Every year we see a bill so small, so inconsequential, so unnecessary, that it almost appears to be a joke when first spotted on the list of proposed bills listed on the legislative website. Surely some legislative aide with a little legal know-how just slipped it in just to see if anyone is really paying attention.
While it would be (really) hilarious if that were true, it’s not the case. So let’s discuss Senator Aaron Osmond’s (Republican – West Jordan) SB 53 – State Domestic Animal.
Quite simply, Senator Osmond wants to designate the Golden Retriever as the state’s official “domestic animal.”
Now the state’s official “anything” is symbolic in nature, with no impact on our lives aside from losing a point in a nerdy political trivia game. Utah, famously, has a state cooking pot (the dutch oven), and the ever-controversial state firearm (Browning M1911). Even lesser known state symbols, such as the state’s astronomical symbol (Beehive Constellation), fruit (cherry), fish (Bonneville Cutthroat), gem (Topaz), and fossil (Allosaurus) at least have some connection to Utah.
The Golden Retrievers connection to Utah? Well…we suppose…the dogs exist in the state?
Actually, Osmond says he is running the legislation because Alli Meyer’s fourth-grade class at Daybreak Elementary (which sits in Osmond’s district) was inspired by last year’s (equally unnecessary) legislation to change the state tree from the Blue Spruce to the Quaking Aspen, and asked him to do it. Osmond, in turn, wanted to provide a hands on lesson about the legislative process to the kids.
As much as we love Shadow (“Homeward Bound”), Buddy (“Air Bud”), and Dug (“Up”)—come to think of it, that whole “SQUIRREL!” line is a bit metaphorical—, and as much as we feel increased civics education in classrooms is of vital importance to the future of our democracy, and though the change to the law is of little consequence, this is still a bad bill.
Why? For years, lawmakers have been complaining that they simply don’t have enough time during the painfully brief 45 day session every year to advance important legislation through both chambers. Though cynics may view this as a good thing, the reality is that legislation (good or bad) frequently dies thanks to time restrictions. Even for the legislation that passes, there isn’t enough time to allow a thorough public debate on the merit of proposed legislation, which frequently leads to some fast and loose lawmaking.
During last year’s Quaking Aspen debate, House members took a sizable chunk of floor time late in the session in order to basically crack jokes about the legislation—putting off other important pieces of legislation—and it is doubtful this year’s debate about a state dog will be any different.
Currently, lawmakers are debating the possiblity of extending the legislative session, a critically important discussion and one that becomes far more difficult to defend if the public hears debates about a state domestic animal.
In short, it isn’t so much that SB 53 is a bad bill in the traditional sense that it’s bad policy, but rather because it’s ludicrous to waste valuable time that could be better spent on important issues like education, transportation, health care, or any other of the myriad pressing matters the state needs to address. Though we respect Osmond’s commitment to serving the members of his district, the answer isn’t always to run legislation.
To contact Senator Osmond, Click Here or call 801-253-6853
|Impact on Average Utahn||0-1-2-3-4-5|
|Need for Legislation||0-1-2-3-4-5|