Rep. Chris Stewart talks to Utah lawmakers about federalism
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — Glad to be away from the “brutal” weather in Washington, D.C., and enjoying the sunshine Tuesday, Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, visited the Utah House and Senate.
The freshman representative told state lawmakers that he believes in the idea of federalism and said the federal government is set to run more efficiently and effectively than in the recent past.
"I believe that our Founding Fathers intended for the people to go to work serving the needs of the state for almost all of the problems that we encounter between the citizens and the government," Stewart said.
When asked about air quality, Stewart suggested the problem in the Salt Lake Valley could be fixed by tearing down the mountains and convincing the jet stream to move 300 miles south.
After his quip about geographical challenges, Stewart said air quality issues are best handled by the state, not at the federal level.
"I believe that we have enormous problems and challenges ahead of us but that most of those are best addressed in the state," Stewart said. "And that’s why I’m so proud to represent Utah."
Utah is recognized by many as a well-managed state, sometimes even called one of the best run states in the nation, he said.
"It’s the brightest star on the flag right now, and I know that’s by and large because of the great people in the state who are led by great people, and I wanted to thank you for that leadership," Stewart told the Senate.
In the House, Stewart said he's glad state lawmakers are taking the lead when the federal government doesn't.
"If (there is) any way, any opportunity, any possible way to move power from my job to your job, that's a good thing," he said.
Stewart added that the federal government has its place and that recent events have perpetuated a "meaningful change" in the culture in Washington, D.C.
The partial government shutdown, the unrolling of the Affordable Care Act and the passage of a budget will help the federal government run "differently and better" than it has recently, he said.
The partial government shutdown shaped what's happening now, Stewart said, reminding state leaders that it was tied to the Affordable Care Act.
"This is much more than just a webpage that wasn’t ready yet," he said. "I believe that there are fundamental flaws within this law that are going to have to be addressed, and that's why this conversation isn’t over."
It's not enough to say the law is a failure, Stewart said, and people need to present alternatives. He followed that up by saying he supports the replacement legislation Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, is working on.
Stewart addressed other federal concerns, including immigration reform, which he called important but not a priority. He added that reform is unlikely because Congress distrusts the president.
Environmental reform is also "politically impossible" right now, Stewart added, and won't happen unless the GOP has control of the Senate and the executive branch.
"I hope we can do more of what you do," he told Utah lawmakers, "which is move forward on legislation that will help the American people."
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