The Centers for Disease Control just awarded Utah a $3.76 million grant to help prevent deaths from prescription-drug overdoses. In 2014, 289 people died from overdoses, and the Legislature keeps trying to figure this out. Utah is fortunate to have Rep. Carol Spackman Moss, D-Holladay, on the issue. She helped pass bills allowing dispensing and administration of an opiate antagonist to patients suspected of overdose, and another bill decriminalizing actions of those trying to help. Now, she's getting ready for a bill to equip first responders with needed prescription drugs to counter overdoses. Some states, like Illinois, have passed pilot legislation to require locking caps for opioid prescriptions. These are all keys to preventing overdose death, but if Utah is serious about prevention, it should get behind upcoming legislation to legalize medical cannabis, sponsored by Sen. Mark Madsen, R-Saratoga Springs.
The Pine Whine
A fake Christmas tree at the Capitol—could there be a worse idea? Even though there's plenty of cash in the Capitol operating fund, the tree's pricetag would be in the range of $16,000-$44,500, and the tree could cost up to $4,600 to put up each year. Maybe Utah has become suddenly conscientious about cutting down live trees, or maybe someone worries about a fire disaster, such as the one that burned the Governor's Mansion in 1993. Or maybe they just don't want to pick up dead needles. Actually, the trees have been damaging the Capitol columns and, yes, fire is a danger, according to a Salt Lake Tribune story. Whatever. Tradition aside, it may be time to rethink the practice of installing a pine tree each December at the Capitol altogether. If we're going to go fake, why not a replica of Karl Momen's Interstate 80 landmark sculpture, "The Tree of Utah"?
Coal Mining Blues
Forget the "war on religion." Conservatives in Utah have another war to think about: the "war on coal." The Deseret News is running a series on the challenges to the 161-year-old state industry that employed 1,605 people and generated nearly $594 million in production last year. Sad, but true for those employed: The industry isn't exactly thriving. A Salt Lake Tribune op-ed by Dennis Waggoner, president of the Escalante-Boulder Chamber of Commerce, tells it like it is: "Coal prices in the U.S. have declined from $140 per ton in 2008 to $40 per ton in 2015. It doesn't matter how deep the seams are because the prices will dictate production. Coal is not the energy source of the future."