Tom Clyde: No gold medal for the legislature
February 21, 2014
Park City is having a great Olympic showing in Sochi. Athletes who are local kids or people who have moved here to train at the Olympic facilities have done well. It makes it fun to watch, and celebrate for people who are friends and others who are just familiar faces in the community.
I woke up the other day with NPR broadcasting news of civil war breaking out in Kiev, followed by Ted Ligety’s gold medal. Both stories hit close to home. Ted’s parents have been good friends since before Ted was a gleam in his father’s eye. I have a grand-nephew living in Ukraine who ought to be packing his bags about now. All that before it’s even light outside.
If that’s not enough, urgent word comes from Sochi that Bob Costas’s pink eye has spread to the other eye. NBC has kept us updated on that situation, and the thoughts and prayers of a grateful nation are with him.
While we have been delirious with Olympic excitement, other stuff is happening all around us. The Utah Legislature is in session, and the cloud of stupidity over Salt Lake gets thicker every day. Here’s a little sampling of what they are up to.
A proposal for a taxpayer subsidy for a 1,000 room convention hotel in Salt Lake was killed last year. Suddenly, through the miracle of well-placed campaign contributions, it has come back to life. We desperately need another 1,000 hotel rooms in Salt Lake because existing hotels are operating at nearly 67% occupancy. That’s almost high enough to break even. But our free-market, anti-government Legislature is determined that we need more rooms, so they can all run at a 50% occupancy rate. The push is coming from the Outdoor Retailer show, which is a big deal. It’s also a great fit for Utah’s outdoor recreation industry in general. But why the taxpayers need to subsidize hotel rooms that are needed 10 days a year is anybody’s guess. If there were a demand, they could be built without subsidy.
Rep. Jerry Anderson from Price—Utah’s coal country—has introduced legislation saying there is not enough carbon dioxide in the air. It would prohibit any efforts to regulate carbon emissions. Anderson points out that during the time of the dinosaurs, the CO2 concentration was about 600 ppm, and "the dinosaurs did quite well." Except for the extinction part. You can probably guess which party Rep. Anderson belongs to. According to The Salt Lake Tribune, the bill got a warm reception in the committee, but was put on hold and probably won’t advance.
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Utah’s existing laws prohibit the State from enacting any regulation on air quality that is more stringent than those adopted by the Feds. The common criticism is that federal regulations are a one-size-fits-all approach. In Utah’s case, it’s obvious to anybody who is still hacking up charcoal briquettes from being in Salt Lake this winter that the Federal regulations don’t address the unique geographic conditions that have turned the air in Salt Lake poisonous. So there is a proposal that would grant the State’s Division of Environmental Quality the flexibility to adopt regulations that might address the conditions in Salt Lake. I doubt it will pass. We can’t be resorting to science around here.
Frustrated with the present caucus system that elects delegates to party conventions in poorly-attended (and frankly weird and scary) neighborhood meetings, a bipartisan group has been pushing a referendum petition that would call for a direct primary system. This is a direct response to the system that knocked Senator Bob Bennett, a smart and reasonable man, off the ballot to nominate Sen. Mike Lee who is neither. You may have signed the "Count My Vote" petition. But the will of the people can’t get in the way of Provo Rep. Bramble (again, guess which party). He has a bill that would effectively nullify that referendum, even before it is voted on, and keep access to the nominating process under the thumb of the inner circle of party extremists. Former Governor Mike Leavitt (a known radical moderate who couldn’t get nominated for dog catcher in the Utah GOP these days) has come out against this one. But given a choice between representing the citizens of Utah generally, or rewarding the party elite, you can guess which way the Legislature will go.
Proposals to get rid of the silly Zion Curtain came under fire from the LDS church even before the session opened. In Utah we carry our guns in the open and conceal our bartenders. Somehow that’s become an important gospel principle, because, you know, Jesus went behind the curtain to pour the wine at the Last Supper. Or something like that.
Fortunately the legislative session is short, which limits the damage.
Tom Clyde practiced law in Park City for many years. He lives on a working ranch in Woodland and has been writing this column since 1986.