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Paul Rolly: Senators bully witness, then boast of being polite

Published March 19, 2013 7:48 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Events at this year's Legislature reaffirmed that many key lawmakers live in their own universe, devoid of the reality most of us recognize.

I was listening to Red Meat Radio recently when the two hosts, Draper Republicans Sen. Howard Stephenson and Rep. Greg Hughes, and their guest, Sen. Mark Madsen, R-Eagle Mountain, expressed dismay and amazement that folks were complaining about their treatment of PTA representative Deon Turley during a Senate Education Committee hearing a few days before.

Stephenson said some witnesses to the hearing actually suggested he be censured for the way he treated Turley. Madsen, who could be called Stephenson's Mini-me in the Senate, joked about folks who thought their questions were rude.

As I listened to their banter, I began to question myself because I had listened to that exchange online and I thought they were out of line.

Just to show how completely civil Stephenson and Madsen were to Turley, they played the entire exchange for their Saturday morning audience on 860 AM, so I heard it for a second time.

I had the same reaction. Had the questioning occurred during a court hearing, Stephenson would have been ruled out of line for badgering the witness.

At the end of the tape, Stephenson and Madsen were literally strutting (as much as you can strut on the radio).

The tape proved, they smugly assured their audience, that they were polite and respectful to witness Turley.

This is where the legislators living in their own reality comes in. The tape revealed just the opposite.

Turley was arguing against a resolution to change the way school superintendents are selected by adding that the state school board's nominee would be subject to approval by the governor and confirmation by the Senate.

She said the PTA had passed a resolution supporting the school board's authority and condemning attempts to dilute the authority of board members who are elected by their constituents in their respective districts.

Stephenson wanted to know who voted for the resolution, who got notice and who actually showed up at the meeting where the vote took place.

When she said they notify all their members and almost all resolutions are passed by near unanimous vote of those attending, he argued with her.

He said he didn't get a notice. People he knew didn't get a notice.

So he basically called her a liar. Nothing rude about that.

I should point out he called her a liar in a genteel tone.

Then Madsen chimed in, asking similar questions so he could show he can be just as politely demeaning as Stephenson.

Madsen, on the radio program, then demonstrated his bias against the PTA, claiming they have a national PTA agenda that the tin-hat crowd in Utah County refers to as a socialist agenda.

Stephenson, on the radio program, said the resolution she discussed didn't exist, once again calling her a liar (respectfully, of course). He looked for the resolution online and couldn't find it.

I'll help him.

PTA resolutions can be found at bit.ly/ptaresolutions. The resolution she discussed is titled State Board of Education.

Ironically, the resolution that Stephenson and Madsen said was not representative of the PTA addressed legislation that limits representation on the state school board. The legislation, supported by Stephenson and Madsen, reduced to three the number of candidates a selection committee would forward to the governor who would then select two for the ballot. That select committee is weighted in favor of pro-voucher special interests.

prolly@sltrib.com