Hurricanes cause real damage. This one? Well, if hurricanes were just resolutions, it would mean the weather was only thinking about knocking your house down. Scary, but not really. They do kick up wind, though.
For that, blame worries about something called Critical Race Theory, which no one seems to be able to define. Next, you can blame talk of making Utah a Second Amendment Sanctuary which, again, few seem to understand.
Finally, you can blame mask mandates for school children this fall, which, given the declining numbers of new COVID-19 cases, promises to be a non-issue. Lawmakers passed a bill prohibiting schools from imposing face mask requirements beginning with the next academic year.
By the time the gavel came down Wednesday afternoon, there was only one clear winner — Gov. Spencer Cox.
He didn’t want lawmakers to discuss either critical race theory or the Second Amendment, saying both “would benefit from more time, thought, dialogue and input.”
Time and again on Wednesday, lawmakers proved him right.
The sponsor of the Critical Race Theory resolution, Sen. Lincoln Fillmore, R-South Jordan, said during his floor presentation that he couldn’t define what it is, exactly.
It’s like a gas. It’s amorphous, he said, noting he had tried to find a definitive, universally accepted description, but couldn’t.
But he knew enough to declare, in the resolution, that it includes some concepts that “degrade important societal values and, if introduced in classrooms, would harm students' learning in the public education system …”
In a letter to lawmakers, Cox said he had “spent several weeks studying and talking to parents, teachers and education officials” about the issue. That apparently was more than lawmakers had done, which is why Democrats, who claimed they also hadn’t been consulted, walked out on the vote in the House.
On the other side, those in favor of critical race theory, which Wikipedia describes as “an academic movement of civil rights scholars and activists ... who seek to critically examine the law as it intersects with issues of race and ... racial justice,” did a bit of their own over-reacting. Banning it, one of them said to a Deseret News reporter outside the Capitol, would limit discussions about Black history.
Which isn’t clear. Nothing about this is, actually, except that resolutions on hot-button issues don’t do much but kick up wind. This one only urged the State School Board to make sure concepts, such as racial superiority, aren’t taught in Utah, but few people noticed that.
Ditto for the one on the right to keep and bear arms. The wording said it was prompted by worries about “potential action of the federal government” that could infringe on this right.
What potential action? President Biden’s call for the Justice Department to crack down on ghost guns, which are unregistered firearms made from a kit? His support for universal background checks? For “red flag” laws that would allow a family member or the police to petition a court to temporarily remove someone’s right to a gun because he or she is considered a danger? For bills that would open manufacturers and gun sellers to negligence suits?
It didn’t say. In any event, recent Democratic administrations have found it impossible to enact many new gun restrictions. Republicans in the Senate still can filibuster, and not all Democrats support restrictions, either.
The resolution encourages further action, possibly including a bill next year that would seek to declare Utah a Second Amendment sanctuary state. That might mean Utah would refuse to enforce any federal gun law it deemed unconstitutional.
Sen. Todd Weiler, a Republican from Woods Cross and an attorney, gave his colleagues a little lecture about that, even as he voted to support the resolution. Federal law preempts state law, he said. The doctrine of nullification has been litigated and doesn’t work.
The resolution, he said, is “a feel-good move, but it has no legal impact.”
“I vote for this resolution with the full understanding that it doesn’t actually do anything, but I do think it will make some people feel better.”
Which effectively summed up the day.
Cox had it right. It’s better to study something and allow for a thorough debate than to kick up dust chasing bogeymen in the wind.