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State Lawmakers Eager To Work With Trump Administration On States Rights

Judy Fahys

Lawmakers in Utah’s Republican-controlled Legislature are excited to have new allies in Washington on a key issue: getting the federal government to shift power to states.

“Federalism” is the idea that states should have all powers that are not expressly granted to the executive branch in Washington. In Utah, it’s so important that a commission was created to promote it. And now, since the November election, there’s reason to believe that Washington’s on the same page.

“We’re in a different world,” says West Jordan Republican Rep. Ken Ivory, co-chair of Utah’s federalism commission. “This is an amazing opportunity, and let’s take the best advantage of that and make our best case as we go forward.”

Ivory is asking lawmakers and state agency leaders to list the powers they’d like the Trump administration to surrender, like oil and gas oversight and health care.

GOP Sen. Allen Christensen of Ogden is Senate co-chair on the federalism panel. He’d like to see states get block grants for Medicaid.

“If Utah was managing it, we could vote on it right here during the session and implement it immediately,” he says. “As it is, any change takes a year to two years to implement with the federal government.”

But not everyone is convinced that the new president will give up the power Utah wants. One who’s taking a wait-and-see approach is Rep. Brian King, a Salt Lake City and also a federalism commission member.

“I think there’s going to be a lot that’s revealed as we go forward in the coming weeks and months about where Utah ends up on this,” he says. “And I don’t know that it’s a foregone conclusion at all that Republicans in Utah are going to be happy.”

The requested wish lists may ultimately prompt Utah’s federalism commission to start meeting more than once or twice a year, as it has been.

Judy Fahys has reported in Utah for two decades, covering politics, government and business before taking on environmental issues. She loves covering Utah, where petroleum-pipeline spills, the nation’s radioactive legacy and other types of pollution provide endless fodder for stories. Previously, she worked for the Salt Lake Tribune in Utah, and reported on the nation’s capital for States News Service and the Scripps League newspaper chain. She is a longtime member of the Society of Environmental Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors. She also spent an academic year as a research fellow in the Knight Science Journalism program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In her spare time, she enjoys being out in the environment, especially hiking, gardening and watercolor painting.
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