Perspectives: We are the enablers and our Legislature is the addict

OPINION – Most often when we hear the word “addiction” we tend to associate it with some form of self-destructive behavior but there is another addiction in full sway in Utah and its capacity to decimate lives and liberty is no less destructive.

When we think of addiction, we envision people struggling with substance abuse, gambling, pornography or some other vice. Some people hide it well, others are beyond the point of caring. The look in my 11-year-old son’s eyes when he is told to stop playing Minecraft and do his homework is a perfect example of the latter.

As the current Utah legislative session draws to a close, it’s crystal clear that our fair state is in the thralls of an unhealthy dependency on power – a virtual addiction to power playing out right before our eyes on a statewide level. What’s surprising is that many seem unable to recognize it for what it is.

But it can be seen. Just look at any number of actions lawmakers are taking to oppose any prospects that would limit their state power. They respond with the same desperation my 11-year-old shows when I tell him he can’t play Minecraft.

Let’s look at two examples.

Medicinal cannabis has been before the legislature several times. Patients and doctors wish to avail themselves of a natural remedy and have sought to do so legally. Sadly, they unwittingly triggered the legislative addiction to power simply by asking legislators to stop treating sick people like criminals.

As Connor Boyack, president of Libertas Institute pointed out, intensive work was done:

(E)nsuring the regulations were fair, patients were helped, and all the pieces of the bill worked together and functioned for the benefit of those who needed it.

And that bill was put under a microscope, picked apart, criticized, amended, and shut down.

(Emphasis added.)

Early in this legislative session, a group of state senators came together to affirm that they would not allow a medical cannabis bill to move forward. Instead, citing a need to engage in further taxpayer-funded research, they stated they “owed it to the medical community” to keep medical cannabis illegal.

In other words, they chose to continue treating verifiably ill patients as criminals – patients who, under their physician’s supervision, seek to utilize a naturally occurring substance for relief.

We now know for certain that the primary representation of these particular lawmakers extends to their favored special interests and not to their constituents. Among those are the Utah medical Association and its associated community, taxpayer-funded researchers and the League of Cities and Towns; there are others.

Just last week, in a show of contrived magnanimity, these same lawmakers announced a bill that would take a bold first step in creating an expansive new bureaucracy to address possible future legalization of medical cannabis. This year’s bill, the Cannabinoid Product Act, designated Senate Bill 211, works to create all the burdensome regulations that lawmakers have been seeking and it still does not actually legalize an appropriate use of medicinal cannabis.

Boyack illuminated the official hypocrisy when he reported:

Just now it was ‘debated’ in the Senate. I put that in quotes because there was precisely zero debate. It received a unanimous vote after having zero questions, zero criticism, zero debate — not a peep.

What a contrast! Try and push for freedom and constrain the bureaucracy, and all hell breaks loose. Deny that freedom while giving the bureaucracy what it likes, and it’s smooth sailing.

Another example of the local addiction to power playing out on Capitol Hill comes in a bill designated House Bill 253 that sought to limit the authority of cities to prohibit short-term rentals.

The bill ultimately passed the House but only after being severely watered down. The lust for power and control over other people’s property is clearly strong enough at the local level that intense pressure was brought to bear against HB 253. As it stands, the bill now merely specifies that cities cannot use an online listing as evidence to enforce their bans on short term rentals.

It must be noted that these examples of crippling addiction to power are most often enabled by citizens who have bought into the idea that centralization of power over them is a healthy thing. It’s not.

Paul Rosenberg makes a solid case that centralization tends to thwart the free market, robs us through taxes and fees and gives those addicted to power a platform to “prove” to us why we supposedly need them.

He goes on to explain how centralized power in the hands of the addicted, limits us through ever-increasing laws. It kills cooperation by replacing our incentive to look out for another with rules and commandments that threaten to punish us if we don’t.

We lose valuable opportunities to voluntarily choose to become better people under such conditions. Forced compliance and cooperation stunt our growth.

The addiction to power and the accompanying desire for centralization that enables it are most often driven by an endless stream of imaginary fears.

We don’t need a government-funded 12 step program to help us break our dependency on power. What we need is a better informed citizenry which understands the proper limits of government power.

That starts with informed and moral individuals who know when to say “no.”


Cannabinoid Product Act – 2017 SB 211-S2 – 

The Cannabinoid Product Act was introduced in the Senate where it went before the Senate Health and Human Services Committee. Southern Utah’s Sen. Evan Vickers sits on the committee and voted for its second substitute and subsequent committee recommendation, 5-3. All senators representing Southern Utah voted for the substitute bill on Senate second reading, which passed 27-0 with 2 absent or not voting. The bill now sits on the third reading calendar for final vote before passing to the House for consideration.

Read the current version of the bill:  2017 SB 211-S2 – Cannabinoid Product Act (second substitute)

Short-term rentals

From Southern Utah, Rep. Jon Stanard sits on the House Business and Labor Committee. Stanard was the sole vote against the committee’s favorable recommendation of the Short-Term Rental Amendments. His disapproval was given, he said, as a show of support for city of St. George officials. After the bill was revised in the House, Stanard voted in favor of its second substitute, as did Reps. Walt Brooks, Merrill Nelson,  Brad Last, John Westwood, Mike Noel and V. Lowry Snow. The substitute bill passed the House 71-1 with 3 absent or not voting and moved to the Senate.

From Southern Utah, Sen. Ralph Okerlund sits on the Senate Economic Development and Workforce Services Committee. Okerlund was absent for both a committee vote amending the bill and a vote on that amendment. Nonetheless the bill received the committee’s favorable recommendation 3-0 with 4 absent, Okerlund among them. The bill sits on the Senate’s second reading calendar and has not yet been voted on by the Senate.

Read the current version of the bill: 2017 HB 253-S2 – Short Term Rental Amendents (second substitute)

Contact your Southern Utah legislators:

Read more: See all St. George News reports on Utah Legislature 2017 issues


Bryan Hyde is an opinion columnist specializing in current events viewed through the lens of common sense. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.


Twitter: @youcancallmebry

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