By Stan Rasmussen
Published on March 18, 2018

Originally published by the Deseret News.

Another annual general session of the state Legislature is in the books. What a remarkable process. We have much to appreciate about this annual forum: the reasons we have it, the people that make it work, and the foundations of functional culture it seeks to preserve.

In the course of this session, members of the state Senate and House of Representatives considered hundreds of bills. Why so many? Because of the numerous necessary functions of state government and because we — you and I, their constituents — asked them to. The wide range of matters included tax policy, public safety, public and higher education, transportation, health care, public lands, intergenerational poverty, social services, the homeless, election law, economic development — and plenty more.

And they completed a balanced annual budget. These achievements are becoming increasingly exceptional among states and in the nation’s capital. Here in Utah, it’s business as usual.

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As our state continues toward a future both wondrous and daunting, our public servants and leaders attend to what must be preserved in our foundations, on the one hand, while assuring opportunities for proactive innovation on the other. Stability and growth.

Our representatives and senators deserve our thanks and respect, as do their families and associates whose sacrifices make possible their service on our behalf. The vast majority of our legislators — on both sides of the aisle — are futurity-minded public servants; statesmen and stateswomen willing to engage the rigorous dialogue whereby sound policy is developed. And while we’re at it, let’s also remember how fortunate we are to have a part-time, lay Legislature composed of fellow citizens who live in our neighborhoods, go to work each day and are thus accountable to their constituents — unlike other states with full-time, professional legislatures, many of which are burdened not only by serious budgetary challenges but also by chronic deficits.

The deliberative mechanisms of the Legislature are designed to evaluate and make decisions based on many factors, perspectives, available resources, limitations and other competing elements — just as each of us makes decisions in our personal lives based on multiple considerations, including foreseeable consequences — positive and problematic. Choices must be made about what matters most — what will enable us to preserve what works now and what will assure a safe and viable future.

Appropriate attention and concern is now being raised about the numerous initiative items anticipated to appear on the ballot in the November general election. Matters that carry serious, long-term impacts — completely bypassing the scrutiny and vetting of the legislative branch that otherwise would assess the multiple impacts of such proposals — including implementation and fiscal costs, and coordination with existing state law and policy. Individuals and organizations promoting the initiatives will, with the rest of us, live with the consequences. However, they will not, like our elected public servants, live with the accountability for the consequences of the initiatives if they are adopted, nor for the preservation of the essential cultural frameworks and processes of our constitutional democratic republic.

It takes a duly elected legislative body to make sound and prudent statewide public policy. Here in the Beehive State, that duly elected — and accountable — body is the Utah Legislature.

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