Senator McCoy, Thank you for your Service

Senator Luz Roblesby Senator Luz Robles
Senate Minority Caucus Manager
representing Senate District One
 

I want to say that the state of Utah is losing one of the most intelligent, articulate and knowledgeable parliamentarian legislators with Senator Scott McCoy’s resignation.  I feel honored to say that I had the opportunity to work side by side of Scott on issues impacting the quality of lives of the many citizens of this great state.  Whether it be working towards equality and justice for all to adequate liquor laws that allow for Utah to be a more welcoming place to our out-of-state visitors, Scott has always worked in finding viable solutions for a more effective form of government. 

 In this entry I also want to take the opportunity to share some thoughts about the great public service all of our 104 members of the State Legislature provide to the residents of our state.  I know I may agree to disagree with some of the policy positions that some of my colleagues at the Legislature have, but I have no question that their hearts are in the right place and that they work really hard to represent their constituents to the best of their abilities.  I don’t think everyone realizes the sacrifice all public servants and elected officials take on and provide to their constituents.   Some of the sacrifices include, among others, the loss of income, career sacrifices, privacy, and more importantly, time for themselves and their families.

Senator Scott McCoyI am grateful to be able to work with the men and women of our state legislative body, who truly care about their communities of this great state.  Thanks Scott for serving and making a difference in our state.  I know you will continue to serve in different capacities.  Good luck with your future endeavors. 

Thanks, Senator McCoy

Senator Pat Jonesby Senator Patricia Jones
Senate Minority Leader
 

 

Our caucus member Senator Scott McCoy has resigned his senate seat effective this coming Friday, December 4, 2009.Senator Scott McCoy

 

Speaking on behalf of the Utah Senate Democrat Caucus, we thank Senator McCoy for his impeccable service in the Utah State Senate.  He has been a significant contributor to our caucus and a valuable source of insight and wisdom.  Among legislators, he has stated his views with candor and statesmanlike conduct.  Good public policy has been the objective of Senator McCoy’s service, and he has willingly built consensus to achieve this aim.  The constituents of Senate District 2 are fortunate to have been represented by this intelligent, fair-minded, articulate and influential individual.

 

Senator McCoy will be greatly missed in our caucus and the Legislature.  We wish him the best in his professional and personal endeavors.       

Senator McCoy Leaving the Senate

Senator Scott McCoySenator Scott McCoy, who has represented Senate District Two for the last 4 years, plans to resign his position in the Utah State Senate, effective Friday, December 4, 2009.  McCoy issued the following statement to explain his decision to the residents of his district:

I’ve been honored to serve the citizens of Utah and of District 2 for the last four years. My time in the Senate has been profoundly rewarding, but also an enormous personal sacrifice.  The senators and representatives of Utah really make a terrific commitment of their time for the benefit of this state.  It’s not just during the 45 days of the session.  It’s every day and night.  It’s during interims and constituent phone calls.  My hat is off to my 103 colleagues who make this sacrifice day in and day out, every year. 

I’ve personally come to a crossroads in my career where I need to devote my full time and energy to the practice of law.  To do any less is a disservice to my firm and my family.  Unfortunately, I simply cannot find the necessary time to be a successful attorney and give the time and energy to fully represent the residents of my district. 

I’m very proud of the work I was able to accomplish as a Senator.  We changed important policies, opened many minds, and broke down many barriers.  Certainly, there is much more to be done. But for now, I need to leave that work in other capable hands.

Of Boycotts and Book Burnings

by Senator Scott McCoy
District Two

Senator Scott McCoyIn the wake of the passage of Prop 8 in California, emotions and tempers have flared in the LGBT community.  I understand the anger, disappointment, and sadness that many in the gay and transgendered community are feeling as a result of having the right to marry stripped away.  I have felt those same emotions and had those same reactions myself.  I understand the desire and the need to express those feelings.  In fact, you have a First Amendment right to do so.

Having said that, I implore my fellow citizens to engage in civil and peaceful expressions and conduct.  There is no room for violence, vandalism, or intimidation in this continuing debate for marriage equality.  Resort to such methods is simply unacceptable.  We are better than that.

Furthermore, I urge people not to boycott Utah.  There are many good and sympathetic people, Mormons and non-Mormons alike, who call Utah home.  Boycotting Utah ultimately hurts those of us who are working for a more fair and just Utah.  Rather than staying away from Utah, come and visit and show our detractors that we are fine and decent people deserving of equal treatment and protection under the law.

