ST. GEORGE – Last night, members of Utah’s House of Representatives met at St. George City Hall to answer questions from constituents. The event, billed as “Conversations with the Utah House,” was one of a series of town hall-style meetings organized by Utah House Speaker Becky Lockhart.
Lockhart, who held a similar event in Cedar City on Wednesday, spent two hours answering questions from the audience, along with Utah Reps. Don Ipson, Jon Stanard, and Lowry Snow.
National parks and monuments
The meeting opened with a much anticipated announcement from Lockhart, who informed the gathered audience that she had just spoken to Gov. Gary Herbert, who had confirmed that the state had struck a deal with the U.S. Department of Interior to open select national parks and monuments in Utah.
“Within the hour, my understanding is that we will be transferring $1.6 million to the federal government to reopen eight national parks and recreational areas,” Lockhart said. Arches, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, and Zion National Parks will reopen on Saturday morning, she said, along with Natural Bridges and Cedar Breaks National Monuments, and the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.
The $1.6 million will be enough to keep the parks open for 10 days, after which the state will have to find and approve additional funds to keep the parks open, Lockhart said. There is no guarantee that Utah will be able to recoup any of the expenses from the federal government, she said.
She went on to explain that the parks will continue to be managed by the National Park Service, and that Utah will not directly pay park employees, but rather will be paying the $1.6 million to the U.S. Department of Interior to replace funding lost as a result of the ongoing federal government shutdown.
“It really shows that Utah is the adult in the room,” Lockhart said.
Common Core Standards in education
The representatives also addressed concerns that some audience members held about the adoption of the Common Core State Standards Initiative by the State Board of Education.
“I have concerns about Common Core,” Lockhart said. The adoption of the standards was made by the state school board, she said, rather than the state legislature. Lockhart said that she would like to find a way to make the state school board, whose members are appointed rather than elected, more accountable to the public.
Ipson, however, said that he feared that misunderstandings about what the Common Core Standards are is confusing the issue.
“We think the federal government is pushing some agenda with it. I think there is a little misunderstanding with that,” said Ipson. “The state school board sets what the curriculum is, it’s not controlled by the federal government.”
Investigation re Attorney General John Swallow
The representatives also discussed allegations of misconduct by Attorney General John Swallow.
Lockhart, who formed a committee in the Utah House to investigate allegations about Swallow, assured the crowd that the decision by the U.S. Department of Justice to not file formal charges against Swallow doesn’t mean that the federal government has closed its investigation into the matter.
“The FBI is still helping us,” Lockhart said. “It is erroneous to think that the feds have packed up and gone home.”
Lockhart said that she was committed to discovering the truth surrounding the allegations.
“We are after the facts,” she said, “and we will find them. It will take us a little bit of time and we ask for your patience. There will be a report and we will act on whatever the report presents to us.”
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- Shutdown: National parks, monuments slated to open by weekend
- Shutdown: Feds to allow states to open parks
- Shutdown: Southern Utah continues assessing options for national parks
- Snow resigns as chair of AG Investigation, replaced by Dunnigan; no Southern Utah representation
- Governor calls Special Legislative Session to equip investigation of AG Swallow
- Special House Committee opens investigation on Attorney General John Swallow
- Lee, other senators seek to stop ‘federal interference’ in state-level education
- Op-Ed: School districts and FERPA are eroding parental authority
- Lawsuit claims UT School Board selection process biased, unconstitutional; movement for legislative change
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