Power to the People
Information is power, and the state of Utah is moving carefully into the realm of power to the people—sort of. Sen. Deidre Henderson, R-Spanish Fork, has launched an open-records portal to help people searching for government data. In an interview with The Salt Lake Tribune, she said her goal was to let "regular people" know where to search for information. But the site does more than just make it easy for citizens to file requests for public records, it also puts the vast majority of state records online for citizens to browse and analyze at the click of a button. The portal is expected to expand laterto local governments, where public information is often difficult to access. Meanwhile, in the name of transparency, the EPA has issued a new Toxic Release Inventory. Utah sadly came in at No. 2, but at least we know now.
Long Live the Individual
Medicaid expansion is going down. Is there any doubt what with the Legislature railing against it? But that's just one of the many concerns in a conservative environment that reveres personal effort and reviles government interference. Tragically, this means the rising death toll on Utah roads is likely to continue. That's because Utah has neither a helmet law nor an effective seat-belt law. In 2014, half of motor-vehicle deaths were attributed to lack of seat belts, the Utah Department of Transportation reported. And motorcycle deaths went up 45 percent. Bicycles and pedestrians on the roads are easy targets, too. Rep. Lee Perry, R-Perry, who also works for the Utah Highway Patrol, will again push a stricter seat-belt law, but will his fellow Republicans take it up? Not if it's up to the individual.
Taking Aim at Land Grab
Former Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt used the Outdoor Retailer show to condemn Utah's attempts to take federal public lands, and it looks like a lot of outdoors types are on Babbitt's side. Rep. Ken Ivory, R-West Jordan, has been leading the charge to seize federal lands, and Gov. Gary Herbert kind of likes the idea, despite hesitation from legislative counsel. But outdoorsmen see this as an us-against-extractive-industries case. They worry that oil companies will be raping the very lands they play on. In Las Vegas, the 2015 Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade Show passed out petitions against the land grab, and Montana is doing some organizing against it, too, according to the blog The Wildlife News. Even a "guns, ammunition and shooting sports" publication called AmmoLand wrote against the idea. Bang.