Michelle Quist: The Utah Legislature got a few things right

And Gov. Spencer Cox chose the right bill to issue his first veto.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) The Senate works in their final hours at the Capitol in Salt Lake City on Friday, March 5, 2021, during the final day of the Utah Legislature’s 2021 general session.

As Winston Churchill said, “You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.” (He also said, “Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary.”)

Of course Dale Carnegie said, “Any fool can criticize, complain and condemn — and most fools do.”

Lest I get a reputation for being a constant critic, I thought I would be less foolish this week and congratulate the Legislature on getting a few things right in its most recent legislative session.

Because really, there is so much I could be negative about this week. The policeman who showed explicit photos of Lauren McCluskey to his buddies and fellow officers — a gross and unquestionable mishandling of evidence — now wants $10 million? A Wellington police chief was fired for sexual harassment after a city council meeting wherein the audience laughed and heckled the city attorney reading out the accusations? A Republican elected official in Utah County was investigated for calling an employee her “gay democratic assistant” multiple times and people are more upset about the story coming out during a political inopportune time than the substance of the claim?

(Well shoot, looks like I did it again.)

Back to kudos to the Legislature.

Legislators almost unanimously blocked state government from requiring people to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Rep. Robert Spendlove, R-Sandy, sponsored the bill. While protecting personal freedom the legislation does not limit a private business’s right to require participants or customers to be vaccinated. Thus, private companies can require vaccination to attend large sporting events, to travel, to dine in a restaurant, and other activities we are all so desperate to resume. This was a win for private enterprise as well as personal freedom.

Earlier this week I was in a local business getting dinner, with my mask on. Employees had masks on. Signs on the door said that masks were required. A customer walked in without a mask and the employee asked him if he would put a mask on. He replied that the mask mandate ended and he didn’t need to wear one. After the employee informed him that the store still required one, the customer left in a huff.

In other words, the free market worked without incident. The anti-masker took his business elsewhere and the private company protected its employees and other customers. Win/win.

Another good move on the Legislature’s part was Rep. Steve. Handy’s, R-Layton, bill to increase access to Xchange — Utah’s online public court system. These records are public records, and the public should have access to them.

The bill’s impetus was a woman who asked to create domestic violence registry. Had the woman known about her ex-boyfriend’s violent history, she would not have dated him and would have saved herself from abuse.

Another great bill from this past session was Sen. Mike McKell’s, R-Spanish Fork, bill to increase regulations relating to youth treatment programs. Republican states don’t typically trumpet their bills increasing regulations, but in this case, the industry was badly in need of reform. The bill will place limits on the use of restraints, drugs and isolation rooms used on “troubled teens.” No one — especially a teenager — should have her hands zip-tied and be placed in a horse trough in some kind of effort to discipline.

The Legislature also got it right when they passed a bill to create Utahraptor State Park near Moab. No, Utahns don’t need another excuse to visit Moab, but since we visit anyway, it only made since to pay tribute to Utah’s official state dinosaur. The bill will provide funds to help conserve and preserve the natural and historical artifacts found in the quarry that produced the first fossils of the Utahraptor. Rep. Steve Eliason, R-Sandy, sponsored the bill.

And finally, Gov. Spencer Cox deserves praise for his first veto. After former President Trump was booted from Twitter and other social media platforms for inciting insurrection earlier this year, efforts began to limit a social media company’s right to ban a user. The Utah Legislature passed a bill that required social media companies to define how they moderate content and communicate warnings to Utahns in violation of these policies. Cox vetoed the bill due to “technical issues,” likely saving the state millions in attorney’s fees defending lawsuits brought by the world’s largest tech companies.

As most know, censorship is only censorship if it’s coming from the government. And I wouldn’t think that a conservative state like Utah would want to force private companies to carry speech they disagree with, especially where that speech arguably incites violence.

So, kudos to the Utah Legislature and the new administration. Now back to regular programming …

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Michelle Quist.

Michelle Quist is a Salt Lake City attorney and a columnist for The Salt Lake Tribune.

Comments:  (0)