Opinion: Utah Capitol resolutions are mostly paper tigers


By Simon Liu
Capitol West News

The 61st Utah Legislature has finally earned its adjournment after passing over 500 bills this year. From its wood burning ban and cockfighting bills to its landmark anti-discrimination bill, it will be impossible to predict how many countless lives will be impacted by what the state legislators have achieved in these short couple of months. One thing is for certain, though: resolutions won’t change a thing.

A vintage postcard of the Utah Capitol and Mormon Battalion monument.
A vintage postcard of the Utah Capitol and Mormon Battalion monument.

Resolutions are, for the most part, fairly similar to bills. They are proposed, voted on and, sometimes, signed by the governor. When they are passed, they are printed in the annual session laws along with all of the bills passed during the session.

At the same time, they’re not really binding, at least not the same way that HB 79 is, which makes not wearing a seat belt a primary offense. If someone fails to comply with the law, they are subject to the consequences of that law. If resolutions are not followed, however, no one really cares. Unless it pertains to the rules and procedures of the legislative body, resolutions do not carry the backing of an actual law. Resolutions are usually used to state the official position of the legislative body.

The legislature passed 48 resolutions this year. Some of them were dedicated to establishing a day or month to an issue or to recognizing a historical event. Many try to encourage action from others, such as local Utahns, state agencies, the U.S. Congress or President Obama, or, in the case of SJR 14, are for self-encouragement.

That’s right. SJR 14 is a resolution from the Utah Senate that “urges the Utah Legislature and Utah’s federally elected delegation to recognize the valuable contributions by United States service members and veterans.”

Then, the Utah Senate, to avoid being a hypocrite, passed SCR 6, which “expresses strong support for all military personnel who served and sacrificed in the Vietnam War.” This resolution does not appropriate money for a fund, a government program, or even a memorial to materialize its support in any way. Rather, the resolution exists solely as a document, solidifying for all eternity that the 61st Utah Legislature does indeed strongly support veterans of the Vietnam War, a fact that would have otherwise been lost.

HJR 18, which was not passed, “asserts that children are their parents’ responsibility” and “calls upon state and local leaders to uphold the rights of parents and families to restore America’s traditional purpose for education so that children will be empowered to follow their individual dreams and fulfill their life missions.”

SCR 009 “expresses support for ongoing sport and Olympic legacy activities” and “encourages Utah to remain ‘ready, willing, and able’ as the opportunity arises to continue to host major sporting events of all kinds and be prepared should an opportunity arise to hose a future Olympic Games.”

HCR 3 is a resolution that was passed this year that “recognizes the 100th anniversary of the settlement of Clarion, Utah” sponsored by, as you may have guessed, Rep. Jon Cox, R-Ephriam. The bill could only have been more irrelevant if 2015 wasn’t the 100th anniversary, and it isn’t. The 100th anniversary was in 2011.

HCR 11, on the other hand, was only off by two years. The resolution “recognizes the 50th anniversary of the creation of the Office of the State Fire Marshal.” That anniversary was in 2013.

At least we got the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta right.

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