The one thing I have never understood is our Legislature’s disdain for Utahns’ ability to decide for themselves what is best for our state. This year’s legislative session has once again demonstrated that the prevailing Republican Party has no interest in giving up power and is trying to grab even more power from Democrats and our citizens.
The latest proof is the Legislature’s interest in doing away with the 17th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which allows citizens to choose their U.S. senators. Originally, the U.S. Constitution tasked state legislatures with electing their states' U.S. senators. Concerns arose, however, that business interests used their wealth to control the U.S. Senate by buying the votes of state legislators who elected those senators. The 17th Amendment changed that and put the power of the vote in the hands of the people. But the Utah Legislature wants to take that vote away so it can decide who our U.S. senators will be.
In the 2016 legislative session alone, Republicans have tried to make state school board races partisan. They’ve decided that two historically bipartisan administrative committees, the Legislative Audit Subcommittee and the Legislative Management Committee, should be in Republican control. When Democratic Rep. Rebecca Chavez-Houck proposed a bill to create an independent redistricting advisory commission to help draw fair political boundaries, the GOP sent off the bill to be studied (i.e. put out of its misery). They’ve falsely touted a bill that leaves thousands of Utahns without health care as Medicaid expansion. And, of course, Utah Republicans are still trying to get rid of the “Count My Vote” compromise, which allows candidates to bypass the caucus/convention system by gathering signatures from citizens to get on their respective party primary ballots.
Why do those with all the power want more? Why does our Legislature not want its citizens to choose our next senators? Why do Republicans want to make everything political, even when it shouldn’t and needn’t be? These are rhetorical questions. Considering the average voter’s disgust with politics and Utah’s distinction as having one of the lowest voter turnouts in the nation, a pragmatist would think that the Legislature would do whatever it could to listen to citizens’ voices and to better include them in the political process. A democracy only works if its citizens are allowed to be included in the process. Utah voters should not give up this right and put more power into the hands of the privileged elite of one political party.
But I guess I put more faith in our Utah voters than our Legislature does.
Peter Corroon is chair of the Utah Democratic Party.