Utah Senators say House railroading of public lands bill means they have to deal with a ‘circus’

Utah State CapitolMembers of the Utah Senate Rules Committee had some harsh words for the way their House colleagues rammed through a pair of resolutions dealing with the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

To replay, House Republicans tried to pull a fast one last week, allowing the House Rules Committee to act as a standing committee to hear both HCR11 and HCR12. House Democrats cried foul, saying the Republicans violated their rules by not sending the bill to a regular standing committee. That’s true, but House Republicans suspended the rules and passed the resolutions to the Senate.

The resolutions ask President Trump to take action on both the newly created Bears Ears National Monument and the Grand Staircase-Escalante Monument. HCR11 asks Trump to rescind Bears Ears, while HCR12 wants Trump to reduce the size of Grand Staircase-Escalante.

Some members of the Senate are none too happy with the way the House handled things.

“I’m befuddled,” said Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross. “I favor the bill, but because of the way the House handled this, it lands on our heads.”

Weiler and other Senators vented about the shenanigans pulled by the House earlier this week during the Senate Rules Committee meeting on Wednesday where they assigned HCR11 to a hearing in the Senate Natural Resources Committee on Thursday afternoon.

Weiler worried the sketchy process the House used to move the legislation forward would cause significant problems during that hearing on Thursday.

“This hearing is going to be a freakshow circus. We’re not going to have enough chairs or room for everyone who shows up, and what the house did is going to amplify that,” he said.

Sen. Evan Vickers, R-Cobble Creek, who sits on the Natural Resources Committee that will hear the bill on Thursday, said the way the House railroaded the resolutions through will embolden the opponents of the resolutions.

“It’s unfortunate that we’ve given them ammo against this,” said Vickers. “I talked with some House members who said this was handled the wrong way. They told me they should have done it over.”

Members of the Senate Rules Committee were also frustrated by the apparent rush exhibited by the House, especially since the current House leadership team has gone to great pains to make sure that every piece of legislation gets two public hearings before it can be passed. That didn’t happen this time.

Weiler joked that, since the House has set a precedent by shuffling this controversial legislation to the Senate to deal with, perhaps the Senate should do the same thing if the roles were reversed.

“Maybe we’re short sited. The next time we have a big marijuana bill, we should do the same thing and let the House deal with the fallout. I don’t know why the normal process wasn’t followed here. It just looks bad.”