Ethics quickly faded from the agenda of Utah’s Legislature this spring and now it’s off the governor’s to-do list as well. With political bribery scandals fresh on the minds of voters early this year, Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. announced his Commission on Strengthening Utah’s Democracy, a wide-ranging effort to examine ethics reform, campaign finance, voting and the gerrymandering of political districts. Huntsman’s message was if the Legislature wouldn’t take care of ethics reform, he would. The Legislature punted on ethics reform, then legislative leaders asked the governor to do the same. Huntsman obliged, dropping both ethics and fair political districts from his commission’s agenda.
The Salt Lake City Police Department won’t be training its officers to do the dirty work of federal immigration agents. Police Chief Chris Burbank said “no thanks” to the provision of an anti-immigration law passed by the 2009 Utah Legislature. So did the Utah Highway Patrol and several other city police departments. The stand steamed some lawmakers, but Burbank complained the only thing cross-deputizing his officers would accomplish was to make immigrant communities fear police. At public meetings and through the media, the chief let Salt Lake City’s immigrants know they can still report crimes without fear of finding themselves locked up for their trouble. And that makes all city residents safer.
Sounding like a sore loser. U.S. Sen. Bob Bennett, R-Utah, is blocking a key nominee to Obama’s Interior Department. Environmental lawyer David Hayes has been cleared by a Senate committee to take his seat as deputy Interior secretary, but he can’t get a required vote by the full Senate because of a “hold” placed on his nomination by Bennett. Backed by Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, Bennett says he’s protesting Interior Secretary Ken Salazar’s decision to rescind 77 oil and gas leases auctioned by the Bush administration near Utah national parks. Utah’s House delegation seems just as environmentally friendly. The 3,000-member Republicans for Environmental Protection recently trashed the environmental voting records of Rep. Rob Bishop and former-Rep. Chris Cannon, both Republicans, giving each Utahn a rating of -5, citing attempts to block wilderness creation.