It could be that Gov. Gary Herbert is getting the message—or maybe he’s trying to silence it. Herbert has been the poster child for voluntary measures that don’t measure up. Utahns in this car-centric state can’t give up their modes of transportation to take infrequent and unreliable mass transit, as the governor suggests. But now, the state Division of Air Quality is looking at a regulation to cut what’s called Volatile Organic Compounds, which would force businesses that sell things like hairsprays and varnish removers to use low-VOC products instead. The Division of Air Quality, cognizant that we live in a state fearful of federal overreach, says that no one will be confiscating items from homes. You can still safely store them with your stash of weaponry.
Apparently, the Legislature still hasn’t gotten the message about tinkering with public education. Now, Sen. Daniel Thatcher, R-West Valley City, wants all schools to post their financial data online and in detail. As Superintendent Martell Menlove says, school finances fall into hundreds of categories and are not easy to understand. Part of the confusion is due to the proliferation of legislative and federal mandates as everyone tries to control the system. Putting up raw data would be kind of like writing laws in Chinese—you’d need an interpreter. “We are interested in transparency, we’re interested in providing data; however, we want to provide that data in a manner that would make sense,” Menlove says.
It’s hard to know the motivation behind legislation, especially when there’s so much of it. Sen. Stuart Reid has proposed a bill on Intergenerational Welfare Reform, which, on the surface, seems benign and even good, in that it collects data. But what you do with the data is the question. Reid makes the assumption that poverty is a culture, and that parents are likely the problem—so, giving parents welfare will not break the cycle of dependency for their kids. While there may be something to the point that poverty begets poverty, throwing out the financial safety net seems ill-advised. What’s the answer? Take the kids away? Teach them that poverty’s bad? It could be that this is just another commission talking at a problem with no real purpose, or with a hidden agenda to save the state money at the expense of the poor.