Short takes on the news
A lonely protest vote • When a legislative body makes a good decision, it is a triumph of democracy. When it makes a bad decision, it can instill in even the most egalitarian of hearts a longing for some top-down leadership. Such was the case Tuesday when Utah House Speaker Becky Lockhart was the only member of that body to vote against HB377. That's a Christmas list of special goodies the House wants the Utah Department of Transportation to pay for, no matter how the various highway, road, bridge and other projects might have rated on UDOT's professional rankings. Legislative earmarks are a pernicious habit, one that is all too common in Congress, and lend themselves to an influence-peddling style of governing that nobody needs more of. Lockhart could be said to have won some democracy points for not using her gavel to bat down this bill. Next time, though, she might consider wielding it with a little more force.
A few good girls • Utah is home to 180,000 Boy Scouts and 6,600 Girl Scouts. Hardly seems fair. But guess which organization won the day when a state Senate committee considered a bill that would have allowed Utah taxpayers to use state tax forms to donate to the male-centered organization, but not the female one. The Girl Scouts, who just happened to be on Capitol Hill for their annual cookie delivery, seized on the admission by bill sponsor and Scoutmaster Rep. Steve Eliason, R-Sandy, that even though his HB145 was explained to the House as benefiting any "youth development organizations" in the state, the fine print would assure that all the money raised by the tax form check-off would go to the Boy Scouts. That's where consideration of the bill ended. And where it deserves to end. Unless, as a chastened Eliason suggested, it is amended to remove all gender bias.
A parking bill of rights • The Utah Senate should follow the lead of the House and pass HB115. That's the bill, carried by Rep. Keven Stratton, R-Orem, putting some small limits on the behavior of tow truck operations that, quite legally, make off with cars that were illegally parked and demand fees of up to $300 in cash for the vehicle's return. Orem is among the cities where local officials have been flooded with complaints about tow truck drivers hauling away residents' vehicles even when they have been improperly parked for only a few minutes. Under the provisions of the bill, towing companies would have to accept credit or debit cards. The bill also orders a Department of Transportation study of reasonable fees and rules for such operations, and improves slightly the requirement that tow-away zones be properly marked as such.