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2014 Legislative Preview: Utah Twilight Zone

If City Weekly readers were legislators, things would be a lot different here

by and


You unlock this door with the key of the imagination of a City Weekly reader. Beyond it is another dimension: a dimension where alcohol flows freely, a dimension where church and state are separate, a dimension of liberal mind. You’re moving into a new Utah political landscape, a landscape of both shadow and substance, of things and ideas. You’ve just crossed over into ... the Utah Twilight Zone.

Can you picture it, this topsy-turvy world? If not, then let us paint a picture for you based on a collection of suggested laws submitted by City Weekly readers. If the current mantra of Utah politics is “Get your hands off my guns and the feds off my lawn!” the City Weekly-created Utah Twilight Zone mantra is more like, “Get your paws off my booze and your church out of my guv’ment!”

But if the reality of Utah politics is already hard enough to wrap your brain around, don’t worry—we’ve also got you covered for what’s actually in store for the 2014 session. We’ve recapped some of the top issues that are percolating for this session, from the ethics bills designed to clean the stain of Swallow from the state’s reputation to the bills that hope to de-gunk the air. We’ll also look at the now-uphill battle for nondiscrimination protections for LGBT Utahns and will hit the books with key education bills.

So prepare yourself for a journey between two worlds as we look at the twisted Utah of our readers’ imagining and the regular twisted Legislature that will soon be in session, passing the bills that will govern your life.

Reader-Submitted Laws: From the Practical to the Practically Insane

Pinhead Police

“It would be legal to issue civilian citations for stupidity.” —submitted on Facebook

How It Would Work
This would be a game changer—especially if funds from stupidity citations were directed to the state general education fund. The “Fool Fine” would make Utah’s bottom-of-the-barrel per-pupil spending status skyrocket for at least a generation—till the better-educated generation comes of age and revenues from the Fool Fine decline.

On the downside, civilian-issued stupidity citations would give rise to a whole new court system and class of attorneys hired to prove what is or isn’t legitimately stupid. Court battles could be highly contentious, especially in settling drunken arguments like determining who would win a fight between a pirate and a ninja.

Outta the Booze Biz

“End the state’s monopoly in the liquor business.” —submitted on Facebook

“I am going to be a rugged Ayn Rand individualist ideologue for a moment. I have approached both my District 52 representative, John Knotwell, R-Herriman, and my state senator, Aaron Osmond, R-West Jordan, and neither want to back my radical notion. It is so radical that I am sure it won’t even get a sniff test this legislative session. Not only tear down that Zion curtain, but repeal and replace the DABC, with the free markets deciding which stores can sell alcohol just like Arizona, Idaho or Nevada. Yes, we need education money—lotteries can provide that, but only one radical notion at a time.” —submitted via e-mail

How It Would Work
People could order wine at a restaurant without first being interrogated about what they’ll eat, the free market—instead of a math formula—would dictate the number of bars and where they thrive, and liquor stores would be able to keep their beer cold.

Sheer bedlam.


“A bill that states that lawmakers must repeal at least one existing nonsensical/outdated law on the books per year or at least provide evidential proof that they spent at least 50 hours looking for one.” —submitted on Facebook

How It Would Work
Snark aside, there is actually a precedent for this. In 1996, Rep. Melvin Brown, R-Coalville, helped direct the Office of Legislative Research to dig up all the outdated laws on the books. Surprisingly, the office dug up only 14 outdated laws.

“I was surprised; I thought we’d have maybe 50 or 60 but it didn’t turn out that way,” Brown says. Brown doesn’t think there’s been a similar purge since and says the books might be due for another cleanup. He points out that the reason there isn’t a surplus of obsolete laws is simply because most of the work lawmakers do isn’t writing new laws, but rewriting existing laws.

“We pass between 400 and 500 pieces of legislation every year, but very, very few of those are new sections of the code,” Brown says. “They’re just going back and reworking code to meet the different needs and circumstances that the public’s dictated.”

Lobbyist Restraining Orders

“Let’s pass a law that state legislators serve for no salary and stay at least 200 yards away from lobbyists. That way, maybe after 20 years, we might begin to believe we have one honest politician in Utah.” —submitted on Facebook

How It Would Work
Either we’d root out corruption, or lobbyists would simply lose their personal touch and start sending Snapchat photos of bags of money to lawmakers and replacing sit-down power lunches with mailed Krispy Kreme gift cards.

Don’t Gas Kitty

“Ban gas chambers as a method of euthanasia in animal shelters. It’s inhumane and there’s no reason to use this outdated method.” —submitted on Facebook

How It Would Work
This turns out to be a not-so-bizarro issue being targeted by Rep. Angela Romero, D-Salt Lake City, in the 2014 session. Romero attempted to pass a complete ban in the 2013 session, citing the cruelty and distress that gas-chamber euthanasia causes animals. That bill got put down after she caught flak from animal-control officers. Romero is still fine-tuning her bill, but expects it will limit gas-chamber use to only feral animals that may otherwise be difficult for animal-control officers to euthanize via lethal injection.

“I’d like to not see any animals put down at all, but if we are going to have to euthanize, then the most humane way is by lethal injection,” Romero says.

The Root of the Problem

“Be it enacted on this, the 10th day of January, 2014, that all members of city, county and state government in the State of Utah, be required to pass a lie-detector test, positively confirming that their decisions affecting the citizens of Utah are not influenced by their personal religious biases and prejudices. Failing to do so would automatically render them unfit and disqualified for government duty.” —submitted via e-mail

How It Would Work
Utah’s new Zion wall separating church and state would open a bold and progressive chapter in Utah’s history. Of course, this state would be comprised of portions of Salt Lake County, Park City and Ogden, while the rest of what was formerly known as Utah would have split off and become the state of Deseret. The public servants of this new Mormon state, with Provo as its capital, would have to sign onto BYU-standard honor codes to serve in government.