Becker's Birds, Online Signatures & Utah Legislator Pay 

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Kick Lightly
Before bulldozing land along the Jordan River to build a regional sports complex, Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker wants to make sure the city can minimize the damage to bird and animal habitats. After the Salt Lake City Council approved the funding for the complex earlier this month, Becker ordered a restoration plan to be included in the proposed design for the complex. Prior to taking the plan to the public, it will be reviewed by ecological experts. While the development continues to upset many conservationists, at least Becker is willing to consider the impact of development on beings beyond the two-legged, deep-pocketed variety.

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Government 1.0
Although online signatures are permitted for official documents such as tax returns, Lt. Gov. Greg Bell has ruled that the electronic signatures collected by initiative groups such as Utahns for Ethical Government and the Fair Boundaries Coalition are not valid because the initiative law was drafted for “paper” petitions. Both groups say they will sue to make the online signatures legal. Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon, the presumptive Democratic nominee for governor, says the signatures should be permitted because “open government” is a “cornerstone” of democracy. Bell and Gov. Gary Herbert both have said that the Legislature should look at allowing the signatures. Republican legislative leaders, however, seem less than enthusiastic to consider anything this session that might adapt the law better to the 21st century. That’s not surprising, considering their consummate desire to have a government of the people ... after they decide what’s good for the people.

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Steady Salaries
On Feb. 16, legislators took the first step toward sharing the pain of budget cuts. The House Government Operation Committee approved House Bill 287, a bill that would keep the legislative pay at $117 for every day they work instead of increasing it to $130 per day, as recommended by the Legislative Compensation Committee. Although it was described as a “mostly symbolic move” by Rep. Ron Bigelow, R-West Valley and would only save about $60,000 annually, it’s at least an acknowledgment by legislators that budget cuts should not spare anyone. Luckily, unless real ethics reform passes, legislators will still be able to ease the pain of their lost pay with free meals, golf or Jazz games on the tabs of their well-paid lobbyist friends.

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