By Jackson Hadley
Capital West News
SALT LAKE CITY — Rep. Merrill F. Nelson, R-Grantsville, represents a district of approximately 32,000 people in Beaver, Juab, Millard, Tooele and Utah counties. A native of rural Utah, Nelson recently spoke with the media about the current legislative session.
“It’s been very busy, but I think very effective,” Nelson remarked in a phone interview when asked about the progress of the session.
“We’re accomplishing good,” he said.
Nelson’s main focus for the session has been advancing bills that will check the influence of the federal government in state matters such as education, environmental regulation and the definition of marriage.
“There has been a lot of issues in which the federal government has overreached,” Nelson said. “The [federal government] has become so pervasive in our lives that it basically overlaps everything we do as a state legislature. The states need some mechanism to push back against the fed and hold it to its delegated powers.”
Nelson’s appreciation of independence and self-reliance has roots in his childhood, where he learned such concepts working on his family’s farm in Grantsville.
“The main thing I learned growing up on a farm is hard work,” Nelson said. “I learned an appreciation for taking care of our land, our water and our livestock. I feel close to [my] constituents because I recognize the importance of agriculture in our lives and in the economy. It’s not just a way to make a living, it’s a way of living and a way to make a life,” he said.
He graduated from BYU with a degree in agricultural economics before entering the BYU Law School. After receiving his law degree, he served as a clerk for the Utah Supreme Court and later joined the Kirton McConkie law firm based in Salt Lake City.
As he recognizes the integral part education has played in his own life, Nelson believes that control over public schools should be given to those closest to the students–the parents and school boards.
“What I try to do is reduce the number of education bills,” he said. “It is not the goal of the legislature to supervise education, it’s the job of the school board in consultation with the parents. The Legislature meddles too much in education; we should just provide the adequate funding and then leave it to the experts.”
Nelson said he feels aligned with the interests of the people of rural Utah, and is demonstrating that by sponsoring bills that would address problems they are facing. In particular, he mentioned a bill that would deter the theft of batteries from farming equipment, and another to protect rural power companies from unnecessary regulation.
When asked what people in his district can do to get involved in state government, Nelson replied “stay informed.”
“Read the local newspaper, online or in print,” he said. “If they have concerns, they can get a hold of me or go to the legislative website and watch and listen to the session in real time. If they have input, the best way to reach me is through email… I welcome their input at any time on issues that concern them,” he said.
The Utah Legislature website can be found at http://le.utah.gov along with session video archives, live streaming, and legislator contact information.