This year lawmakers have opened a record number of bill files to be reviewed during this legislative session — 1,341 — up markedly from last year’s 1,298. Among those is an effort to replace one of two statues that Utah has in the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. Each state has the privilege of having two statues in Statuary Hall, and one of ours is Philo T. Farnsworth, inventor of the television. (The other is a statue of Brigham Young, which is likely to stay there forever.)
I’m a traditional person, and I don’t much like change. Although I don’t have any soft feelings for old Philo, it’s obvious that televisions have had huge impacts on our lives. Its invention has been nothing short of remarkable. Farnsworth is a common Utah name; interestingly, a number of Farnsworth kin live in Moab who very likely are related to Philo. When I was an intern for a Utah congressman in Washington in 1985, I’d pass that guy nearly every day and give him a nod while walking from the congressional office building where I worked over to the Capitol.
Under a new Utah legislative bill, the statue of Farnsworth would be replaced by one of Martha Hughes Cannon, the first female Utah senator. This effort is even gaining support from a group of polygamist wives. I’m sure Cannon is a deserving candidate, but Utah Rep. Mike Noel of Kanab doesn’t think so. The Cowboy Caucus Republican has blocked a request to assign to committee the bill that would allow Cannon to replace Farnsworth. I guess I don’t care either way whose likeness stands in our nation’s Capitol building. Perhaps these marble models were meant to be rotated over the years, as times and values change. If Philo gets booted from the Capitol he’ll probably come home to Utah, like our longtime Sen. Orrin Hatch who is finally going to retire after his decades of service.
There’s been a lot of drama over statues around our country this past year, particularly in the South. This has been a hot-button issue as our politically correct ways of honoring and dishonoring people change. Statues don’t do much for me, unless there is a horse in them. Interestingly, many of our Revolutionary and Civil War-era figures are seated astride a prancing horse whose mane and tail is in permanent parade elegance. If those old statues come down, I won’t miss the men who stood there for so long, but I will miss the horses.
Another vital concern of the legislature this year is an effort to make the Utahraptor our state’s official dinosaur. The fossilized remains of that critter were found right here in Grand County. The Utah Senate Economic Development Committee voted unanimously for it to be our state dino, so it will probably have an easy climb to further notoriety. I’m not sure what good state designations have on things, but hey, not every state has a dinosaur.
The legislature is taking up other more important concerns, including a proposal to ban drivers from using hand-held cell phones. An estimated three-quarter of Utahns support this move.
A couple of bills address domestic violence issues in our state, and would give victims further protections from their abusers.
Regarding public education, there’s a move afoot to let voters weigh in on the Our Schools Now initiative, which would increase sales and income tax to help fund our classrooms. But one of Utah’s lawmakers is thinking ahead, and has proposed a measure to cut taxes back to current rates if the Our Schools Now proposal is approved. That would seem to me like one step forward and one step back.
There’s a bill making progress that encourages Utah to bid on the 2024 or 2030 Winter Olympics and Paralympics. That seems like a long way off, but those events are only six and twelve years away!
Speaking of the Olympics, our legislative session is sort of similar: it has a variety of events and something to interest almost anyone. Little of it is vitally important to our well-being, but it’s interesting to watch nonetheless.