Short takes on the news
Three strikes • The people who run the Utah Legislature hold in contempt three particular things: Alcoholic beverages. Low-income workers. The Affordable Care Act. And the three of them have collided in a perfect storm of bad public policy. State lawmakers were told the other day that one of the requirements of the ACA is that employees who work at least 30 hours a week must be offered some form of health coverage. In Utah's case, many of those affected are the part-time, no-benefit clerks who staff the liquor stores owned and managed by the state's alcohol monopoly. The way lawmakers have treated that cohort of employees makes it seem that they think people who would make a living by selling booze aren't worthy of basic benefits. The fact that they are now weighing cutting the hours of those workers in order to avoid the ACA mandate gives credence to that sad assumption. The liquor business is a real cash cow for the state. There is no reason why those clerk positions should not be real jobs, with real benefits.
Lesson not learned • The University of Utah has set itself the goal of being a "carbon neutral" institution. Its building and transportation plans favor energy efficiency and support, at least on paper, the use of electric cars. But when a U. law student tried to recharge his Nissan Leaf with a line running from his university-owned apartment, he was told to cease and desist. School officials have never implemented that part of their two-year-old energy plan, and say they worry about liability (people tripping over cords) and fairness (people demanding free gas) issues. The U. says it is for stainability. If it means it, officials should be about sweeping aside all bureaucratic inertia and making their campus an inviting place for electric cars.
Slow-moving Snake • Gov. Gary Herbert and the Utah State Water Development Commission were correct the other day to wait for detailed objections from the affected local governments before pressing on with a decision on how, and whether, to work with officials in Nevada over a split of water rights from the border-straddling Snake Valley. Las Vegas water authorities envision a $15.5 billion pipeline from the area as part of its never-ending drive to slake Sin City's thirst. A panel of experts appointed by Herbert says we should take the deal rather than be dragged into court. But officials from Millard and Juab counties are still assembling their arguments about how such a drawdown could devastate their economy and ecology. Until their cause can be fully heard, no decisions should be made.