The Park Record Editorial Oct. 1, 2008 | ParkRecord.com
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The Park Record Editorial Oct. 1, 2008

Financial crisis is no time for closed caucus

Utah legislators should be commended for acting swiftly and effectively to adjust the state’s budget in the face of looming shortfalls. Apparently they are better at addressing economic problems than their Congressional counterparts. Over the course of two days last week they came up with a plan and approved it without resorting to the partisan name-calling and other political antics currently taking center stage in Washington, D.C.

They juggled a few funds, trimmed others and tried to minimize the pain by mandating across-the-board three- to four- percent reductions in almost all state-funded departments and programs.

Given more time, it is likely legislators would have preferred to independently evaluate individual budget items, but given the time frame and knowing they will reconvene in January with a better sense of the national economic picture, they handled the situation well. It is too bad the U.S. House of Representatives, which has been haggling unsuccessfully for nearly a week, can’t follow Utah’s example.

That said, we do have some concerns about the price paid for the conformity of Utah’s legislators. Apparently much of the plan that was approved last week was hammered out in a closed-door Republican caucus. the time the plan was presented to the full legislature, the Democrats had barely enough time to study it, let alone make any substantive amendments.

The closed-door caucus is a familiar tactic in Utah’s Republican-dominated legislature. It has produced such flawed legislation as the hotly contested immigration bill, S.B. 81, the ill-conceived municipal incorporation bill and the voucher debacle.

Utah’s Republican leaders do themselves and their constituents a disservice by conducting negotiations about critical statewide issues behind closed doors. They deprive themselves of valuable input from their Democratic colleagues and appear to be engaging in the same partisan politics that they abhor when practiced by Democrats in Congress.

Here is an idea taken from city, county and school board rulebooks: Whenever a quorum of elected officials gathers, it must be noticed as a public meeting. We believe that when state legislators are working on a bill that has statewide implications, the doors should be open to politicians from across the aisle and the public.


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