Sunday, March 16, 2008

Republican lawmakers aren't the solution, they're the problem

Wayne Holland
Article Last Updated: 03/15/2008 07:36:07 AM MDT

The Republican House majority leader cannot be blamed for trying to put a positive spin on the recently concluded, and often embarrassing, legislative session ("You can count on Republicans to meet the challenges of the future," March 9, Opinion).

However, he belittles the hard work and day-in, day-out professionalism of thousands of Utahns by attempting to take credit for an efficient state government and a relatively solid economy.

Despite the headline accompanying the opinion piece, Republican lawmakers are precisely the people who cannot be counted on to meet future challenges. Their political philosophy prevents it.

Take the Republican representative from Herriman, a no-holds-barred partisan. He has stated publicly that government should play no role in health-care reform and was the lawmaker who kicked off the campaign to privatize our neighborhood schools via vouchers. And he's not alone.

Look at what happened this session. Despite overwhelming popular support for ethics reform, a Democratic attempt to create an independent commission died without so much as a hearing. Despite the recommendations of a task force of community, business, and government leaders, health-care reform was consigned to even more study, and thousands of Utahns will continue to suffer needlessly.

Republicans stiffed an attempt by Democrats to limit water wasted keeping government lawns green only because it had the name of an environmental group attached to it, and another session went by with Republican rhetoric overwhelming meaningful attempts to reduce class sizes in Utah public schools.

The Legislature has spent millions on education over the past few years, thanks to Democratic prodding. But it's not enough to keep Utah from coming in dead last in support of our children's education. We keep treading water.

The program the majority leader touts, USTAR, may one day have more than a marginal impact on the state's relatively low salaries. For now, it's just beginning to get off the ground. It's certainly a step in the right direction.

United Way of Salt Lake has determined insufficient income is the No. 1 social problem in its four-county service area because of its causal connection to other problems. What the majority leader fails to mention is that USTAR was the result of collaboration among business, university, community and state policy analysts openly expressing a wide range of views. It was not initiated by Republican lawmakers.

Community leaders, realizing that "in the globally competitive knowledge age, Utah is falling behind . . . " according to the USTAR Web site, lobbied for passage and Republican lawmakers fell in line.

Without pressure from high-profile community and religious leaders, the Republican-dominated Legislature defaults to mean-spirited, backwater ideological justifications and back-room power politics. Its response to illegal immigration is one example.

Another, of course, is the racist remark from a Republican senator. Still another senator criticized an advanced program for high school students. She said she was concerned because it promoted the "United Nations agenda," whatever that is. The program helps our top high-school students prepare for leadership in the globally competitive knowledge age. In other words, the senator wanted to kill what USTAR attempts to nurture.

The majority leader dismissed all this in his op-ed as "perceived quirks and follies" then blamed the media. When all else fails, blame the media.
* WAYNE HOLLAND is chairman of the Utah Democratic Party.


Kelly Ann said...

Great piece Wayne!

Jerry said...

Wah, wah.

The Republican Utah Legislature once again put the needs of Utahns ahead of other interests and it shows. Democrats can continue to bluster and fume but it's all for not.

The Legislature balanced the budget (with significant monies placed in reserve in case of a downturn - that's forward thinking), passed a meaningful animal torture law, passed Jessica's Law, dealt with a contentious bank/credit union issue, passed a renewable energy standard bill and took care of a number of Veteran's issues.

In addition, they moved forward on health care including Speaker Curtis' bill to allow all qualified children to be covered by CHIP, took major steps on transportation issues and worked collabartively with Salt Lake City to solve it's light rail issue.

Furthermore, they have invested over a billion new dollars into education in the last 4 years, removed most of the sales tax on food and restructured and lowered income tax by over 200 million.

Let's not forget that they entered this session with the Dems, UEA and media claiming they were going to seek retribution. None of that came to pass.

Look at the finished product and Utahns can be proud of the representation they get.