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State of the Debate
George Pyle
George Pyle has been a newspaper writer in Kansas, Utah, Upstate New York, and now Utah again, for more than 30 years - most of it as an editorial writer and columnist. Now on his second tour of duty on The Salt Lake Tribune Editorial Board, he has also done a stretch as a talk radio host, published a book on the ongoing flaws of U.S.agricultural policy and, in 1998, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Writing. His most active bookmarks are Andrew Sullivan, Christopher Hitchens and Tina Brown. And he still thinks the Internet can be used for intelligent conversation and uplifting ideas.

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On legislative watch: Sending messages, extracting taxes ...

Above: A message from The Police.

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- Lost in translation: Message bills a big waste of time - Salt Lake Tribune Editorial

Glendower: I can call spirits from the vasty deep.

Hotspur: Why, so can I, or so can any man;

But will they come when you do call for them?

— William Shakespeare, Henry IV, Part 1

Members of the Utah Legislature this session have spent a great deal of their time, and a fair amount of your money, trying to call spirits from the deep. Or, perhaps to banish them back to the depths of Washington, D.C., whence, to hear some of our elected officials talk, most evil spirits come.

It all amounts to a giant waste of the body’s precious time. It is a nasty habit that needlessly frightens some and dishonestly raises hopes among those few who truly think that seizing millions of acres of federal land, opting out of Medicare or sheltering Utah children from a set of national education standards are either possible or a good idea. ...

- Severance tax: Time to raise Utah's extraction taxes - Salt Lake Tribune Editorial

It’s called a severance tax because it is intended as a recompense to a state for "severing" a non-renewable resource, mostly petroleum and natural gas, from its territory.

Thus a constitutional requirement that Utah sock away a certain percentage of its severance tax revenue into a permanent fund, replacing one store of wealth with another, has merit. The Utah Legislature, in passing HJR6 , has voted to put just such a question before the voters this fall.

But a better idea than squirreling away many millions of severance tax dollars, out of the stream that funds education and other functions, would be to raise the state’s puny severance tax rate. ...

Elsewhere, some familiar-sounding arguments:

- Locked and loaded vs. jobs - Chattanooga Times Editorial

Tennessee's far-right legislators in cahoots with the National Rifle Association are wrongly pushing for the latest piece of the NRA's guns-everywhere agenda -- a new state law that would require both public and private employers to allow their workers to keep their locked and loaded guns in cars in their employer-provided parking lots. Employers, mindful of this nation's tragic history of armed and angry employees who charge into the workplace to shoot, kill and wound fellow employees, reasonably oppose the law. ...

- Lawmakers should be held accountable without linking pay to passing budget - Fort Collins Coloradoan Editorial

- Caucuses no substitute for a presidential primary - Tacoma News-Tribune Editorial

And a couple of small, but good, ideas:

- A compassionate, overdue investment - Idaho Statesman Editorial

The Legislature hasn’t put too much in the win column in 2012, but Thursday provided an exception. The Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee scrounged up $110,000 in seed money to restore an Idaho suicide hotline. Coupled with private donations, the state appropriation should help fund the first 18 months of a state-run hotline.

About time. ...

- Prison nursery program has good chance to help families - Casper Star-Tribune Editorial

One of the best accomplishments of the Wyoming Legislature’s budget session had a very modest price tag of $1.01 million, which isn’t much of the $3.2 billion allocated in state government spending. But it could have a profound impact on generations of families, and be positive for society.

State lawmakers approved construction of a prison nursery at the Wyoming Women’s Center in Lusk, after the Wyoming Association of Churches and other lobbying groups informed them about how similar programs are now successfully operating in 11 other states. ...

- K-12 health-insurance reforms are part of long-term state budget stability - Seattle Times Editorial



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