Legislators take questions from a packed house
February 17, 2012
Summit County’s legislators spoke to a packed house on Thursday, answering residents’ questions and explaining their personal feelings on hot button issues, including the recent movie studio controversy.
Utah Sen. Allen Christensen (R-Ogden), Rep. Joel Briscoe (D-Salt Lake City), Rep. Melvin Brown (R-Coalville), Rep. Brian King (D-Salt Lake City) and Rep. Kraig Powell (R-Heber) spoke for over two hours on the many decisions they need to make during the legislature’s 45 day session. This year, of the 600 bills drafted, around 165 were filed, according to Brown.
Former Snyderville Basin Planning Commissioner Julie Hooker told the legislators that the Summit County Council had "forced a movie studio through" because of fears the legislature would approve it if they did not.
"Would you guys have supported a bill that allowed the state to spot-zone a county just to allow a movie studio," Hooker asked.
Each of the legislators answered no, citing either county’s rights, the importance of small government, or simply, as in Powell’s case, claiming he never had heard much about the issue.
Christensen said that he had encouraged Raleigh Studios, Summit County officials and the landowner to all come together and settle the matter themselves to avoid having the state step in and override local laws.
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Powell told Hooker it was unfair to group all the representatives together and assume they all have the same opinions.
"In the past year, there has been a lot of animosity towards legislators and the Legislature," he said. "There is a huge diversity of opinion on Capitol Hill and personally, I don’t know why the Legislature was ever involved in this decision."
King agreed, adding that the Senate was where the movie studio debates had been taking place.
According to County Manager Bob Jasper, there were five potential bills in the Legislature this session that could have forced spot zoning and a movie studio in the county.
All the representatives that were present, except for Briscoe, are up for reelection in November and all said that they had the county’s best interests in mind.
The legislators were also asked about Senate Bill 41, which would ban tanning bed use for minors. Basin resident Sancy Leachman, director of the melanoma program at the Huntsman Cancer Institute, said she sees people dying of skin cancer on a daily basis and asked each legislator where they stood on the bill.
The legislators said the bill straddled the line between government doing what is perceived as right and individual freedoms. Christensen said he had helped get the bill out of the Senate committee and despite hearing a lot of opposition, planned to vote for the bill.
"This sparks the discussion of how far you want government to go. But when it comes to protecting our kids, most people agree we need laws to keep them safe, like banning tobacco products," he said. "Some people will be happy with this law, some won’t. But now we have a record, and that’s why the new people get elected, because they are a blank canvas and voters can put all their hopes and dreams on them."