This email is fairly long, but it includes the survey results, my take on Amendments A and G, podcasts put out by the legislature on all the ballot measures and the census, information on ballots and registering to vote, and ideas for getting out and seeing the beautiful colors of Utah, which are quickly disappearing.
The survey results were interesting. There were 99 responses–definitely not a statistically representative sample–but the answers reflect the varied opinions and concerns of the many people I talk to. You can find the results here.
The first question asked respondents to rank their concerns surrounding COVID-19 and the response to it. You can see the actual responses below the first graph, but the graph itself shows the score of each response, which takes into account a variety of factors.
Four concerns tied at most concerning, with a score that rounded to eight:
- Mental health
- Other social issues (increased domestic violence, child abuse, addiction, etc.)
- Community economic concerns including unemployment and local businesses shutting down/losing business
- K-12 education changes and disruptions
Four were ranked second most concerning, with a score that rounded to seven:
- Contracting COVID (33% ranked this as a top three concern, while 33% ranked is as a bottom three concern.)
- Personal economic concerns, such as unemployment or decreased hours at work
- Government over-reach
- Lack of reliable information
There were also questions on the government response to COVID, willingness to be vaccinated, voting methods, and mail-in ballots. I found the results fascinating. Thank you to those who participated! (Funny side note: As I was writing this email, I asked my husband how he had ranked his concerns in the first question. He told me it was too long and he skipped it. Survey Monkey did tell me that one respondent had skipped that question. Turns out it was my husband.)
AMENDMENTS A AND G
I have received many questions about the various amendments. Here are my answers to a couple of those questions.
AMENDMENT A–Shall the Utah Constitution be amended to change words that apply to a single gender (such as the word “men”) to words that are not limited to a single gender (such as the word “persons”)?
I have been asked if this will make all language in the Utah Constitution gender neutral, denying the differences between men and women.
This Amendment only applies to specific places in the Constitution where the meaning of “men” or “he” was meant to be gender neutral. It does not alter the substance or meaning of any part of the Utah Constitution. It is simply a technical update to the language in six out of the 237 sections of the Utah Constitution.
If you go to this link, and scroll to page 2, you can see the places that are affected.
AMENDMENT G–Shall the Utah Constitution be amended to expand the uses of money the state receives from income taxes and intangible property taxes to include supporting children and supporting people with a disability?
I have received emails from concerned constituents who are worried that if this amendment passes, less money will be available or put towards education. My dad was a high school math teacher, and he called me the other night with these same concerns. My sister is a single high school teacher with four kids who is barely earning enough to scrape by. I would NEVER support something that I thought would threaten or decrease education funding. Following is my answer to these concerns.
I support amendment G. Utah does NOT put enough into education. Period. We have had the money in the education fund to put a lot more into K-12 and have chosen not to. Instead, what we have done is to increase the amount we give to higher-ed out of the education fund (which is not necessarily unworthy, but it takes away from what we can give to K-12), put money into the rainy day fund (again, not unworthy, but…), give tax credits and incentives that take away from the education fund, and “adjust” bills that we need funded to fit under education so that they can be funded out of the education fund.
On the General Fund side, we REALLY don’t fund many of our vital social services enough. They are actually underfunded more than education. I have previously written about some of the specifics, but one example is that a DCFS caseworker earns about $20,000 less than a first year teacher, but their position requires the same qualification of a bachelors degree. The result is a 33% turnover, untrained caseworkers being put in situations they are not ready for, and further instability for families and children. Unfortunately, schools end up taking care of the behavioral, physical, and emotional issues that we, as a state, don’t take care of.
I truly do not feel that opening the education fund to people with disabilities and social services for children will encourage less funding for K-12 education. The fact remains that even with the constitutional guarantee, we have not given education more. As we got more money in the fund, we found other ways to spend it–one of my great frustrations. My hope is that as we allocate money (that previously would have gone to higher-ed or a tax incentive) to children with disabilities or to mitigating children’s adverse traumas, stress will be taken off our educators and educational systems. Money will hopefully be freed up within district budgets to address other important items.
Also, with this constitutional change, for the first time there will be guaranteed money to education. Currently, education must ask for everything each year, starting with growth and inflation. These increases would be put into statute, and the Uniform School Fund would be set up with guaranteed funding to cover any times that our budget took a dive–like this year. I would like to see this change be constitutional instead of in statute, but I am practical enough to know that even in statue, this is way better than what we have.
This amendment is supported by every major educational group in the state, including the UEA, the Utah School Superintendents Association, and the Utah School Boards Association. You can read about this support in this Deseret News Editorial by Heidi Matthews, UEA President.
BALLOTS ARRIVING THIS WEEK
Ballots are being mailed out! You should expect your ballot to arrive in the mailbox around October 13. Make sure you, your family, and your friends are registered to vote at https://vote.utah.gov/. You can also find all the issues and candidates you will be voting on, track your ballot to make sure it arrives at the County Clerk’s Office, and find a list of all drop boxes and in-person voting places.
I spoke to Amelia Powers, our County Clerk, on Saturday, and know that she has worked, and will continue to work, extremely hard to make sure that every valid ballot is counted, and that any potential for voter fraud or mischief is minimized as much as possible.
PODCAST ON THE CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS
This week, we’re covering the 7 constitutional amendments on the ballot this year in Utah. Listen to this week’s episode to find out what they are, so you can cast your vote in confidence. Listen on Spotify
PODCAST ON THE CENSUS
Every wonder why we conduct a census? How about why it’s important to our elections? Listen to last week’s episode to find out more. Click here to listen on Spotify.
FAMILY FUN ACTIVITIES
After long hours of Zoom calls or online school, it is easy to feel cooped up and overwhelmed. One of the best ways to relieve stress is to get out and explore nature. Scenic drives and hikes help us experience the beauty of Utah and see the leaves that are changing this time of year. Click here to see suggestions on byways to drive and other ways to experience fall.
I recently hiked up to Squaw Peak through Rock Canyon and it was beautiful!!! I thought it would end at the parking lot, but it ended at the rocky outcropping, and I felt like I was on top of the world. I also hiked Slate Canyon for the first time and it was lovely! I can’t believe I have lived in Utah County for almost four decades and have never hiked these amazing places. We are so lucky here.