Letter: Disappointed by a lackluster legislative session
While preserving the Great Salt Lake was crucial, the Legislature chose to ponder when kids should celebrate Halloween and stripped transgender youth of their healthcare and dignity. We now “hope” the next session will better address the Great Salt Lake. A lot could, and may very well, go wrong before the next Legislature addresses this issue.
Residents had hoped for relief in removing sales tax on food. Rep. Rosemary Lesser introduced HB172 last year, providing immediate relief without stipulating diverting education funds. This session Rep. Judy Weeks Rohner proposed a similar bill, with the requirement for a Constitutional amendment that would not require the savings to go toward education. This would not take effect until 2025. The Floor Sponsor, John Johnson, was also the author of a bill to prevent colleges and universities from funding diversity, equity and inclusion. The Senate Education Committee member is trying to incentivizing the privatization of education. Senator Millner touted the glut of state funds, yet feels it would put a strain on the general fund. As a former President of WSU, I would have hoped she would protect and preserve education.
A good bill attached to an offensive proposal, HB215 gives teachers a long-overdue raise, but vouchers were approved in the same bill. This will weaken public education with no accountability, safeguards, protections or transparency. Utah is #50 in the nation for money spent per pupil, and this bill will not alleviate that. What is to prevent a parent from claiming the $8,000 only to put their student back into public schools, or spend the money in inappropriate ways? The bill was obviously in discussion long before the Legislature met and hastily approved it. It will be harmful to Utah and its already stressed teachers and students who deserve better.
I would hope that constituents carefully weigh whether their legislator is representing them and their families or special interests. Many legislature members are proposing bills that are harmful to our state, and they support far right-wing ideologies that most Utah citizens would not support.