Walking around the Utah State Capitol is quite the experience for a first-timer. As the clicks and clacks of my brown leather, thrift shop shoes ricocheted across the sea of marble and granite, I wondered if the ~$70 million building was an honorable use of public funds (modern day equivalent cost, before the recent $260 million renovation). I guess if there was any consolation for me, the granite was plundered locally from Little Cottonwood Canyon. In defense of the Capitol however, every Utahn has the right to use it as they please. But unless you’re getting paid or receiving school credit (in my case), you’re probably not going to visit the Hill. A Trax line is suspiciously absent anyway.
Otherwise, I was pleased with my experience. The architecture truly is remarkable if not bittersweet – like 70 degrees in February. People – meaning lobbyists, interest groups, even regular citizens – were friendly and appeared to enjoy their work and time on the Hill. And if you’ve never been I urge you to visit during the legislative session; my understanding of the legislative process and the entire Capitol dynamic was much more robust after spending a day submersed in it. Bring your own lunch, though.
I was surprised and privileged to observe the Senate floor discuss and amend a bill that I’d flagged, Sen. Stephenson’s SB60, requiring high school students to pass the US Civics test before earning a diploma. Legislators bounced opinion back and forth until sufficiently satisfied to bring the bill to a vote. To my dismay, the Senate approved the bill after narrowing the exam to 50 instead of 100 questions, with Stephenson citing that students would feel a “sense of pride” having passed this test.
I can’t speak for students of Sen. Stephenson’s generation, but I’m skeptical that today’s teens would even bat an eye at the value of this exam. Likely, they’d forget most answers soon after handing in the exam. It seemed odd to me that legislators with little or no professional educational background felt the need to impose this sort of legislation. Nonetheless, my bird’s eye view of the action was appreciated. The bill has moved on to the House Education Committee.