republican. I think we should encourage, not discourage, this behavior. But if the committee’s vote stands, this option will be removed beginning with the 2014 primary election. Therefore, after the committee vote, I directed that a bill be drafted and introduced to the full legislature preserving the option for unaffiliated voters to register with a party on election day. The bill will be considered in the 2013 general legislative session. If the Utah Republican Party wants to gain more public support and acceptance, it needs to invite and welcome unaffiliated voters, not deter and punish them.
Finally, I have had several people ask me about the news surrounding the recent arrest of Utah political activist Greg Peterson on multiple rape charges.
So that my constituents can be fully informed, I can say that although Peterson owned a cabin in Wasatch County to which he invited many prominent Utah politicians, I was not aware of any of those events, was never invited to them, and did not attend any of them.
The only knowledge I had of Peterson came in March 2012 when he tried to be elected as a state delegate to the Utah Republican Convention using the address of his cabin in Timber Lakes, east of Heber City.
Apparently, Peterson, who lives in Utah County, registered to vote in Wasatch County so that he could run for the state delegate position.
Peterson called me at my Heber City office just before the neighborhood caucuses in March and asked me to support him as a state delegate. He and I disagreed about many issues during the phone call and he became quite angry with me. When he failed to win election at the neighborhood caucuses as a state delegate in his Timber Lakes/Lake Creek Farms precinct, he then approached me on March 23 at the Wasatch County convention and accused me of being responsible for his defeat.
Our conversation became very heated and the Heber City police had to separate us.
I found Peterson to be extremely confrontational, irrational and aggressive.
Those two incidents are the only contact I have ever had with Peterson.
As always, you are welcome to contact me directly about any legislative matters of interest to you.
My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org and my phone number is 435-657-0185.