Editorial: Bag ban bill highlighted hypocrisy on display on Capitol Hill
A couple dozen Republicans in the Utah Legislature found themselves in an awkward position toward the end of this year’s session: arguing for a larger government to usurp local control.
The hypocrisy was on display as they supported a bill that sought to strip the power of municipalities to enforce bans on thin plastic grocery bags. It was interesting, if not surprising, to watch more than 20 elected members of a party that claims to value the virtue of local government above nearly all else seem so at ease meddling in the affairs of little Park City, the only place in Utah where such a ban exists. Many of the same lawmakers have repeatedly railed against the intervention of the federal government in Utah matters.
It was a rousing performance in mental gymnastics, and one Park City’s lobbying efforts against the bill seemed to highlight. The city didn’t so much argue the merits of its ban as stress the importance of a city government being allowed to make its own decisions.
The argument was convincing enough to ultimately bag a victory. After clearing the Senate, the bill was defeated 14-58 in the House last week in the waning hours of the legislative session. It was a relief for the Park City community, which had nervously awaited the fate of the bill amid frustration that lawmakers had proposed it in the first place.
And that’s the thing: That the effort to strike down Park City’s ban made it as far as it did is problematic in itself. It showcased one reason so many people are fed up with politics: Too many politicians will stand up for ideals when it suits them and ditch them when they don’t.
Notably, however, Park City’s Republican representatives were not among those having to perform such contortions.
Rep. Tim Quinn, a conservative from Heber City, said when the Park City Council enacted the bag ban in 2017 that he did not agree with the ban itself — but he insisted that he supported the city’s right to implement it. True to his word, he cast a “Nay” vote on the bill last week and correctly pointed out on the House floor that it was directed solely at Park City. Sen. Kevin Van Tassell, R-Vernal, voted against the measure, too.
Rep. Logan Wilde, whose district covers much of the rest of Summit County, also opposed the bill, and Park City officials have said lobbying from him and Quinn proved critical.
Parkites may not agree with Quinn, Van Tassell and Wilde all the time, but we should be grateful that they stood by their principles.
After what we saw on Capitol Hill over the last few weeks, that’s a lot more than can be said of too many of their colleagues.