Short takes on the news
Nuclear bill melts down • Sometimes the words we most want to hear from a Utah lawmaker are, "Never mind." That's what Sen. Curt Bramble did late last week when he asked that his SB199 be withdrawn from this year's legislative session. That was the bill that would have allowed the owners of any future nuclear power plant to start collecting ratepayers' money to pay for one of those stupefyingly expensive machines well before the plant actually generated any power. Even if it never generated any power. The bill would also have allowed the Public Service Commission to exempt nuclear plants from the requirement that power utilities provide their customers with the cheapest juice available. The bill was a copy of a measure that has already become a disaster in Florida, even as it sought to hide its purpose by never mentioning nuclear power and referring instead to "zero carbon emission" operations. The bill was a bad idea, and now it is properly dead.
Smoking bill lights up • It is a small measure that probably won't be enforced all that often and, even when it is, will cost a violator a mere $45. But after years of unsuccessful efforts, Utah lawmakers last week gave their final approval to a bill HB13 that makes it illegal for adults to smoke in a motor vehicle if children under the age of 15 are present. With the known dangers of second-hand smoke, and the captive nature of children in usually closed automobiles, there is no question that the health of children trapped in such a situation is threatened. Pleas for the state to butt out of the parent-child relationship in this particular case are properly ignored, as parents who cannot refrain from smoking long enough to get their children to school or to soccer practice apparently need some outside intervention. The governor should sign this bill.
Rail safety bill chugs forward • It's only a suggestion, but it's a very good one. The Utah Legislature has passed SJR8, a measure that encourages the relevant state officials to add to state driver license tests some questions about how motorists should be aware of the danger of railroad crossings. And they are dangerous. Especially as the Utah Transit Authority's TRAX and FrontRunner expand their offerings. In the last two years, UTA counted 45 major incidents with TRAX and FrontRunner. There were 13 fatalities and 26 injuries. Nineteen of those accidents were trains hitting cars. One might think that all those dropping gates and flashing lights would be enough. But they obviously aren't. Making the point on the state driver license tests, which all drivers have to take, is a good way to go.