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

Composite image for illustration. Stock images

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.”

Resources:

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.

Email: bryanh@stgnews.com

Twitter: @youcancallmebry

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2017, all rights reserved.

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11 Comments

  • Brian March 6, 2017 at 10:30 am

    The problem with medical marijuana is that we have massive safety nets in place (welfare, medicare, medicaid, obamacare, “disability”, etc) that effectively become a “basic income” where someone can live at home in their Mom’s basement sucking on the government teat.

    I’m perfectly fine with making all drugs legal with 1 stipulation: 1) No taxpayer dollars subsidize the behavior.

    You’re free to waste away in your Mom’s basement as long as tax payer dollars aren’t enabling it (that means no government subsidized housing, medical care, education, phone, etc). The same goes for obesity, alcohol, etc. You’re free to be as fat and unhealthy as you want, just not on my nickel. If you make stupid health choices, YOU get to deal with the consequences of said stupid health choices, which may include dying prematurely or having to go without expensive medications that may add to the quality of your life. We’re promised life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, not every prescription for every illness and freedom from every consequence.

    The problem is we have an entitlement state with hand-outs galore. If you insist that the state take care of your every need you must also give power to the state to dictate your every action (things like how much salt you can eat, how big your drinks can be, whether you have those “risky” guns in your house or ride those “risky” ATV’s, etc, etc, etc).

    So until the hand-outs and general safety nets are eliminated I’m not at all OK with letting the rising generation sit around and get high on a substance known to sap the motivation out of its users. I’ve worked with a lot of young men and I can’t think of a single one that has uses marijuana on an ongoing basis that is a really productive member of society and “going places” (besides jail).

    • comments March 6, 2017 at 11:54 am

      Well God forbid you’re ever in a position where the gov’t has to pay for all or any of your care for any illness you might become afflicted with. If you ever find yourself with some kind of cancer or some other massively expensive life threatening condition I don’t want one nickel of my taxes going to your care whether medicare, medicaid, va, etc. I say we just put you out in the cold and let you expire. The world will be better off for it, and you will have lived the libertarian ideal of “not needin’ no gubmunt socialisms”.

      • comments March 6, 2017 at 11:56 am

        also include gov’t paid pvt health insurances from pensions, etc. They are also pure socialism paid for by taxes.

      • Brian March 6, 2017 at 12:52 pm

        State governments are free to provide whatever they’d like, including health care. They’re also free to go broke trying.

        The states created the federal government, and in doing so gave it very specific, limited (you could even say “enumerated”) powers. Healthcare, welfare, retirement and education were not among them (for exactly the reasons we’re seeing today).

        If a state is completely stupid with it’s policies (just hypothetically lets say a state like, I don’t know, California) and it starts going broke (hard to imagine, I know), then people and businesses are free to leave that state. Eventually the problem will correct itself and California will be forced by reality to be sensible again.

        However, if those same stupid policies are tried at the national level, where are you going to go? We’re seeing that sad reality play out right now.

        The more you study the founding fathers and what they put in place, the more you realize their inspired brilliance.

        I should have been more specific and spelled out my opposition to federal healthcare (ie. obamacare) and federal hand-outs, but my point stands. We can either choose liberty (and the personal responsibility that comes along with it) or we can choose an all powerful nanny state. To the degree we mix those we will fail.

        • comments March 6, 2017 at 4:14 pm

          So would you pledge not to take any sort of handouts based on a socialistic model? And most older folks are living so long they are taking handouts in the form of social security that far exceed whatever they paid in over a lifetime, same thing with medicare. Maybe it is time to cut them off once and for all. Imagine all of the 65-90 year olds beggars there would be wandering the streets if we took away their socialist lifeline. The biggest welfare generation to ever exist is the baby boomer generation. Maybe you’re right, maybe it’s time to cut them loose–they are a total drain on vital resources because of the total socialist welfare system for seniors.

  • semantics? March 6, 2017 at 11:53 am

    I am not sure what to think of your article. You seem to be arguing that the state legislature is in a power grab by not agreeing with the contents of a bill on medical marijuana and retaining state authority on that issue. You then argue that the state legislature bowed to local politicians on HB 253 and that the state should have taken action. Wait, I am confused. You assert both are power grabs, one on a state level and the other on a local level via state government. You have no conclusion as to whether it should be state or local authority, perhaps you are arguing there should be no law; state or local. Your only source of purported authority is to “Libertas”, a group who are not elected but rather are funded to push their self proclaimed agenda as correct, and correct for the entire state. It seems you are simply frustrated that Libertas did not get its way on these two bills.

