Better UTAH Beat Episode 40 – March 12, 2013

The following is the transcript from this week’s Better UTAH Beat. It aired on March 12, 2013.
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This is Maryann Martindale of the Alliance for a Better UTAH and welcome to this week’s edition of the Better UTAH Beat.

The 2013 legislative session finally ends this week while Utahns continue to hold their collective breath. The last week of the session tends to see more than its fair share of rushed bills, long shot good bills, convoluted arguments, and overall paranoia. This week will likely be no different.

Advocates of greater electoral participation received good news late last week with the passage of HB91, Election Day Voter Registration, sponsored by Rep. Rebecca Chavez-Houck. The bill would allow legally able voters to register on election day. Although Chavez-Houck has sponsored a similar bill every year for the last few years, the bill has never made it out of committee, let alone pass the House. This year the bill has seen remarkable success and stands a chance of making it through the Senate, too.

Supporters of equality also received good news last week when a bill that would ban workplace and housing discrimination against people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender passed out of committee for the first time in state history. The bill is sponsored by Sen. Steve Urquhart of St. George, who we’ll note is a Republican. However, the bill will not pass out of the Senate this year. This lack of support is a constant state of embarrassment for Utah and many other states that allow their citizens to be discriminated against–especially in such basic matters as the right to work and shelter. However, the bill’s advancement for the first time in Utah history represents a moment of progress that LGBT Utahns and their allies should be proud of.

Despite these glimmers of progressive hope, there is plenty of paranoia about federal overreach circulating around the hill. Many bills, such as those that would liberalize gun rights and restrict access to healthcare, are more concerned with the power of the federal government than with the kind of practical governing that is good for Utah.

Rep. Jake Anderegg pulled a quick one on Utah citizens last Wednesday by substituting out HB391, a message bill aimed at the Affordable Care Act, with a bill that would block medicaid expansion. Anderegg’s move was particularly egregious for the way it flouted the principles of transparency and openness that democratic legislative processes require. Members of his own committee had only seen copies of the bill just minutes before requiring a vote. And Rep. Bird went so far as saying that the democratic process was hijacked by Anderegg’s clever move.

Anderegg’s showmanship and crocodile tears were on full display again Monday morning as the house debated and passed his quick-switch Medicaid bill. Further curtailing the ability for a meaningful debate was the Speaker’s decision to only allow two speakers on each side of the issue. It was an embarrassing display of anti-federal government rhetoric riddled with the absolutley ridiculous notion that somehow charity is going to magically take care of the needs of the 130,000 Utahns that would otherwise be served by the expansion. The bill now moves on to the Senate. But with only a few days left in the session, we’re crossing our fingers that members of the Senate will exercise their roles as statespersons and choose to ignore or oppose Anderegg’s un-statesmen like antics.

And paranoid supporters of state supremacy have also had plenty of moments for rejoicing. This year, the vehicle for arguments about state sovereignty have reared their uncivil heads in the form of the 2nd Amendment. We’ve covered the issue of gun violence numerous times on the Better UTAH Beat, but two bills that recently passed the House deserve additional attention.

These bills would liberalize Utah gun laws in a way that is out of step with the majority of Utahns. In fact, a recent study conducted by Brigham Young University found that 8 in 10 Utahns support universal background checks. In essence, Utahns want more oversight, not less. But HB76 would make Utah a constitutional carry state–removing important levels of oversight, like background checks, that are required for a concealed carry permit.

Also passing the house late last week was HB114, the Second Amendment Preservation act, which asserts the supremacy of state law over federal law. But a fully functioning Union requires cooperation between the states, and elevating one state law over the law of the country, ignores the economic and political prosperity made possible through cooperative governance.

With only a few days left until the legislative session closes, there are likely more surprises ahead of us. Here’s to hoping the message of good governance doesn’t fall on too many deaf ears.

This is Maryann Martindale with this week’s edition of the Better UTAH Beat.

Have a great week, and remember, together, we can make a better Utah.

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