SALT LAKE CITY — Civility, or the lack of it, at congressional town hall meetings came up Friday during Rep. Rob Bishop's annual report to the Utah Legislature.
"I’m concerned it’s coming to our state as well, that people protest and take over control of meetings," Sen. Lyle Hillyard, R-Logan, told the Utah Republican congressman in the state Senate.
The day after Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, faced a harshly critical crowd at a town hall meeting in Cottonwood Heights, Hillyard said the country is in "such a dither" and freedom of speech "needs to have some responsibility with it."
Bishop told lawmakers the town hall meetings he held throughout the 1st District were all "very positive, very civil, very wonderful opportunities to discuss some ideas."
But the congressman suggested it's the responsibility of the legislative branch to make sure that continues by taking the lead on setting policy. It's the legislative process, Bishop said, that gives the public a chance to have their say.
Without mentioning President Donald Trump's predilection for executive orders, Bishop suggested those types of actions may set off people.
"If we come to a position where you think you have to make a decision quickly and do it by fiat of some kind, whether that becomes executive fiat, or even judicial fiat or administrative fiat, then all of a sudden I think you change the body politic and you change the way people react," he said.
Utahns Speak Out have delivered letters with signatures collected on their actionnetwork.org page to members of the state's all-Republican delegation requesting in-person town hall meetings.
Rep. Mia Love's spokesman, Richard Piatt, said in a statement that she "welcomes elevated dialogue and reasonable conversations with her constituents" and uses "every means possible" to reach them.
But, he said, "shouting matches and verbal abuse are not what constitutes a Utah-style civic dialogue."
Sen. Mike Lee "reached out and called almost 100,000 Utahns for his tele town hall this past Monday night, an event that reached over 700,000 people on Facebook," his spokesman, Conn Carroll, said.
Rep. Chris Stewart's spokeswoman, Allison Leavitt, said his schedule is still being finalized "due to the increased House legislative schedule and his Intelligence Committee travel, but he is planning on holding several town hall meetings throughout the year."