Information is power, and that’s why there’s so much garbage being thrown at you by competing interests. It’s no different in Utah’s federal-lands battle, as the governor and his conservative base try to convince the public that the state could be a better steward of public lands than the federal government. So, it’s good news that the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA) sponsored a brainstorming session about why 30 million acres of public lands should be left alone. Gov. Gary Herbert is saying that taking these lands will benefit education. SUWA says it won’t help. The right-wing Sutherland Institute has been blogging about all the jobs that come from the energy industry. (It’s 17,500, or 1.4 percent of all Utah jobs.) And the wages are high, too. Most of the oil and natural-gas wells are on federal land, and Utah wants total control.
It’s always fun to watch the Legislature tackle problems that aren’t. We won’t even mention voter fraud, a national outcry in search of a problem. But closer to home, lawmakers are looking at tinkering with laws about alimony and hair braiding. As for alimony, Rep. Fred Cox, R-West Valley City, wants to target people who “intentionally” destroy a marriage, expecting alimony in return. Goodbye, no-fault divorce, and hello, blame game. On a wholly different topic, legislators are considering regulating hair stylists who braid. Some have cited questionable health risks, but the common wisdom is that licensure would protect the stylist industry. Oh, well. All this comes from the party that believes in limited government and lower taxes.
In the “I don’t get it” department, the Utah Department of Transportation is looking at limiting the number of hybrids allowed in HOV lanes. That’s because they’re getting too popular. Indeed, the HOV lanes were created to encourage carpooling, but if you think about it, carpooling is supposed to encourage better air quality, as well as fewer cars on the road. Nevermind. UDOT issues “C” decals to any clean-energy car owner willing to pay to use the HOV lane without the required two passengers, and hybrids now account for about 4 percent of HOV vehicles. Apparently, the feds could stop the pay system if too many vehicles go HOV. So, the Legislature thinks counting hybrids is the right answer? How about determining how many vehicles the HOV lanes can support and limiting decal sales for all single-passenger cars?