Tools of governing may need sharpening

Mar 1 2013 - 12:28am


"There Oughta Be a Law"

-- Al Fagaly

As we near the end of another legislative session, the threshold to a record number of bills and resolutions being considered by the House and Senate is plainly visible. In total, our state's governing body will have mulled more than 1,000 pieces of legislation.

In years past, when the total was around 700, it was estimated that if every bill were to be considered, a representative or senator would be able to give each bill seven minutes of consideration.

In reality, some get more attention while others get less, depending on interests and concerns. The question arises as to what considerations ought to drive legislation.

We see an increasing number of message bills, or bills whose passage is thought to be improbable. This type of legislation is sent as a message to a particular group or governmental entity, including the federal government.

There are bills driven by the concerns of a constituent or circumstance experienced by a particular legislator. There are bills that come from personal interests or a special interest group. There are those that are necessary for the operation of government. Then there are those bills that truly respond to the best interests and concerns of all of us in Utah. Many are some combination of the above.

The question is, what ought to be the appropriate motivation for advancing legislation? What should we expect out of our governing bodies, whether local, state or federal?

Personal interests and benefits ought to be tempered by the question of whether the legislation is a proper discharge of our duty and in the best interests of residents as a whole.

Message bills often deal with minor issues that don't warrant the time taken to process them. There should be a separate list of bills called "Message Bills and Other Warnings," which could be posted and result in the saving of a considerable amount of time.

There ought to be a different success measurement other than the number of bills a legislator sponsors and passes in a session. If we based it solely on a count of the number of bills with substance, we would all be better off.

When all is said and done, the representative form of government is not perfect, but it is the best in the world. Like any effective tool, however, it can always be sharpened.

Steve Curtis has worked as a business consultant and communication specialist. He is currently mayor of Layton. He can be reached at

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