Legislator talks inversion, marijuana during Park City appearance
State legislator Kraig Powell appeared in Park City on Saturday, covering numerous topics during a town hall and, at several points, addressing questions from a member of the Park City Council who was in attendance.
The event, held at the Park City Library, drew fewer than 10 people on a busy holiday weekend in Park City. Powell is a Republican member of the state House of Representatives. He is from Heber City and the district includes Park City. Tim Henney, a City Councilor, was one of the people at the event.
Henney and Powell engaged each other in a congenial manner as the City Councilor inquired about issues like the atmospheric inversion in the Salt Lake Valley. Powell responded by saying the inversion, which traps air pollution at lower elevations, will not be an easy issue to solve even as the state has taken steps to combat air pollution that are not widely publicized.
Powell said Gov. Gary Herbert is "quite open-minded and even progressive" on air-quality issues. He said he anticipates wider use of cleaner-burning fuels in automobiles in the next three or four years. Powell added that sources like homes and businesses are the second-ranking cause of inversions behind automobile emissions. Powell said he is a member of the so-called clean-air caucus at the Statehouse.
"The conditions that you see down there today . . . will continue to lead to some public pressure on this," Powell said.
Powell, an attorney, is seen as having more of a moderate streak than many other Republican members of the House of Representatives. He is more popular in other parts of District 54 than he is within Park City and Summit County. Powell lost Summit County in 2014 but beat his Democratic opponent by a wide margin in Wasatch County as he was re-elected. Powell, though, has attempted to make inroads in Park City through events like the one on Saturday and by cultivating a relationship with the Park City government.
Powell spoke about a variety of legislative topics over approximately two hours. He addressed the prospects of the state allowing marijuana to be used for medical purposes, the age limit for tobacco products and helicopter services like the ones that caused controversy in the Park City area during the Sundance Film Festival in January.
Powell said two bills addressing marijuana for medical uses appear to be "fairly limited" and contemplate a "go-slow approach." He said the bills were introduced in the state Senate and the House of Representatives by Saturday had not addressed the bills. He said he has heard various opinions. Family members of people with serious medical issues speak about the benefits of marijuana when it is used for medical purposes while some health advocates and people with ideological opposition worry about the danger to public health as well as the potential of people under the age of 18 using marijuana, Powell said.
Powell said he wants to pass a piece of legislation that would increase the age for purchasing tobacco products from 19 years old to 21 years old. He said most smokers start when they are younger than 21 years old. He also said young people sometimes obtain cigarettes from someone just one or two years older than themselves with the age limit at 19 years old. Powell acknowledged he has encountered difficulty with the bill in a heavily conservative Legislature. Critics see the legislation as a "nanny-state" bill, Powell said.
Powell, meanwhile, fielded a question about the disputed helicopter services that shuttled people to Park City during the Sundance Film Festival, causing outrage in the neighborhoods close to the landing zones. He said the issue may have arisen too late to address during this year’s legislative session. Powell said it was not immediately clear whether the issue fell under local, state or federal jurisdiction. He said perhaps the episode was worthwhile to the companies for the publicity generated by the helicopter service. Henney called the situation during Sundance a "publicity stunt."
"It’s a fascinating topic," Powell said.
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