Short takes on the news
Feds butt out • Utah's Sen. Mike Lee and Rep. Jason Chaffetz spend so much time denigrating the federal government that it can sometimes seem more like a habit than a thought process. But a bill that the two of them have pushed to passage actually makes a lot of sense. The federal Hatch Act (no relation to Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch) was designed to ban federal employees from running for office, on the grounds that it would be a clear conflict of interest. That is reasonable. But a part of the law that also banned local government officials from seeking elective office if their job had any control over the requesting or spending of federal funds was overreach. Even the federal bureaucrats in charge of enforcing the law thought so. The law cost former Ogden Police Chief Jon Greiner his job and has made life difficult for Utah state Rep. Mike Noel (who also runs a water district) and Salt Lake County Councilman Mike Jensen (county fire chief). The bill Chaffetz and Lee promoted, ending the restriction on local officials, has passed Congress and President Obama is expected to sign it. The question of whether local officials should wear two hats will now be up to local voters, as it should be.
Empty bus syndrome • The Utah Transit Authority is understandably proud of the shiny and growing rail network it is building. FrontRunner now runs as far south as Provo and TRAX will soon serve the airport. But the expense of operating those services, combined with the recession-driven drop in the agency's sales tax revenue, has pushed UTA rates up yet again. Come April 1, the one-way basic fare will climb from $2.35 to $2.50. And, as several advocates for the area's low-income families pointed out the other night, the whole UTA system is in real danger of pricing itself out of the reach of more and more of us. When that happens, results include working class people who can't get to work, old high-polluting autos kept in service and far too little return on the investment that taxpayers, riders or not, make in the system every day. Instead of fewer riders paying more, the UTA should make its goal more riders, paying less.
Bottom of the heap • Utah likes being first on various lists, particularly those that rate well-managed and business-friendly states. But it is also last on the list of states for the percentage of eligible children who get enrolled in Medicaid or the Children's Health Insurance Program. Providing health care to children is not a cost. It is a long-term investment that pays off not only for them and their families, but for the state as a whole. We must do better.