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Does Utah need a new state flag?

Flag historians, enthusiasts and curators from the State Capitol, Fort Douglas Museum, State of Utah and LDS Church History representative gather around a 1903 Utah State flag at the Utah State Historical Society and view it for the first time. Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2010 Stuart Johnson, Deseret News
Flag historians, enthusiasts and curators from the State Capitol, Fort Douglas Museum, State of Utah and LDS Church History representative gather around a 1903 Utah State flag at the Utah State Historical Society and view it for the first time. Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2010 Stuart Johnson, Deseret News
Stuart Johnson, Deseret News

Politics often proves the old adage, “The more things change the more they stay the same.” Lawmakers are deliberating some issues that have been around for years, decades and even over a century. As really old columnists we remember these things, although we weren’t quite around in the days of polygamy. It wouldn’t have worked for us anyway, as consideration of a No. 2 or 3 would certainly prompt the threat of death at the hands of No. 1.

A resolution was filed by Rep. Karen Kwan to endorse the proposed Equal Rights Amendment, or ERA, to the U.S. Constitution. This was a major controversy 50 years ago. Will and should this pass?

Pignanelli: “The Equal Rights Amendment would turn holy wedlock into holy deadlock.” —William Rehnquist, 1970

Ahhh, the 1970s. Discotheques, bell-bottom jeans, oil embargoes, “M.A.S.H.” … and intense emotional arguments over the ERA. The contention caused huge demonstrations in the streets and in millions of American households. Dinosaurs like LaVarr and I remember well the controversy in Utah. Because of long-lasting memories for older Utahns, combined with the element that many under 50 do not know what an “ERA” is, the resolution may not be heard this session.

Although similar resolutions were passed recently in other states, the congressionally imposed deadline of 1982 for a state to adopt has long since passed, suggesting the current Utah proposal could be moot. Even Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg suggested the ERA process needs to start over.

Recent polling indicates over 60% of Utahns support an ERA provision in the U.S. Constitution. So, if Congress ever acts on the amendment Utahns will definitely participate in the conversation … and disco fever returns.

Webb: While mandating “equal rights” for all sounds like a no-brainer, youngsters won’t remember the monumental battles of the ’70s and the questions raised about the ERA. Like concerns about forcing males and females to be treated precisely the same despite physical differences. Or the reversal of progress in women’s sports if sports teams can’t be differentiated by sex. Or separate bathroom facilities. Or elimination of women preferences in hiring. Or women subject to military draft and combat. Or ramifications for alimony, child custody and abortion.

Perhaps common sense would prevail. But it would take a mountain of litigation to determine what the new constitutional provision actually means in everyday life.

Sen. Dan McCay is sponsoring legislation to repeal SB54 and give political parties the choice to disallow the signature gathering process for candidates. Why does this keep reappearing?

Pignanelli: The 2014 compromise legislation (the famous SB54) was based on an agreement legislators would not later repeal it, and signature gathering proponents would not attempt another initiative. McCay was instrumental in its passage.

Because an initiative was attempted for 2018, McCay is understandably bothered by the breach of faith. But, this may not be the year lawmakers want a return to this fight.

Webb: Many lawmakers who voted for the unpopular tax reform law are very glad they can collect signatures to get on the primary election ballot and not have to face the wrath of delegates in the caucus/convention system. Thus, McCay’s bill won’t go anywhere.

The redistricting process is soon upon us. Will lawmakers revise the redistricting commission law created via initiative process in 2018?

Pignanelli: Lefty national special interest groups infused their bizarre agenda into the initiative language. Apparently, there are deliberations between lawmakers and commission proponents to amend this mess.

Webb: Legislators have already been burned by messing with voter-initiated laws. But the Proposition 4 redistricting law does have a number of flaws and needs some work. Hopefully, negotiations can result in mutual agreement for needed amendments. Proposition 4 initiative supporters are getting a clear win with creation of a redistricting commission.

Sen. Deidre Henderson is sponsoring legislation to decriminalize polygamy, while maintaining stiff penalties for any criminal conduct associated with this lifestyle. Normally a taboo topic, the bill is flying through.

Pignanelli: Henderson deserves commendation for undertaking what many shied from. Her bill allows victims of polygamy to seek help without worries of criminal action.

Webb: In an era where most anything goes, it’s tough to prohibit consensual unorthodox marriage relationships. If a woman wants to marry a couple of guys, who’s to say it should be illegal? But any manner of domestic abuse, including child abuse, ought to be strictly prosecuted.

Reps. Stephen Handy and Keven Stratton have legislation to change our state flag. Is this needed?

Pignanelli: Our current flag is boring. Utahns deserve a flag commemorating our proud pioneer and religious heritage, while boasting of the natural beauty surrounding us. Some are demanding diversity, so I suggest including emblems of Diet Coke and wine. The discussions promise to be entertaining.

Webb: Some people have said that with tax reform dead, this legislative session is really boring. This legislation proves it.

Republican LaVarr Webb is a political consultant and lobbyist. Email: lwebb@exoro.com. Democrat Frank Pignanelli is a Salt Lake attorney, lobbyist and political adviser. Email: frankp@xmission.com.