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2012-01-23 09:08:59
Time for civility TO the Legislature?

It's that time again. From a political standpoint, here in Utah, this is the Superbowl, the Indy 500 and the premier of the next Twilight movie all rolled into one. For the next 45 days, the Utah Legislature is in session. 'Oh no!', you might be tempted to say, or some version of 'what will they do to me this year'? Well, let me try to tell you.

We do things a bit differently in Utah, which won't be news to anyone. We don't have a full-time, professional legislature. We have part-timers. What we have is a 45 day session, 45 days to do all of the law-making business of the State. Passing a budget. Not just passing it, but balancing it! They have to, it's in the Constitution. So, what does it mean?

Simply put, you have 104 part-timers determining the direction of the State for the next year. Yes, part timers, with very much part-time pay, but seriously full time hours. These folks come from a variety of backgrounds and experiences. You have Realtors and teachers. Farmers, ranchers and Attorneys. Homemakers, nurses, appraisers, bankers, dentists and small business owners.

What these folks will do over the next month and a half is amazing to me. They will put in long days, often 18+ hours. They will give up time with their families. They will travel extensively, or live out of a suitcase. They will read and study 1200+ different Bills. They will attend endless meetings, learning about subjects that most of us don't have a clue about. They will eat badly & sleep worse.

They will read and answer thousands of emails, return countless phone calls, talk to constituents, most of which will be telling them what a lousy job they are doing, or worse, what lousy people they are. For the next 45 days, the world will attempt to convince them that they are wholly evil. So, what do they get out of this?

Well, they certainly aren't getting rich. Last I checked, they were pulling down a whopping $117 per day, plus a per diem for the 45 day session. For most, that equates to a net LOSS in their income. I know 1 Representative that uses his vacation, personal and sick pay from his 'real' job to serve, and working nights and weekends during the session, just to keep up. Some vacation.

So, why do they do it? If it isn't to get rich, isn't for a positive public image and some praise, what is it? I'd guess that if you asked them, you'd get 104 different answers. But, I bet that most of them would come back to some variation on the word 'service'. Service can be like a drug, and it can be brutal to get rid of, to the point that you'll suffer greatly and keep doing it. We should be grateful that some people can't help doing it.

Look, I'm not sitting here talking up these people because I think they're perfect, far from it. Ask any of them and they'll admit they make mistakes, it's impossible not to. I have no doubt that many of them will make decisions that I think are wrong, and I'll let them know. However, I also believe that the overwhelming majority of our State legislators with whom I disagree, will be making decisions based on what they believe to be right.

Finally, let's remember that what's good for one person or group may not be good for another. That doesn't make them evil, or even that bad. It just makes them people, just like you and I. People that have stepped up and attempted to do a thankless job, but a job that must be done. Perhaps you'd like a 'professional', full time legislature? Not me, thanks. The only Chicago-style things I like have to do with pizza! So, when you're tempted to judge these people, perhaps you need to take a breath, and realize they really are trying their best, doing a job that few are willing to. Perhaps, you need to take a long look at jumping into the next race yourself? In the meantime, let's think about showing a bit of civility at the legislature!

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