With Passage of HB220, Republicans Now Completely Control Every Utah Legislative Committee

Utah State Capitol 08The Republican majority in the House and Senate now have complete control of the Legislature’s various committees.

On the last day of the session, the House agreed to a Senate amendment that allows the Senate president and House speaker to break any tie vote in the Legislative Management Committee.

And it puts an extra two majority votes on the LMC’s Audit Subcommittee, giving Republicans control there, as well.

Both committees historically have had equal numbers of minority and majority parties, although the majority chaired both committees.

Already other legislative committees – budget, standing and so on – are made up of the same percentage of the majority and minority members as appear in the House and Senate as a whole.

Republicans control the House – 63-12 – and control the Senate – 24-5 – putting the Democrats in their lowest positions for years.

Here is the vote on HB220 in the Senate; and in the House.

As you can see, the final votes were not completely along party lines. In fact, most of the votes against HB220’s changes came from Republicans in the Senate.

But as previously reported, the main battle was in the House – where Speaker Greg Hughes told UtahPolicy that the “tenor” of the minority leaderships’ challenges to the majority has changed.

House Minority Leader Brian King, D-Salt Lake, among other things, wrote an op-ed in The Salt Lake Tribune last year blasting legislative Republicans (which were led by Hughes) in defeating GOP Gov. Gary Herbert’s Healthy Utah Medicaid expansion plan in the 2015 Legislature.

HB220 takes away the 45-year history of equal partisan representation, and votes, on the management and audit committees, said Rep. Patrice Arent, D-Millcreek, who as a young lawyer worked in the Office of Legislative Research and General Counsel.

“This bill undermines the audit committee,” she said Thursday morning. “It throws the shadow of partisanship on all audits” because Republicans will have a 6-4 majority on the committee by adding the majority leaders of both bodies plus the president, speaker and the two minority leaders – and thus control what audits the Legislature undertakes.

The change “will create a partisan (legislative) staff,” she added, for the majority will have the final say on hiring the directors of the three current legislative offices – budget, attorney/research and audit.

But HB220 sponsor Rep. LaVar Christensen, R-Draper, said his motives were “pure” in making the partisan splits reflective “of the voice of the people,” who elected more Republicans than Democrats to the Legislature.

“I am saddened and surprised” that House Democrats are against the compromised bill, as most Senate Democrats supported it, said Christensen.

“The voice of the people should be undiluted” – and giving the majority party a bigger say on Legislative Management Committee and the Audit Subcommittee does that.