A future conversation with a visitor to Utah:
Welcome to Utah! You’ve read about us recently in the national and international newspapers? Great. Well, I’m glad you came to visit; let me show you around.
These are Utah’s famous national parks. Utahns have repeatedly voted Zion National Park as our favorite, but Bryce Canyon National Park and Arches National Park near Moab offer similarly stunning views of our redrock topography. There’s nothing like our national parks anywhere in the world. You could visit 20 times and still be fascinated with their grandeur and significance.
What’s that? Oh, that sign? Well yes, technically this is the Donald Trump National Parks Highway. Our state legislators felt that the Donald needed some gratitude for shrinking the size of some nearby national monuments. The shrinkage was a definite win for states’ rights and the West in general.
Never mind that Trump is a known philanderer who has no respect for women, panders to both Democrats and Republicans and doesn’t know his Second Amendment from his First. He’s our hero!
No, those reports of renaming the road the Stormy Daniels Rampway weren’t accurate. You saw pictures? That was Fake News. The New York Times was just kidding around.
The $124,000 price tag? That’s no big deal; we have a ton of disposable income. Just ask our rural populations, or those who can’t afford health insurance because we didn’t expand Medicaid, or our American Indians.
Yes, that is one of our reservation communities. You’re right, they don’t have indoor plumbing and had to sue the state for their right to vote and be equally represented. But the money needed for road signs is really important.
What’s that about impeachment? Hmm. …
Well anyhoo. …
Let’s head back north now over our majestic mountains to, oh, that? That’s a waste dump site. Everyone has waste to dump, am I right? Oh, those signs? Yes, this EnergySolutions site was cited in 2015 for violating its permit 11 times, but they’ve been fined $50,000. Don’t worry, though, the Legislature just gave them a $1.7 million break on state fees so they can finally pay that fine.
Like I said, money is no concern. We are a conservative state, after all! Our residents are begging their legislators to apportion more money to help our corporations compete (only the ones who donate!).
Oh wait, I think that’s funding education I’m thinking of.
So … yes, here we are at the state Capitol in Salt Lake City. Legislators are busy finishing up a lucrative and issue-free session. They’re only in session for 45 days a year and still have to … what? You recognize that man from a video you saw of white people rapping to the song used on the television show “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” on Stephen Colbert? Washington Post? Oh, CNN.
Yes, they did that. Their hearts are pure.
(Back to reality, which isn’t much different, honestly.)
This is obviously a farcical trip through the more embarrassing moments of the 2018 legislative session. Except that it’s not really that funny because it’s so close to being true.
The Legislature did accomplish a lot of good this session. It passed contraceptive help for low-income women. It hopefully will broaden the definition of domestic violence to include violence by a former intimate partner. It also will hopefully pass tax incentives for Utah businesses to offer employees paid family leave.
But it couldn’t pass Rep. Stephen Handy’s bill to address school safety issues by allowing individuals to seek restraining orders to temporarily remove guns from people who show signs of mental instability.
If the people are clamoring, answer their clamor.
I’m glad Utah’s legislative session is only 45 days. I wish the Legislature addressed the meat of the session in the first few weeks, though, rather than the last three days. There should be no reason that we hear about a bill for the first time on Tuesday of the last week. Utahns need time and information in order to weigh in, and legislators need to give care and attention to the details.
But the Legislature does deserve credit, with the executive branch, for keeping focus on key initiatives, including homelessness, mental health treatment and suicide prevention. Those are laudable goals we should support the Legislature in pursuing.
Surely Utah has more good than bad. Let’s refocus, reconnect and stop embarrassing ourselves.
Michelle Quist is an editorial writer for the Salt Lake Tribune who is grateful to legislators who abandon family and work to try to make the state better, but who wants to remind them to use common sense.