The timing of Sen. Mark Madsen’s latest soapbox sermon could have been better. He railed against a bill to protect police, and the rant came during the murderous rampage of former Los Angeles cop Christopher Dorner, who was targeting law enforcement officers.
Madsen, R-Eagle Mountain, chairs the Senate Judiciary, Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Committee, which on Feb. 7 considered SB131, sponsored by Sen. Aaron Osmond, R-South Jordan. The bill would elevate penalties for assault if the victim is a police officer or member of the military in uniform.
Osmond’s bill, was bolstered by articulate presentations from four Copper Hills High School students who have taken up the cause. One of the students pointed out that, in 2011, 55,774 police officers were assaulted in the line of duty in the United States. She said 163 died from their injuries.
The bill was supported by the Statewide Association of Prosecutors and the Fraternal Order of Police, which argued police should have added protection because of the dangerous nature of their jobs.
But Madsen, while acknowledging his respect for police, said he was concerned that one group of people was being given special treatment and that, under the Constitution, everyone should be treated equally.
When it was pointed out that Supreme Court decisions have upheld the notion of added protection for certain groups, Madsen said, "I took an oath to the Constitution, not the Supreme Court."
What do Oliver Wendell Holmes, John Marshall, Earl Warren or William Rehnquist know? Madsen, after all, has a law degree from Brigham Young University.
He also noted his own sacrifice, putting himself in harm’s way by being a member of the Legislature and getting his own share of threats. Even with all that danger facing him, he doesn’t expect special protection above anyone else.
Maybe that’s why he is so outspoken about the fact that he packs.
In the end, Madsen joined the other committee members in voting to send the bill to the full Senate with a favorable recommendation. But he said he still might vote against it when the bill comes to a floor vote.
Speaking of packing » The Utah Shared Access Alliance (USA-ALL) is an organization promoting off-road motorized vehicle use and advocates for states "taking back" federal lands. The group’s natural enemy, of course, is the environmental movement and protectors of wilderness lands.
Its recent newsletter highlighted the group’s opposition to the proposal of Democratic Sen. Jim Dabakis (they spelled his name "Dubakis") to encourage the Obama administration to create a national monument in the greater Canyonlands area.
USA-ALL gleefully reported that the legislation died in committee, but also noted that at the hearing, they were woefully outnumbered in the room by Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance supporters.
No matter, though, the newsletter reported. "We pack heat, they pack granola bars!"
You could almost imagine the confrontation the off-roaders were fantasizing about: "You feel lucky, punk? Well, do ya?"
Just another day at the Utah State Legislature.
Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.