Webb Wrap: Legislature a refreshing contrast to Congress…Biden will get credit for COVID progress…Change DSU name

Good luck, lawmakers. One reason I welcome the convening of Utah’s 104 citizen lawmakers in their annual 45-day general session is that they present such a refreshing contrast to the dysfunction and gridlock of Washington, D.C.

Utah’s lawmakers, along with the executive branch, will tackle Utah’s toughest problems and deal forthrightly with most of them. They will pay for the legitimate services that government should provide, including a reasonable safety net for vulnerable citizens, while protecting basic freedoms, balancing Utah’s budget, saving money for rainy days, and addressing education, infrastructure and growth challenges.

They will be open and transparent. Minority party members will sponsor important legislation and have influence, even beyond what their numbers might warrant. Lawmakers will work incredibly hard for 45 days, putting in long hours.

They won’t do everything perfectly. There will be disagreements, power struggles and sometimes tempers will flare. I’m sure I will be upset with some of the things they do or don’t do.

But when leaders strike their gavels at midnight in a little over seven weeks, on March 5, spring will be in the air and lawmakers will have done the people’s work remarkably well. 

If you want a reason to support federalism that is better balanced – to abide by the 10th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution – just watch how Utah’s Legislature works compared to the U.S. Congress. 

Prediction: Biden will look good on COVID. Pres.-elect Biden has harshly criticized Pres. Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic. And things, no doubt, will improve quickly under the Biden administration. A lot of it won’t be because Biden is smarter or is a superior manager. Instead, it will be because we’ve learned so much in the last year, made plenty of mistakes and, with vaccinations rolling out, we’re nearly at the point where things are going to improve.

The immunization process has been shaky as states and local governments have put in place infrastructure and procedures. But now things will move rapidly. Vaccine production is gearing up, new vaccinations will soon come online, and millions of people will be vaccinated in the next few months. And Biden is going to get a lot of the credit. It’s part of the spoils of winning the presidency.

Biden will build, as he should, on the progress made under Trump. He will even keep Gen. Gustave Perna as chief operating officer of Operation Warp Speed, although Biden will apparently change the name.

When Trump was elected, the economy improved rapidly, and he took credit for it. Democrats argued that it was Pres. Obama who put in place the ingredients for a great economy. Now Republicans can make a similar argument.

Name change at Dixie State University. One task of the upcoming Legislature will be to consider changing the name of Dixie State University. Some 50 years ago, I attended what was then Dixie College. It never entered my head, back then, that there was anything racist about the name. I admittedly didn’t think much about it, but I just assumed that the name reflected the fact that the college was in southern Utah. Dixie was a name for the south. 

I greatly enjoyed my time at Dixie College. I met my wife there. So, I have some sentimental attachment to the name, and I can easily argue that, to me, there’s nothing racist about it. However, the name change isn’t about me. It’s about what the name means to current and future students and the broader university community.

Times have dramatically changed in 50 years. We’re much more sensitive to the feelings of segments of society that were marginalized and not much acknowledged in the past. The reality is that Dixie is a name that is hurtful and racist to a lot of people, and will be more so going forward. So it ought to be changed.

I still believe that a lot of political correctness and the cancel culture are silly and ought not to be tolerated. There is a lot of inconsistency by progressives. But it’s clearly time to eliminate Dixie as the name of a Utah university. 

Parting shot. If anyone is looking like a statesman coming out of the certification of the Electoral College vote, the Capitol riots, invoking the 25th Amendment, and impeachment, it’s VP Mike Pence. In the face of tremendous pressure from Trump and his passionate supporters, Pence did not hesitate to do his duty, presiding over congressional functions that certified Biden as president. 

When House Democrats then demanded that he invoke the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office, Pence wrote, “Last week, I did not yield to pressure to exert power beyond my constitutional authority to determine the outcome of the election, and I will not now yield to efforts in the House of Representatives to play political games at a time so serious in the life of our Nation.”

Good for Pence. I don’t know what his future is, but I hope he stays involved in politics.