Zach’s Whereabouts

Intern Zach Fountain

After finishing his legislative internship with Senator Ross Romero and Senator Scott McCoy this past session, Zachery Fountain secured his first “real world” job. He was hired as the Deputy for Legislation and Communication for the Murray City Mayor’s Office. In particular, he is excited about the opportunity to continue the work he relished during the session. Zach is appreciative of the opportunities the Hinckley Institute of Politics and the Senate Democrats have afforded him.

Zach’s new job at Murray City means the Senate Ds still have the chance to work with him. He was a terrific intern, and we wish him the best of luck going forward.

Of Gay Marriage and Vouchers

by Senator Scott McCoy
District Two

Senator Scott McCoyAs I read Rep. Urquhart’s response to my blog post on gay marriage in California, it became clear to me that he really has not read it very closely. Rather, he tries to scare Utahns for political gain.

Here is what he asserts: “Scott and Democrats are working to force Utahns to recognize gay marriage.”

What? I, nor any elected Democrat in the state of Utah, has ever tried to “force” Utahns to accept or recognize gay marriage.

In fact, in my blog, I specifically say that I won’t try, and I caution other gay and lesbian Utahns not to try to “force” gay marriage on Utah through lawsuits. I suggested rather than ram gay marriage down Utahns’ throats, we should understand Utah law and we should lead by example and live honestly. That’s not forcing anything on anyone.

This demonstrates a big difference between the Republicans and the Democrats. Democrats don’t try and force their values on other people. Republicans with a super majority do. Rep. Urquhart raises the classic example: vouchers. He and his colleagues forced vouchers and their values on the Utah public even though Utahns overwhelmingly opposed and ultimately rejected vouchers and the anti-public education values that underlie them.

So who really is forcing things on whom?

Gay Marriages Commence in California

by Senator Scott McCoy
District Two

Senator Scott McCoyAs of 6:01 p.m. MST yesterday, same-sex couples in California began marrying, legally, for the first time. WOO! HOO!

So what does this mean for same-sex couples in Utah? Well, when we strip away all the political rhetoric and demagoguery, really not much in the short term. Yes, some couples, including my partner Mark and I, may in the next few months head off to California to be legally married. If and when we do, we will be husband and husband under the law and in the eyes of the community in California. Of course, when we return home, opponents of marriage equality here in Utah will be quick to remind us that our marriage is only worth the paper upon which our marriage license is printed. And they will be right; for now.

We won’t sue, and frankly neither should any other Utah couple. Utah courts are not likely to lead out on marriage equality for Utah. (Nor arguably should they.) Those first legal recognition battles will be fought elsewhere in more favorable venues. But that does not mean we will sit idly by here in Utah. What we will do here in Utah is live openly and honestly as spouses. Married spouses. Yes, we will lead and convince by example. Even if the law will not formally recognize our unions, they will still be unions of the same intrinsic value as all of our opposite-sex married friends and neighbors. Our marriages will not reduce the value of all of the existing marriages in Utah. Nor will straight couples who marry in Utah after we marry in California reduce the value of our marriages. After all, this isn’t a zero-sum game with only a limited supply of marriage goodness to go around. We will love each other, care for each other, and sustain each other. I will call Mark my husband because that is precisely what he will be. He will do the same for me. At our workplaces, in our communities, in social settings, at the Legislature, in church, at the PTA meetings, at soccer practice, and at the grocery store, we will all live our lives here in Utah as married spouses. Our fellow Utahns will see that we are just like them and our marriages, when it really comes down to it, are just like theirs. Familiarity will breed acceptance.

What we will do is make change, not through lawsuits, but by being ourselves and living our lives genuinely, just as we have been doing, only now as spouses. It may take time, but we’ll get to marriage equality in Utah. I have no doubt because of two things I know to be true: No. 1, Equal is right; and No. 2, Utahns are good and fair people who understand No. 1.

The Real Story about the SB2 Lawsuit

by Senator Scott McCoy
District Two

Senator Scott McCoy

Speaker Curtis, President Valentine, and Senator Stephenson (the “Three Amigos”) recently wrote op-ed articles or appeared on the radio criticizing a citizens’ lawsuit of which I am a participant as a plaintiff and which argues that SB 2, an omnibus bill, is unlawful in light of Article VI, Section 22, of the Utah Constitution. But their grounds for criticism are either irrelevant or miss the mark.

