Rule By Monarchy: How the House Speaker Manipulates Your
article was prepared by Accountability Utah team member,
Update on 1/26/2013:
Due to special request, and because this article is as
relevant today as when it was published, we have updated the
website hyperlinks to the House Rules and the names of
current standing committees.
Summary: This presentation has been in the
formulation process for several years. The death of parental
rights reform bills and the pompous passage of SB 175 S2
(property confiscation) — all despite major citizen outrage —
has propelled its debut. I admit personal bias against
certain officials, but this work is not aimed at any one
individual. It is a case study of the dangers of
centralizing power into the hands of one individual. It is hoped that the
reader will realize his solemn right to harshly scrutinize not
only his leaders, but the process that stands to protect or
deny just and equal representation to all citizens.
King George III
"The nearer any government approaches to a
republic the less business there is for a king." —
Thomas Paine, Common Sense
1. Speaker Stephens Claims Innocence
2. How Could the House Speaker Control the
3. The Role of the Coveted Rules Committee
in Controlling Legislation
4. Intimidation & Blackmail of Regular
5. The "Table" Trick & Conference
6. When Power is Abused
7. The Bruised Feelings of a "Benevolent"
8. The Buck Stops with the House Speaker
1. Speaker Stephens Claims Innocence
House Speaker Marty Stephens stated in a meeting with
citizen activists on March 1, 2004 in his office:
"This is not a monarchy."
Speaker Stephens was arguing that he was powerless to keep
Senate Bill 175 S2 from coming to the house floor for a vote.
This sounds reasonable, does it not?
After all, the American Heritage College Dictionary (third
edition), defines "monarch" as follows:
1. One who reigns over a state or territory,
usually for life and by hereditary right, esp.: a. A
sole and absolute ruler. b. A sovereign, such as a
king or an empress, often with constitutionally limited
authority. 2. One that commands of rules. 3.
One that surpasses others in power or preeminence.
And, after all, every member of the House of
Representatives is elected by the people and they should all
have an equal voice, right? No one person or persons should
have inordinate power or influence, right?
But what if you were to learn that the Speaker of the House
position is currently akin to that of a monarch? What if the
rules by which the House conducts its business grants the
House Speaker enormous control over the ebb and flow of
legislation? And how would you react if you learned that
Speaker Marty Stephens uses his near-absolute powers on a
regular basis to destroy your freedoms and manipulate and
control your representative?
2. How Could the House Speaker Control the Entire Body?
Most people erroneously believe
that House committee members are selected by the entire House
of Representatives. Committee members, however, are actually
accountable to the House Speaker for their positions. Under
1-3-102. Duties of the Speaker:
"The general duties of the
Speaker are to:... appoint the members of committees."
What committees does this
include? All of the standing committees
that operate during the
legislative session: Business and Labor; Economic
Development and Workforce Services; Education; Government
Operations; Health and Human Services; House Rules;
Judiciary; Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice; Natural
Resources, Agriculture, and Environment; Political
Subdivisions; Public Utilities and Technology; Revenue and
Taxation; and Transportation. (See
Rules 3-2-201. Standing Committees.)
Do you understand the
significance of this power of appointment? The House
Speaker hand-picks every member of every committee, from the
chairman on down. These committees control the flow
of legislation through the entire House of Representatives.
If you dislike the actions of a particular committee, look no
further than to the person who appointed every member of that
These powers are not unknown to
Speaker Stephens, who has publicly admitted to citizens in
Weber County that he has the power to stop legislation, and
who, as we shall see, deftly uses them to suit his personal
Role of the Coveted Rules Committee in Controlling Legislation
The Rules Committee is
particularly pivotal to the House Speaker's control of the
flow of legislation. This committee prioritizes bills, holds
bills, moves bills forward to committee, or moves bills on to
the floor (See HR-24.01). This committee controls the pace at
which a bill can move through the House.
To become a member of this
committee is to obtain a coveted position of power over the
destiny of others. But Rules Committee members are not
ignorant of the fact that they are solely beholden to the
Speaker for the privilege of their membership. If they enrage
the Speaker, they also know that they may lose their special
dispensation and status.
If a bill is permitted to
go to a standing committee, it faces the second round of
Speaker-appointees, who may amend, substitute, hold, table, or
return the bill to the House Rules Committee (See HR-24.12)
But the Rules Committee
authority does not end there. If the bill survives the
standing committee, it is again "prioritized" by the Rules
Committee for any floor action (See HR-24.02).
Intimidation & Blackmail of Regular Representatives
If the Rules Committee
stalls a bill, a regular Representative may attempt to pull
the bill out of the Rules Committee and on to the floor.
However, unless the action is condoned as part of some
manipulation by the Speaker (i.e. the Speaker publicly
pretends to oppose a bill, but secretly tells Representatives
to go ahead and bring it to the floor for passage), the
Representative stands in jeopardy of losing all future
appointments to powerful committees.
And that is not all a
regular Representative stands to lose. The Speaker is
typically a principal of the Utah House Republican Elections
Committee (other members of the Republican House leadership
team are typically principals as well). This committee doles out
thousands of dollars each election cycle. Interestingly, the
information on this committee is scant and access to it
appears to be restricted.
See what is available on the state site.
It is unknown at this time
whether this committee is violating
Utah statute 20A-11-601.
In addition, the Speaker
typically carries enormous weight with the Utah Republican
Party, which also doles out tens of thousands of dollars (and
in kind support such as detailed voter lists) each cycle to
select Republican candidates. If a regular Republican
Representative attempts to buck the system, financial and
other support may be withheld from his re-election campaign.
