Tag Archives: human rights

“Pursuit of Happiness”: Not if some legislators have their way….

.…all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Are our state legislators really interested in the values of our Founding Fathers?  Or are they more interested in property rights…..including owning the "pursuit of happiness" as property?

The interference of such rights are at stake with HB 182, being introduced by Rep. LaVar Christensen, R-District 48.

Christensen (R-District 48) has reintroduced a bill he tried to pass in 2006 which prohibits same-sex couples from making contractual agreements, such as wills and financial arrangements.

The bill, known in 2006 as HB 304, but now as HB 182, slides in under the generic title “Voiding Transactions Against Public Policy,” and declares “an arrangement, agreement, or transaction that is illegal or against public policy to be void and unenforceable.”

HB 182′s language is virtually word-for word from the narrowly-defeated 2006 measure, and if passed, would strip even more rights away from the same-sex couples who depend on contractual arrangements, as Utah denies them any of the inherent protections afforded to heterosexual couples.

~ Eric Ethington

Not only is this bill a violation of the rights of human beings, it is based on the religious beliefs of some on what constitutes a "union" between two individuals.  It is part of their efforts  to do everything possible to impose those beliefs on others through bills such as this one which go so far as to invade the private business of individuals; not to mention that it is unenforceable.  Should a bill like this manage to get passed, everyone’s rights will be more at stake – regardless of gender preference.

Legislators such as Rep. Christensen are living a double standard.  They send messages with some bills that demand less interference from the federal government and claim to want to live the values of Founding Fathers of the United States.  Yet messages such as the degradation of the rights of human beings, as is the intent of HB 182, is antithetical to these other messages, which intend to infringe upon the "unalienable Rights" endowed by the Creator, including the "pursuit of Happiness" of all men, women and children.

(cross-posted to Utah Legislature Watch)

Si se puede! — Yes we can! – More Images from the March and Rally

(click image to enlarge)

Still We Rise

The last day of the Utah Legislature for 2010 saw a rally by students called “Still We Rise”, a group of activists, students and community members which unveiled  a “Student Bill of Rights.”

https://i1.wp.com/uol.sltrib.com/tribphoto/photos/2010/xgractivistrallylh47_0311.jpg

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune)

Rally Statement:

“We the Communities take back the power to declare our inalienable rights that have been promised but not practiced. We rise to protect our civil liberties and to show our legislators they will be held accountable for their actions today and tomorrow. We march to the heartbeats of our ancestors and we rise together united by our struggles.”

The 2010 legislative session has become increasingly frustrating for community members. A number of bills were considered and implemented this session intended to mute the present opportunities and programs that benefit Utah’s marginalized communities. Community members from all over SLC have followed this session and have organized to express their opposition to the bills considered in 2010.

Event organized by student community groups including: The Magpie Collective, Mestizo Institute of Culture and Art (“MICA”), SLC Brown Berets, Movimient Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan (“MEChA”), Family School Partnership (“FSP”), Utah Coalition of La Raza (“UCLR”).

Highlighted bills that were considered by organizers to be detrimental to marginalized communities included:

HJR 24-A proposition to end Affirmative Action.

HB 428- A proposition to repeal in-state tuition for resident and hard working undocumented students.

HB 227-A proposition to require prospective business owners to present documentation that verifies they have the “right” to be in the United States.

SB 251-A proposition that mandates the use of e-verify for every employer.

HB 90-A proposition to benefit public and higher education through a slight tax increase on high wage earners did not leave committee as legislators sacrificed quality education to ensure attractive tax rates for prospective corporations to settle in Utah.

HJR 21-A proposition to withdraw Utah from the Western Climate Initiative.

SB 54-A proposition that would require schools to incorporate instruction about contraception in heath education courses which would benefit communities did not pass through committee

(cross-posted to Utah Legislature Watch)

SB44: Health care for “legal” immigrant children garners approval

Utah Senators gave their nod of approval yesterday for  SB44 Health Amendements for Legal Immigrant Children.  The bill would lift a 5 year waiting period for immigrant families to obtain health care for their children.

What is puzzling is the sentiment by adults towards children and tax paying workers.

Today’s Deseret News:

“These kids are kids, and they’re playing by the rules as best they can,” he[Sen. Chris Buttars R-West Jordan] reasoned. “So while I’m totally against illegals, these kids aren’t illegals.”

As if any children had control over their lives.

But while those kids might follow the rules, Sen. Allen Christensen, R-North Ogden, who opposed the bill, said the five-year wait is there for a reason: Legal immigrants are expected to take care of themselves for that time.

“They need to play by the rules, the rules are set up, and you’re asking us to change the rules,” Christensen said.

