Flagged Bill: HB 11 – State Boards and Commissions Amendments – Rep. Norm Thurston

Representative Norm Thurston (Republican - Provo)
Representative Norm Thurston (Republican – Provo)

Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power tends to corrupt, absolutely.

In the many years of writing about bills of note, such words have never been used, and with good reason. Though we may strongly criticize legislation, great pains are made to avoid hyperbole – it is cheap and creates a reputation this publication wishes to avoid.

And yet, Representative Norm Thruston‘s (Republican – Provo) HB 11 – State Boards and Commissions Amendments forces us to use such language.

[pullquote]Absolute power corrupts absolutely, and Thurston is swinging the door wide open for unprecedented abuses of power by Utah’s GOP. If the legislature has any decency, it should not even allow this bill to see the light of day.[/pullquote]In a bit of breaking news, Utah, as it turns out, is a Republican state. And in even more shocking news, Utah government at all levels is even more Republican when compared to the general electorate.  In a final piece of shocking news, Utah is, in essence, a one-party state. Despite this fact, several state boards have clauses in them that require at least some level of bipartisanship. And the reasons are obvious: bipartisanship ensures that multiple concepts and enter the marketplace of ideas so that they can properly be considered and adopted or discarded as policy requires; what is important is that all ideas are heard, if only to determine what would be poor policy.

Thurston, with HB 11, is spitting in the face of this tradition by systematically removing language requiring some level of minority representation from 28 legislative boards and commissions. Those boards or commissions are:

  • Air Quality Board
  • Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission
  • Board of Business and Economic Development
  • Board of Aging and Adult Services
  • Board of Financial Institutions
  • Board of Oil, Gas, and Mining
  • Board of Parks and Recreation
  • Board of Tourism Development
  • Board of Utah Geological Survey
  • Board of Water Resources
  • Committee of Consumer Services
  • Drinking Water Board
  • Energy Producer States’ Agreement Board
  • Health Advisory Council
  • Health Data Committee
  • Labor Commission Appeals Board
  • Livestock Market Committee
  • Merit Commission
  • Passenger Ropeway Safety Committee
  • Public Utilities Public Service Commission
  • Quality Growth Commission
  • State Money Management Council
  • Utah Commission on Service and Volunteerism
  • Utah Department of Workforce Services Appeals Board
  • Utah Housing Corporation
  • Utah State Scenic Byway Committee
  • Waste Management and Radiation Control Board
  • Water Quality Board

It is astonishing that Thurston feels that all of the above boards should be run by one party, and the reason for targeting these committees and boards show that he is filled with hubris and a disdain for our republic.

Currently, individuals are chosen to sit on these committees by policy makers such as the governor, Speaker of the House, President of the Senate, etc. These board members then meet to take deeper looks at various policy issues related to the board, these discussions filter their way back up to policy makers and, it is hoped at least, they listen to the advice of those who have spent months, or even years, learning about the pressing policy issues affecting the state. Thurston, by removing the bipartisan requirement is all but ensuring that these boards and commissions are filled with partisans. We should not trust that politicians won’t play politics with these boards and commissions out of the pureness of their heart; only law can ensure that there is some measure of balance.

With this in mind, it should be clear why HB 11 is so dangerous to the citizens of Utah.

Absolute power corrupts absolutely, and Thurston is swinging the door wide open for unprecedented abuses of power by Utah’s GOP.

And let’s be clear, this is not a GOP trait, rather it is a trait of power. If Democrats somehow manage to break the Republican (super) majority, they would be just as likely to abuse the system.

Absolute control by one party of the Air Quality Board, Drinking Water Board, Water Quality Board, and Waste Management and Radiation Control Board will lead to policies that most likely will pollute our air, water, and land. Absolute control by one party of the Board of Financial Institutions, Merit Commission, Labor Commission Appeals Board, Utah Department of Workforce Services Appeals Board, Public Utilities Public Service Commission, Committee of Consumer Services, and the Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission will lead to policies that encourage corruption, harm workers rights, and make it more difficult for consumers to receive a fair shake. Absolute control by one party of the Energy Producer States’ Agreement Board, Board of Oil, Gas, and Mining, Board fo Business and Economic Development, and Board of Parks and Recreation will lead to policies that will sell off our heritage to the highest bidder. And, finally, one party control of the Board of Aging and Adult Services and the Utah Housing Corporation will lead to policies that harm the most vulnerable in our society.

We know this because legislators have been attempting (and in some cases, succeeding) to do just these things for the past 20 years. It is foolish to assume that by making commissions more ideologically one-sided will fix the issue and produce policies that consider the entire state and her citizens.

And that is most likely why Thurston is proposing this legislation in the first place: he knows that democratic (and Democratic) ideas are popular ones that fly in the face of GOP special interests. The only way to truly prevent those nasty ideas from being discussed in the first place is to ensure that they never enter the room. Why stop at commissions? Why not end minority representation in legislative committees? Why not on the floor itself? Why even bother listing them on the ballot in the first place?

If the legislature has any decency, it should not even allow this bill to see the light of day.

To contact Representative Thurston, click here or call 801-477-5348 (Cell)

You can track this, and all of our other flagged bills, by clicking here. Need an explanation of scores? Click Here.

Impact on Average Utahn 5
Need for Legislation 0
Lemon Score 0
Overall Grade F

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