House Democratic Leader Calls HB220 a ‘Power Grab’ by Republicans

Brian King 03House Minority Leader Rep. Brian King, D-Salt Lake City, says the bill that changes the makeup of two key legislative committees is nothing more than a “power grab” by House Republicans.

 
HB220, sponsored by Draper Republican LaVar Christensen, changes the Legislative Management Committee, and that committee’s Audit Subcommittee from a 50/50 partisan split to one favoring the majority party in each house of the Legislature.
 
House Speaker Greg Hughes says the change is needed because relations between the minority and majority parties in the House have soured. King holds back no punches in his response.
 
“This is nothing more than a naked power grab,” said King in an interview with UtahPolicy.com. “If HB220 goes through, it’s easy for us to say that the Republicans are just interested in extending their one-party control even more tightly across the legislature.”
 
King’s relationship with Speaker Hughes soured in the fall of 2015 when King slammed the Speaker over his insistence that the House GOP Caucus needed to come up with 38 votes to move forward with a Medicaid expansion plan. King penned an op-ed likening the tactics to Soviet-era politics. 
 
Needless to say, King doesn’t buy the story that this might be retaliation for his criticism, noting that House Republicans thought about a similar piece of legislation last year.
 
“They’ve been thinking about ways to expand their power before my dispute with the speaker came along. I don’t think this is personal. That’s just an excuse to do something they’ve thought hard about since the last session.”
 
King was also critical of how Hughes is approaching this issue.
 
“I see the Speaker acting more as a majority leader rather than a Speaker,” says King. “The Speaker of the House should be looking out for the interests of all legislators regardless of their political affiliation. My vote should count as much as the vote of the least-senior Republican, and it doesn’t right now. That’s what the Speaker is saying.”
 
King knows this fight has high stakes for not just him, but everyone in the minority caucus in both houses. He says not one Democrat has come to him and asked him to back off his criticism of Hughes for the sake of preserving what little influence Democrats still have in the Legislature.
 
“They basically want to sweep Democratic input aside completely and be unfettered in their ability to move forward ignoring the process because their numbers are so great.”
 
Plus, King thinks Republicans are making a huge tactical error by trying to push their advantage even more.
 
“They already get what they want when they make it clear they want something out of those committees. I think there will be blowback from the people of the state of Utah who will say they don’t want D.C. brought to the state of Utah any more than it already has been. We want people to work across the aisle. I think at some point a lot of Utahns are going to say, that makes us uncomfortable.”
 
The bill has been assigned to the House Government Operations Committee.