Well, yes, because no human should be without health care and children in particular have no choice over their circumstances.  Legal or not, when someone needs health care they should be able to get it. Further, immigrants who have legal status pay taxes into our system and therefore should, without question, have access to, among other things, the health care system.

Sen. Luz Robles, D-Salt Lake City, bill sponsor says that this not about immigration:

SB44 isn’t about immigration, Robles said, but health care policy, and it opens access to preventative care that is more cost-efficient than letting problems grow until they end up in emergency rooms.

This is very sensible.  While it wouldn’t take effect until 2012, this bill is a giant step in the right direction for opening the health care access door for all.

(cross-posted to Utah Legislature Watch)

Nursing Mothers Bill Shot Down by Mostly Male House Committee

The Workplace Accommodation of Breast Feeding Bill, HB252, which would have afforded nursing mothers accommodations in the workplace, was shot down by members of the Utah House Committee after hearing testimony in support of the bill.  The action  is being called a “blatant slap in the face of Utah’s working mothers” by bill sponsor Rep. Christine Johnson.

Lawmakers tried to use the rhetoric that private business should not have to be subject to the law, as the Deseret News reported:

Despite supportive testimony from Intermountain Health Care, the University of Utah and Employers Council of Utah, the predominately male House committee expressed concern that HB252 created a mandate on private businesses.

“It’s not appropriate for the state to command us in all things,” said Rep. Mike Morley, R-Spanish Fork. He said the bill was simply “dictating common sense.”

Johnson  stated this about the actions of Utah’s prdominantly male lawmakers.

“This says a lot about the hypocrisy of this Legislature,” she said after the Friday night meeting. “We say we support families and women. The least we can do is support the desire of women to do the best for their families.”

The Salt Lake Democrat, an expectant mother herself, said lawmakers should be “embarrassed.”

Johnson said her proposal did not tell employers what to do, but rather what they should do, and that the negative vote highlighted pro-business bias in the Legislature.

“This body consistently shows favoritism toward businesses and gross inconsideration for anyone other than the majority,” she said.

It appears that the influence of private business owners dictates which populations are to be discriminated against in this year’s session (workers needing health care, gays and lesbians, and now nursing mothers….).  If the mindset, then, is that not all legislation should mandate things that would affect private businesses, where is  the line drawn?  Should this then apply to laws on the hiring practices of illegal immigrants?

(cross-posted to Utah Legislature Watch)

Immigration Reform – Repairing a Broken System

There are a number of immigration bills that have been signed into law in the past and new bills this year addressing immigration issues in Utah.

Mark Alvarez, Utah  Attorney, had a piece published in the Salt Lake Tribune in which he says,

In 2000, George W. Bush said, “Immigration is not a problem to be solved; it is the sign of a successful nation.” Candidate Bush said he wanted to make policy friendlier to immigrants. That effort froze on Sept. 11, 2001.

In 2008, Barack Obama said that America had nothing to fear from today’s immigrants: “Because we are all Americans. Todos somos Americanos. And in this country, we rise and fall together.”

Congressional debate will begin soon. Three main questions are: 1. Who should be able to come here? 2. How should border and internal enforcement be designed? 3. What should be done with undocumented immigrants?

Alvarez continues on by addressing 6 “points of contention”:

1. Family-based versus employment-based immigration.

2. Temporary workers versus permanent workers.

3. Skilled workers versus unskilled workers.

4. Genuine employment verification versus the status quo.

5. “Path to citizenship” versus “amnesty.”

6. Illegal immigration versus legal immigration.

Read his points in their entirety here.

A Facebook group called Utahns for Immigration Reform has been created to advocate for a fair and just system of immigration for all people without violating anyone’s civil rights, regardless of immigration status.  The group calls for citizens to become engaged in the process of advocating for the repair of the current broken system and creating an equitable system for all people.   From the group’s page:

We can influence American immigration laws by being engaged in the process.

No person is illegal. Being undocumented is a violation of civil law, not criminal law. Federal immigration reform needs to happen now because the immigration system is terribly broken. We agree that all people should immigrate legally but in a broken system unfortunately that is not the reality.

The page continues on by describing how current legislation is damaging:

SB 81 is a now Utah law. The new law encourages racial profiling. Most law enforcement agencies in Utah understand that the law is an afront to civil rights and have refused to enforce it.

Immigration reform will make SB 81 unnecessary.

Cory Redstone, creator of Utahns for Immigration Reform issued this notice yesterday about SB251 Verification of Employment Eligibility and   HB 428 Non Resident Tuition Amendments

SB 251 is another employment verification bill. This bill mandates the use of E-verify for every employer, not just those contracting with the state as SB 81 did. Because E-verify has a %5 rate of inaccurate information this is just wasteful. Additionally the rate of failure could be used to discriminate against minority workers and cause undue delays in employment if a record is mistakenly flagged. There will be discrimination against businesses who are minority owned. They will face more scrutiny and undue harassment because of this law.

