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In the Legislature

Published February 9, 2013 1:01 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Useless gun bill • A useless and unconstitutional bill, HB114, to invalidate any federal gun-control law, really is designed only to make sure, as if there were any doubt, that everyone in the country knows that Utah is a gun-worshiping state. It is nothing but a waste of the Legislature's time when the 45-day session would be better spent working on the state's many problems. The Second Amendment is only one part of the U.S. Constitution, which also specifies that federal laws supersede state laws. The Legislature's legal counsel calls the possible effect of such a law "chilling," and warns it is most likely unconstitutional. Let's get serious, legislators.

Speed and fuel • Increasing speed limits on Utah highways to 80 mph invites more air pollution, more fatalities and more accidents of all kinds, with no benefit except to allow people to arrive at a destination a few minutes sooner. HB83 was approved by the Utah House 69-5 and now is before the Senate. It would allow the Utah Department of Transportation to add more 80 mph zones on Interstates 15, 80 mph and 84 mph in rural areas. Increasing vehicle speed is a useless exertion of "freedom" at the expense of public safety and the environment. The 1974 Emergency Highway Energy Conservation Act set a national speed limit of 55 mph in response to fuel price spikes and shortages during the 1973 oil crisis. Nobody is thinking of returning to such restrictions, even though the price of fuel is much higher now, because such a speed limit could not be enforced. It did, however, cut fuel consumption. Only Utah and Texas have speed limits higher than 75 mph, and Utah doesn't need the 80 mph sections it has, let alone even more. Moreover, another proposal — to limit the number of alternative-fuel cars in HOV lanes — is a ridiculous way to discourage Utahns from driving cars that pollute less when the quality of the air they breathe is too often the worst in the nation.

Unsafe schools • There could be hundreds of schools in Utah that would be dangerous places for children to be in an earthquake. But nobody really knows. That's because legislators and some school officials are afraid of what they might find out. But HB278 could provide that information — and a first step toward making all schools safer. The legislation would require school districts to get a seismic assessment of schools built prior to 1975 before they issue general obligation bonds for school construction or renovation. It's not as strong a measure as Utah children deserve — many schools built after 1975 are unsafe, and the bill requires only a cursory evaluation — but it would be a start we hope would lead to more thorough assessments and retrofitting. After all, the State Capitol where legislators and the governor and their staffs work has had seismic upgrade. Don't our children deserve as much protection?