Utah legislators are still operating with a Jurassic perspective
Watching the Utah State Legislature at work is like observing a dinosaur lumbering toward extinction, its every breath aimed at trying to sustain a lifestyle that is incompatible with its evolving environment.
Given the opportunity to make small advances toward improving health care, air quality or preserving the state’s public lands, the Utah Legislature consistently chooses the path most likely to hasten its demise.
So far this session, legislators have failed to move forward on Medicaid expansion, leaving millions of federal matching dollars on the table and excluding thousands of Utahns from receiving adequate healthcare.
They have snubbed various proposals to regulate airborne pollutants, or encourage efforts to use alternative energy sources — even as they wheeze while casting their nay votes in the midst of city’s worst-ever inversion.
They have also saddled up with the anti-federal lands posse, vowing to commit as much as $14 million to gain control of millions of acres of public lands within the state’s borders. Apparently they prefer to allow the state’s natural treasures to be squandered by private interests than to be carefully managed among the nation’s most treasured natural wonders.
Other efforts to backpedal in time rather than embrace the future include the lawmakers’ refusal to recognize recent cultural shifts toward gender equality and women’s rights. This week they rejected efforts to incorporate gender neutral language in the state’s adoption laws that would have ensured that same-sex couples have equal opportunities to establish their own families. They also shot down a bill to expand sex education while continuing their crusade to chip away at abortion rights.
Despite their prehistoric perspective, Utah lawmakers apparently feel empowered to speak for their constituents at the national level. This week by a vote of 20 to 6, the state Senate put their stamp of approval on a resolution to repeal the 17th amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Both of Summit County’s state senators, Kevin Van Tassell (R-Vernal) and Allen Christensen (R-Ogden), voted for the measure.
Senate Joint Resolution 2 calls on Congress to give state legislators the power to choose U.S. senators rather than allowing constituents to elect them as they do today. According to the resolution, "the popular election of senators has diluted the power of the separate states, diminished federalism and resulted in the increased power of the federal government over the individual states."
But, frankly, based on the performance of Utah’s current lawmakers, it’s likely that most voters would rather mark their own ballots than hand that right over to a batch of dinosaurs.