Short takes on legislation
Inherent ignorance • The basic idea behind SB169, sponsored by Sen. Stuart Reid, R-Ogden, is good one. It would create an education task force to identify primary goals for public education, a time frame and a plan for accomplishing them. Considering all the diverse pieces of legislation having something to do with education in the current legislative session, an overall vision is definitely needed. The problem with the idea and it's a big problem is that the task force would be comprised of majority and minority leadership from both the House and Senate, chairpersons of the House and Senate education committees and higher education appropriations committees. Missing would be anyone from the education community, the very people who are trained and experienced in education and who know first-hand the needs of Utah schools and their students. Once again, it means micromanaging education by legislators who are driven more by ideology, and too often arrogance, than knowledge.
Simple bigotry • Sen. Stephen Urquhart is committed to passing legislation aimed at prohibiting discrimination against gay, lesbian, transgender and bisexual Utahns in housing and employment statewide. He vows to work until it passes, and that is good news for Utahns who value equality and compassion. Urquhart's SB262 would extend protections to LGBT folks that women and other minority groups have long enjoyed. It's a shame but not a surprise that SB262 was denied a vote in the Senate after surviving a committee for the first time in years of trying. Urquhart, a Republican, deftly countered flimsy arguments that the bill might give LGBT Utahns "special protections," that it might hurt small businesses and that it might advance gay marriage. SB262 would do none of those things. Unfortunately, the bill's demise must be put down to simple bigotry.
It's a tax increase • Republican legislators perennially refuse to raise taxes to increase funding for public education, even though polls show many Utahns would agree to pay higher taxes specifically for schools. But SB81 is a way to raise taxes without putting any legislator's anti-tax credentials in jeopardy. The bill would take money from school districts where voters have already approved property tax increases for their schools and give it to others with smaller tax bases. And it would allow districts to raise property taxes to make up the loss. It's a sneaky tax increase on small groups of Utahns when what's needed is straightforward income tax reform to require large families to pay their fair share.