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Report from the Legislature

By K.L. MCIFF
Utah State Representative

Education issues continue at the forefront of legislative debate. I mention two, along with some other developments.

Vouchers

The voucher bill passed by one vote. The debate will likely shift to the courts where it will face a stiff challenge under Utah's somewhat unique Constitution. Aside from the legal issue, the question remains whether competition from private schools will stimulate the "tide that raises all boats" or whether it will "high-grade" the talent pool leaving public education to pick up the pieces.

Higher Education Outreach

I strongly support an initiative that would fund delivery of some four-year degrees at selected sites including the College of Eastern Utah in Price and Snow College in Ephraim and Richfield. As students come out of high school with an ever increasing number of college credits, the role of our two-year junior colleges is narrowed unless we can increase upper-division offerings. This effort is dependent upon funding an upgrade of the Utah Education Network satellite system that will allow two-way video and audio between USU and all the teaching sites. Former CEU President Mike Peterson, a native of Ferron, heads the Network. USUs design is to utilize professors at any one of the institutions for broadcast to all the other sites. It is a good use of resources.

Other Developments

Twelve-year olds will now be able to hunt big game. Even avid hunters and sportsmen were split on this issue.

We are working on a better approach to fund state prisoners in county jails so that counties do not have to pick up the slack when the prison days exceed the money allocated.

There are two bills addressing important moral issues which would likely not survive constitutional challenges. One deals with excessive violence in video games, the other with abortion. Each issue challenges us to find a way of expressing abhorrence to things which downgrade and debase us without spending scarce resources with little or no hope of a legal victory. I promise to watch closely and decide carefully. Thanks for your emails. You can reach me at kaymciff@utah.gov.





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