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During his annual visit to the Utah Legislature on Friday, Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, was asked whether he is concerned about the current tone and temperature of political discourse.
Sen. Lyle Hillyard, R-Logan, alluded to a Thursday evening town-hall meeting for Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, in which the congressman was jeered by hundreds of angry constituents.
Freedom of speech is important, Hillyard said, but it is becoming increasingly common for protesters take control of meetings and shut down debate.
"We're in such a dither in this country that you can't go anywhere," Hillyard said. "Luckily we haven't gotten to that level in the state, but I'm concerned it's coming to the state as well."
Bishop suggested that a focus on legislative procedure can mitigate those concerns and cool tempers. Too many decisions are made by "fiat," he said, which robs the public of exercising its voice through representative government.
"You change the body politic," Bishop said, "and you change the way people react to it."
Executive action "swings back and forth," Bishop said, depending on the individual who holds that office. But while Congress may change its mind over time, he said, those decisions are made through a public and deliberative process.
"That can't be done at a higher level," Bishop said. "You've got to get close to the people."
Sen. Gene Davis, D-Salt Lake City, hinted at partisan gridlock in Washington, D.C., asking Bishop what steps federal lawmakers are taking to advance legislation.
"I'm wondering when Congress is going to start putting bills on the president's desk so we can slow down all of these executive orders," Davis said.
Bishop said the goal is to pass bills, but he added that there is a renewed push for specificity in legislation in order to avoid broad generalities that are open to administrative interpretation.
That specificity takes time, he said, but is also indicative of a healthy debate.
"Going through a legislative process demands that you have hearings," he said, "it demands that you have input."
Bishop also spoke about eliminating the Antiquities Act, which allows presidents to create national monuments. Another option he said, would be to exempt Utah from it as Wyoming already is.
Tribune reporter Lee Davidson contributed to this story.