There is no check on the power of the Republican-dominated Utah Legislature.
(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) The Pledge of Allegiance in the House Chamber as the Utah Legislature hold a special session in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, Nov. 9, 2021.
| Feb. 2, 2022, 4:00 p.m.
I must take issue with the commentary Sen. Todd Weiler and Rep. Jordan Tuescher submitted to The Salt Lake Tribune to explain the Utah Constitution to us common folk.
They subject the audience to this lengthy diatribe, only to end it with a quote about being wary of people who offer their interpretation of the constitution. Apparently, irony is not taught at law school. I also assumed as lawyers they would be able to articulate their own point without filling the editorial with pithy quotes from other parties.
These blowhards reassure us that there is no issue with Separation of Powers with the way the Legislature has been conducting itself. On this point we agree, for a violation to occur there would have to be a functioning system of checks and balances in our state Legislature.
The Republican-majority Legislature has used the last decade to consolidate power within their chambers and have insulated themselves from true accountability. The predominance of one party overseeing our state laws has resulted in less of a marketplace of ideas and more of a homogenous hive mind legislative body.
The Republican representatives have, in recent years, moved to limit both the influence of other branches of state government and of its own citizens. They grant themselves new powers by amending the state constitution through referendum, while at the same time making the process of putting a voter-proposed referendum on the ballot so onerous and difficult that it silences the voice of the plebeian masses.
These legal maneuvers, along with the lack of any significant diversity of thought within the Republican ranks, has allowed the Legislature to laugh off any veto threat from the executive branch.
All this accumulation of power and removal of checks on that power has had the intended effect. The process of creating the laws that we all need to live by is in the hands of a small group of representatives who seem to think they know better than the rest of us.
Often the solution proposed to citizens who are disgruntled by the quality of their representatives is to vote them out. Yet incumbent Republican legislators are given a major role in drawing the districts in which they campaign. This ensures that if they retain that R next to their name and they bend the knee to the delegates of the party, they can continue to inflict their smug brand of self-righteousness on everyone in the state.
Now, the idea of a powerful state legislature is not an inherently bad one, but in the hands of individuals who have no consistent principle by which they govern, this power is a threat. The way the Republican party governs our state can be summed up by, “We believe in ________, unless we don’t.”
For example, the Republican Utah Legislature believes that the citizens have a right to amend the Utah Constitution by voter referendum, unless we would rather ignore the will of the citizenry.
The Republican Utah Legislature believes in the free market, unless you want to sell alcohol or have a car dealership open on a Sunday.
The Republican Utah Legislature believes in local control of government, until Salt Lake County decides to mandate something that we disagree with.
The Republican Utah Legislature believes in being good stewards of taxpayers’ dollars, unless someone wants the land under a prison or we want to sue the federal government to make a point.
The Republican Utah Legislature believes in representative democracy, until allowing it would mean that voters in Salt Lake County would get the chance to choose a representative to send to D.C.
The only thing consistent with the Republican Legislature is that they will discard their principles when it suits them. I guess the only thing consistent with this Republican Party is its hypocrisy.
David Vala is a first-generation American who has made Utah his home. He is a mild-mannered science teacher but, during the legislative session, he is perpetually disgruntled citizen of Utah tilting at windmills.