The rhetoric of local control in Utah state legislature

It is not uncommon to see the Utah State legislature rail against the federal government with the demand that control should come from local governments. Yet in many cases, their view of local control only extends to the Utah State Capitol and not farther down the line to cities and counties across the state.

There have been many instances where the legislature has stepped into what had previously been municipal territory only to enact broader statewide rules and regulations.

While municipalities often feel like legislators are stepping on their toes, the legislature contends that making statewide regulations and rules is necessary for statewide consistency.

When municipalities moved to restrict electronic billboards a few years ago, the legislature threatened to step in and change the rules, saying municipalities shouldn’t be making those kinds of regulations. It was only due to heavy negotiations by municipal leaders that held off statewide legislation.

Despite many municipalities enacting gun regulations within their boundaries, the legislature has continually moved to broaden the state’s gun laws–forcing many of those cities to to repeal or modify their own ordinances.

And now, as municipalities work to create regulations surrounding rideshare companies such as Lyft or Uber, the legislature is at it again as they consider stepping in to create their own regulations.

In fact, Representative Dan McKay is already preparing a bill to address rideshare regulations.

“We’re trying to find a meaningful statewide standard,” McKay said in an interview with the Salt Lake Tribune. “So it’s not necessarily a piecemeal approach across the state.”

A piecemeal approach is apparently not something the legislature supports. Or is it? It would seem their hypocrisy is showing.

By refusing to consider a statewide nondiscrimination ordinance for the last several years and its less-than-certain future in the upcoming session they are sending an interesting message–a message that contradicts their typical “we know what’s best” approach to regulation.

Even Governor Herbert has stated that he “like[s] the fact that we’ve had local communities . . . that have created their own unique non-discriminatory ordinances. I think that’s the best way to deal with it.”

Talk about piecemeal. There are now 19 different cities and counties across the state with varying versions of non discrimination ordinances in place. Yet Utah County, doesn’t have a single municipality with a non discrimination ordinance despite being the second largest county and home to a large percentage of Utahns. And the vast majority of rural Utah, where LGBT Utahns are often at greater risk of discrimination, is ordinance-free.

This patchwork of protections causes confusion as well as having an adverse impact on businesses considering locations in Utah. It negatively impacts our economy and our reputation. But worse than that, it keeps our citizens vulnerable to housing and workplace discrimination.

Its time for the legislature to drop the hypocrisy.

Let’s pass a statewide nondiscrimination ordinance and send a different kind of message–a message that Utah cares about ALL its citizens.

The Better UTAH Beat airs Tuesday afternoons on KVNU’s For the People. Podcasts of previous episodes are available here.

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