Bill stripping bipartisan membership on boards and commissions passes Utah House

SALT LAKE CITY — A bill that removes bipartisan requirements from some boards and commissions in the state has passed the Utah House of Representatives.

House Bill 11, sponsored by Rep. Norm Thurston, R-Provo, passed on a 51-21 vote after a substitution to the bill to carve out some high-profile boards and commissions.

“If we get rid of the partisan requirement, it will allow us to be more focused on the true types of diversity we want: geography, gender, minority, etc., which are much more desirable,” Rep. Thurston argued to his House colleagues.

But Rep. Jeremy Peterson, R-Ogden, argued that the bill could do more harm than good by “neutering” diverse backgrounds and ideas.

“I know that for our minority party, this bill looks like a free trip to the veterinarian,” he quipped.

Rep. Peterson removed the air and water quality boards, the Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control commission, the Public Service Commission and the Commission on Service and Volunteerism. His substitution passed on a voice vote from the House.

The remaining 24 boards on the list cannot ask people about partisanship or party affiliation, he said. House Democrats objected to the overall bill.

“There might only be a few of us over here in this corner, but the fact that we’re here and there’s two of us on each of the committees makes for better legislation, makes for better discussion, makes for more complete airing of issues,” said House Minority Whip Joel Briscoe, D-Salt Lake City.

Rep. Thurston acknowledged getting a lot of emails, texts, phone calls and comments about HB11, but urged its passage. After agreeing to the substitute, the bill passed largely along party lines.