Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Speaking of Richard...

Read Richard Watson's Legislative Wrap Up

Another Legislative session is over. I have to admit, this year’s session was different than most of the past sessions we have had in recent memory. Unsurprising was the typical “back-slapping” gestures made by the Republican controlled Legislature at the end of the session. Republican lawmakers feel that they have given the state the best budget ever with more spending and with more tax cuts given.

Yes, they have done more than expected, but, it still was not enough to catch up with the rest of the country in taking care of public education. Yes, they are not perfect, but at the same time, Republican lawmakers still feel as if they know more than we do.

For instance, the increase in education funding was needed and appreciated, but more needs to be done. Because of the 20 years of neglect by our Republican led Legislature, we are still at the bottom of the country in per-pupil spending. Instead of a 4 percent increase, lawmakers should have given at least a 10 percent increase. Teacher salaries should have had at least $10,000 increase to even be close to our neighboring states in teacher compensation.

And of course, vouchers will undoubtedly change public schools for the worst. Vouchers were never about choice, it was about money and power for a few of the affluent. Public Education funding will have to be increased every year for the next several years to make any difference and a one-time funding increase is not the answer. Republican lawmakers remind me of a story from one of the Blue Collar comedians when he bought jewelry for his wife because “that will shut her up…for a minute.” Yes, one-time spending on education should “shut-up” those teachers.

Other bills and issues were also dropped by the time the session ended as many bills were not discussed or voted on.

Many Utahns are scratching their heads as to why lawmakers did not address many of the issues Utahns care about.

Here are some of the bills and issues missed:

— SB155, the Energy Solutions Bill, gave the company more space to expand without government oversight. The Legislature and the Governor ignored the voice of the people.

— Sitting on their hands, the Republican Legislature failed to fund the Veteran’s Nursing Home in Ogden and their excuse was lack of “federal” money. Do Republican lawmakers care about veterans?

— Funding the Real Soccer Stadium ignored the voice of the people.

— More could have been done on health care issues because more and more Utahns are uninsured.

— Ethic reforms. More needs to be done for a transparent government.

Also, Republican lawmakers do not want to discuss the arm twisting and deal making that went on behind closed doors. Leadership passed the bills they wanted and ignored the ones they did not care about.

A Bernard Bailey quote fits our Republican lawmakers best when he said, “When they discover the center of the universe, a lot of people will be disappointed to discover they are not it.”

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