Senate leaders said Wednesday no further action will be taken against Sen. Chris Buttars, R-West Jordan, since he has already apologized for a statement made during a floor debate a day earlier that he said could have been taken as racist.
But Jeanetta Williams, president of the Salt Lake Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said Wednesday it was time for Buttars to resign his Senate seat.
"We cannot continue to give him a passing grade and allow him to continue in the capacity he is in. The NAACP will now call on him to resign," she said, noting this was not the first time Buttars had made comments that were seen as racist.
Buttars, who was absent from the Senate floor Wednesday, posted a statement to the Republican Senate majority's Web site apologizing again for what he called a mistake. "It was a dreadful choice of words and I recognize that my words were damaging," he wrote.
His entire written statement as well as the debate itself is available on the Web site at www.senatesite.com/blog.
During Tuesday's debate on a controversial bill dealing with school districts sharing revenues, Buttars used the word black to negatively describe the "baby" being divided. "This baby is black, I'll tell you. This is a dark, ugly thing," he said.
Shortly after the debate, Senate President John Valentine, R-Orem, announced there had been a breach of decorum and the senator involved wanted to apologize. Buttars said Tuesday that he had not meant the statement to be degrading in any way.
Williams said she was "appalled at his language" and that it was not fitting of a legislator. She said she intended to call the Senate offices and let Buttars know "because this is not the first time he has made such statements perhaps it's time somebody else is put in."
In August 2006, Buttars said in a radio interview that Brown v. Board of Education, the landmark 1954 U.S. Supreme Court ruling declaring public school segregation unconstitutional, was "wrong to begin with."
Later, Buttars said he believed the decision was monumental but not perfect. "I thought, my goodness, it was a great decision, but there is a down side," he said then. "I made one sentence. I guess I didn't phrase it right."
Wednesday, both Senate President John Valentine, R-Orem, and Senate Minority Leader Mike Dmitrich, D-Price, said they were not concerned there was an ongoing pattern that needed to be addressed.
"Knowing Sen. Buttars, it's his personality that has an occasion to put him in a tight spot," Dmitrich said. "He's very aggressive, he's very committed to what he believes."
Valentine said the rules followed by state legislatures around the country stated that lawmakers can be censured for a breach of decorum only if they refuse to apologize. A censure, he said, is simply a public rebuke for refusing to apologize.
"The apology was made yesterday. It was very heartfelt. It was very sincere," Valentine said. "I don't condone the words that he used and he doesn't either. And that, under the rules, is as far as it goes."The Senate president said Buttars left the Capitol after attending a morning committee meeting because "he felt so bad today" and didn't want to disrupt the Senate proceedings. "He just did not feel like he wanted to stay."
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