Bob Bernick’s notebook: Oh, how Republican Utah has changed


Bob Bernick


Before you condemn Utah as an archconservative, Republican-only state, consider the following:

Sen. Mitt Romney and Gov. Gary Herbert are talking about gun control –full background checks and even “red flag” laws that could take guns away from those a danger to themselves or others.

We are moving to a reasonable, private-driven medical marijuana system, where doctors can provide THC-included marijuana to sick patients who really want and need it.

Full Medicaid expansion is likely coming next year.

LGBTQ folks have been protected against various types of discrimination, and we have a workable hate crimes law.

GOP legislators are unlikely to repeal the sales tax break on unprepared food, which has been a real help to low-income people.

Tax reform could make paying various taxes fairer and more equal.

Utahns gladly see various voting equality laws, which include same-day voting and mail-in ballots, all aimed at giving more people their voting franchise.

Federal, state and county candidates can make their party primary ballots via voter signatures, instead of relying only on more conservative or liberal party delegates, thus allowing candidates to move more to the middle politically.

Corrections reform has moved away from the lock-them-up mentality, and inmates are getting more help when they come back into society.

Various air quality laws and incentives are cleaning up valley pollution.

All the above and more have happened over the last decade in Utah.

Now, we are not a “progressive” state.

We are not a purple, or Democratic, state.

We are a solidly Republican state.

But we have moved a long ways from the archconservative Legislature and local politics of the 1980s and 1990s.

Can the Utah Legislature and GOP Gov. Gary Herbert really pass some reasonable gun control laws?

Can we approve the Obamacare full Medicaid expansion, which will provide health care to tens of thousands of low-income Utahns?

Will the Legislature reject an attempt to place the state sales tax back on unprepared food?

All these things seem within reach as we approach the 2020 Legislature.

The others above have already been done.

Now, admittedly, several of the more reasonable steps came because of decisions made by leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Several come through voter-approved citizen initiative petitions – or new laws/programs forced on seemingly-unmovable Republican legislators.

But they still have happened.

And while the medical marijuana and full Medicaid expansion initiatives were changed by GOP bosses, in both cases fallback positions will likely happen, ensuring the intent of the original petitions.

Utah state and local governments are taking steps toward more open, accountable, publicly funded operations.

This can only be good.

So, before we start bashing government officials, most of whom are Republicans, take a moment and reflect on what has happened over the last several years.

All in all, it is pretty impressive stuff, I say.

With most of the action taken just a Democrat’s pipe dream back when I first started reporting on Utah politics in the late 1970s.