To: Rep. King, Brian S.,
Subject: a concern
Dear Mr. Speaker‹
I wrote you and the other members of the House Republican leadership team last month about the actions of the Gang of Six in putting together what resulted in the Utah Access+ proposal. I asked you to commit to include Democrats in any future discussion about Medicaid expansion. I also asked that you abandon any requirement that budget bills and other significant legislation obtain 38 House GOP votes before it may be considered by the entire House and that you not weigh Republican votes for or against proposed legislation in a way that is greater or different from Democratic votes. I received no response to that email.
At the House Republican caucus meeting at the November interim meetings, there was apparently a discussion about whether the Republican caucus would take a position on asking for a delay or postponement of the process for taking in Syrian refugees. The Tribune reported on this issue in an article you can find at http://www.sltrib.com/news/3198672-155/most-utah-gop-house-members-push. The article states that the caucus vote on taking a formal position asking Governor Herbert to change his stance, ³received 32 votes from the 63-member caucus‹short of the 38 votes needed to take a caucus position.²
The idea expressed in the article that a ³caucus position² for the House Republicans is 38 votes, a majority of all the members of the House, rather than 32 votes, a majority of the 63 members of the House Republican caucus, is a continuation of the position you took during the discussions in September and October concerning Medicaid expansion. At the time, you justified the requirement to get 38 House GOP votes for Medicaid expansion by saying that the House Republicans needed to ³own² that issue. You also were reported as saying that for all bills of significance and all budget bills in past legislatures it has been necessary to get 38 votes from the Republican caucus before a bill could pass.
The last statement is not accurate. There are many significant bills in the past few sessions that passed the House only because Democrats joined with Republicans to ensure that the necessary 38 votes in favor of the bill were cast. A partial list includes, in the 2015 session, HB 362 and SB 97; in the 2014 session, SB 54 and HB 356; in the 2013 session, HB 278; and in the 2012 session, HB 278, SB 98, and SB 62. Your own bill, HJR 13, from the 2012 session also falls into this category.
The idea that 38 votes in the House GOP caucus rather than 32 is necessary to reach a ³caucus position² can¹t be fairly described as anything other than anti-democratic. Under that scenario, in a caucus of 63 members where 36 vote in favor of a position and 27 oppose it, the minority position carries the day. It makes no sense to say that more than 31 but less than 38 votes does not constitute a GOP caucus position. Unless, that is, the House Republican caucus wants to control the chamber without any need for input from the minority party. This new approach of requiring 38 GOP votes for all budget bills and significant non-budget proposed legislation ignores the will of Democrats on all but small bore issues. But it will also often result in ignoring the desires of most of members of the majority caucus just as occurred in the House GOP meeting on the November interim day.
As long as this is your position as the Speaker of the House, you can understand why I say you are abusing your power. The position that House Republicans have to provide 38 votes for all budget and other significant legislation is something the leader of a majority caucus might be in favor of. But I would also expect that the person in the position of being the Speaker of the House would recognize it¹s a bad idea because it disenfranchises all the minority party members. And the Speaker leads the entire House, not just the majority party House members.
You may feel my use of the words ³abuse of power² is uncalled for or uncivil. But what would you call it if you were in my shoes? I¹m not tiptoeing around what¹s happening here. From a procedural perspective, cutting the Democrats out of the process is a nuclear bomb. There is nothing worse you can do legislatively or politically to the members of the minority party.
Here¹s what is most important. The citizens of Utah will be better off with two parties in the House that work together well and with leaders from both sides of the aisle who cooperate and have respect for one another. Our ability to put together good legislation will increase if we do that. And that is really what we ought to be about as Representatives in leadership roles. I¹m willing to do that. I hope you are too. As the Speaker of the House, you represent all 75 of us, not just 63 of us. Please represent me to the same degree you do any particular member of the Republican caucus. Please represent the Democrats in the House as completely and as fairly as you do the Republicans. Please schedule time for you and me to meet together and discuss things we both need to accomplish in our leadership roles. I¹ll work to set aside the personal differences and unpleasantness in the past few weeks. But I can¹t do that unless you include the House Democrats in the process to the same degree you include the House Republicans.
Please let me know your thoughts when you¹ve had a chance to review this email.