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John Florez: Lawmaking is like a dog chasing a car

Published: Saturday, March 1 2014 12:00 a.m. MST

Jordan Allred, Deseret News

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Lawmaking in Utah is like a dog chasing a car. What does the dog do with it once he catches it? Such is the case with Sen. Stuart Adams’ proposed bill SB209, school grading revisions. What will he do when he gets the grades? What should schools do with them? What is he trying to accomplish, and how will it improve education for kids? The bill appears to be an example of how laws are created without any understanding of the problem to be solved, its solution, what the end product is, and the cost.

Most disingenuous is lawmakers passing bills that are often just another unfunded mandate; yet state lawmakers vehemently complain about federal unfunded mandates. State lawmakers are not forthright when they say there is no fiscal impact, such as with SB209. Its fiscal impact note reads, “Enactment of this bill likely will not materially impact the state budget. Enactment of this bill likely will not result in direct, measurable costs for local governments. Enactment of this bill likely will not result in direct, measurable expenditures by Utah residents or businesses.” Do you really believe that?

SB209 is a convoluted requirement the State Board of Education is supposed to implement. That means it will take time and money to do so, staff to write regulations, distribute, monitor them for compliance, and teachers taking time to implement them. Then they must also prepare to do the same for another 60 or more laws that will be created next year. These are the same lawmakers that want less government and say they want to stop wasting taxpayers’ money. When will they stop?

Public institutions are monopolies citizens have entrusted to elected leaders to “promote the general welfare,” and depend upon alert citizens to make sure their leaders carry out their fiduciary responsibilities. Public administrators, policy boards and employees are hesitant to challenge legislators for fear of retribution — not unlike the professor-student relationship. In our two-party system, the friendly opposition is supposed to challenge policies that allow for public debate. However, in Utah where one party dominates, it discourages public scrutiny vital for good policymaking.

Legislators of the same party may ask questions but often receive unsubstantiated answers. During the introduction of the bill to move the prison, only one legislator asked how much it would cost. The question went unanswered.

Until the public says, “enough is enough, cut out the charade,” the games will go on. The public is supposed to believe lawmakers know best and have the public’s interest in mind. For too long they have proven otherwise. Their policymaking appears to be made on self-interest and with no vision or understanding of the problem to be solved, or way of monitoring or measuring results.

Most individuals choose to run to provide public service; however, after being elected, some seem to lose their moral sense and the group contagion takes over. Lost is the public good and the sense of power becomes addictive. Our political system is broken. Today it’s money and special interests that control our government. Lost is the voice of the individual. If change in our government is to come about, don’t expect the politicians to do it. We have to do it ourselves. Our founders never thought it would be otherwise. It is time to stop chasing cars.

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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