Legislative Groundhog Day

It’s Groundhog Day, a day I’ve been anxiously awaiting ever since my Opening Day Remarks to the House last week referencing . . . Groundhog Day.

In the movie, the main character, played by Bill Murray, wakes up, over and over, to a day that keeps repeating and that day just happens to be Groundhog Day.

Honestly, I’ve been anxious to see if I, upon walking into the House Chambers this morning, would be bolstered in my desire to tackle the truly transformational issues we face this year. Like the groundhog, would I see my shadow and be confronted with the prospect of another session that mirrors so many of the past? Or would I not, signaling the sunshine of a truly ambitious six-week session, one where we’re able to confront so many of the most important and difficult issues?

As lawmakers with a very short legislative session and a very long list of constituent concerns, many of the really difficult matters are put off. We tell ourselves the interim is a better time to take them on, when we have more bandwidth and energy to devote to the process.

Consequently, what often happens is that those truly transformational items that require a heavy lift are repeatedly put off to another day, year after year — kicked down the road to a future legislature.

We’ve all seen it happen; I call this legislative Groundhog Day. Unlike the movie, what we will do matters and has consequences. 

I believe the time to act is now. Now is the time to for this legislature to make up its mind to tackle the hard things and leave our state better than we found it.

Now is the time to reform our broken transportation funding system, to institute a formula that keeps pace with inflation and growth. We live in one of the fastest growing states in the nation, and need to plan for a doubling of our population by 2040.

With vision and proper planning, we have the opportunity to create a multimodal transportation infrastructure consisting of well-planned highways, roads, transit and other alternatives. This will better prepare us for the future.

Now is the time to push back against the federal government and insist that we control our schools, our lands and our healthcare.

The funding of public schools in the state of Utah is hampered by the fact that the federal government controls two-thirds of the lands within our borders. Unlike most other states, we’re forced to pay for public education with a state income tax.

The end result is that without a robust and growing economy, Utah is unable to adequately pay for the needs of public school students, and without access to large swaths of our land, we’re limited in our ability to generate more of those income tax dollars, to say nothing of property tax dollars.

Utah needs to be able to determine what is best for Utahns with regard to healthcare. The federal government has created a situation, through the Affordable Care Act, where many of the poor have been left behind in an attempt to place the burden of federal promises on the states.

Our Legislative Task Force has been examining this issue and developing solutions to address the problem in a way that we know we can keep whatever commitments we make to the most needy in our society.

So as I walked in and approached the dais this morning I looked around, searching for my shadow.

I sat, and looked around some more.

It was nowhere to be found.


It’s looking like these next six weeks really are going to be different.