It’s the last week of the 2019 Utah legislative session. They’re winding down, and boy, are they rubbing it in our faces.
Senate and House Republican leadership announced a budget deal on Tuesday after days of a stalled impasse after tax reform went down in burning flames. Many legislators were glad to see their bills funded. For instance, Sen. Todd Weiler’s bill to provide for attorney representation in juvenile court was funded.
That’s a good thing.
But it’s marred by a $1.5 million outlay to the Kem Gardner Institute, presumably for a building to commemorate former Sen. Orrin Hatch. He likes to call it a “library,” as if he was president and is owed a presidential library. It includes a replica of Hatch’s office.
Are you kidding me?
No doubt he has plenty of important historical papers and paraphernalia after over 40 years in the Senate. But, he’s a multi-millionaire. He doesn’t need public funds to help him build a monument to his life.
(And I’m not saying anything about the fact that he is a millionaire after a life as a public servant. I wish I was a public servant.)
House Budget Chairman Rep. Brad Last, R-Hurricane, justified the expenditure because Last’s political career started as an intern in Sen. Hatch’s office.
What?? So he’s admitting to spending Utah public funds on a personal debt? My political career (can I call it that?) started as a tax fellow in Sen. Hatch’s office during college, and I don’t think Utah should pay $1.5 million for a building to house his remembrances.
We could spend the money in more responsible ways. Some Utah families wait for 20 plus years on the Division of Services for People with Disabilities (DSPD) waitlist to get help for their children with disabilities. The program was funded $1 million, which will keep the status quo, but won’t move any families off the waitlist. OK, I may be biased on that one.
We could fund maternity leave for state employees, or more suicide prevention for our high-schoolers, or more efforts to clear our air, or better indigent defense, or education, or Medicaid — efforts that improve life for many Utahns, as opposed to one pseudo-Utahn.
It’s such a bro club, good ol’ boys move. And of course that was obvious when the budget breakthrough was announced — no women were in the media pictures. Because there are no women in Republican House leadership.
Many think it doesn’t matter, that it’s only indicative of fewer women wanting to be involved. There goes Michelle, a harpy shrew whining about female representation again.
Nope. Let me give you an example.
Last week, the Utah GOP held an Executive Committee meeting where they were planning for the upcoming State Organizing Convention. UTGOP Chairman Rob Anderson asked for suggestions for co-chairs. One member suggested Utah National Committeewoman Anne-Marie Lampropolous.
Anderson responded, “I know Anne-Marie’s schedule. She’s on a million committees. She’s busy. She’s a one-armed paper hanger most times.”
One-armed. Paper. Hanger.
In case you aren’t familiar with the term, a one-armed paper hanger is one who applies wallpaper, or slang for one who passes worthless checks.
It wasn’t a term of endearment, for sure. He went on to suggest two other men. Men who are also very busy, but apparently that only counts against women.
The chairman of Utah’s Republican Party called our very own well-respected National Committeewoman a one-armed paper hanger, and you think women are welcomed into Utah’s political scene?
Lampropolous responded, “It’s disappointing our state party chair doesn’t have more respect for women and the work they do.”
I’m tired of it. I’m tired of UTGOP men not making it a priority to involve women in leadership and important decisions. I’m tired of Utah bros protecting their own and wasting state funds in the process. I’m tired of seeing pictures of important legislative moments with no Republican women.
Stop. UTGOP — you are losing ground. And you are losing ground specifically because you have pushed women out.
I’m positive the budget allocations would have been different if women were actually involved at a more senior level.
And I’m going to say it one more time — Sen. Hatch does not need $1.5 million of public funds to build his shrine.
Michelle Quist is a columnist for The Salt Lake Tribune.