Saturday, May 24, 2014

Does Utah's new election law violate the First Amendment? SB 54 Passed in 2014 and signed into law by Governor.

Utah 2014 Senate Bill 54 passed by the legislature and signed by the Governor imposes voter registration requirements on signature circulators like the laws in Ohio and Michigan which have now both been overturned by Federal Judges.

“In 2008 Nader v. Blackwell, a panel of judges agreed that imposing voter registration requirements on signature circulators in Ohio was an impermissible restriction on political speech.”

May 23, 2014, Judge Matthew F. Leitman of Federal District Court said that the “failure to comply with the registration statute was the result of good-faith mistakes.” 

“They believed they were in compliance with the statute,” the judge wrote.
Judge Leitman added that the First Amendment rights of Mr. Conyers and the signature collectors working for his campaign were “severely burdened” under the current law.

Judge allows long-time Dem Rep. Conyers on primary ballot. Fox News' Mike Emanuel.

Representative John Conyers Jr., a Detroit Democrat who was first elected in 1964, had found his re-election prospects at risk when his campaign failed to collect the required 1,000 valid signatures.
At least two workers collecting signatures were not properly registered to vote, or listed a wrong registration address, a violation of Michigan State Law leaving Conyers  over 400 signatures short and the state election officials declared him ineligible to have his name on the ballot.
Judge Matthew F. Leitman of Federal Court ruled that requiring 1,000 valid signatures to get John Conyers name on the ballot in Michigan for his incumbent Congressional seat violated his First Amendment rights.  
“They believed they were in compliance with the statute,” the judge wrote.  Judge Leitman added that the First Amendment rights of Mr. Conyers and the signature collectors working for his campaign were “severely burdened” under the current law.
Mr. Conyers’s lawyers mounted a challenge in federal court, saying Wednesday that the judge should throw out a state law requiring petition collectors to be registered to vote, arguing that the law violated the First Amendment. They cited an appeals court decision from 2008, Nader v. Blackwell, that struck down a similar law in Ohio.

Experts in election law said Judge Leitman’s favorable ruling was not surprising considering the case’s similarities to Nader v. Blackwell, in which a panel of judges agreed that imposing voter registration requirements on signature circulators in Ohio was an impermissible restriction on political speech.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Latest UTOPIA proposal could push costs above $2 billion. M. ROYCE VAN TASSELL. Salt Lake Tribune.

                             Royce van Tassell editorial mug
This past week the Australian firm Macquarie unveiled their Milestone One documents, documents which provide a great deal more detail about Macquarie’s proposal to lease, operate and upgrade the long-troubled UTOPIA network. The topline terms sound attractive, but a closer examination suggests very troubling elements.
Specifically, Macquarie wants UTOPIA’s member cities to impose an entirely new utility fee on the 157,000 addresses in the 11 member cities. Macquarie estimates UTOPIA taxpayers will see an annual fee increase between $216 and $240/year. Over 30 years that totals just over $1 billion.
Unfortunately, the actual cost will be significantly higher, because this fee will increase with inflation annually over the 30-year term. While the Macquarie documents don’t specify which inflation index Macquarie will use, 2% is a reasonable annual long term estimate. Using that estimate, over 30 years UTOPIA taxpayers will pay between $1.4 billion and $1.6 billion in new utility fees. Needless to say, that’s HUGE increase.
Unfortunately, Macquarie’s documents have other devilish details. Specifically, a footnote on page 10 of Macquarie’s slideshow presentation reads, “Technology upgrades and maintenance beyond 1Gbps will be the responsibility of the Agencies.” In other words, Macquarie will upgrade the UTOPIA network so it will be capable of providing 1 gig service throughout the entire network; if the cities or residents want speeds faster than 1 gig, UTOPIA’s member cities will have to pay for that upgrade and maintenance.
A gig speed connection is blazing fast. It represents today’s frontier. Consider, however, how the frontier of internet speed has progressed in the past 20 years. In the mid 1990’s, users were thrilled to get 56K speeds. File sizes were small to accommodate this limited bandwidth. Webpages with video were still unknown.
Ten years later, speeds had increased dramatically, though they seem quaint by today’s standards. “Blazing” connections provided .5 megs. A few fiber connections could push 10 megs. Youtube was new, and it quickly grew to consume more of the world’s bandwidth than any other website.
Fast forward another decade, and 10 megs is commonplace. Virtually every ISP offers an affordable 10 meg service (though not all of them consistently deliver 10 megs), and the new frontier is gig service, though few customers purchase it.
If the past two decades are any indication, gig service won’t remain the frontier. In 20 years, new websites and services will make gig service look as passé as 56K does today. And yet Macquarie says that if UTOPIA cities want those higher speeds, they’ll have to upgrade and maintain it themselves.
Those upgrades will not be cheap. When Provo sold the iProvo network to Google, Provo’s principal benefit lay in avoiding the costs of upgrading the network every three to five years. Provo estimated each upgrade would cost $20 million. Since Provo has about ¼ as many addresses as UTOPIA’s 11 cities, upgrading the UTOPIA network could easily cost $80 million per upgrade.
That upgrade and maintenance cost will recur five to ten times during the term of Macquarie’s agreement. In other words, UTOPIA taxpayers will be responsible for another $400 to $800 million in upgrade costs, beyond the $1.3 billion to $1.5 billion from the utility fee and the $600 million in existing UTOPIA debt. In total, the Macquarie deal could push the UTOPIA cost well beyond $2 billion.
These costs are very large, and the closer we get to the details, the more the cost grows. While many hope the Macquarie deal will solve UTOPIA’s problems, the most likely outcome is a huge increase in the burdens taxpayers will pay.
M. Royce Van Tassell is vice president of the Utah Taxpayers Association.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Salt Lake City completes initial steps in Google Fiber process. Jasen Lee. Deseret News.

SALT LAKE CITY — Salt Lake City announced Friday that the city has completed the first stage in a process that may lead to high-speed Google Fiber service for its residents.
In February, Salt Lake City made the short list of 33 cities nationwide working with Google to explore the possibility of bringing the ultra high-speed Google Fiber broadband network to local residents. To be considered, Salt Lake City was asked to provide a response to the Google Fiber City Checklist by May 1. The city submitted all required items and will continue with Google through its due diligence process.
"Salt Lake City has been great to work with. They became fiber experts quickly, and they were incredibly organized as they worked on their checklist," said Jenna Wandre, spokeswoman for Google Fiber. "They also proactively lead on steps beyond the checklist (and have) told us that they're already working to make their permitting process better and faster so that it can handle large infrastructure projects like Fiber."
If approved, Salt Lake City would join Provo as the second Utah city to get the high-speed network. In April 2013, Provo announced that it would become the third city in the nation to have Google Fiber, along with Kansas City, Missouri, and Austin, Texas.

Google plans to announce which cities will be selected for Google Fiber by the end of the year.


 Members of the media talk with Michael Slinger, director of business operations for Google Fiber following a press event in Salt Lake City, Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014, announcing that Salt Lake is one of nine areas being considered for Google Fiber. (Ravell Call, Deseret News)