House Minority Leader Rep. Brian King, D-Salt Lake City, is pushing back hard against a plan by House Republicans to change the makeup of two legislative committees.
Currently, Democrats and Republicans have equal representation on the Legislative Management Committee and that committee’s Audit Subcommittee. HB220, sponsored by Rep. LaVar Christensen, R-Draper, would change that and put Democrats in the minority on both committees. UtahPolicy.com’s Bob Bernick detailed the proposed changes in this article.
King says these two committees have had equal representation from both parties since their inception in the mid-1970’s. He doesn’t understand the need to change the makeup now.
“These committees have worked well for 40 years,” said King. “There’s no reason they should change, and nobody can identify a reason for a change.”
King says changing the makeup of these committees is unwarranted, and he’s perplexed why it’s happening now.
“It tells me the House is becoming governed more and more by raw partisan considerations. This hurts the Legislature as a policymaking body when you want to extend the partisan war.”
Republicans tried to alter the partisan makeup of the LMC last year, but that bill went forward. So, why is it moving forward now?
Perhaps it’s the feud between King and House Speaker Greg Hughes. Over the summer, the House GOP Caucus declined to bring a proposed plan to expand Medicaid forward for a vote by the full House.
At the time, Hughes insisted that the there must be 38 votes in the House GOP Caucus, enough to ensure a majority in the whole House, for the plan for him to move forward. Apparently, those votes simply did not exist.
King vehemently and publicly objected to Hughes position, going so far as to pen an op-ed likening the Speaker’s tactics to Soviet Russia.
King makes it clear he’s not alleging House leadership is moving ahead with HB220 as a punitive measure for his outspokenness on the Medicaid issue. But, he does say his relationship with Hughes soured after that disagreement.
“We were getting along just fine before that. I wrote the op-ed and said this was an abuse of power,” says King. “If I hadn’t responded publicly, I shouldn’t be the minority leader.”
King says he sees HB220 as an unwarranted expansion of the tension between him and Hughes.
“I’m happy to work with people on the other side of the aisle, but this goes to the heart of the democratic process. Making these changes are unduly quick on the trigger.”
The bill is set to be debated by the House Rules Committee on Friday at noon.