Utah's Legislators: Gone Rogue | Opinion | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly

Utah's Legislators: Gone Rogue 

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While public hangings are definitely a no-no, and there doesn't seem to be a legal provision that would allow a no-confidence vote to dump the lot of them, Utah's legislators are continuing to wage war on their constituents, demonstrating, once again, that they have zero respect for the same democratic principles that put them into office.

The legislative opposition to Medicaid expansion is the latest case in point. From a purely Golden Rule perspective, the poor of our state deserve better than that. After all, these people didn't ask to be poor. Many of them suffer from physical impairment, mental diseases, or just plain hard luck. The rich and successful are in no position to judge, and, while Mormonism has taught that people's station, color and even financial situations in life are the result of how valiantly they fought against Satan during the "War in Heaven," that belief has been mostly buried over time. Nevertheless, it's still present in the subliminal message that Mormons hear when they view the less-fortunate of our state. The attitudes of parents and past generations don't die easily. At least in part, these old beliefs are behind the push against Medicaid expansion.

Whether you're a Buddhist, Muslim or Evangelical Christian, that has nothing to do with how we should treat those who are suffering and in need. Withholding medical services from 150,000 struggling Utahns is a reprehensibly inhuman position to take.

Our voters approved Medicaid expansion and did so decisively. It should be a done deal. So why are we now seeing multiple bill proposals to invalidate the election results? Perhaps it's an over-simplification, but I think it's safe to say that the Utah Legislature has no interest in actually passing the laws supported by its registered voters.

With the smug entitlement of schoolyard bullies, legislators are trampling the most essential rights of the people of our state. I voted; you voted; we won; they don't care.

It's not as if the situation is really anything new. The elected state senators and representatives have a shabby history of dishonoring the will of the voters, apparently taking the position that they know better than we do what is best for our state. In a nutshell, Utah's Legislature has "gone rogue," usurping the rights of majority rule and invalidating our hard-fought election results.

When propositions are placed on the ballots, they have already met the criteria for a vote. Intense debate creates voter opinion, multiple pens assist in drafting the propositions and election results confirm the people's will.

In Utah, there's always been the problem of just how many seats in the legislature are occupied not by legislators who were elected by the people, but by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In a sense, the theocracy envisioned by Brigham Young never actually died. It is alive and well today and controls most of what's done in our state. The problem is not getting better. Despite the waning percentage of Mormon voters, it is the church that still dictates what happens in our state—including its multi-year, recently lifted opposition to the "Hate Crime Law."

The medical cannabis bill, hotly debated and targeted for failure by a variety of Utah players, was derailed by the improper influence of the Mormon church. A lawsuit has been brought in the hopes that the voters will get their way.

Our state has a big problem. Unfortunately, a large number of its residents are fleeced by the less-than-transparent moves of its government, simply burying their heads in the sand and hoping legislators end up doing the right thing. (As a humanitarian gesture, I am thinking about starting an ostrich rescue program. There are ones for dogs, three-legged cats, old horses and alligators that have outgrown the family bathtub, so why shouldn't we do something to pull ostrich heads out of the sand?)

The U.K. has the right idea. When Parliament fails to follow the people's voice, a no-confidence vote forces creation of a new government—one that will hopefully respect the preferences of the population. As for the Utah Legislature, the crisis is here. It has shown a reckless disregard for the concept of majority rule, taking the position that its members, though duly elected by the people, have no real loyalty to their constituents.

The author is a former Vietnam-era Army assistant public information officer. He resides in Riverton with his wife, Carol, and one mongrel dog. Send feedback to comments@cityweekly.net

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