Everyone see the telling headline in Sunday’s paper?
It said, better than anything I’ve seen lately, just how out of touch Utah’s lawmakers are.
The headline said “Lawmakers worry about government increasingly violating individual liberty.” The article below it quotes five lawmakers being quite concerned that Utah’s Legislature not do that.
My first thought was, “What cave do these guys live in?” The Utah Legislature has been stomping on individual liberty for decades.
You might think “individual liberty” is being able to watch anything you want on your own personal TV.
The Utah Legislature, at least once, would have said you were wrong.
When cable TV was a relatively new thing, the state’s moral guardians discovered that some cable TV stations showed naughty movies. They yelled. Strictly as evidence, these guardians had a complete listings of every dirty movie scene on cable, including times and channels.
These guardians urged city councils to limit access to those shows. The Legislature very quickly slapped restrictions on the industry that everyone agreed were unconstitutional, and they didn’t last.
You might think “individual liberty” means being able to sit in a bus and have a drink while being driven, safe and sound, to Wendover.
Again, the Utah Legislature would say you were wrong.
I know I’ve told this story before, but it’s too perfect. In the early 1990s something called the “fun bus bill” came up. Fun bus tours, which still run, take people from Utah to Wendover to gamble. The people running the buses asked if they could serve alcoholic drinks. Their thinking was that once people got on the bus they wouldn’t get off until Nevada, so why not?
They noted that customers on Amtrak could then, and can now, buy booze when the train is in Utah, and a bus is just a really short train. It was a clear case of individual liberty versus state control.
Lawmakers agreed. The bill passed the House. It passed the first and second readings in the Senate. It had the votes for that third and decisive reading and would have passed.
All that needed to happen was for the bill sponsor, on the last night of the Legislature, to rise and signal the Senate president he had a bill to call for a vote. The Senate president just had to see him, say “I recognize you,” and turn on the sponsor’s microphone.
The bill sponsor, behind whom I was sitting, stood. He waved his hand. He shook pieces of paper. He did everything but shoot off a cannon.
The Senate president, sitting a whole 30 feet away and gazing idly around the room as he held his phone to his ear, somehow never saw the guy, never saw the light blink.
The bill died. The Senate president admitted later he was on the phone to the headquarters of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
It never ends. Let’s discuss the state’s refusal to let gay people lead normal lives, its multitude of liquor laws, abortion laws and morality-enforcing regulations.
How about message bills lawmakers make clear they would pass if only that pesky U.S. Constitution weren’t in the way, like that odious “personhood” anti-abortion silliness last year?
Rep. Jim Nielson, R-Bountiful, says you get intrusion creep whenever lawmakers, however well intentioned, get together. The article quotes him and four other lawmakers as being concerned that the Legislature avoid that creep.
He’s right, but Nielson and the others should lose the attitude of “Gosh, I sure hope we aren’t intruding on anyone, yet.”
Trust me: You are.
Wasatch Rambler is the opinion of Charles Trentelman. You can contact him at 801-625-4232 or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. He also blogs at www.standard.net.