I spent every hour of every day on Capitol Hill during the 2011 legislative session. It began as a class requirement, I was selected as one of five interns for Utah Valley University, but I found that it quickly grew into a ritualistic obsession that would significantly form and enlighten my path in life. Although I was assigned to two Republicans, one who is considered very conservative on the scale of right to left, and the other considered conservative but in my mind not as much as he may have hoped to be, I came away from that 6+ weeks knowing I had learned many important things from working so closely with these groups of Republicans.
Since being appointed the Vice-Chair of the Utah County Democratic Party I have felt a deep desire to reopen and keep better communication lines with the party at the county level, the state level, and most importantly the activist, volunteer, donation, and constituent level. I want all who are, and desire to be involved at whatever level to feel they are informed, or at the least feel comfortable in knowing where to go to get the most correct and timely information to better ourselves and our party.
Having said that I wanted to briefly address this most current 2nd Special Session called by the Governor. Most of the issues addressed in this session carried the fitting tag line of, “It took a special session to do this? Couldn’t this have been done in regular session or be put into the next session?” Yes all of the issues discussed and debated were either dealt with in the previous session. Below is a list with short title of what was discussed and put out on the table.
H.B. 2001 -- Retention Elections for Justice Court Judges (Rep. Oda, C.)
H.B. 2002 -- Prison Relocation and Development Authority Act Amendments (Rep. Hughes, G.)
H.B. 2003 -- Insurance Amendments (Rep. Dunnigan, J.)
S.B. 2001 -- Bonds Secured by Federal Mineral Lease Payments (Sen. Okerlund, R.)
S.B. 2002 -- Alcoholic Beverage Control Act Amendments (Sen. Valentine, J.)
S.C.R. 201 -- Concurrent Resolution Supporting United States' Balanced Budget Constitutional Amendment (Sen. Reid, S.)
If you would like to go to each bill and read the meat of it you can click on the bill file or on the link provided-- http://le.utah.gov/~2011S2/bills.htm
Most of these issues were relatively benign in nature, with the exception of SCR 201, this issue was not only dealt with in the regular session as strictly a message bill, but was once again brought up in a special session paid for by all of us as taxpayers to restate the basic same message. Apparently the original message sent in the regular session was not powerful enough that the Republican caucus felt that more debate and time should be spent on the floor to once again attempt to send an ineffective message bill, was it worth the time and money, only time will tell.
What it was worth was the exquisite speech of Rep. Brian King. If there is anything worth watching during the floor debate for me, and anyone wanting to learn about the roles of government in an array of differing aspects, simply listen to any debates on constitutionality given by Rep. King, Rep. Briscoe, and their counterpart in Rep. Ivory. House Minority Leader David Litvack rounded out the debate on SCR 201 with a heart felt human check on common sense. Although the message resolution passed the Democrats as usual laid out an effective and thought provoking barrage of points that should make all democrats of this county and state proud of those that fight and debate for us in the state legislature every year.
What I find disheartening is the statements after the fact, unfortunately President Waddoups seems to think that those who could not support an unfeasible and relatively ineffective resolution would be something other than a “patriot” and this followed by the infighting of the republican caucus with recent statements by Orem Republican Brandon Beckham for calling lawmakers who voted in favor of Utah's guest worker law "traitors". This type of tactic is irresponsible at best and even though republicans feel there is no need for democrats in Utah, they must make the recognition that there needs to be moderation in all things, and that includes an EFFECTIVE bipartisan legislature, as we have seen even more recently a closed door caucus leaks the evidence of the ever-growing in fighting by a majority controlling party that does not allow outside influence. By cutting off the sunlight and fresh air nothing will grow and the crop begins to wilt and lose its ability to nourish those who need its results.
The most important issues of the day that were intentionally left off the agenda are, immigration HB116 and its possibility of being repealed, and the issue of redistricting. Although education was not a possible item on the agenda for the special session, it is an issue that was on the front line of many legislators who seemed to be either a part of the attacking majority or of the defending majority. We as Democrats cannot go through another legislative session and allow the same type of ill informed and destructive targeted legislation to be passed on our teachers and students. The belief of many of the Republicans including but not limited to Sen. Howard Stephenson would lead us to believe that 1) the role of the State Legislature is to formulate the curriculum to be taught to our children, and 2) that they, and only they, know what is best for public education, and that would be complete legislature control and capitalistic privatization. The UEA is only able to do what it can and all legislators know when they are coming, but I believe as an organized party we can once again raise our voice and vocalize the inconsistencies in their knowledge and behavior on education legislation. These are continuing issues that will be in the press in the upcoming months and will play an important role in the next legislative session.
We, as Utah County Democrats, must keep abreast of these issues and what legislation the republicans are trying to get pushed through as quietly as possible. We must continue to raise a voice when an issue is trying to be kept silent. The continuous name-calling and finger pointing is the easiest and most ineffective thing to do. Let us become educated on the talking points and understand what the counterpoints are to be effective in our discussions with those around us and be firm and confident in our beliefs as Democrats and be sure that what we believe in is the best for our families and communities.