Tribune Editorial: Angry about Cline, democracy or something else? Time is running out to tell lawmakers how you feel.

There is some small hope that Utah is still enough of a representative democracy that our elected officials will heed the voice of the people.

Voter Goals | Pat Bagely

We are now well along in the annual session of the Utah Legislature. That’s the regular exercise in demonstrating just how little our state’s political class cares about the rights and needs, the hopes and aspirations, of Utah’s people.

It may often seem that resistance is futile. But there is always the hope that, if lawmakers hear enough from their constituents, it sometimes can have the effect of outbidding the special interest lobbyists who buy access and influence through the Blue Light Specials our lawmakers offer.

The sheer volume of legislative mischief requires us to break our editorial into digestible parts.

Proposed constitutional amendment attacks the very idea of democracy

The Legislature’s open contempt for democracy has coalesced around two bills that, between them, would further defang the constitutional right of Utah’s voters to propose and approve citizen initiatives at the ballot box.

By the time you read this, the Legislature may have already approved HJR14 and HB284. Those bills would place on the November ballot an amendment to the Utah Constitution that would require any citizen initiative to win at least 60% of the vote in order to pass if it would create or increase any tax.

Clearly, this is the Legislature’s revenge for the successful initiatives of 2018. The move to create a nonpartisan means for drawing legislative and congressional districts (later repealed by the Legislature). The creation of a limited system of medical cannabis. And, most hateful to our lawmakers, the acceptance of expanded Medicaid, mostly funded by the federal Affordable Care Act plus a tiny hike in the state sales tax.

All of those initiatives passed, but none by the 60% margin now proposed.

Our lawmakers argue that Utah’s voters are stupid, vulnerable to “out-of-state special interests” — something they never worry about when out-of-state money supports Republican ideas — and need this supermajority bar to be protected from themselves.

We predicted this path last August when Republican lawmakers in Ohio tried the same maneuver and it failed overwhelmingly at the polls. Utah voters are, we trust, at least as smart as that.

Keeping secrets from the people is a common theme of this year’s session

Senate President Stuart Adams is running SB211, a bill that would create a new state bureaucracy to import water for parched Utah. What that system does would be mostly exempt from Utah’s Open Meetings Act and the Government Records Access and Management Act.

Sen. Dan McCay, R-Riverton, is sponsoring SB195, which would gather statistics on how much water public and private golf courses use (good idea) and keep that data secret (bad idea).

Information about all things water in Utah must be public. Otherwise, the potential for private manipulation of data and outcomes is just too great.

HB202, sponsored by Salt Lake City Republican Rep. Jordan D. Teuscher, would seek to regulate those name, image and likeness deals college athletes are now allowed to strike, apparently in the name of prohibiting Utes or Aggies from endorsing alcohol, tobacco, some firearms, steroids or sexually oriented businesses.

Even if that were a state concern, it would be wrong for the government to gather details on NIL contracts, then keep them secret, as this bill would do. When the government gathers any but the most personal information (medical records, say) and then keeps it under wraps, that’s not oversight. That’s spying.

Meanwhile, the office of House Speaker Mike Schultz is claiming that the speaker’s calendar is secret, nonexistent, or both.

(Who does the speaker think he is? Sean Reyes?)

Legislature’s contempt for Utah is not just political, it’s biological

There is no reason to believe that Utah voters are eager to destroy their environment. Yet our lawmakers are eyeing a handful of bills designed to do exactly that.

One proposal, SB161, would ignore the wisdom of the Intermountain Power Project’s shift away from coal and toward natural gas and hydrogen by having taxpayers buy the IPP coal-fired units and keep them running.

Another bill, HB410, would use $2 million in taxpayer funds to buy and preserve the San Rafael Energy Research Center. That’s a coal-promoting facility that Emery County created and has since moved to abandon due to a lack of interest from the scientific and industrial sectors in the remote lab.

Some in the Statehouse hold out hope that keeping coal power online would attract power-hogging data centers to rural Utah. Spoiler alert: It won’t. Our tech barons are big on sustainability.

All this while the Legislature pursues bills that would exempt mines and gravel pits from local environmental controls and funnel more of your tax dollars to scientifically illiterate efforts to destroy forests and eliminate wolves and other ecologically necessary predators.

They need to be called to account.

Lawmakers failed to deal with the disgrace of Natalie Cline

Legislative leaders had the chance to do one thing to bring state government up to the level of Utah’s legacy principles.

They could have proceeded with the impeachment of State Board of Education member Natalie Cline for her deliberate launching of a cyberbullying campaign against an innocent teenager. A student athlete who, Cline falsely suggested on Facebook, was a transgender girl who shouldn’t be allowed to play on a girls basketball team.

That post triggered a flood of attacks and threats from the legions of winged monkeys who follow Cline’s every online utterance. It was enough that the school involved felt the need to bring in extra security.

Cline’s thuggery rightly led to calls for her to resign, from local officials and the state board of education itself.

The school board doesn’t have the power to fire its own members, and Utah, unfortunately, has no process for recall elections of public officials.

Impeachment was called for, and was rightly sought by the family of Cline’s victim. But lawmakers settled for a verbal slap on the wrist with no real consequences, i.e. censure.

Cline will still face the voters in this year’s election. Because the Legislature won’t act, her fate will be up to them.

Here’s what you can do

There is some small hope that Utah is still enough of a representative democracy that our elected legislators will heed the voice of the people. But that voice will have to be pretty darn loud.

You can reach Senate President Stuart Adams at jsadams@le.utah.gov, and House Speaker Mike Schultz at mikeschultz@le.utah.gov. Or find your own lawmakers at senate.utah.gov/contact/ or house.utleg.gov/contact/

Also, follow legitimate news sites, The Salt Lake Tribune first among them, and make use of The Tribune’s new Bill Tracker service.

Democracy is a lifelong participatory sport.