Day 1: Legislative session too important to tune out

As I write this the pomp and circumstance of a new legislative session is just getting underway. Aside from the actual legislative participants and a few observers, many Utahns are only vaguely aware that today marks the beginning of Utah’s 45-day legislative session.

A lot will happen over the next few weeks–some of it will be good for Utahns, much of it will be inconsequential, and a lot of it will be a direct assault on mainstream Utah values. No wonder so many of us will choose to tune out for the next 45 days.

The democratic process, once integral to our day-to-day lives, is now something most of us routinely ignore. Institutions of all sorts are declining, from bowling leagues to PTA.  Watching sports by ourselves, alone at home, has replaced joining a league. The decline in our social communities impacts our civic communities, too. Many of us work too much for too little to have enough time to engage in our neighborhoods.

Despite these sobering realities, the legislative session still provides an opportunity to see democracy in action–as confusing and frustrating as that process can be. Here are just a few of the issues legislators will vote on that will directly impact most of us here in Utah.

Legislators will decide whether or not all Utahns, regardless of how much they earn, should have access to affordable health insurance when they cast votes for and against Governor Herbert’s Healthy Utah Plan.

 

Legislators will decide whether or not the American Dream applies to Utah’s gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender citizens when they hear a bill that provides workplace protections.

 

Legislators will decide whether or not Utah’s prison system needs updating, and whether considerations for criminal justice reform or real estate land values (and who benefits from the land under the Draper prison) should guide that conversation.

 

Legislators will consider whether or not corporate donations will continue to hold more weight than constituent phone calls when (and if) they take up campaign finance reform.

 

Legislators will decide if Utahns are strong enough to exercise their own agency when choosing not to drink as the debate over the Zion Curtain and Utah’s liquor laws gets picked up again this year.

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