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Utah wheels of government wobbling

Published June 16, 2011 1:01 am
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Most of us have driven a vehicle with wheels that need to be balanced. Unbalanced wheels cause vibrations as the wheel wobbles. This condition also causes wear and tear on the vehicle and its suspension.

The Mormon handcart pioneers knew the value of good, sturdy wheels, especially the Willie and Martin handcart companies of 1856. They set out with inferior handcarts that cost many of them their lives. The spokes and axles needed to be made of strong wood. Ever see a wheel with all the spokes on one half of the wheel and not the other? It doesn't roll very well.

What does all this have to do with today's world?

Fast forward from 1856 to 2001, when the Utah Legislature redistricted Utah in what the Wall Street Journal declared was "a scam perpetrated against the people of Utah." The Legislature gerrymandered the state's legislative and congressional districts, essentially creating a supermajority on Capitol Hill. It is a supermajority that can pass bills at will. Wobble!

Shortly after that first wobble came the infamous school voucher bill. The majority of Utahns were against taxpayer-funded private school vouchers. They joined in a state initiative that repealed the voucher law. Wobble!

Members of the Legislature then put their heads together and passed a law that made it more difficult to place a statewide initiative on the ballot. Wobble!

In 2007 a member of the current State Redistricting Committee was able to gain passage of a bill that allowed owners of the Powder Mountain Ski Resort to create their own city. This was against the wishes of the people who were incorporated into the new city. Wobble!

Add to school vouchers and taking away the people's ability to make law, several scandals and rumors of scandals. Legislators were being offered $50,000 in campaign funds if they voted for or were absent during the voting for school vouchers. Wobble!

One member of the Legislature attempted to bribe his opponent in a statewide race. Wobble!

The president of the Senate got pulled over for driving under the influence. Wobble!

A member of the Legislature resigned after it was revealed that, prior to becoming a lawmaker, he had been naked in a hot tub with an underage female and had paid out hush money to keep it a secret. The 2010 Legislature gave him a standing ovation. Wobble!

During the 2011 legislative session, our legislators passed HB477, the Government Records Amendment. The bill made it more difficult to obtain government records. Every majority member of the House of Representatives cosponsored the bill. The news media brought the issue to the attention of Utah's citizenry, which came out strongly against the bill. Under public pressure, the Legislature repealed the law. Wobble!

Another bill, SB44, ended the independence of the state's Constitutional Revision Commission. Now the commission will function only if called upon by the governor, the Legislature or the Legislative Management Committee. Essentially, this meant that the Legislature can make amendments to Utah's Constitution without expert, independent advice on their constitutionality. Wobble!

SB165 shortened to 45 days the amount of time after a law is passed to file a citizen initiative to repeal the law through a vote of the people. The legislation was filed on the tail of two initiative petitions, Fair Boundaries and Utahns for Ethical Government. The first would have set up independent commissions for redistricting Utah's congressional, state Senate, state House and state school board districts. The latter would have established an independent ethics commission.

Both initiatives were supported by an overwhelming majority of Utah citizens and were ignored by the Legislature. Wobble!

Our state Legislature is once again in the process of redistricting Utah. Utahns have the opportunity to speak up at public Redistricting Committee meetings across the state. The schedule is posted on the Legislature's Website: http://www.redistrictutah.com/ and various other places.

Several organizations are partnering to ensure that Utah's government remains a government of the people and by the people. Attend the public meetings and voice your concerns before we lose Utah: Wobble! Wobble! Wobble! Crash!

Mark Sage is on the Fair Boundaries board and unsuccessfully ran for the Utah House from District 12 in Roy.






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