SALT LAKE CITY — New public policy recommendations by the Utah Citizens' Counsel starts and ends with human rights, a member of the counsel and longtime member of the Utah State Board of Regents said Thursday.
"It is our belief that the strength of the Utah society depends upon fundamental fairness and equal opportunity for all of those in our increasingly diverse society and state," said Aileen Clyde, who is also a former counselor in the General Relief Society Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Clyde noted that the group's 2015 Assessment of Public Policy Progress in Utah contains commendations but also recommendations to further the state's progress in seven key areas: health, public education, environment, interpersonal violence, poverty, participatory government and immigration.
"We believe that meeting the challenges that face us in Utah requires joint action by governments, nonprofits, religious groups, families and individuals. While valuing our tradition of self-reliance, we must work together to solve intractable problems," she said.
One of the group's recommendations is that the Utah attorney general should withdraw from the states' lawsuit that has prevented President Barack Obama's executive orders on Deferred Action for Parents of Americans from taking effect.
"UCC believes that the argument against the president's action is largely political," the report says.
On the other hand, the report commends Utah's driving privilege card legislation as well as the so-called Utah Dream Act, which extends in-state college tuition rates to qualified students who are not authorized to be in the United States.
The report has multiple recommendations calling for expansion of early childhood education.
"Providing at-risk children with opportunities to become kindergarten ready is one of the most important ways that Utah can prepare its children to succeed in school and life," the report says.
"To UCC, giving at-risk preschoolers an equal opportunity to learn is an important human right. Poverty and other at-risk environments damage educational opportunity."
Clyde noted that many of the committees' reports dovetail, she noted, "reflecting the relationship of one human right to another."
For example, reducing poverty enhances educational opportunity, improves health and strengthens personal security. Good health depends not only on medical care, but on clean air, clean water and social systems that encourage healthy habits.
"Human rights form a chain with many links," Clyde said.
- Combat climate change by the state imposing a carbon tax and significantly expanding incentives for solar and wind power.
- Phase out use of property taxes to subsidize the state's water supply.
- Fund full-day kindergarten for at-risk children.
- Take full advantage of Medicaid expansion and build the education, support services and regulation necessary for adequate, effective and fair care.
- Implement the provisions of the Prison Rape Elimination Act.
- Appropriate state funding for housing and services for 3,000 women, children and men turned away from overburdened crisis shelters, according to 2014 data.
- Appropriate new funding to ensure the five- and 10-year goals of the Intergenerational Welfare Reform Commission can be implemented.
- Create an independent redistricting process by statute or the initiative petition.
- Pass legislation that establishes campaign contribution limits.
Utah Citizens' Counsel is a "nonpartisan group of senior community advocates dedicated to improving public policy in Utah," according to its website.
Clyde said the group's name is counsel as opposed to council. "We're here to offer something, not be something," she explained.