Happy Mother's Day to all the wonderful matriarchs out there who influence so many lives. Hope you score better than the new ironing board LaVarr tried to give to his wife.
"Play nice with others" is motherly counsel oft forgotten by us political types. We explore some topics where it would be wise to follow that advice.
Gov. Gary Herbert and some legislators disagree over whether a special legislative session is needed to establish procedures for a special election to fill a potential vacancy in the U.S. House of Representatives. If Herbert declines to call a special session, some legislators suggest amending the Utah Constitution to allow lawmakers to call themselves into session. Is this a good idea, and can lawmakers and the governor play nice?
Pignanelli: "You can’t ignore politics, no matter how much you’d like to" — Molly Ivins. Our 1895 State Constitution is a remarkable document that reflects the lofty ideals of democracy (early voting rights for women), human decency (reasonable workweeks) and pragmatic requirements (prohibition of polygamy). For weirdos like me, it's actually a fun read.
Visionary constitutional drafters also included "The Legislative power of the State shall be vested in a Senate and House of Representatives … and the people of the State of Utah.” So, as a former lawmaker, I espouse the subjective opinion the Legislature should have the ability to call itself into session. The omission of such causes annual negotiations between the governor and legislators over the necessity of a special session.
Dynamics of the 21st century are exponentially compounding a late 19th-century error — lawmakers need flexibility to adjust laws. A supermajority requirement will ensure some consensus. Of course, the governor can veto anything if lawmakers behave too strangely.
The Utah Constitution also required "the metric system be taught in the public schools.” Our ancestors eventually amended it out (thank goodness), so common sense demands we rectify another anomaly.
Webb: A good case can be made that as a coequal branch of government, the Legislature should be able to call itself into special session. However, the background here is that the reason legislators want a special session is to pass a law allowing political party delegates to choose nominees if a House vacancy occurs. If that’s the agenda of those who want to amend the Constitution, then I predict the proposed amendment will fail.
Voters want to choose nominees to fill a congressional vacancy, not have their vote usurped by a small group of delegates who are not representative of them. It would be easy to defeat such a constitutional amendment if the hidden agenda is to disenfranchise voters.
Pignanelli: Immediately after passage of their Obamacare reform, House leaders publicly pleaded for Senate assistance. Hatch, as Senate Finance Committee chairman, possesses the unique position to impact and influence all major deliberations. Lee publicly articulated many concerns with both House bills. Their involvement purchases peace across the GOP spectrum.
Players in health care legislation understand the Senate is where they can maneuver without pressure from the House Freedom Caucus. But legislation must be crafted by July. This should force lawmakers to play nice and develop something. Otherwise they will get spanked in 2018.
Webb: Hatch came under fire for stating the truth that once citizens receive a benefit provided by taxpayers, it’s very difficult to take it away. It will be impossible to craft a health care plan that makes everyone happy — that doesn’t force people to buy insurance, that covers low-income people at a price they can afford, that doesn’t discriminate against pre-existing conditions, and that doesn’t bust the budget, boost taxes or run up enormous deficits.
Health care was in crisis before Obamacare and during Obamacare, and little relief is in sight. As I’ve written previously, we may be headed toward a Medicare-like, single-payer system. At that point, expensive treatment will be rationed and expert panels will determine who is eligible for what medical care. But everyone will have basic coverage.
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos were both in Utah last week. Can they get Utahns to play nice on such topics as national monument designation and school choice?
Pignanelli: State leaders appropriately showcased Utah's efforts to provide a practical and quality public education. Remember, Utahns resoundingly rejected vouchers. Zinke clearly anticipates some modifications to the monument designation, fostering plans for summer protests.
Webb: I’m glad Zinke spent a lot of time with Utah elected officials at all levels — the people who were chosen by citizens to represent them. Zinke will certainly protect Bears Ears and Grand Staircase national monuments. But I expect he will reduce their size and perhaps change designation status. That would be appropriate.
Betsy DeVos brings a breath of fresh air into education, espousing local control and more parental choice — and higher pay for good teachers. I support significantly more money for public schools, where the vast majority of Utah students will always be educated. But public schools could benefit from reform, choice, innovation and competition.