‘Be it resolved,’ Lawmakers send many official messages

By Michelle L. Price, Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY — In addition to passing hundreds of new laws every year, Utah legislators use their annual session to pass resolutions that highlight problems, urge Congress to act on certain issues and proclaim state opinions.

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A vintage image of the Utah Capitol

The resolutions, while purely symbolic, can help to spur big-issue discussions but they should be used in moderation given the session’s limited timetable, House Speaker Greg Hughes, R-Draper, said.

“I wouldn’t want to rule out all resolutions, but I would want to be careful that we don’t resolve ourselves for every topic under the sun,” he said.

Lawmakers have proposed more than 20 such resolutions this year.

A look at some of them:

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PORNOGRAPHY

The most attention-grabbing resolution this year would declare pornography to be a public health crisis and urge more research and prevention efforts to stop an “epidemic” of sexual images. Sen. Todd Weiler of Woods Cross sponsors the measure and said the Internet has led to children being exposed to pornography at an earlier age. That leads to riskier sexual behavior, declining marriage rates, relationship problems, and a host of other issues, the Republican said. The lawmaker said he respects the right for adults to view pornography and he isn’t looking to ban it, but he wants to have a discussion about its harms on society.

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DRUG OVERDOSES

Another proposal from Rep. Carol Spackman Moss, D-Salt Lake City, declares drug overdose deaths to be a public health emergency. Utah had the 7th highest rate of drug overdose deaths in the country in 2014, according to the most recent numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Moss’s resolution asks state officials to work to reduce the number of overdose deaths.

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ELECTING U.S. SENATORS

One resolution urges Congress to work to repeal the 17th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, returning the appointment of U.S. Senators to state legislatures instead of a direct election by voters. Sen. Al Jackson said the country’s founders originally intended for the Senate to be beholden to legislatures to balance the power of the U.S. House of Representatives, where members were elected by voters. Because the Senate is more beholden to the people than the legislatures, Jackson said, senators will try to pass programs that are popular with voters but cause government spending to get out of control. State lawmakers tend to be more conscious of what will affect the federal budget than the average voter, he said. “It’s fodder for discussion, that’s all,” the Highland Republican said.

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SHRINKING SALT FLATS

A resolution from Rep. Stephen Handy, R-Layton, calls attention to the condition of Utah’s famous Bonneville Salt Flats. A string of land speed racing events have been canceled at the gleaming white sheets about 100 miles west of Salt Lake City in recent years as race organizers had trouble finding enough smooth, hard salt for cars, motorcycle and other vehicles to accelerate and slowdown from speeds topping 400 miles per hour. Racers worry that decades of nearby potash mining is draining a briny aquifer that helps replenish the flats ever year. Handy’s resolution calls on land managers to continue studying the unique composition of the flats and what can be done to preserve them, including asking the mining company to continue pumping brine back on the flats.

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Associated Press writer Hallie Golden contributed to this report.

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