State Legislative Session Ends With Little Gain for Culture of Life

Friday 04 March 2022

By John Hill

Director, Diocese of Salt Lake City Office of Life, Justice and Peace

The 2022 state legislative session of Utah began with great promise for building a culture of life, but ends without advancing as far as we hoped.

The most disappointing failure of this session was the unwillingness of a legislative committee, the first stop for most laws, to allow the full house to debate the repeal and replacement of the penalty of dead.

The committee hearing on the matter demonstrated much of what is wrong with capital punishment. During the hearing, the Utah Attorney General’s office dug into every gruesome detail it could about past murder cases to inflame the discussion. Then he scrolled the family members through the public comment section to relive, once again, the pain and suffering they endured for decades under prosecutors’ false promises that the death of the author is the only way to do them justice.

The family members’ desire for revenge is understandable and human. But it is exploitative for prosecutors to continue fanning this flame of revenge for years and years to maintain a barbaric and unnecessary system of punishment. It is natural to want revenge, it is not natural to kill, even when the government is the actor and even if the person killed has shown complete disregard for life.

Over the coming months, we will engage in more focused advocacy with the Attorney General’s Office to share our concerns that when prosecutors choose to seek a death sentence, they should do so with the understanding that they are thus sentencing the victim’s families to a lifetime of rage and public reminders of the horrors endured by their loved one. If Utah insists on upholding the fiction that it will take the life of the “worst of the worst,” any family that wants a death sentence should be fully briefed by the prosecutor on what that means, including the years of hardship. come and the likelihood that the sentence will never be carried out.

The start of the session also brought great hope that Utah would make a substantial investment in very affordable housing and comprehensive services to help people get out of homelessness faster and help our homeless resource centers. to function as expected. In our faith, shelter is an essential requirement for maintaining a dignified life, and lack of shelter has clear detrimental effects on the sanctity of life. The effort to increase the stock of affordable housing was a diocesan priority.

While discussions before and throughout the session showed broad statewide support for Gov. Spencer Cox’s request to spend $228 million of US federal bailout funds on housing, the final numbers will be well below this target. As of this writing, lawmakers have only committed $70 million to address our growing housing crisis.

Lawmakers have made some progress in caring for the creation, acknowledging the need to address the degradation of the Great Salt Lake and engaging in good debates around effective water conservation measures, including water metering. secondary water. At the same time, however, they also continued to favor increased consumption of oil and gas over other less harmful energy sources. We will continue to urge lawmakers to address proposals for carbon levies, water meters and free public transit at the interim committee meetings that take place monthly until the next formal legislative session in 2023. .

We are grateful that lawmakers have again rejected proposals to legalize assisted suicide in the state. Although presented as compassionate care, these proposals offer false comfort while diverting attention from much-needed reform of our health care system to better meet the mental health needs of people with terminal illnesses.

In the months ahead, the Diocese of Salt Lake City will continue its advocacy efforts with the Legislature around protecting creation and creating a culture of life for our poorest residents and with the Office of the attorney general to remedy the many flaws of the death penalty. We encourage Catholics in Utah to join us in fostering a culture of life in our state.

Jean Hill is the Legislative Liaison for the Diocese of Salt Lake City. She can be reached at [email protected]

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