    I am not familiar with the first issue but am entrenched in the short term rental issue. The legislative process brought out local people to say “no” to the State legislature and to allow local government to create and enforce zoning as it works in their own municipalities. St. George was not the only community against HB253, there was also West Valley, Ogden, Cottonwood Heights and Sandy among others. I submit the process has shown that debate is alive a productive in responsible government. None the publicity in favor the original HB 253 points out that areas like St. George have zoning and ordinances in place which allow short term rentals in places such as Green Valley, Entrada, and in surrounding communities like Santa Clara; or make the money argument that homes in areas were short term rentals are allowed have higher home values because of the commercial prospect in those zones. One perception of the bill is simply that some homeowners want to make money on their home, neighbors be damned and zoning be damned and city officials, too bad.

    The issue could be framed that it is about a few private property owner who have chosen to take it upon themselves to create a business in a neighborhood where businesses are not allowed, via single family zoning. Further, their are neighbors who chose not to purchase a home and raise their children next to a revolving door of strangers by living next to a bnb, hostel, etc. HB253 as originally written eclipsed local regulation about where short term rentals are legal. Cities are having difficulty eliminating short term rental businesses in single family neighborhoods as it is, I do not want to tie their hands further and make short term rentals for owner occupied homes legal in some instances.

    We vote for state legislators to protect us as a state and our local interests. We did not vote for Libertas or any other lobby to pursue their self interest or their notion of what is good or proper. Your argument implicitly aggrandizes the Libertas view as correct and invalidates any contravening points of view as being unreasonable.

    • Bryan Hyde Bryan Hyde March 6, 2017 at 12:41 pm

      Brad, I appreciate your willingness to weigh in on this issue. Either there are upper limits to legitimate government authority–at all levels–or there are not. Clearly, I believe there are such limits.

      It’s interesting that you are repeating the claim that HB253 was a power grab on the part of the state at the expense of local authorities. The issue is, and remains, the right of a homeowner to peacefully use his or her property without fear of being placed in legal jeopardy by their city government.

      Local governments have been abusing their delegated authority in this area and the state, from which they get their legitimate authority, must now reign them in to protect private property rights. That’s a reduction in government power rather than a transfer from the local to the state level.

      The abusive regulation and code enforcement that has become common in St. George, thrives on the expectations of citizens who wrongly believe it is a proper function of government to punish their neighbors, in a blanket approach, for things which may not have caused any measurable harm to them. If it’s not your property, you do not have collective right, in the absence of harm, to dictate to others how to utilize it.

      You may disagree with the stance that Libertas and others have taken on this but contravening points of view are unreasonable in their inconsistency of recognizing essential standards of proper government.

      Too often, they mistake legal and illegal as the best and final measure of what is right wrong. Just curious, does your law firm represent the City of St. George in these matters?

      • KarenS March 6, 2017 at 4:55 pm

        One could easily infer from Mr. Hyde’s views that individual property rights are paramount and above all restrictions. Cities make zoning laws so that people who buy homes in a given area know exactly what kind of businesses might be near them so they can plan accordingly. The VRBO and other groups have muddied the waters so to speak but that is where cities come in to help homeowners know what is and is not allowed in their neighborhoods. The state has no right to tell local governments how to manage these issues. In my neighborhood we have had problems with short-term rentals, despite the promises that the homeowners are “on-site”. Banning short-term rentals by city governments who know their citizens makes for safer and better neighborhoods.

      • semantics? March 6, 2017 at 6:05 pm

        The issue comes when violations or real harm is happening and there is no framework to end the problem. The two properties across the street from me advertised for 52 occupants in one and 35 in the other. HB253 deals with owner occupied homes rather than owner absent homes. Yet the problem remains, the short term rental boon to the California owners was illegal and was a problem for my neighbors and me, and it took two years to shut down the short term rental. How then, when it is kind of legal, do you shut down a problem home. If the bill passed as written, where can a family go to live in a single family neighborhood? What is the purpose of zoning ordinances, especially where, as here, there are legal short term rental neighborhoods that have always been available? Let me be clear. I am not against short term rentals as a concept and think cities should have zones where they are proper, as in St. George. My opinion is that it is a power grab for the State to jump in a dictate that a city or local municipality can not zone areas where short term rentals are prohibited.

        You know enough about government to know my firm does not represent the city in these matters as they are police functions which are uniquely governmental. Further, I have never represented the city. I am a concerned father who is interested in my neighborhood and who purchased a home in a “single” zone and is willing to lobby to keep single family areas.

  • semantics? March 6, 2017 at 12:08 pm

    BTW – contrary to your assertion that “House Bill 253 that sought to limit the authority of cities to prohibit short-term rentals” it actually mandated that a city could not restrict short term rentals anywhere in a city, state in other words, all residential areas must be open to owner occupied short term rentals.

  • comments March 6, 2017 at 4:54 pm

    Bryan you should do a write-up about the excessive power and influence the states official religion has in influencing state policies. As far as cannabis, you can blame the medical/pharma lobby to some extent, but the official state church usually gets the last word, and they seem to prefer that people get addicted to synthetic opioids rather than even try natural plant based cannabis.

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