The Chronicle’s View: Legislators need to address issues and stop wasting time

During the last legislative session, a group of U students from a service-learning class helped redefine student political involvement.

As part of the class, the students attended approximately 25 percent of the legislative session, taking detailed notes on how and where state legislators spent their time.

The students tracked bills, attended meetings, listened to debate and kept a nearly minute by-minute log of what went on in the Capitol.

The students participated in the service-learning program to better understand the legislative process, to see how marginalized minority groups’ lack of political clout affects the attention bills pertaining to their lives receive and what how legislative action affects diversity in Utah.

What the students discovered was less than positive.

According to the report and appendix compiled by the students, only about 20 percent of legislative time was dedicated to issues of diversity. Approximately 25 percent of the observed time was dead time-time when legislators could be found in recess, sauntering or taking breaks of personal privilege.

Although these discoveries are not necessarily a surprise, they are a concern.

First, 20 percent of legislative time is not nearly enough to adequately address the ever growing issues concerning minority groups in Utah.

With a booming ethnic population and an insurgence in concern for the rights of minority individuals, more time must be dedicated to issues of diversity if legislators have any real intention to make a positive impact on the lives of these underrepresented groups.

Legislators also need to make themselves more savvy about minority concerns. Legislators not familiar with the issues and dilemmas facing minority groups cannot be expected to make reasonable decisions on their behalf.

However, the insufficient amount of time dedicated to diversity issues in the last session is better than none.

In the upcoming session, legislators would be well-advised to make more time for these issues, as they are of unquestionable importance to the overall good of Salt Lake City.

Also, 25 percent of observed time being dead time is unacceptable.

Although legislators are human and deserve breaks and recesses from their stressful jobs, such a large portion of time being wasted is unnecessary.

Legislators and their associates ought to be better prepared to discuss and decide on bills. Familiarity with issues and punctual attendance to meetings are implicit parts of being a legislator and should not be neglected or forgotten.