Speaker Becky Lockhart (Republican – Provo) came out swinging Monday as she addressed the House she will run for the next 45 days.
Sometimes defiant, sometimes hopeful, Lockhart warns that we are “at risk for not being ready for tomorrow.”
“Our economy is growing, but not as robustly as they should. Our schools are teaching, but not as effectively as they must. Our traffic is moving, but not as efficiently as we would like. Our state is breathtakingly beautiful, but blanked by dirty air and severe pollution,” Lockhart told the body. “There is a sense that we are settling for the stale, status quo.”
Lockheart went on to praise parents in the education system and the need to give teachers the tools they need to teach. She also acknowledged that education has changed and that policymakers need to accept that students are simply different than the blackboard and cracked books of days gone by. “Schools should think big, we need nothing less than an education renaissance in Utah.”
Speaker Lockhart also called out the idea of raising the gas tax, an idea recently proposed by Representative Jim Nielson (Republican – Bountiful). Instead, Lockhart praised the efforts of the recently formed, bipartisan, Clean Air Caucus and their work to incentivise voluntary programs and work with business. Lockhart wants to know, “Is it the Utah way,” to force citizens to drive only on certain days or to live only in certain places?
The Speaker made it a point to call out the federal government and Governor Herbert. “Every time a state surrenders, or a governor gives in [to federal intrusions], the state grows weaker, poorer, and less free,” Lockhart said to applause.
Lockhart proceeded to call out Herbert’s decision to accept Medicaid funding after nearly a year of internal debate. “[Obamacare] is not just a trick, it is a trap. It is an out-in-the-open bait-and-switch, and it will leave us worse off sooner than we think.” Lockhart then suggested that the body “drop a copy of the [US] Constitution inside [an envelope] and stamp it ‘return to sender'” whenever the federal government provides “unfunded mandates.”
“We need energy in the executive [branch], not an inaction figure in the Governor’s Office.” Lockhart told the somewhat surprised crowd as she called the governor to task for, as she put it, scrambling to fund federal mandates.
The former Attorney General, John Swallow, was also a focus of the Speaker. Lockhart called this “one of the saddest chapters [she] has seen in her time [on the hill]… and it did not come cheap. But, if nothing else, we should resolve that honest government doesn’t come at a discount and public integrity has no price.”
In a press conference held after the State of the House, Lockhart stepped back her words slightly, noting it wasn’t just Herbert who needed to take more action, but all policy makers. However, during the same outing with the media, she reaffirmed her stance on not pressing forward on the gas tax and letting government take an educational, and not adversarial role.
In that same press conference, Lockhart also stated that the famous Zion Curtain is not effective alcohol policy and that it is appropriate for the Attorney General to fight for keeping Amendment 3 in place as it was voted for and approved by the citizens of Utah. She did not immediately back away from the proposed nondiscrimination ordinance, or the overturning of Amendment 3, so long as it comes from the state and not the federal government.
To read the transcript of Speaker Lockhart’s statement, click here.