The Three Amigos accuse plaintiffs of “political grandstanding” in an election year. This accusation ignores the facts. The lawsuit itself is about constitutional principles, not political personalities. In any event, there are 38 plaintiffs, equally divided among Republicans, Democrats, and non-partisans. Twenty-two of these 38, well over half, are not even running for office, and another 8 are in state or local school board races which by definition are non-partisan in character. Another plaintiff, Republican Sheryl Allen, is running unopposed and, therefore, doesn’t have a political motive. Other incumbent legislators may be up for re-election, but certainly don’t need to rely on a lawsuit to get re-elected. A good example is Rep. Christine Johnson who won her election last year with more than 70 percent of the vote. As for me, I am not even up for re-election until 2010. As for their rather pathetic attempt to taint my motive with their broad accusation of “political grandstanding” based on reports that I am running for a leadership position in my caucus, filing the lawsuit is the last thing on the minds of my colleagues and will have no bearing on our leadership contest. Sadly, they know this to be true, but having no other way to accuse me of being politically motivated, would rather try and mislead the public by leaving a false impression.  Not to mention essentially accusing me as an attorney of violating professional ethics and the rules of civil procedure by arguing that I allowed a frivolous lawsuit to be filed not for valid legal reasons but purely to score a “cheap political victory.”  I do not file lawsuits for political reasons.  I may be a politician and have a political role to play, but I still abide by my ethical obligations and duties as a member of the Bar.

If the Three Amigos are threatened politically by this constitutional challenge, I respectfully submit that this is a projection of their own guilty consciences and insecurities over their chosen methods, and not a reflection of the plaintiffs’ motives. What exactly are they afraid of anyway? From where does their anxiety spring? Could it be from a fear that their management techniques and methods will be found to be suspect and improper? Their public relations attack on my and the plaintiffs’ motives reveals that perhaps the lawsuit isn’t “frivolous” as they blithely assert.

The ultimate antidote for their anxiety, really, is to read the Utah Constitution which, among other sound principles, provides that the people are masters who elect representatives and senators as servants, and that, when those representatives and senators exceed the scope of their constitutionally delegated agency or otherwise misbehave, then, like all servants, they may be brought to account under our system of checks and balances via judicial review of their actions in light of the Utah Constitution. Legislative leaders who have lost their way and forgotten their place may call this “grandstanding,” but the plaintiffs, as garden variety Americans and ordinary citizens, affirm that it is nothing more than holding their duly elected servants constitutionally accountable through constitutionally prescribed means. This lawsuit will be played out in the courts and ultimately decided by the judiciary, not the court of public opinion. As such, the Three Amigos should concentrate more on the legal arguments and justifications for their legislative tactics and a little less on election-year hand-wringing.

Putting aside their irrelevant ad hominen attack on the motives of plaintiffs, the Three Amigos argue that SB 2 was passed by a majority of both houses of the state legislature, that plaintiffs’ sour grapes to the contrary notwithstanding, the majority rules, and that, although passage of the omnibus bill was a bit messy, the end product was good for public education. And, moreover, since SB 2 was all about education, how can it offend the “single subject” language of Article VI, Section 22, of Utah’s Constitution?

Here, again, however, the Three Amigos miss the mark while at the same time demonstrating their unfamiliarity with fundamental constitutional principles. Article VI, Section 22, of Utah’s constitution, the so-called “single subject” and “clear title” provision, is one of several limitations on legislative power which was designed as a prophylactic against well-known parliamentary vices. One of those vices occurs when two bills, neither of which, standing alone, can obtain majority approval on individual merit, are bundled so that two minorities collude illicitly to obtain majority passage of the combined bills. When bills are combined in this fashion, legislators fear that, unless they vote for the “bad bill,” there will be no reciprocity and they might lose the fight for a “good bill.” This fear breeds artificial majorities, and legislation that is the product of maneuver and extortion, rather than sound policy-making. This is exactly what happened with SB 2. Almost all of the 14 bills that ultimately became SB 2 were introduced, reviewed, debated, and voted upon as single subjects. The bills were related loosely to the “subject” of “education,” but, as “single subject” measures in their own right, they bore little or no relationship to each other. Several of the bills actually were defeated by majority vote in the House or failed to obtain committee approval in the House or Senate. All ultimately were rolled into one bill, SB 2, together with vital appropriations measures, raising concern that, but for the combination of popular bills and money measures, these previously defeated bills would not have passed. This is precisely the process that Article VI, Section 22, was designed to prevent. And it is deeply disturbing that elected officials, especially those who call themselves leaders, have no understanding (let alone reverence) for these basic constitutional principles.

