Views on Health Care Reform

by Senator Gene Davis
Senate Minority Whip

Sen. Gene DavisIn Utah as well as elsewhere in this country, our health care system is in crisis. We applaud the fact that Governor Huntsman and the Legislature (HB 133) are willing to look at this issue, but we have to be cautious in our fix so that we keep the health care stool on a level playing field (legs of this stool are access, cost and quality). It is important that we find ways to encourage all citizens in the state to have adequate health care. We must address the issue that all cannot afford insurance. Whatever we do, it cannot be a plan that mandates and thus rewards the insurance industry; the rewards should go to the consumer. Providers should be paid adequately across the board so we don’t shift the burden to consumers. We must address the shortage of health care professionals. Whatever program is ultimately adopted, it must be health care that addresses medical, dental, vision and mental health, as well as giving all providers access to all patients. We believe we can improve the system if we are willing to address disease management, best practice guidelines, and evidence-based medicine and to encourage the teaching of healthy lifestyles without bias.

How the Cookie Crumbles

by Senator Gene Davis
Senate Minority Whip

Sen. Gene DavisSince the pro-voucher cookie ad aired comparing school-age children to stacks of Oreo cookies, we have seen and read endless commentary. Unstated in the analogy is the fact that private interests, not community interests, will be consuming a number of the cookies (our tax dollars). Taxpayers will be paying private industry to educate a select few in schools where there will be essentially no oversight of the tax dollars.

While the private sector may have a role in providing some state services, it cannot provide traditional state services for all citizens because the necessity of profit will always trump service. If public funds are diverted to private education, what control will the taxpayers have on the quality of private schools? What voice will taxpayers have in the qualifications of educators, the curriculum, or even the lunch menu?

Voucher proponents tell us it’s okay to divert our tax dollars to private industry because it will result in more tax dollars for public schools. This assertion is false. Taxpayers will double-fund each student who accepts a voucher, paying once for the voucher and again for a portion of the per-student state funding to the school district.

Prior to casting your vote, please read the Impartial Analysis in the Voter Information Pamphlet prepared by the Legislative Fiscal Analyst. Read the analysis and you will see the cost of vouchers to the state will exceed savings realized by the school districts. Click here to view the pamphlet.

Sorry, Henry, the time ran out….

by Senator Gene Davis
Senate Minority Whip

GeneSenate Bill 190, Animal Cruelty Offenses (dubbed Henry’s Bill in honor of Henry, the dog placed in a hot oven by its owner’s estranged spouse), passed in the Senate and the House by decisive margins. However, in the House, the bill was amended and passed at a late hour on the last day of the Legislative session, too late for the bill to be returned to the Senate so senators could concur with the bill as amended.

Again next year, I plan to sponsor Henry’s Bill, and I’ll work very hard for its passage. Public outcry continues. Have you been reading the newspaper? Numerous letters from readers have been published expressing disappointment about Henry’s Bill. Email is still voluminous.

Next year, Henry, let’s do it.

V~OUCH~ERS–Ouch!!

Utah now has one of the broadest school voucher programs in the country, allowing up to $3,000 of General Fund monies to be transferred to private schools for students who elect to leave their public schools and attend private schools.

The legislation passed in the House of Representatives by only ONE vote (38-37). The Senate vote was 19-10. For the record, EVERY Senate Democrat voted against the bill. To reiterate, the Senate Democratic Caucus opposes school vouchers. We believe their existence will undermine the public school system, particularly in our state where per-pupil spending is the lowest in the nation. We have grave concerns about the forthcoming impact of this new law. “I am not sure our state can afford three education systems,” said Minority Leader Mike Dmitrich, referring to public schools, charter schools, and now private schools.

Public opinion polls in the state indicate opposition to vouchers. The will of the people is reflected in our NO votes.

GeneClick here for Senator Davis’ poignant speech 2/9/07 on the Senate floor during the HB148 debate.

Click here for the Senate Vote.

Henry’s Bill

by Senator Gene Davis
Senate Minority Whip

Each session I receive hundreds of email from constituents requesting my support on issues of concern to them. If these email are any indication of the importance of a bill, then SB 190 must be passed.

For the past two years, there have been strong efforts to pass an animal cruelty bill, but those efforts met with little success. Each year the bill has failed, the intensity and pressure to pass the bill has increased. In 2006 that pressure increased after the misdemeanor conviction of Mark Vincent. Henry, a dog abused by Vincent, has become the poster animal of the campaign supporting the animal cruelty bill. In 2007 support for an animal cruelty bill is stronger than ever. As research linking animal cruelty and domestic violence becomes more conclusive, the need for this bill grows.

This year the bill was started in the Senate to address the concerns that hindered the bill in years past. I have been working with individuals in the agricultural sector and others to resolve concerns and refine the bill. With the help of many dedicated people, and despite some setbacks, I feel confident Utah will join 41 states that have already taken steps to make animal cruelty a felony offense.

SB190 passed in the Senate last Friday with the support of the majority of rural legislators voting “aye.” It will now be considered in the House of Representatives.