Since the crisis in Ukraine took center stage in the news a little over a month ago, we could have added to the list of death and taxes another absolute certainty of life: that Republicans would blame the whole thing on Obama.
This interview is part of a series of interviews of Democrat candidates across the state from varying religious backgrounds. LDS Dems-Idaho recently interviewed Travis Manning about his current run for Idaho House of Representatives Seat 10A. We encourage you to learn more about him at www.votetravismanning.com.
This interview was conducted by Jon Young, an LDS Democrat living in Boise, ID.
This interview was conducted by Jon Young, an LDS Democrat living in Boise, ID.
JON: Holli, Thank you so much; it's an honor to speak with you. You've recently announced your run for Idaho secretary of state. Many people may not be very familiar with the position. I honestly never heard of it until a bright orange card came in the mail asking me to send an annual report to the Secretary of State, Ben Ysursa for a Limited Liability Corporation (LLC) I used for technology contracting. That was probably the easiest report I ever sent: just go online and let Idaho know I'm still in business. What other responsibilities fall under the Idaho secretary of state?
HOLLI: Hi Jon, thank you for thinking to include me! I'm excited for your caucus as I have many LDS friends who think they're the only ones who identify politically as a Democrat rather than a Republican, so it's great to have an active, visible group to show them otherwise.
Your question is great because a lot of us respond to our orange card each year, and it's so easy to keep our business status up-to-date with the secretary of state's office. In addition to business filings, the secretary of state administers elections, a position that I see as one of the most important functions of the office - to keep voting in Idaho open and accessible to all eligible voters. The secretary also holds a seat on the Land Board, which oversees the management of our state endowment lands in order to fund education. Administratively, the office oversees use of the Great Seal of Idaho, licenses notaries public, administers the Idaho Health Care Directive Registry, issues trademarks, and enforces the campaign finance reporting.
JON: You said “keep voting in Idaho open and accessible.” Do you see any current or future problems to correct with our voting system in Idaho?
HOLLI: I see the key word as "keep." We actually have a great elections system here in Idaho and it's important that we keep it that way. There are opportunities to allow greater opportunities to register to vote, such as DMV registration or online registration that will help the homebound or those serving overseas.
JON: Concerning campaign finance, when we voted on Propositions 1, 2, & 3, aka "The Luna Laws," a few years back, I was disturbed to hear New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg had donated $200,000 to a group supporting those measures. What, if anything, can you do to discourage or expose external donors whose interests likely do not align with the needs of Idahoans?
HOLLI: The thing to remember is we wouldn't have even known about that contribution had our current secretary of state, Ben Ysursa, not been even handed in enforcing our campaign finance laws. The Sunshine Law was enacted by voter initiative in 1974 because Idahoans want to know where the money is coming from for campaigns and lobbyist expenditures. It's up to the secretary of state to enforce that law and is something I take seriously.
JON: Since the secretary of state oversees both voting and campaign finance in Idaho, we need someone who can avoid picking a side in partisan battles. How might you ensure your efforts are equal or fair?
HOLLI: By enforcing the law equally, regardless of which side of the issue an organization or individual represents, we can ensure fairness and accountability for all parties.
JON: Please relate a few experiences that have prepared you to serve as the Idaho secretary of state?
HOLLI: One of the best experiences to prepare me has been my position on the House State Affairs committee. This is where all legislation and rules put forth by the secretary of state's office are reviewed and either voted up or down. This role has given me the opportunity to become well versed in state election law, and allowed me to interact with our county elections officials in a meaningful way. Additionally, we review the rules of the office, such as records keeping and the Sunshine Law.
Outside of the legislature, I've registered both nonprofit organizations and LLCs, complied with Sunshine Law as a political candidate and as a lobbyist, and volunteered to help college students register to vote, all of which interface with the Secretary of State's office. The office has a fairly modest staff whose size is comparable to that of MetaGeek, the company my husband founded and we've grown over the past several years, so management of that size of office is something I'm very familiar with.
JON: You have some great experience that we need in a Secretary of State. To wrap up this interview, do you have any additional l thoughts to share with voters?
HOLLI: I want to thank you for the opportunity, Jon. The Secretary of State is such an important position in keeping our elections open and accessible for all eligible voters and promoting investment in our schools. It would be my honor to continue the legacy of fairness and serve as Idaho's next Secretary of State.
“To me, the scariest voter is the uninformed voter.”
I can think of a few things more scary, Mike.