Make no mistake E-verify use is eventually going to be mandated on a federal level eventually but all of the kinks need to be worked out. We also need to see Comprehensive Immigration Reform so nobody works without documentation. Please call OR email your legislator and tell them to vote no on SB 251. Just one phone call from you can make a huge difference.

There is also a bill to take in-state tuition away from undocumented college students HB 428.

Here is the link to find your state Senator to call or email:
http://www.utahsenate.org/map.html

There is an analysis of HB428 at the Enriching Utah Coalition blog. (Read this coalitions mission and values here.)

Bills on immigration can be viewed here, but not all bills addressing immigration issues are in this category and in fact the bills referred and linked to in the above paragraphs are not listed on this page.  For example another bill that addresses health care for immigrant children up for consideration this year: SB44 Health Amendments for Legal Immigrant Children

One thing is evident:  The people must be engaged and getting their voices heard on these issues to address the unjust system currently in place.

(cross-posted to Utah Legislature Watch)

“Unless you have been in our wheelchairs, you don’t know what it’s like….”

This is the message that  disabled citizens wanted to get across to legislators as they rallied yesterdayat the Utah Capitol in protest of the cuts being made to health care in Utah as part of HB67 Health System Amendments and the budget cuts being made this year.  The bill is before the Senate after passing the House on February 11th. (See previous post on this issue here.)

The Deseret News reported on the rally in today’s news.

“….[the legislators] are compounding the problem by supporting bills against health care reform,” said Stevie Edwards, a West Jordan resident who said he came to the Capitol to “do what I can to make sure that they understand that their positions have real-life consequences for those of us who depend on a little assistance just to get by.”

Several attending the rally, which was organized by the Disabled Rights Action Committee and the Anti-Hunger Action Committee, said the bill is premature, likely unconstitutional and makes outlandish claims without any convincing evidence to back them up.

“And they are compounding the problem by supporting bills against health care reform,” said Stevie Edwards, a West Jordan resident who said he came to the Capitol to “do what I can to make sure that they understand that their positions have real-life consequences for those of us who depend on a little assistance just to get by.”

Organizers of the rally had these things to say:

The coalition’s chairwoman, Barbara Toomer, who has been a wheelchair-bound disabled rights activist for years, said….”By bringing health care reform into this new push for state sovereignty, lawmakers should know they are reaching for that high ideal by standing on the backs of the disabled and the 258,000 uninsured citizens who would finally have coverage under federal reforms,” Toomer said.

Utah lawmakers pride themselves on being health care reform leaders in their own right, said Bill Tibbetts, head of the anti-hunger coalition. “So far, the main health care reform solution is to do less every year.”

Participants in the event are tired of fighting this issue year after year.

“This is not national health care reform leadership, and HB67 is a lie,” said protestor Jason Weeks, a disabled local keyboard player and Web-based music promoter.

“I’m just here to be part of the group that has to constantly fight tooth and nail to keep on being able to fight tooth and nail their whole lives,” Weeks said. “The federal options are not the obscenity some lawmakers are trying to make them out to be. Besides that, it hasn’t even happened yet, and who knows if it will.”

In an effort to avoid raising taxes, the legislators have proposed deep cuts to many services as part of this year’s budget balancing act.  (View post about budget proposal here.)

(cross-posted to Utah Legislature Watch)

Health Care Crisis: Groups Organize to Ask Important Questions

The Disabled Rights Action Committee (DRAC) and the Anti-Hunger Action Committee (AHAC) have together organized a rally at the Utah Capitol for Tuesday to confront legislators on the HB67 Substitute Health System Amendments in advocacy for the rights to adequate and equitable health care for all, particularly addressing the current crisis of those who are without insurance.  This announcement was recently distributed via Facebook ((links to organizations and the bill added by this post’s author):

Utah Legislature Action/Press Conference
Whereas the legislature continues to deny that there is a health care crisis we need to set the record straight!

Whereas the State of Utah, embodied in State Representative Carl Wimmer’s HB 67 bill continues to deny that there is a health care crisis in Utah and

Whereas Representative Wimmer asserts in HB 67 that Utah has embarked on… health system reform, that the health system reform efforts for the state … address the unique
circumstances within Utah and to provide solutions that work for Utah and that Utah is a leader in the nation for health system reform, and

Whereas on February 23 Families USA will be releasing a report detailing the number of uninsured Utahns who will die from untreated illnesses as a direct result of their uninsured status,

Now comes the Disabled Rights Action Committee (DRAC) and the Anti-Hunger Action Committee (AHAC) to ask why, in light of the above assertions, dental, vision, physical and other critical aspects of health care have been cut from Medicaid, to ask why critical health care has been cut from children and to ask why consideration is being given to further cutting back on Medicaid eligibility, further increasing the roles of Utah’s uninsured, and

To set the record straight that there is a heath care crisis in Utah—any needless death or suffering is a crisis.

