SALT LAKE CITY — A Utah lawmaker's attempt to rename a southern Utah highway after President Donald Trump ran out of gas Wednesday amid sometimes vulgar personal attacks.
Rep. Mike Noel, R-Kanab, said he didn't want to "lean on" his Republican peers to vote on the bill and put them in a tough position with their constituents.
"I just don't feel good about that," he said.
The House, at Noel's request, voted to send HB481 back to the Rules Committee late Wednesday, that after a House panel endorsed the bill Monday.
"I think that might be a comfortable position for many of us," said House Majority Whip Francis Gibson, R-Mapleton.
Noel proposed renaming hundreds of miles of roads the "Donald J. Trump Utah National Parks Highway," covering sections of U.S. 89, I-15, U.S. 191, and other roads that trace the edges of some of Utah's national parks. He planned to scale back the length of the route to make it more palatable before deciding to let the bill die.
Noel considered the designation as a thank you Trump for shrinking Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. He called the president a "champion" for public lands and national parks, and said he deserves credit for what he's done for Utah.
"There are certainly bills that are extremely controversial," Noel said. "This one has controversy, not because we don't appreciate what the president did in terms of the monuments, but it's all the issues that have come up around him and swirling around him."
This one has controversy, not because we don't appreciate what the president did in terms of the monuments, but it's all the issues that have come up around him and swirling around him.
–Rep. Mike Noel, R-Kanab
Gov. Gary Herbert called the proposal premature, and said highways in Utah are typically named after someone who is longer in public office or has died. Noel noted the governor's lack of support but said he didn't blame Herbert for his decision to drop the bill.
Noel received nasty voicemails and other messages calling him and Trump crude names, he said. He said he didn't want to subject his family to those types of comments in pursuing the bill.
The veteran lawmaker also said he didn't want to detract from the good work lawmakers have done this legislative session.
"I don't want this to be the headline. I want it to be all the good stuff that happened this session," Noel said.
Democrats condemned the idea from the beginning, calling it ill-considered.
Rep. Suasn Duckworth, D-Magna, had an amended bill ready to rename the road the "Jon M. Huntsman Sr. Utah National Parks Highway" in honor of the late industrialist/philanthropist.
Sen. Jim Dabakis, D-Salt Lake City, said he would propose adding the "Stormy Daniels rampway" along the frontage road if the bill made it to the Senate.