To me, the scariest voter is the voter that believes he deserves more say in how our country is run than his fellow citizens. They have a name for that: oligarchy. It sure ain’t democracy. One of the things that pushed me into being a Utah Democrat was hearing Republican delegates in 2005 call in to the Doug Wright show one afternoon explaining why they deserved more say in how the state was run than their clueless fellow citizens (especially if those citizens were registered Democrats). The arrogance of those people really shocked me. Rep. Noel makes it clear they haven’t repented.
These folks argue that it’s none of the public’s business how the Republican Party chooses their candidates. What arrogance. The taxpayer foots the bill for our elections; our system of electing our representatives belongs to the people, not to any political party.
While we’re talking uninformed voters, Mike: Which voter is more uninformed? The voter who is maybe a little superficial in how she investigates the candidates and issues, but remains open minded – or the voter who is so rigid in his ideology that his mind is completely closed to facts, evidence or any sort of rational argument that disagrees with his cherished beliefs? Neither of the above is ideal – but if I had to choose, I think we would be much better off with the first. Modern Republicans remind me of the old Mark Twain quote: “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you in trouble. It’s what you know that ain’t so.”
The Utah Legislature in general, and the fact that we sent John Swallow to the AG’s office and Mike Lee to the US Senate, are irrefutable examples that the current system is not working for Utah.
Kudos to Senator Bramble for bucking the extremists in his party and trying to find a workable compromise that maybe, just maybe, will be a good solution that balances the rights of the public with the concerns of political activists.
Guns on campus? What's the rush?
Idaho Senate Bill 1254 relieves Universities of a right currently granted to them, usurping the right and responsibility Universities have to establish gun free zones on their campuses. We implore you to analyze stakeholder concerns, consider the state of safety currently afforded at our institutions of higher education and the costs and benefits of changing policies currently in place.
We encourage you to seek broad spread support from stakeholders, including central stakeholders in school administrators and students. No matter the outcome, these are folks that will need to live a majority of their days with the decisions made and anxieties that could come from them. There is absolutely no reason this bill needs to be rushed through the legislative process and doing so will only lead to the lack of support from central stakeholders. If this is such a constitutional travesty, perhaps legal action should have been pursued years ago rather than beating this drum each session, waiting for the stars to align and get it passed.
As members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we’re proud to support a great Brigham Young University system of which one campus is located in Rexburg, Idaho. This school system, like our current public institutions of higher education in Idaho, does not feel that gun carrying students are conducive to the academic environment on their campus or needed for improved campus safety.
10 years ago, BYU President Merrill Bateman (1996-2003) filed a sworn affidavit in support of the University of Utah's campus gun ban that was challenged by the State of Utah. Utah did not have a provision of state code allowing institutions of higher education to regulate firearms on campus like Idaho does. Bateman said, “I am aware of no situation or incident that has occurred on BYU’s campus that could have been alleviated by the intervention of citizens armed with concealed weapons. On the other hand, there have been situations where the presence of firearms, even in the hands of law-abiding citizens, would have complicated, escalated and ultimately aggravated the situation or conflict,” Bateman said.
This session, Boise State University President Bob Kustra almost quoted President Bateman verbatim saying, “In fact, we can find no recorded incident in which a victim—or a spectator—of a violent crime on a campus has prevented a crime by brandishing a weapon. In fact, professional law enforcement officials claim that increasing the number of guns on a campus would increase police problems and make it difficult for police officers in a shooting situation to tell the good shooter from the bad shooter and inadvertently shoot an innocent person. Weapons on campus may, in fact, lead to an acceleration of conflict in stressful situations.”
There’s a considerable lack of data regarding the effectiveness of gun carrying on campus, which should really be provided if this is truly a campus safety bill. Until the claims that allowing concealed weapons on campus will make Idaho’s campuses safer can be quantitatively estimated and relied upon, we recommend that you let the decision rest on those who run these institutions and are responsible for their safety. We hope you’ll work together to enact reforms that continue to benefit higher learning in the great State of Idaho.
LDS Democrats of Idaho
The question is: Who is at fault for this problem?
To answer that, a few case studies from history might be instructive.
In the late Middle Ages, the largest and most powerful nation in Europe was the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. It stretched from the Baltic to the Black Sea and from Germany and Austria almost to Moscow. Almost all of what we know as Eastern Europe, include much of today’s Russia, was contained within its borders.
Except for avid students of European history, the above paragraph is probably mildly surprising. Most of you have probably never heard of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Where did this large, powerful nation go? We have Poland and Lithuania today, but these nations are hardly world powers. What happened?
