Utah Sen. Jim Dabakis and House Speaker Greg Hughes discussed civility in an increasingly polarized nation and a myriad of other topics in the Weber State University Shepherd Union on Oct. 9.
The moderator of the forum, Leah Murray, first asked each of the politicians if they felt the country is polarized and if they believe Utah was as well.
Dabakis said despite possible disagreements with Hughes over the course of the forum, they respect each other at the end of the day.
“I think if there is a message of civility, it is ‘you don’t have to agree with people,’” he said.
The discussion included redistricting in Ogden and Medicaid expansion. Dabakis believes Utah is especially polarized, and he pointed out how Ogden suffers from its districting.
“Ogden is an inner city America. It has minorities, and there is no one that is exclusively tasked to deal with those inner city problems,” Debakis said. “There should be a giant caucus for urbanites in our legislature, but it’s not there.”
Hughes said Utah and Washington D.C. are worlds apart in how they handle legislature.
“I think that inaction in D.C. has become heroic,” Hughes said. “I think that protecting the status quo and doing zero with the time that you have is as bad as a bad bill.”
Hughes also pointed out differences even among the more conservative districts in Utah and said compromise exists even among one’s own party.
After the discussion, Murray listed several issues in Utah and asked if the two could agree on a solution. One of these problems was redistricting.
Hughes argued he would be hesitant to leave the redistricting process to independent commissions because they may have preferences that are not the representative’s own. Dabakis agrees independent commissions may not be partisan, but he believes it’s still better than letting legislatures draw their own districts.
Another issue Murray brought up was Medicaid expansion and if the politicians believed it would benefit or hurt the state.
Dabakis said that Utah, since 2014, has been paying to the federal government taxes for its share of Medicaid expansion. They have turned down $6 million for Medicaid without offering nothing to replace it for those they represent.
Hughes, however, argued he would have approved of Medicaid expansion if the cost the state would pay for Medicaid expansion would stay the same. It would be dangerous for Utah’s budget to pay for an ever-increasing price for their expansion of Medicaid.
“That would interrupt areas in our budget you don’t want interrupted,” he said.
Sen. Dabakis disagreed, saying money isn’t a problem in Utah.
“We don’t have a jobs problem,” he said. “We have an education problem, a healthcare problem.”
One issue the two politicians agreed on was the concern they might have for politicians who make their decisions based on what may or may not be expected of them from anyone other than who they represent.
“The state will not be well served if you vote out of fear of not being re-elected,” Hughes said. “Voting out of fear is becoming more of an issue in local state politic.”
Sen. Dabakis agreed with him. “You have to be true to yourself, or what is the point of being a public servant?”