More Dogs on Main
March 11, 2011
I’ve tried to ignore the legislature the last couple of weeks because it is just too painful. But as the session nears an end, things that started out as bad ideas with no future sprout legs, and before you know it we have laws. So much time gets taken up on proposals that seem to have very little to do with filling the potholes on the freeways that you wonder how the state is able to keep the lights on. Meanwhile, larger priorities get ignored.
The school system is breaking the state as the number of kids swells. Rather than deal with structural funding problems, they’ve decided everything can be solved by selling advertising on the sides of the buses. This one would allow school districts to sell advertising space on the sides of the school buses. The bill has some limits. The signs must be on the sides of the buses.
Of course we couldn’t go into the ad business without regulating content. The ads must be "age appropriate" and cannot advertise liquor, illegal drugs, tobacco, condoms, or Democratic candidates. The bill’s sponsors thought that each ad would generate around $1,000 a year for each bus. That won’t buy a set of tires for a school bus. But it speaks volumes about how our legislature views education.
In other school news, the legislature is going to require that school social studies classes teach that the United States is a "compound constitutional republic" and not a democracy. (All this time I thought it was a plutocracy.) That’s a distinction that has some members of the legislature losing sleep, though I think most would be hard pressed to describe the difference. The bill would also require teaching about other forms of government, such as monarchy and oligarchy which is pretty much what we have here in Utah.
Noxious as the stuff is that they are actually voting on, you can only imagine the proposals that are rejected as being too far out there, even for the Utah Legislature. My secret sources in the capitol have sent me a list of bills that never got introduced. First off is the "Gun Rights for Fetuses Act." This would pick up where the other gun legislation falls short, and issue a Browning M1911 (the official state semi-automatic weapon) to every fetus.
Then there is the "We Don’t Need No Stinking Ethics Act," which eliminates any messy details like disclosure of financial or familial interests in legislation they are voting on. Lobby contacts and gifts wouldn’t need to be disclosed or reported. All that pesky and loophole-laden disclosure stuff would be replaced with a simple marketplace where legislative favors would be sold to the highest bidder.
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School funding is always a problem, and it’s a matter of pride that we spend less per student than Alabama and Mississippi. Maintaining that crappy level of funding is increasingly difficult. But under a new proposal, the public schools would be funded entirely by a sales tax on children’s shoes. Of course it would be up to the parents whether to buy shoes for their kids or not, especially when they cost $1,000 a pair. (Shoes would be free at non-union charter schools.) Only the most dedicated teachers would show up for work when it becomes a volunteer position. That would weed out all those greedy union teachers who are only in it for the money.
Salt Lake City was recently named the ninth most toxic city in the U.S. by Forbes magazine. Ninth? Really? Surely we can do better than ninth. Proposed legislation would give tax credits to people who buy specially equipped coal-burning cars. There’s no better way to demonstrate that global warming/climate change is a hoax than to get more people burning coal. Only a very few would need to change over before Salt Lake could achieve its rightful place as the most toxic city in the country. We’re Number 1.
Utah will join a number of other states in the elimination of concealed weapons regulations. Under actual legislation, the requirement that you get a permit to carry a concealed weapon would be eliminated. It is perfectly legal to carry a gun openly; a permit is only required to carry a concealed weapon. Rep. Carl Wimmer is concerned that well-dressed law-abiding open-carry citizens may suddenly become criminals when putting their suit coats on over their pieces. (Frankly, that probably makes sense when you start with the open-carry position.) Legislation that didn’t make it this session would simply have made it mandatory for every Utahn to carry a gun at all times. It would have been introduced, but it got bogged down in a discussion over whether it should be OK to advertise ammunition on school buses.
Tom Clyde practiced law in Park City for many years. He lives on a working ranch in Woodland and has been writing this column for nearly 25 years.