The Commonwealth was ruled by an elected king and by the Sejm, a legislative body consisting of the nobles of the country. In the late 1600’s the concept of the liberum veto was introduced in the Sejm. This change allowed any member of the Sejm to veto any legislation, essentially requiring a unanimous vote to pass. About the same time, the members of the Sejm started to be more concerned about their own little fiefdoms rather than the overall good of the nation. The result was that the Commonwealth became ungovernable. Her neighbors took advantage of the situation, and during the latter half of the 18th century, she was literally carved up and partitioned amongst her neighbors; Russia, Prussia and Austria. The American Revolutionary War hero Tadeusz Kościuszko returned to his native Poland and led a revolution to try to save his country, but by then it was too late.
More recently, we have the example of the depression-era Weimar Republic in Germany, where a bickering, divisive Reichstag resulted in paralyzed government and paved the way for Adolf Hitler to assume power.
There are many more examples, but the lesson is clear: The path to tyranny is paved by dysfunctional government, especially in the legislature, which is the branch most closely tied to the people.
The parallel to the United States in 2014 is clear. One of the major political parties has a curious, perverse incentive: Their ideology claims that the government can’t do anything right, so they have the incentive to create a self-fulfilling prophecy.
However, the government has to function. We can have honest debates over what the government should do, but once the decision has been made, we must work together to make government function.
My message to congressional Republicans couldn’t be more clear: Are you upset about President Obama trying to do your job? Then why don’t you do your job.
Former Utah State Representative Ogden, UT 84403
Let’s raise taxes to fund education. I know this is a bold statement in Utah where we are expected to do much with little funding, but most polls show that over 60% of Utah citizens are willing to pay more taxes if the money is used for schools.
Believe it or not, in the 1980’s, Utah’s funding per child was about the national average. At the time, we had large families and many children in our schools just as we do now.
Years earlier with a Constitutional Amendment, some forward thinking legislators, I will call them statesmen, earmarked all income tax to go to schools. The Education Fund would support our public schools, kindergarten through 12th grade. This decision would leave the General Fund to take care of the other obligations in the State.
But come 1995, the Legislature saw the money in the Education Fund and wanted to use it as they saw fit. So again, a Constitutional Amendment was put on the ballot that the Education Fund could be used to fund Higher Education. Teachers were concerned about losing this funding, but they were told if they came out against the Amendment that the income rate could be lowered. Also, the worst part was that it was pitting one educational entity against another. The Amendment passed. As a result, in 1996 the public schools were receiving about 98% of the Education Fund. In 2008, the last year that I served in the House, they received 73%.
In 2008, the Legislature passed the “flat tax” rate for income. The idea was to make it easier to file your state income tax. Even though it was touted as a “flat tax,” several items were kept, such as a deduction for children and a deduction for charitable contributions. The change was to be revenue neutral. In other words, taxes would not increase, but the schools would not lose money. The end result: the schools lost approximately $200 million per year.
At the present time, our “flat tax” is 5%; not including the deductions that are still allowed. If we raised that amount to 5 ½%, $275 million would be generated which could lower each classroom by three students or which could be used for needs as assessed in each school district. Six percent would give the schools $550 million. About 10 years ago, Mississippi was on the bottom as far as per child funding. They always used the term “bite the bullet” as they raised taxes to fund their schools. Their funding is now well above ours.
During this recession, many have had to sacrifice; some have not. The hard part of any proposal is trying to decide how people will be affected. We do know that those with large families, including some legislators, end up not paying any income tax.
In the past fifteen years, we have had these two dramatic hits to educational funding. Now is the time that we need to step up to the plate and take care of the students of Utah. Reports are showing that our students are not doing as well as they should. Of the 50 states, Utah is at the bottom of funding by at least $1000 per child. I believe it is time we meet the challenge and increase our income tax rate to meet this crisis of funding in our public schools.
Despite the occasional snarky comments you hear about poor people being lazy, there are tens of millions of American families where both spouses are working full-time, or even multiple jobs, and still struggling to make ends meet. One thing Krugman admits in his column is that the current safety net has huge disincentives for improving one’s economic situation. This is not because America’s working poor are lazy. It’s because the current system of public assistance tapers too rapidly. Working more hours, taking a second job, or sending your spouse into the workplace could result in an effective tax rate on that new income of up to 80%, as the government takes away assistance almost at the same rate as income increases. If the system penalizes you for improving yourself, it will of course affect the choices you make. The Affordable Care Act makes an honest attempt to remedy this situation in regards to access to health care (in the states where Republicans allow it to function), but in general, it’s still true that those who are on full public assistance are sometimes better off than those who are working hard to try to support themselves.
There are theoretically only two ways to remedy the above incentive problem:
- Dramatically reduce or eliminate public assistance. If there is little or no public assistance for poor Americans, the tapering question is moot.
