For a state run by Republicans who purport to be all about less government interference and fiscal responsibility, the legislature in Utah has missed just about every mark possible and their current session is one for the record books of villainous overreaching government and horrendous fiscal policy.
Sure, I'm a liberal and I'm all for less government where it's appropriate and more fiscal responsibility. I think we can all agree that saying otherwise, regardless of our political leanings, would be the equivalent of saying "I hate puppies, kitties, and children."
But it's not just Wisconsin's Republicans that have gone through the looking glass into the nonsense of Wonderland -- the Utah legislature is giving them a run for their money. Maybe we'd have more attention paid to the crimes going on in Utah if they were so bold as to officially eliminate collective bargaining agreements, but what they're perpetrating is no less egregious.
Let's start with the budget, shall we? Right now the state budget is looking thin because of the economy and the legislature is looking at places to slash. That's completely understandable, right? In Utah, the state administers all alcohol sales through the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (DABC). This department generates more than $100 million of profit the state can use for their budget. So it would make sense to let them operate more freely, right?
But alcohol is a problem for the conservatives here. They don't drink and think people should drink less. According to this morning's Salt Lake Tribune, the current budget calls for a $1.5 million operating costs slash for the DABC. They want to lay off 150 mostly part time employees and close 13 stores, even closing the only liquor store of the third most populous city in the state (and it's neighboring city, making a beer or a bottle of wine at least three freeway stops away). Those 13 stores each make a minimum annual profit of $1 million. Combined the stores bring in almost one fifth of the profit for the entire DABC.
Does that make sense to anyone else? No.
But that's just where the problems with an overreaching Republican government are starting in Utah.
The next big problem is the spate of anti-abortion legislation that was rammed through the legislature this session. The Republican legislator responsible for these bills even boldly acknowledged in the Salt Lake Tribune that the federal government wasn't restrictive enough and that he's just working to take the rights of elective abortions away.
Then we have the state legislature handcuffing Salt Lake City from enacting a local historic district where one ought to be because an over-zealous minority of residents in the area didn't want to live under the restrictions of such a district. They complained to their state representatives who rightly told them that land use was clearly a municipal issue, but they found an out of area legislator to push their agenda whose day job happens to be as a land developer.
Perhaps the most egregious example I can cite, even more so than those above? A little bill known round these parts as HB477. It's a bill designed to kill transparency on the state level and hamstring GRAMA (Government Records Access Management Act). They passed (in three days from writing to passage!) a bill that would exempt public officials from having to turn over public correspondence if it took place on instant messaging programs and text messages. It would also create broad exemptions for fulfilling requests that some lawyers think would exempt the state from fulfilling records requests to any individual considering litigation against the state.
This is the face of Republican government control since this last election. Across the country this is happening. In Wisconsin, Ohio, Utah. This is party politics and damaging ideology run amok. And I didn't even mention their version of Arizona's immigration law in this piece.
This is the kind of legislative intent we can all expect if people keep electing activists and radicals from the Republican party into our governments at any level, local, state, or national.
I've been making calls and writing letters to my elected officials. But what else can we do?
I'm at a loss. We put them in office for better or for worse and it seems like Republicans, drunk on power, are opting for the worst.