LAYTON — A legislative effort to challenge the federal government’s right to own and control about 67 percent of the lands within the Beehive State and the method of funding education are the big dividing points for candidates seeking the state House of Representative’s 16th District seat.
Incumbent Stephen Handy, R-Layton, faces a challenge from educator Doug Sill, a Democrat.
Handy, a former Layton City councilman seeking his second full term in the House, said properly funding education is a priority and he thinks the federal lands fight can provide a great opportunity to do that. Sill, 58, a science teacher in the Davis School District, agrees on the need to fund education but he could not disagree more with the method.
“Certainly, we have got to find a way to provide additional funding for education,” Handy said. “The federal lands fight is a great opportunity for that, but I also feel very strongly that we have to demand more rigor in traditional public schools, via academic standards and core curriculum.
“Who doesn’t want higher math standards? We all do. We have a real deficiency. It’s about raising the bar,” Handy said.
Sill says taking on the feds is the wrong tactic. He supports imposing severance taxes on coal mining and using those proceeds to help fund education.
The state already imposes a severance tax on natural gas and oil, but not on coal. He also notes some stripper oil wells enjoy tax-exempt status.
“We’re not going after the right people,” Sill said.
Sill claims he also differs with Handy about ethics on the Hill. He says Handy was a lobbyist before he was elected and that Handy’s ties have given him access to special interest money as a result. He expects to be outspent in the campaign by a 20-1 margin.
Handy candidly admits his biggest mistake in the Legislature was getting “sucked into” voting two years ago for HB 477, which would have limited access to public records, but he said his time as a registered lobbyist had to do with his public relations business.
“It was a small part of my business and clients included Novell and the Utah Funeral Directors Association. I did not renew my lobbyist credentials and don’t believe that would be at all ethical,” Handy said. He suggests the reference to special interests is also off mark.
“Because I have worked with many entities in business, I have developed a broad-based support network. I have received broad-based support, including private and business donations.
“The term ‘special interest’ is a boogeyman. Everyone, every business and individual, has a ‘special interest’ in good government. The interests are varied and ‘special’ depending on the individual’s interests,” Handy said.
Handy admits philosophical purity is difficult in the political world, but he said his record in 10 years of public office shows him to be an advocate for transparency and openness in government.
Sill is a graduate of Weber State where he earned a bachelor of science in botany and history and of the University of Utah where he earned a master’s degree in chemistry teaching, with an emphasis on environmental science. He currently teaches ninth grade earth system science at Farmington Junior High.
The father of five, Sill is also president and water master of the Sill and Adams Ditch Company, which provides secondary water to portions of North Fort Lane and Church Street in Layton.
Handy, 61, believes the state can continue to actively work to improve air quality. He thinks strong environmental controls don’t have to come at the expense of developing additional energy resources.
Active in church and civic affairs, Handy is the former chair of the Davis County Tourism Tax Advisory Board, is a board member of the American Red Cross of Northern Utah and is president of the United Way of Davis County Leadership Council. He graduated from the University of Utah with a bachelor’s degree in English.
A former executive with the Standard-Examiner and the Deseret News, Handy is a marketing and public relations consultant. He and his wife, Holly, are the parents of six children.
House District 16 still covers most of eastern Layton, but the lines have been expanded to include a portion of Hill Air Force Base, an area west of Northridge Junior High School and a small portion of Clearfield.