Representative Norm Thurston (Republican – Provo) has been the source of some controversy over the past four years he has served in the legislature. In 2017 he sponsored legislation that would ultimately have the effect of further marginalizing Democrats in state government and, oh yes, reducing the state’s legal BAC to 0.05. in 2016 he sponsored legislation that allows people to legally carry weapons on public transit, and in 2015 he took up the mantle of abolishing daylight savings (to the glee of some, and the source of eye-rolls from this website). In short, Thruston gets harassed by people (such as pesky legislative bill watching websites) about the bills he runs and it appears that he has had enough.
Perhaps that is why Thurston is proposing HJR 6 – Sponsor’s Statement which, as you might guess, is a resolution that allows lawmakers to provide the “anticipated impact of the legislation” and their “intent in sponsoring the legislation” along with “any other information related to the legislation” that the sponsor wishes to get out into the world. Now, before you start to fear legislative novels (A personal fear of the writer), Thurston does limit the statement to 500 words or less.
This is an interesting concept to come from Thruston, however, the idea needs some fleshing out before it becomes common practice.
On the positive side of things, Thurston’s legislation provides some much-needed insight when the general public communally shouts the oft-asked question “what the hell are they thinking?!” On the flip side, Thurston’s resolution tips the balance of passage in favor of the sponsor – even more so that what is already provided by, you know, being a lawmaker and working around the people who would vote for the legislation in the first place. As a reminder, if a bill is on its way to becoming a law, the lawmaker is already given the opportunity to speak about the bill on the record at least twice – if not more if it is slow moving and/or controversial.
When citizens are voting on things such as resolutions, they will receive statements from both supporters and opponents in an attempt to provide a balanced viewpoint on the issue. Thurston’s resolution does not provide such a luxury. Indeed, the practicalities of providing such balance would be difficult to execute – who gets to retort? How do they make a submission? What if the bill changes halfway through? The lack of balance, or even the possibility of providing balance, could only make the legislative process more confusing to the average citizen.
Finally, Thurston’s resolution has no requirements to provide factual information in the sponsor’s statement – there isn’t even a requirement to provide a response in good faith. When a lawmaker wants to propose a bill, Legislative Research and General Counsel perform extensive research in order to determine how to make the bill match with current state and federal laws (and are even given the option to state when they feel that a bill will be found unconstitutional, for example). Though one would hope that lawmakers would be truthful in any statement they make, there is nothing close to a guarantee that they will do so – potentially spreading disinformation about a piece of legislation that may be receiving a lot of attention.
In the end, Thurston has an interesting idea, and one worth exploring further, but at this point it needs more work before it is ready to go.
To contact Representative Thurston, Click Here or call 801-477-5348
Impact on the Average Utahn – 1 | Need for Legislation – 4 | Lemon Score – 3 Overall Grade – D