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Outdated legislators lose their grip

There are signs the Old Guard may be losing its grip on the Utah Legislature. One is that former Speaker of the House Mel Brown, R-Coalville, who represents part of Summit County at the state Legislature, was unable to get one of his pet bills passed before this year’s general session ended at midnight on Wednesday.

The once-powerful party insider watched the final minutes of the session evaporate as his bill to allow a minority of county residents to petition for a re-vote on the change of government decision languished at the bottom of a pile waiting for Senate approval.

If passed by the Legislature, Brown’s bill could have dealt a crippling blow to Summit County’s recent vote to adopt a five-member council/manager form of government in place of the current three-member board of commissioners. Brown’s bill would have allowed a mere 10 percent of the electorate to petition for a revote and would also have required that all county elections remain partisan. Though the bill allowed the new format a two-year trial, by almost guaranteeing a recall in two years, it would have undercut the authority of the newly elected councilors and made it difficult to hire a professional manager.

It was apparent from the day Brown slipped his surprise bill onto the table that his real agenda was to serve a specific demographic, one that is slipping into the minority in Summit County. The proposition to change the form of government was bitterly opposed on the East Side of the county, where Brown lives. It was especially controversial in Brown’s hometown, where the County Courthouse has traditionally been controlled by residents from the rural parts of the county.

During the debates leading up to the November election, it became apparent that East Siders feared expanding the board of commissioners would lessen their influence at the county seat and that hiring a professional manager would introduce a new and unwelcome layer of oversight. Their attitude, though, was outnumbered by voters on the West Side of the county, who acknowledge the increasing complexity of the issues facing our growing communities.

Fortunately, Brown’s bill ended up in the scrap heap where it belonged. But it is important to note that had it come to a vote, it likely would have been approved even over the strong objections of the citizens it would most affect.

Unfortunately, Brown and a large number of like-minded, out-dated legislators still have the power to overrule local constituencies. They are the ones who have failed to listen to the growing call for stronger environmental laws, tougher regulation of nuclear waste and more tools to control development.

It is time for voters to send them home.


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