- Reduce the rate of change for tapering public assistance from earned income sources, with an eye toward eliminating the disincentive for self-improvement. This could be done many different ways; through the tax code (such as making the earned income tax credit more generous), through temporary “underemployment” benefits, or direct assistance.
The first proposal would result in an increase in human suffering, especially for children, and arguably would hurt the economy by reducing already suppressed consumer demand.
The second proposal successfully solves the incentive problem, while reducing human suffering and adding demand dollars to the economy. It would be one of the simplest ways to begin to address what President Obama has rightly called the challenge of our time: persistent income inequality and the separation of Americans into economic classes with little economic mobility.
The second solution does have one drawback: It would cost more. And by definition, given what we’re trying to accomplish (removing disincentives for self-improvement among the working poor), that cost would have to be borne by higher income Americans.
Conservatives would obviously balk at the second idea. But there is one argument that they could not make: That it would be just another government give-away to lazy freeloaders. The people who would be helped by this approach are the hardest working Americans of us all. The whole idea would be to ensure their efforts at self-improvement are not in vain.
It remains to be seen if the President or any mainstream elected Democrats out there are courageous enough to pick up the gauntlet that Professor Krugman has thrown down.
As a practicing, temple-endowed Latter-day Saint who was sealed for time and eternity to my high-school sweetheart almost 36 years ago, I believe that the religious sacrament I call marriage is a sacred covenant between one man and one woman.
However, here’s the problem: Others have deeply held religious views that marriage between individuals of the same gender is also approved by God. This creates an uncomfortable quandary (or at least it should) for a people who believe in a modern scripture that reads “We do not believe it just to mingle religious influence with civil government”. The quandary is especially uncomfortable when Amendment 3 opponents are able to produce quotes by John Taylor and Brigham Young condemning monogamy (i.e. traditional marriage) that use much the same language as today’s opponents of same-sex marriage.
How do you decide whose religious belief gets enacted into law, when there is no consensus? The obvious answer is you can’t. Because of this, well-meaning supporters of Amendment 3, including attorneys in Utah’s AG office, have tried to translate religious arguments into secular and legal ones. It is from this perspective that Judge Shelby decided arguments that same-sex marriage was harmful to traditional marriage did not hold water. In their latest appeal to the Supreme Court for a stay to Judge Shelby’s decision, the AG’s office sent a subtle signal about the legal weakness of their case when they dropped the procreation argument. Attempts have been made by Amendment 3 supporters in editorial columns in Utah newspapers the last month to state logical, legally sound secular arguments for their support, and to any fair-minded person, these arguments come across as stilted and strained.
I think we have to admit that the only logically sound arguments for opposition to same sex marriage are religious ones, and the soundness of such arguments depends upon whether one accepts that particular religious viewpoint.
Given the political climate in Utah, the Attorney General’s office probably doesn’t have any choice but to pursue all avenues of appeal to Judge Shelby’s decision. But it’s hard to see that effort succeeding in turning back the sweep of history.
In the meantime, LDS Dems have a great opportunity to change the discussion. If the goal is strengthening the family – who can disagree with that? Why not start a discussion of things we agree on, and how we can take effective, concrete steps to strengthen traditional families?
Here is one example. Leaders as diverse as Ezra Taft Benson, Hillary Clinton and Robert Reich have argued forcefully that full-time care by a parent in the early stages of a child’s life is a worthy goal for society. If that is true, if we all agree on that, then why is it that the “godless socialists” in Europe have parental leave policies that are so much more family-friendly that we do? My own daughter gave birth to a beautiful daughter six months ago, but little Mariah was born with significant health problems related to being one of the “little people” (the new kinder term for dwarfism). The crush of medical bills made it necessary for my daughter to go back to work just a few short weeks after birth. Thank goodness for a good girlfriend who was able to care for this handicapped child, but how can one describe this situation as “family friendly”?
Our fellow Mormons claim strengthening the traditional family is their most important priority, and Judge Shelby’s ruling has brought that subject to the forefront. It’s an opportune time to forcefully point out how damaging conservative economic policies have been to the traditional family.
In closing: A wise and good friend, who is a member of a stake presidency, made an interesting comment in a Sunday School class recently. He said that we as Latter-day Saints believe the ideal family is a father and mother married in the temple for life and raising their own children in righteousness. But he went on to say that upholding this ideal is not mutually exclusive to recognizing the reality that there are other types of families, and we need to find a way to serve and strengthen all families. There are single parent families. There are families like my wife and I who are raising a grandson. And yes, the unavoidable fact is that there are families where two members of the same gender are making a life together. I am hopeful that recent events might act as a catalyst to help us begin working on the things that we can agree on to strengthen all families.