"Table" Trick & Conference Committees
The "table" mechanism was
designed to get around the few Representatives who might have
the courage to buck the system. If a committee "tables" a
bill and returns it to the Rules Committee, it takes a 2/3
majority to bring the bill out of Rules and on to the floor
It is extremely difficult
to obtain a 2/3 majority on any controversial bill. And, once
again, it is the House Speaker who appoints those who do the
"tabling". As a result, your Representative cannot represent
you equally before the entire body of the House of
Representatives. If he does not curry sufficient favor from
the House Speaker and his lackeys, his bill may never see the
light of day.
In disagreements between the
house and senate over a particular bill, the House Speaker
(and/or Senate President) is empowered to appoint a
three-member Conference Committee. This committee is
supposedly tasked to attempt to resolve any differences, but
often degenerates into yet another tool for the Speaker to
torpedo bills. Naturally, the bill sponsors or
proponents are not required to be included, and these
committees have great power and influence over the ultimate
fate of the bill. (See Joint Rules 7.02, 7.04, and 7.05)
Power is Abused
During the 2002 session,
members of the violently persecuted Falun Gong faith
desperately implored our state legislature to pass
House Joint Resolution 6, "Resolution Urging an End to the
Persecution of Falun Gong Practitioners," by former Rep. Matt
In China, men, women, and
children of the peaceful Falun Gong religion are imprisoned,
drugged, barbarically tortured, raped, brainwashed, and
murdered by the Chinese government. Due to the very
disturbing nature of the heinous crimes perpetrated against
these human beings, I will not post their eyewitness accounts
and pictures. However, the reader may visit the
According to Throckmorton,
Marty Stephens told him he would not allow his resolution to
see the light of day. The resolution died in the House Rules
Committee. The thousands of brutalized Falun Gong
practitioners were silenced without so much as a floor
debate. An interesting message from the host of the Olympics
held that same year.
With regard to SB 175 S2,
the bill passed out of the senate on February 19, 2004.
Within TWO BUSINESS DAYS, February 23, Speaker Stephens
had assigned it
— via the Rules
— to the House
Judiciary Committee. It was heard ONE DAY later, on
February 24, the last day this committee was held this
session. If Speaker Stephens was opposed to this bill, why
did he fast track it in such a hurry?
SB 175 S2 or read a
synopsis of the bill and a
history of the battles surrounding it.
I attended the House Judiciary
Committee meeting and observed that the committee chair moved
that all other items on the agenda be heard before SB 175 S2.
The committee meeting and eventual debate on SB 175 S2 lasted
2.5 hours. While proponents, comprised of paid lobbyists and
bureaucrats, spoke on the bill for over an hour, opponents of
SB 175 S2, all unpaid citizens, received a total of
approximately 10 minutes (5 speakers for 2 minutes per
Citizens at the committee
meeting were informed by Representative Morgan Philpot that
Speaker Stephens and leadership were going to stop SB 175 from
coming out of the House Judiciary Committee. In a transparent
display of political theatrics, Stephens arrived at the
committee hearing shortly before the vote. He popped his
head in the room and slowly surveyed the landscape. He
then hovered outside the room for some time.
I noticed that committee member
Greg Curtis, who is also the House Majority Leader (and who
takes his orders from Speaker Stephens), was conspicuously
absent for the debate. But just before action was taken on SB
175 S2, Curtis entered the room and proceeded around the
table; whispering things to different committee members.
Curtis then joined in voting to recommend that the bill be
passed out of committee and sent to the floor.
While less experienced observers
might be fooled by Speaker Stephens' theatrics, those who have
been on the receiving end of similar shenanigans understand
his gamesmanship. Stephens is no fool. He is meticulous
at counting votes and securing the support of his leadership
team before significant battles. He is also astute
enough to understand the political price tag that hung in the
balance, and artful enough to attempt to minimize his
The point is this: If
Stephens had really been determined to obstruct the passage of
SB 175 S2, the bill would not have made it to the House
Judiciary Committee at all. Ultimately, SB 175 S2 would
only have made it to the House floor if a majority of the
house had voted to bring it out of the Rules Committee.
Without a public committee hearing, the bill would have been
more vulnerable to attack by confiscation opponents. And
without the fast-tracking that amounted to an unspoken
endorsement by Stephens and his leadership team, the bill's
passage would have been very questionable.
Bruised Feelings of a "Benevolent" Monarch
Speaker Stephens has repeatedly
been asked by citizens, including myself, to embrace ethics
reforms that include the limitation of the powers of the House
Speaker. He has consistently refused.
Citizens have caught on to
Speaker Stephens' game and are now pressuring him to exert the
same powers he so artfully utilizes to kill so many good bills
and to likewise kill Senate Bill 175 S2. Speaker Stephens has
expressed outrage at this pressure. He appears to feel that
such accountability is uncivil and unwarranted.
Buck Stops with the House Speaker (Marty Stephens)
Like King George of old, Speaker
Stephens does not want you to realize that he holds all the
cards. Rather than rule openly, he uses those he appoints to
powerful committees to secretly do his bidding. If SB 175 S2
passes and you lose your rights to due process, you need to
remember something: The responsibility absolutely rests upon
Marty Stephens, the House Monarch.
The answer to restoring true and
equal representation to the House of Representatives is to
pull down the power of the House Speaker and disperse them
amongst the entire body. Let committee members be elected,
let bills always come to the floor by a simple majority, and
allow bills to be considered in the order in which they are
received (no more fast tracking or forever holding bills in
the Rules Committee). End the back door schemes, the deceit,
and the manipulation so that voters can know exactly where
their officials stand.
It is truly the greatest mercy
to find and elect lawmakers who will demand these and other
crucial ethics reforms. This much power should not be wished
upon our worst enemies, nor entrusted to the greatest of
Note: These are my personal opinions. It should be noted that
the Senate President holds that body hostage with almost
identical powers. See
Senate Rules 1-3-102. Duties of the president.
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