But why all this fuss about constitutional procedure? Wasn’t the end-product good after all? The Three Amigos give us a long tally of dollars and cents in salary raises and budget increases. But we should pause in the midst of their self-congratulation. Good laws are the product of good lawmaking, and that translates, in large measure, to constitutionally prescribed lawmaking. Most of us know from painful experience that ends do not justify means, and, indeed, that means often are integral to the merit of any given outcome.  For example, if you ran a bill that had an abortion provision and a tax provision and I tried to amend out the abortion provision and we debated the bill for hours on end in the first week of the session and my amendment failed and the bill then passed both houses and the governor signed it, according to your argument, the bill would not be unconstitutional. Wrong. It would still violate the single subject rule of the Utah Constitution. Presumably the Three Amigos would think a suit challenging its constitutionality would be “political” when in fact it would be an easy win under the single subject rule even under their limited understanding and narrow interpretation of the constitutional provision.  It is not whether you get a majority to vote for a bill, therefore, but whether that majority is obtained fairly, openly, and honestly – and, most important, within constitutionally prescribed bounds – that matters. And while the Three Amigos are quantifying their “achievements” — for real estate developers or pre-school software vendors — in dollars and cents – would they take equal care in counting the costs of infidelity to constitutional principle?

Finally, I offer the untold story on the question of resolving this dispute.  The Three Amigos chide the plaintiffs for declining to meet for the purpose of seeking a compromise. This is eyewash.

Representatives of plaintiff, not only met with Curtis and majority leader Clark, but met more than once, and even offered to meet a third time, but were rebuffed by the Speaker who couldn’t find room on his calendar that week to do it. On the two occasions when meetings were held, the Speaker gave no hint that he would yield in order to talk about a compromise.  Under these circumstances, Plaintiffs once again may be forgiven for doubting the sincerity of the Speaker’s invitation to “reason together,” and this doubt, not unnaturally, has grown after reading his misleading accusation in his op-ed about the plaintiffs’ so-called refusal to meet and talk with him before filing the complaint.

If the Three Amigos want to find a compromise, and if they believe they have any influence in achieving that goal, then the filing of a lawsuit is no impediment in this regard.  Normal, competent people settle lawsuits all the time. Our door is open; all they has to do is walk through it.

Finally, prior to filing the complaint, representatives of plaintiffs did meet with Governor Huntsman about their intentions in order to search for solutions. The Governor immediately found time on his calendar to meet and talked frankly and intelligently about the pros and cons of a special session to remedy the problems created by SB 2. Plaintiffs sought the meeting with the Governor, of course, because he is empowered under the Utah State Constitution to call a special session, the one obvious solution (for those who sincerely want to talk about a solution) to treat this issue. Why then did the Three Amigos chide plaintiffs for failing to meet with them about a solution and fail to mention plaintiffs’ meeting with the Governor on this score? Perhaps they forgot about the other two co-equal branches of government set up by the constitution.

As for other specific “arguments,” the number of pages doesn’t necessarily have an impact on whether a bill violates the constitution, so the Three Amigos’ reference to page numbers is simply silly. As to their argument that I and others tried to amend the bill and failed, again this is not the key to determining constitutionality as discussed above.  As to the argument that fiscal note bills are held until the end of the session, while some may be held, they don’t have to be, and certain of the education bills weren’t nor was the voucher bill.  Even if the rule/practice says that fiscal note bills should be held, the Three Amigos know well that the rules are suspended all the time.  Their reliance on this argument is disingenuous at best and misleading at worst.

Out of the Mouths of Babes…

by Senator Scott McCoy
District Two

Senator Scott McCoy According to The Salt Lake Tribune, the student legislators of the 19th annual 4-H Mock Legislature (and, no, they weren’t mocking the Legislature) rightly passed SB 14 which prohibits smoking in a car when a child is present. I only hope we don’t have to wait for these young people to replace the naysayers in the Legislature before we can get this commonsense measure enacted into law. Thanks for the vote of confidence. I feel vindicated. Now contact your Senators and Representatives and tell them to follow your lead.

City Weekly’s Best Legislator

Senator Scott McCoyCity Weekly’s 2008 Best of Utah issue hit the news stands April 3. City Weekly readers voted on 100 “best of” categories. Senator Scott McCoy is the Readers’ Choice for Best State Legislator. CONGRATULATIONS Senator McCoy. If you have a copy of the April 3 City Weekly issue, you can read about Senator McCoy on page 60. You can also read about Senator McCoy by clicking here and then scrolling down until you see his picture.

Senator Romero

Senator Ross Romero is third runner-up for Best State Legislator. CONGRATULATIONS Senator Romero.