CEDAR CITY — With his first two-year term now under his belt, Rep. Rex Shipp is seeking reelection in House District 72.
“That first year, it’s just a steep learning curve,” the Republican state legislator told Cedar City News. “You’re trying to figure out what to do and how.”
Nevertheless, Shipp said he’s ready and willing to continue to serve his constituents if reelected.
Shipp is being challenged in the race by Democrat Lonnie White, along with Piper Manesse of the United Utah Party, both of whom are political newcomers.
A native of rural Utah, Shipp grew up on his family’s cattle ranch in Joseph, graduating from South Sevier High School in 1974. After serving a two-year Latter-day Saint mission in Italy, he moved to Cedar City to attend college at what was then Southern Utah State College. It was there he met his wife, Stacia. They’ve lived in Cedar City for the past 40 years, raising a family of seven children. Shipp said he is an avid supporter of SUU sports and also has been active in the Rotary Club and other service organizations.
Following are Shipp’s responses to Cedar City News’ questions for each of the House District 72 candidates.
Why do you think you’re the right candidate for the job and what issues are most pressing to you?
Shipp cites his background of running his own successful business for the past 33 years.
“I am a financial advisor and I have also owned some other retail business in the fuel and fast food industry,” he said.
“I want to be sure we have a balance of power between the legislative and executive branches of government,” he said. “I believe this pandemic brought out some concerns there that need to be addressed. I am also concerned about the management of our public lands so that we can protect our watersheds from fire and have multiple use of these lands.”
If reelected, Shipp said he plans to continue focusing on several key issues, including education funding and management of public lands.
He said Utah often gets “thrown under the bus” in discussions regarding its per-pupil spending, where it has traditionally been ranked dead last.
“But we’re probably in the top two or three, as far as what percentage of our overall budget goes to public education,” he said. “We are really pro education, we just have big families here.”
Regarding public lands, Shipp noted that more than two-thirds of Utah’s land is owned by the federal government. He said PILT (payment in lieu of taxes) funds on those lands are “peanuts, compared to what we should get.”
“It really should be based on the actual value of those lands,” he said.
Shipp also mentioned one future piece of legislation that he’s planning to introduce: a bill to offer tax credits to help lower-income people who can’t afford the high cost of adoption.
“Three of my seven kids are adopted,” he said. “What this is designed to do is, it seems like the cost for an adoption through private agencies is so high, that only very well-off, wealthy people can afford the cost. I’s like $50,000 for an adoption, significantly higher than having your own kids.”
In light of recent events, do you see a need for police reform, and if so, what would that look like in terms of state law?
“Police brutality is certainly a concern in our state as well as in others,” Shipp said. “However, I back the blue from the standpoint that the vast majority of our police officers do a tremendous job.”
Shipp said all too often, so-called “bad cops” are able to find work at one law enforcement agency after losing their job.
“Some of these places will look at this guy and say, ‘Well, he’s fully trained. He learned his lesson from what happened there, maybe he’ll be better now.’ And so they get hired somewhere else.”
To avoid such situations, Shipp said a more stringent vetting process is needed.
“I do think we need to make sure that the person is not put in a position to be able to cause problems in other jurisdictions,” he said.
As far as legislation goes, Shipp says he believes most of the issues can be addressed from within the police departments themselves, with input from local citizens and other stakeholders.
“I think a lot of it comes down to maybe being more vigilant on the training of the officers,” he said.
With guns more frequently appearing at recent protests, what are your thoughts on proposed red flag laws and ensuring firearms don’t fall into the wrong hands?
Shipp said he fully supports the Second Amendment.
“We have the right to bear arms, and that should never be taken away,” he said, adding, that its important to keep guns out of the hands of criminals.
“But at the same time, if somebody committed crimes to the point where it’s a felony, they’re not authorized to have a firearm anymore,” he said.
“That’s the key is to make sure they don’t get in the wrong hands,” he said, citing incidents that have happened with mentally unstable subjects.
“I believe if there’s somebody like that, that whoever is the guardian or parent, they need to be make sure that firearms are not accessible for somebody that’s not stable”
Shipp said he’s also exploring the idea of possibly having a firearm safety class to be taught in public schools.
“We’re still exploring how to go about doing that and doing research on it,” he said.
When it comes to the COVID-19 pandemic, what state-level initiatives would you support in terms of reopening the economy, helping struggling families and any guidelines or restrictions intended to help slow the spread of the virus?
“I believe that government closest to the people is best,” he said. ” If the local elected officials and the public health department feels that it is safe to move to less restrictions, I believe that it should be supported by the state.”
Shipp also cautioned against the overuse of emergency declarations.
“The emergency powers need to be revisited,” he said. “The declaration of emergency is really more designed for fires, floods, earthquakes, something that’s more immediate and isn’t long-lasting, like a pandemic.”
“We can deal with this pandemic without being in a state of emergency,” he added.
Shipp also emphasized the importance of personal responsibility.
“Individual accountability is important in this case to make sure we are keeping the most vulnerable safe,” he said.
Check out all of St. George News’ coverage of the 2020 election by clicking here.
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