Loosening the cork • Members of the Utah House of Representatives voted Monday to make state law more representative of the real world by approving a bill that would allow customers in restaurants to be served an alcoholic beverage before they have actually ordered their meals. While a few epicureans might actually not know what they want to drink until they have chosen their entree — making a proper pairing — many diners reasonably enjoy a shot or a glass of wine while examining the menu. The fact that Utah liquor cops thought that was against the law was a shocker for many diners and restaurateurs. The legislation, HB218, would put things right again.
Paying the freight • Folks in the Salt Lake Valley have a lot of ideas about what to do to improve the nasty air quality often found here during certain months. Just about all of them should be pursued. One is a proposal from Utah state Rep. Joel Briscoe, a Salt Lake City Democrat, that would help the Utah Transit Authority pay for two free months of bus and train rides for everyone as a way of reducing the number of polluting automobiles that clog the roads, and the air, during the high-inversion days of January and July. It would cost the state some $9 million, and is thus among the cheaper approaches to the problem. With luck, people who otherwise never rode UTA would decide they like it, and keep riding, even when they have to pay their own freight.
Rating the roads • Utah has a strong, transparent program for allocating the tons of money it spends on road projects. Sadly, some members of the Utah Legislature want to copy the habits of Congress — not usually a body seen as worth of emulation in these parts — by adding legislative earmarks to circumvent the review program and pay for specific bridges, tunnels, parking lots and such in some lawmakers’ home towns. It’s a bad idea, and legislative leadership should not allow it.
Policing Medicaid • Just about everyone in government says they are for cutting waste, fraud and abuse. It is the best way to reduce spending without actually hurting anyone. Except when some of the state’s hospitals and doctors think, with little obvious evidence, that they’ve been hurt by the state’s Medicaid Office of Inspector General. A legislative committee on Monday advanced HB315, which limits the inspector’s power and will make it harder for the state to claim refunds when, through error or fraud, those same hospitals and doctors are found to have overcharged for their state-financed services.