Lawmakers Duel Over Shutdown-Blame As State Scrambled to Fund National Parks

State Representative Ken Ivory (Republican - West Jordan)
State Representative Ken Ivory (Republican – West Jordan)

As state lawmakers moiled in the House Chamber last week, rushing to pass a bill securing funding to ensure that Utah’s national parks and monuments remain open during the government shutdown, two members of the House took to the floor and decried the actions of those they blamed for the crisis—the federal government and Congressional Republicans…depending on who you talked to.

Representative Ken Ivory (Republican – West Jordan) castigated the federal government, claiming they are guilty of “Gestapo tactics” and that Utahns, local businesses, and the community at large are “under assault by our federal governing partner.” He urged his fellow legislators to consider what to do when future crises arise, saying this is only the beginning. “Our founders warned us it would be our own fault if we allow the federal sovereignty to interfere in our jurisdiction.

Clearly upset by such a comment, Representative Brian King (Democrat – Salt Lake City) quickly rose to lambast Ivory. “It’s galling for me to have to listen to those who subscribe to a philosophy that was the cause of our government shutdown get up and point to that shutdown as evidence, as an example of a failure of our American political system—and that’s what I’ve heard. I resent it.” King went on to refer to the Tea Party Republicans in the house as a group of “nihilists, a group of obstructionists who fundamentally do not believe in our system, our constitutional system of government.”

Video of the showdown between the two can be seen here.

SB2001, which set aside nearly $8.7 Million of Utah taxpayer dollars, assured the re-opening of Utah’s five national parks: Arches, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, and Zion; as well as two national monuments: Cedar Breaks and Natural Bridges; as well as Lake Powell. The bill flew through both the Senate and House with unanimous votes, sponsored by Senator Stuart Adams (Republican – Layton) and Representative Don Ipson (Republican – St. George), and passed just hours before Congress passed the Continuing Appropriations Act of 2014, which reopened the government (at least until January 15, 2014).

Adams touted the economic benefits provided to the state by Utah’s tourism industry, which had come to a grinding halt as a result of the shutdown. “We understand another principle. Not only managing our affairs well, but we understand that when business does well, when tourist companies, restaurants, and hotels in Southern Utah do well, guess what? We have tax revenue, and our government does well. The public sector does well.” It was estimated that Grand County’s economy alone lost $4.6 Million during the 16 day shutdown.

Taxpayers may not see their money directly reiumbursed, though, because the Utah legislature moved forward with their plan to reopen the parks before Congress had legislatively approved reimbursement for it. However, Montana Representative Steve Daines (Republican – At Large) has introduced the Protecting States, Opening National Parks Act, H.R. 3286, a bill that would require the government to pay Utah and other states back within 90 days. Utah’s four congressional representatives in the U.S. House are co-sponsoring the legislation. Utah Republican Congressman Chris Stewart (Republican – 2nd District) also introduced the Provide Access and Retain Continuity Act, or PARC Act, which is designed to allow states to fund and operate National Parks and federal facilities or programs that have a direct economic impact on tourism, mining, timber, or transpiration in the event that the federal government again shuts down.

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