The 4th Day of the session finds most bills in 1st gear. This is the stage where a lot of the work on bills is done that produces the momentum to take them through the next 2 gears and finally into the 4th gear where it passes through both the House and the Senate and is signed into law by the Governor.
Two bills I am working on took a significant step forward as I was able to secure Senate sponsors for both of them. The first is the Access to Voter Date of Birth Records. Currently, that information is public and accessible to anyone. That causes a lot of concerns over potential identity theft and this bill is an attempt to simply protect the privacy of those who register to vote. The release of private information like your birthdate, even if it is voluntarily made public by you in other places like facebook, should not be a requirement for voter registration.
Senator Ralph Okerland will be the Senate sponsor on this bill. Sen. Okerland has heard from several constituents about this issue and one of them has had their identity stolen, in part because of their date of birth being public record on the voting roles. Below are several links that discuss this issue.
The second bill is a bill that Senator Howard Stephenson will be serving as the Senate sponsor on. It is a bill providing an apppropriation for a program for people with careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math ) areas who want to become secondary school science or math teachers. This falls directly in line with the legislative priorities of the Sallt Lake Chamber and others who have identified the imperative of investing in education as an investment in the economic viability of our future.
As far as the rest of the legislative day went, we had some fascinating presentations in the Higher Ed Appropriations Commmittee. Both dealt with innovation in terms of how higher ed is being delivered to students. One group was schmooop.com, who delivers online courses in an interesting and interactive way. FlatWorld Knowledge is an online textboook company. The statistics they shared indicated that wwhile most college students and their families budget and plan for the cost of tuition, the increasing costs for textbooks is something that has become quite onerous, with the average cost of a textbook running $176.00. Consequently, this starts a cycle of students having to work longer hours to pay for the exxhorbitant costs of textbooks (in some institutions the textbook and fees can run 71% of tuition), share textbooks, or go without them altogether. These textbooks have the ability of to personalized by the professor or institution and include up to date information and data.
Next week we begin to hear from our local experts who are innoovating in the field of higher education. I applaud Sen. Urquhart for this extremely informative start to our meetings and I look forward to digging deeper in the specifics of our budget.
Then, this evening Gov. and Mrs. Herbert hosted the legislature at a reception at the Governor’s Mansion. Actors and musicians from the Utah Shakespeare Festival performed brief vignettes from Shakespeare’s Hamlet and The Tempest, and sang from Les Miserables. It was a treat to also hear Fred Adams share a long list of phrases that are in our every day usage that have originated from Shakespeare’s writings.