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Lawmaker trading cards available on the Hill

Patrick Parkinson Of the Record staff

A group of high school-aged political activists have begun creating a deck of trading cards to highlight different personalities on Utah’s Capitol Hill. The cards grade lawmakers’ performance on a laundry list of legislative issues. "They’re awesome," said Park City High School student Derek Painter, a resident of Summit Park. "I think it was a really good idea." Painter, who is president of the school’s gay-straight extracurricular club, is also a member of Utah’s Progressive Student and Youth Council (PSYC), the organization distributing the trading cards. So far, eight cards depict nine lawmakers and conservative lobbyist, Utah Eagle Forum President Gayle Ruzicka. Republican Sen. Beverly Evans, who represents portions of Summit County, is PSYC’s "favorite Republican." And according to the card that depicts Sen. Chris Buttars, R-West Jordan, "the sun revolves around the Earth." Buttars is sponsoring legislation that changes how teachers present the theory of evolution in their classrooms.

Ruzicka is the "pseudolegislator" and the card for Senate Majority Leader Peter Knudson, R-Brigham City depicts the ominous statement "this interview is over."

"Several of our people went up to interview [Knudson]," Painter said. "He just told our group that he wasn’t continuing the interview and he walked away."

Granted, questions like "Can a person who is drunk consent to sex?" and "Should a rape victim be required to carry the baby of her rapist?" could make some lawmakers uncomfortable, Painter said.

Only a few spoke to the group, Painter said. "We did the surveys with the intent of doing these cards," he said, adding, "if we e-mail seven times and they don’t e-mail back, that’s definitely a response." Painter conceded he asked lawmakers whether it’s safer for homeless youth to sleep in Pioneer Park or "under the viaduct" to make a political point about a lack of shelter space for unaccompanied youth in Salt Lake City.

"Obviously, you know neither of these answers is right," Painter said.

PSYC is a division of the Utah Progressive Network, a non-profit organization that works "on issues of equality, justice and the democratic process," said Gena Edvalson, interim executive director of the Utah Progressive Network.

She called the trading cards "a breath of fresh air."

"It’s exciting to watch," Edvalson said.

PSYC members, including Painter, spent much of the first day of the Legislature’s 2006 general session attempting to survey roughly 20 lawmakers about topics including gay-straight alliance meetings, contraceptives and locker room discussions about sex.

"I was very impressed by some of the legislators’ answers, I was very depressed by some of the legislators’ answers," Painter said. "I got several [lawmakers] that said, ‘Wow, these are things I don’t think about.’"

Trading cards have been distributed to teachers and news reporters and a new set of cards is expected to be released Friday.

"Really, they’re just a method of disseminating information & I feel that youth are under-represented in our legislative process on all levels," Painter said. "A lot of kids spend their time listening to music and playing video games rather than spending their time going to the Legislature."


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