Democrats demonstrate their primary skill: acquiescence.
Resolutions carry pretty much no practical weight, yet they can offer the chance to deliver strong rhetorical punches. Running them is a strategy that Republican legislators, especially those struggling to distinguish themselves, embrace annually. Democrats, however, struggle to make even completely innocuous resolutions pass, and then let most of the Republican-sponsored resolutions sail through, even when they are being run for nothing more than partisan bombast.
To wit, Tuesday morning's House Government Operations Committee. First on tap for resolutions, HJR20. Simply put, it encourages—but does not require—school districts to build "green" buildings that will save energy, money and potentially make kids healthier.
Simple, right? Wrong. Because it's sponsored by Democratic Rep. Mark Wheatley of Murray, Republican committee members took it to task. Rep. John Mathis, R-Vernal, zeroed in on the inclusion of the word "climate" in the resolution, even though the phrase "climate change" was not used. Instead, the bill reads "current climate and energy challenges," which is pretty non-debatable, considering that the Utah climate, changing or not, forces schools to deal with both extreme heat and extreme cold. And energy challenges are obvious, and are one of the primary reasons for the opposition to carbon regulation (Drill, baby!).
What does Wheatley do? Tells the committee he probably should have avoided the word "climate" in the resolution, and then agrees to take it out.
Other committee members take up the climate issue, but also zero in on the extra cost burden of green schools. Quick test, to see if anyone remembers what they read three paragraphs ago: Will the resolution require green buildings?
Yet how does Wheatley respond? By explaining that green buildings only cost 2 to 3 percent more to build, but will save $100,000 dollars per building, if not more. Good start, except when asked how much an average school costs to build -- the most obvious question to his assertion -- he doesn't know.
That's right. Doesn't know what is probably the most basic fact that should be known. Hell, make up a number, throw out an average. Do something.
Somehow, the resolution passed, but not without dissenting votes.
Later in the meeting, Rep. Julie Fisher, R-Fruit Heights, brought her HCR2 to the committee. This is one of the many state's rights bill/10th Amendment bills that are the rage for conservatives around the country. It basically tells the federal government to get the hell out the state business.
Not coincidentally, they are telling the federal government to butt out when it's run by a Democrat. So, it should be construed as a direct shot at the Democratic Party. Even if Utah Democrats don't like to align themselves with the national party on a lot of issues, they should treat it like a family. It's fine for them to criticize each other, but if outsiders start throwing stones, there will be hell to pay.
Except, there wasn't. After some great cheerleading from Republican committee members and a Founding Father lecture from Rep. Craig Frank, R-Cedar Hills, the bill passed unanimously.