At the close of the session Governor Herbert thanked the Legislature for its slow, deliberate process on immigration. He then thanked them for the slow deliberate process they had yet to take on re-writing the state’s open government law.
Herbert addressed the Utah senate close to 12:30 the last night of the session and warmly thanked the body for its work in undertaking massive accomplishments. He heaped praise on the Legislature’s balancing a budget that two sessions prior was a $550 million deficit. He thanked the Legislature for prioritizing education funding for the first time in three years, creating an energy development office to maximize Utah’s energy resources and accomplishing all these goals without raising taxes.
“I think more than most states we’ve accomplished a great outcome,” Herbert said. “And the proof is in the pudding—in the process” But that pudding is a dessert most Utahns didn’t find all that sweet. In a glaring contradiction of this claim, Herbert thanked the Legislature for taking on two tough issues: immigration, and the bill to re-write open records laws in favor of unprecedented government secrecy.
In almost the same breath Herbert thanked the Legislature for taking a slow, deliberate and inclusive process on drafting a package of immigration reforms this session that include not only a stick type enforcement, through Sandstrom’s bill to allow law enforcement more power to enforce immigration laws, but also in a guest-worker program.
Slow. Deliberate. Inclusive.
Then he thanked the Legislature for the slow, deliberate, inclusive process they would take on House Bill 477. The controversial bill sponsored by Rep. John Dougall, R-Highland, that would give the Legislature greater secrecy in disclosing public policy discussions, would rule out text messages from even being considered records, and would shift legal language away from advancing the public’s right to know in favor of the government’s right to keep its secrets.
The operative word there being “would,” since the Legislature initially shoved the bill through committee, both houses and to the Governor’s desk in less than 72 hours. This they did all the while promising they would fix any problems with the sweeping bill before the 2012 session. Sen. Lyle Hillyard, R-Logan, a well respected legislator known for his fairness, passed HB477 out of the senate under suspended rules promising any problems would be fixed in-between now and 2012. He dismissed public outcry against the bill as the media simply crying that “the sky is falling.” On the morning of the last session Hillyard criticized a bill to allow Utah to accept gold and silver coins as currency. The bill had been amended to allow the coins to be used as currency but promised to study the issue better before the next session. Hillyard criticized that process saying it was “cutting first and measuring later.”
Even though the Governor and the Legislature agreed to delay implementation of HB477 until July 1, and hold a special session before then to fix problems in the bill, the shameful way the bill was rushed through--and still stands to go into effect--obscured the Legislature’s truly significant accomplishments on immigration, education and the budget.
“Before you criticize someone, walk a mile in their shoes. That way you’ll be a mile away and you’ll have their shoes,” Herbert joked in opening his comments. A good opener--but not everyone was laughing. Especially not the hundreds of protesters who only hours earlier marched through the Capitol chanting “REPEAL” and “OUR HOUSE.” Ralliers united not by political affiliation, but by anger--anger over the way their elected officials had tried to walk off with their democratic process. .