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Editorial: Herbert should veto bill designed to stack state boards with Republicans

First Published      Last Updated Feb 23 2017 06:52 pm

"There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy."

Hamlet, Act I, Scene V

As difficult as it may be for all the members of the Utah Legislature to grasp, the fact is that there are a great many smart, industrious people in this state who are neither Republicans nor Democrats.




One way for the state to tap more of that independent brain power would be for Gov. Gary Herbert to veto a bill recently passed by the Legislature, the one that has been rightly portrayed as an effort to stack state boards and commissions with more Republicans than the law now allows.

The Republican supermajority, of course, steamrolled the Democrats on their way to passing House Bill 11. But it's not just the Democrats who deserve to be offended.

Now, various chapters of the Utah Code set out the membership requirements of state bodies as obscure as the Livestock Market Committee and Health Data Committee and as prominent as the Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission and the Board of Water Resources. Among the many rules is a requirement that a maximum number of the members of each board (four out of six, say, or five out of seven) can be registered members of the same political party.

Arguing that such limits have made it difficult for the governor to recruit qualified members for those bodies, both houses of the Legislature voted not only to remove those ceilings, but also to prohibit the governor from asking, or thinking about, party membership when making his choices.

Beyond the absurdity of pretending the power to cloud the governor's mind, the bill and the debate surrounding it have missed an important point.

Yes, Republicans dominate the Legislature, the statewide offices, the congressional delegation. Yes, across the state, registered Republicans outnumber registered Democrats by a staggering amount — 715,000 to 175,000.

But there is a huge pool of folks who are not members of either political party. The state Elections Office puts the number of unaffiliated voters at a tick shy of 600,000.

Add in folks registered as members of the Constitution, Libertarian and Independent American parties, and you are upwards of 641,000 people of voting age who are not Republicans (or Democrats) who could be appointed to the different bodies without any change in the current law.

More unaffiliated members would likely bring more independent thinking to those positions, rather than making each of them yet another skirmish in the partisan war.

Herbert should resent the implication that he is not capable of mining that large pool of citizens to fill posts on the affected bodies, and he should veto HB11.

 

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