New Rep. is ‘left’ in her leanings | ParkRecord.com

New Rep. is ‘left’ in her leanings

Patrick Parkinson, Of the Record staff

Bigots like state Sen. Chris Buttars, who is a Republican, appear poised to push next year for the removal of clubs that cater to homosexual students from Utah’s high schools, says the Legislature’s newest openly gay woman.

"I feel sorry for [Buttars] that he is so hateful His obsessive hatred for members of the gay community is suspicious," said Christine Johnson, a lesbian who was elected to serve parts of the Snyderville Basin and Salt Lake City in Utah’s House of Representatives. "I think Chris Buttars sort of enjoys being the bull in the china shop."

She blasted Buttars for presenting lawmakers with "horrible misrepresentations" last year before they voted to kill Buttars’ bill that would have outlawed extracurricular clubs for gay students.

"They’re going to do it again," she said about Buttars’ intentions to run similar legislation in 2007. "I really owe it to people like Chris Buttars because they’re the reason I’m involved, fighting their bigoted legislation."

In her trouncing of Salt Lake City Republican Kenneth Grover, Johnson received more than 71 percent of the votes from constituents in Snyderville and roughly 75 percent overall.

When she replaces Salt Lake City resident Ross Romero, a Democratic representative who won a state Senate seat Nov. 7, Johnson says she’ll begin fighting for more funding for public education.

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"What will make a difference in our economy is a well-educated workforce," Johnson said while criticizing Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. for offering economic incentives for businesses to relocate to Utah instead of adequately funding schools. "That’s what brings corporations like Microsoft and Novell."

Large class sizes and sluggish teacher salaries are "out of control," Johnson said, adding that lawmakers must reform the state’s tax code to prevent large families from claiming too many income-tax reductions. "Don’t ask the person with no children or the person with one child, to assume an unfair proportion of your child’s education."

"The average worker and consumer understand that’s what we need, but the Legislature doesn’t seem to get it," she said, adding, "We’re prioritizing roads over education."

Johnson lamented that lawmakers haven’t bonded enough for major transportation projects to free up funds for education.

Still, fixing traffic at poorly planned Kimball Junction is not cheap, Johnson acknowledged.

"I think Kimball Junction is an area where long-term growth was not projected adequately when the Kimball Junction roads were constructed," Johnson said. "S.R. 224 has issues now. It’s a very congested area."

Reducing the number of cars on the road will require bus service between Salt Lake and the Snyderville Basin, she claimed.

"During peak events like Sundance there is limited lodging and people are overflowing into the (Salt Lake) valley," she said, adding that park-and-ride lots near Foothill Drive could encourage people to ride the bus.

Meanwhile, where land use is concerned, Johnson says she leans to the left politically.

"I want to see compatibility, I want to see responsible growth, I want to see green building, I want to see open-space preservation," she said.

She will battle bills that favor developers, like Senate Bill 170, proposed this year by state Sen. Al Mansell, that would have limited public involvement in the planning process, Johnson said.

Meanwhile, to avoid confusion she claims resulted in members of the Personal Choice political party receiving too many votes on Election Day, Johnson says she will sponsor a bill next year to require electronic ballots in the state clearly identify political parties.

She hopes also to pass a bill that would prevent people living out of state from obtaining licenses to carry concealed weapons in Utah.

"The renewal of these permits is costing the state in excess of $115,000 per year that could be used for education," Johnson said. "Utah’s permits are now being called the ‘National Gun Permit.’"