Public Lands Resolutions Railroaded Though House

Bears Ears Tribal Coalition Promotion courtesy Tim Peterson

Generally speaking, the procedural act of approving a Rules Committee decision is a bland affair. After all, under normal circumstances, Rules simply acts as a gatekeeper, passing bills along to various committees so that they can be heard by committees and receive comment from the public.

This was not the case in the House chamber Monday afternoon.

Democrats fought vigorously to prevent Rules from placing HCR 11 – Concurrent Resolution Urging the President to Rescind the Bears Ears National Monument Designation and HCR 12- Concurrent Resolution Urging Federal Legislation to Reduce or Modify the Boundaries of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument  on the third reading calendar of the House, circumventing the normal committee meeting process (where the public is expected to weigh in) in the House. Such action would instead ensure that the full House will most likely debate the measure tomorrow.

HCR 11 is sponsored by Speaker of the House, Greg Hughes (Republican – Draper), while HCR 12 is sponsored by Rules Committee Chair, Mike Noel (Republican – Kanab).

Noel, defending the decision of the Rules Committee, noted that the Rules Committee did put out notice of the hearings for HCR 11 and 12 24 hours in advance and that the public did weigh in on the resolutions. Representative Joel Briscoe (Democrat – Salt Lake City) was quick to remind the body that the Rules Committee, according to House rules, can only hold such public meeting specifically when discussing a resolution that changes House rules – something that neither HCR 11 or 12 dealt with.

Noel would counter that time is of the essence when passing the legislation, as Utah’s congressional delegation specifically called for the legislation. It is their intention, Noel added, to present the resolutions to the new president as soon as possible in hopes of swift executive action.

Noel would also note that suspension of the rules was a common practice in the legislature, particularly near the end of the session. Monday marked day 8 of the 45-day session.

Finally, Noel attempted to calm fears by adding that the Senate would also have to go through the normal vetting process and that the legislation would, most likely, receive a hearing in that chamber.

“There is no guarantee of that” Representative Brian King (Democrat – Salt Lake City) quipped while wondering aloud the need for the rush on such an important piece of legislation.

The voice vote to allow debate in the full House Tuesday rather than sending the resolutions to standing committees passed only with opposition largely coming from the Democratic minoirty.

When Senate President Wayne Niederhauser (Republican – Sandy) was informed that the House didn’t send HCR 11 or 12 through the normal committee process, he simply responded “really?” Soon after he reaffirmed the fact that the resolutions are of importances and, as such, would go through the regular vetting process once the bills reached the Senate.

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