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Lost in translation

Published March 7, 2012 4:55 pm

'Message bills' a big waste of time
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Glendower: I can call spirits from the vasty deep.

Hotspur: Why, so can I, or so can any man;

But will they come when you do call for them?

— William Shakespeare, Henry IV, Part 1

Members of the Utah Legislature this session have spent a great deal of their time, and a fair amount of your money, trying to call spirits from the deep. Or, perhaps to banish them back to the depths of Washington, D.C., whence, to hear some of our elected officials talk, most evil spirits come.

It all amounts to a giant waste of the body's precious time. It is a nasty habit that needlessly frightens some and dishonestly raises hopes among those few who truly think that seizing millions of acres of federal land, opting out of Medicare or sheltering Utah children from a set of national education standards are either possible or a good idea.

In terms of pure grandiose hubris, a package of bills and resolutions that seek to evict the United States of America from the 30 million or so acres of land it owns inside the borders of Utah has to take the cake.

A twisted reading of the 1894 federal law that led the Utah Territory to become a state has encouraged the Legislature, egged on by Republicans running for governor and for attorney general, to not only pass those measures, but to also earmark a few million dollars to fruitlessly pursue the matter in federal court if Congress does not capitulate by 2014.

As if there were any reason to believe that Democratic congressmen from New York (who much play up their environmentalist credentials), or Republicans from South Carolina (who want to prove they aren't totally nuts) would give in to such a demand. And as if there were a chance that any federal court would force the transfer.

Another of the year's "message bills" is a misbegotten plan to remove the state from the clutches of Medicaid and Medicare, on the actuarially unsound premise that the health care plans for the poor and for the elderly could be better managed by a state that barely funds its schools.

A third message bill seems to have served its purpose by becoming a formal message. That's the letter from State Education Superintendent Larry Shumway putting the federal government on notice that the multi-state Common Core academic standards are an option for Utah to accept, amend or abandon as it suits the state. Which is sort of like a letter to water telling it that it has to be wet.

Message to Utah voters: Your lawmakers have waaaay too much time on their hands.




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