John Florez: Like the emperor, legislators have no clothes

Published: Sunday, Feb. 23 2014 11:30 p.m. MST

One of the characteristics of insulated institutions, such as the Utah Legislature, is to defend the status quo by stonewalling, ignoring, deafness and discrediting its critics. So don’t expect the Legislature to conduct any self-correction.

Jordan Allred, Deseret News

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The emperor has no clothes, and it seems neither does the Utah Legislature. Some of its lawmaking is a pretense. The legislators know it and so do taxpayers. Is it any wonder Utahns have lost faith and trust in government and have a low voter turnout?

Remember the tale of the weavers that were given a huge sum of money and then pretended to weave beautiful fabric with colors and patterns for the emperor to wear? And, most importantly, remember that the clothes were invisible to anyone who was incompetent or stupid? Well, that’s what it feels like with some of the bills our legislators are proposing. They think that we believe these bills of theirs to be real solutions and that we should applaud them, just as the servants picked up the train of the emperor’s robe that did not exist. It’s all a pretense.

Well, it’s time to admit that the emperor has no clothes. It’s time to say that some of the bills they propose have no coherence, thought or vision that promote the public interest. Speaker of the House Becky Lockhart seems to be using her position for what appears to be the first salvo at a run for governor by saying we need big ideas. She said, “we must … bring new attention to … Honesty in government, trust in our institutions, belief in the system and faith in the process.” Then she proceeds to propose a $300 million technology school program without first bringing it up at the Education Task Force, which she co-chairs, that was supposed to establish “long-term policies to improve the state’s economic prosperity.” What a pretense.

And what about lawmakers believing in the will of the people? They fight for protecting Amendment 3, defining marriage, arguing it’s the will of the people. Yet, Sen. Curt Bramble moves to stifle the will of the people by proposing a pre-emptive strike to kill the Count My Vote initiative by offering a bogus compromise. It’s the same tactic lawmakers used in killing the intent of the people’s initiative regarding campaign spending. LaVarr Webb said it all, “... it is extraordinarily immodest for lawmakers, midway through a citizen process allowed by the Constitution, to thwart the ability of the people to enact a law. … For the Legislature to usurp that constitutional right is incredibly arrogant.” Another pretense.

It seems legislators think we are like the people in the empire, that citizens are incompetent and believe everything they do is perfect and wise. And we have to agree with them because they tell us so. And if we don’t see the purpose of some of the laws they propose, then we are ignorant and do not understand. All too often, citizens resign themselves to believing what lawmakers tell them, even though their instincts tell them otherwise.

One of the characteristics of insulated institutions, such as the Utah Legislature, is to defend the status quo by stonewalling, ignoring, deafness and discrediting its critics. So don’t expect the Legislature to conduct any self-correction. If change is going to come about, citizens will have to bring it about. We must keep them honest by letting them know we don’t want the pretense, and stop re-electing those that keep it up. Until then, legislators go on with bill after bill, often self-serving, often with no direction or real solutions. They go on with the procession, just like the emperor, even after he realized the people were right, he had no clothes, but continued carrying himself “even more proudly, and the chamberlains … carrying the train that wasn’t there.”

Utah native John Florez served on the U.S. Senate Labor Committee, as Utah industrial commissioner and filled White House appointments, including deputy assistant secretary of labor and on the Commission on Hispanic Education. Email: jdflorez@comcast

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