On Sept. 8, United States Rep. John Curtis visited Moab’s City Council Chambers for a town hall meeting. The representative for Utah’s 3rd Congressional District, which extends from Provo all the way through San Juan County, took questions and comments regarding the Equal Rights Amendment, public lands, his relationship with President Trump and climate change.
Mayor Emily Niehaus began the meeting by asking Rep. Curtis about his recent vote on the ERA.
“The Amendment simply says that women should be treated equally, and of course they should,” Curtis said.
Curtis was one of only five Republican representatives to support the ERA in February of this year.
In 2017, Curtis was elected to the United States House of Representatives in a special election to replace Rep. Jason Chaffetz. He ran and won as a Republican, though he previously belonged to the Democratic Party.
Several Moab community members brought up public land issues, including Payments in Lieu of Taxes. 87% of Grand County is owned by the state or federal government, meaning that only 13% of land in the county is taxed to pay for police, parks, schools and other services. PILT are federal payments to local governments to compensate for property tax losses resulting from federally-owned (nontaxable) land.
“There’s a lot of conflict between local and federal government that would go away if there was appropriate compensation for federal land,” said Curtis.
“To get an increase in PILT payments, we need more of my East coast colleagues to really understand the dynamics of public lands since mostly Western states have this problem,” he said.
Curtis touched on subsidies for renewable energy resources, frustration with wildfires caused by fireworks and decreases in royalties on oil and gas leases before elaborating on President Trump.
“He’s not someone who I would say to my grandson, ‘that’s who you want to be like,’” he said in response to a community member asking for Curtis’ opinion of the President.
Curtis has said that he did not vote for President Trump in 2016. In Dec. 2019, he voted against the articles of impeachment levied against the President.
Referencing a public letter he released about separating immigrant children from their families at the border, Curtis clarified that “the policy I follow is that when the President does something that is clearly out of harmony with my district, we will stop what we are doing and make a statement.”
Curtis also identified himself as a “climate conservative,” urging Republicans to stop calling climate change a hoax and Democrats to “stop using shame, crisis and fear as motivating tools.”
“The reason I’m committed to caring about the climate is emotional. We’ve got to appeal to Republicans on the emotional side, which is this: Do you want to leave Earth better than you found it?”
He urged entrepreneurs in Southeastern Utah to develop clean technology, referencing a speech he had made at the Sutherland Institute in August.
“If you’re a capitalist, you should care about being green because there’s money to be made,” Curtis said. “That’s the conversation I’d like to have that could get everybody on board.”
Curtis ended the hour-long town hall by addressing COVID-19 concerns.
“I frequently get asked, ‘when does this end.’ The answer for me is when we get a vaccine, and I’m optimistic about that. I believe there is an end in sight.”
During his time in the House, Curtis has proposed several pieces of legislation, such as the Streamlining Permitting Efficiencies in Energy Development Act, the Public-Private Partnership Advisory Council to End Human Trafficking Act and the Natural Resources Management Act.
In 2017, Curtis introduced a bill with other Utah representatives supporting the Trump Administration’s reduction of the Bears Ears National Monument.
Curtis will face Devin Thorpe (Democrat), Daniel Clyde Cummings (Constitution Party) and Thomas McNeill (United Utah Party) for re-election this November.