Lawmakers in the Utah Senate advanced a bill that would remove a requirement for political diversity from some state boards and commissions.
Over the last several weeks, lawmakers have debated HB11 in committees and passed it in the House. The current bill would drop requirements that say a certain number of Democrats and Republicans must be appointed to several state boards and commissions. On Wednesday those arguments continued in the Senate.
Democratic Salt Lake Senator Jim Dabakis told his colleagues that the bill would silence minority voices on local issues.
"It sends a very bad message to our state and to the acceptance to a lot of people who don’t feel sometimes as if this body or this legislature is representative of their point of view," Debakis said.
Republican Senator Jacob Anderegg argued that the bigger problem with the current political diversity requirement is that boards and commissions wind up not being filled because of a lack of applicants.
"It’s not about taking away the diversity of these commissions. It’s about making sure that we have them properly staffed," Anderegg said.
Senator Brian Shiozawa was one of two Republican who voted against the bill. He says certain checks and balances are at stake.
"These are appointed boards, not elected. In other words, if I were Governor and I wanted to load up a board to make sure I got some agenda done, potentially you could do it. And so there is that danger and I see that," Shiozawa said.
Senators advanced HB11 on a vote 21 to 7 with Shiozawa and Ann Millner joining Democratic opposition. They will vote on the measure one more time before sending it to the Governor.