Join us February 23, 2010 at 1:30 PM in the State Capitol Cafeteria to ask why our legislature insists on denying the existence of a health care crisis in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary while continuing to engage in actions that worsen the health care crisis.

(cross-posted to Utah Legislature Watch)

UT Senate Pres Threatens LGBT Community

This was posted to Utah Legislature Watch by Eric Ethington from his blog PRIDE in Utah

UT Senate President Michael Waddoups

SLC – With the controversial “compromise” between the pro-human rights legislators and the extremist right-wing hanging in the balance, a closed-door meeting between leading Republican Senators ended with a slap in the face to Utah’s LGBT community.

Last week, Representative Christine Johnson and Senator Stephenson announced a joint bill saying that no pro or anti gay legislation would be run this year by either side, and a committee would be assigned to study the necessity of anti-discrimination laws over the coming year. Call it an olive branch to Utah’s ultra-conservative lawmakers, a way for them to finally recognize the suffering of their constituents while still saving face by claiming that they were unaware of the problems in Utah before the committee delivered their report.

But now, Republicans have denied even that. In an interview with the Salt Lake Tribune, Senate President Michael Waddoups announced that they would hold up their end of no anti gay legislation this session, but that he saw no need for a committee to look into anything this upcoming year. On top of that, he threatened the gay community against speaking up, saying any “offensive activities” would push the Republicans into drafting legislation against the LGBT community.

Um… excuse me?? The queer community in Utah is one of the most oppressed in the country, being one of the few states that does not even afford housing or workplace protections to its’ citizens. There’s barely a handful of supportive legislators on Capital Hill supporting their basic rights and he wants the gay community to shut up and fall in line? Their strategy is clear, Republicans are in essence buying themselves a free-pass for the year from the constant barrage of negative press for their dark-age views, while giving nothing in return.

Now, the LGBT community of Utah is rising and coming together again. Enough. We have had it with our state constantly spitting on us, of teaching our children that they have no human worth just because they’re born differently. We are thrown from our parents’ homes, shunned from our churches and communities, fired from our jobs, evicted from our homes, denied every possible right to our partners and now are told our suffering isn’t even worth taking a deeper look at.

Enough. We’re sick of being the whipping-boy for those law makers who care nothing that thousands of their constituents are being persecuted. Sit Down, Shut Up and Fall In Line? Never.

See more on Utah LGBT issues here.

How the Insurance Industry”incarcerates” the purse strings of lawmakers

(cross-posted to Utah Legislature Watch)

It is no secret that medical care is inadequate for inmates.  Legislators have a history of not approving adequate funding for the care of those who are incarcerated.  So when a bill is proposed that would save taxpayers money and still allow for inmates to receive medical care (under the provisions of the bill), you would think that Legislators would be happy, right?

Wrong.  The insurance industry obviously has influence over legislators with this issue.

Yesterday the House shot down a bill that would permit inmates to use their private insurance to pay for their health care while incarcerated.

H.B. 22Inmate Health Insurance Amendments,would require the inmates’ private carrier to serve as the primary insurer while serving time in a state or county facility.

According to an article in the Deseret News,

House members voted against the bill, saying state taxpayers should pick up the cost, even if the inmate is insured.Opponents said during debate that the bill painted insurers as bad guys, when in fact the bad guys are the ones who broke laws that got them arrested and incarcerated. They also argued that the bill was anti-free market and smacked of government takeover of a private enterprise.

Interestingly, the article points out the amount of donations candidates received in the 2008 elections.

In the 2008 election, the insurance industry gave $313,311 to state-level candidates (including the Legislature, governor and attorney general), according to the National Institute on Money in State Politics.

Insurance companies gave the second-most of any industry that year, outdistanced only by the securities and investment industry, which gave $614,207, according to the institute.

And big insurance companies lose few political fights in the Utah Legislature.

The sponsor of the bill, Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clearfield, points out the cost savings to taxpayers with the passage of this bill.

The bill would save county jails more money than the state, with only a handful of felons in the state prison having outside health insurance. But a number of county jail inmates, who may be sentenced for several months up to a year, have insurance while incarcerated, Ray said.

"Taxpayers are getting hammered, and it’s time for insurance companies to step up and pay for what they’ve contracted for," said Ray just before his bill was voted down on a 30-44 vote.

This is just one example of how lawmakers are"incarcerated" themselves by big corporations….and at the expense of taxpayers and those in need of care.