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Legislature: Fixing the Flag

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<i>Dan Bammes</i>
Utah Governor Gary Herbert signs HCR2, surrounded by 4th graders who lobbied to correct an error in Utah's state flag.

By Dan Bammes

http://stream.publicbroadcasting.net/production/mp3/kuer/local-kuer-952867.mp3

Salt Lake City, UT – Wednesday was Latino Day at Utah's state capitol, with a brass quintet from the Utah National Guard playing as a crowd ate lunch in the rotunda. Among the honors this year - the Utah Compact was recognized for helping to moderate the debate on illegal immigration. Archie Archuleta with the Utah Coalition of La Raza says their awards usually go to people, but this time it honored an idea.

We've given other organizations in the past 18 years. There have been several. But this is the first one that was given because of their extraordinary effort to assist us in the immigration furor.

The Utah Compact is a statement of principles on immigration agreed to by religious, business and community groups.

The immigration issue was again on the table early Wednesday in the House Health and Human Services Committee. Republican Representative Chris Herrod of Provo is pushing a bill that would allow hospitals and doctors -- who are required to treat anyone in an emergency room -- to ask the state for reimbursement for patients who are not legally present in the United States.

Representative Dave Clark, who's been one of the main backers of health care reform in the legislature, says he likes what the bill is trying to do.

Every one of us, right now, or our employer, or us individually are paying that cost, right now. It is a real and viable cost and a cost shift that is taking place. And I think this is a very interesting - I think it's a novel idea to try and find a way to capsulize this and say, We're gonna measure this slightly different.

Shanie Scott with the Utah Health Policy Project argued the bill would violate many of the existing rules and policies hospitals have to live with.

The bill is not consistent with current federal law, for one. So under federal law, y'know, you can't cap reimbursements as this bill states. It would violate the federal rules.

The committee passed the bill anyway, with the three opposing votes all coming from Democrats. Herrod concedes it's unlikely to become law in this session because it has a big fiscal note attached - it could cost the state more than 26-million dollars, and he doesn't think Utah could easily recover that from the federal government.

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Once again, a legislative committee has rejected a bill to set up an electronic waste recycling program in Utah. Republican Representative Becky Edwards tried last year to create a program that would make manufacturers pay the cost of TV's cellphones, computers and other electronic devices to pay for the cost of recycling their components and keeping hazardous waste out of landfills.

We had this bill last session. The conversation from the manufacturers was a plea to allow them to run a program voluntarily. Since that time, in one year, we have seen one contract occur, between Samsung and Salt Lake County.

Industry representatives say they're working on a nationwide voluntary program, and they persuaded six members of the Public Utilities and Technology Committee to vote against House Bill 102. State Senator Stephen Urquhart has a bill on the same issue that hasn't yet had a committee hearing.

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A Democratic proposal to change the way candidates are nominated for the State School Board failed in the House. Right now, candidates for the state school board are nominated by a panel appointed by the governor. Representative Carol Spackman Moss says some incumbent board members with good records in office have lost their positions in closed meetings.

We have seen under this system people rejected for reasons no one will know, and their constituents didn't have a say in it.

School board elections are non-partisan, and several Republicans argued that's a mistake. Representative Bill Wright says board members should run for office just like legislators do.

I would suggest that when we can move the state board election process closer to the way we are elected, where we have to go to caucuses and where the people become closer to us and understand who they're electing, then we will have a state board that will be more sensitive to the needs of education and the public in this state.

Neither Moss nor Wright got their way. House Bill 264 was defeated 28 to 45 and school board candidates will still depend on the governor for their nomination.

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A group of sharp-eyed 4th graders did get their way yesterday when both the House and the Senate passed a resolution correcting an error in Utah's state flag. The design first enacted a hundred years ago specifies the date 1847 should be on the shield - the one the eagle is perched on. But a woman hired to embroider the flag 88 years ago put the date just below the shield, and every flag made since has made the same mistake.

Governor Gary Herbert addressed the 4th graders from Burton Elementary School in Kaysville in the capitol's Gold Room.

I'm impressed that you young people are part of that process that have stepped forward and helped out and getting us to this concurrent resolution where will all agree this a change in legislation that needs to take place for the good of our state.

Then, with kids crowded around, Governor Herbert signed the resolution and handed a pen to Logan Jepperson, who testified at a committee hearing about the flag.

And the kids responded by singing Utah's state song - composed by an elementary school teacher.

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