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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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(Kim Raff | The Salt Lake Tribune) View of Dump Fire in Saratoga Springs-Eagle Mountain area in Saratoga Springs, Utah on June 22, 2012.
Editorial Sampler: Multistate Legislative Follies ...

The Tribune is not the only newspaper disappointed in the conduct of the Utah Legislature:

Target shooting: Pulling SB120 was a bad idea — Salt Lake Tribune Editorial

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There’s devoted. There’s extreme. And there’s utterly absurd. And the idea that the Second Amendment would in any way be infringed by a bill that would have allowed the Utah state forester to restrict target shooting in times and places where it would create a wildfire hazard is absurd, to say the least.

Such a bill — SB120 — was being put forward by two of the Legislature’s more confirmed gun rights supporters, Sen. Margaret Dayton, R-Orem, and Rep. Curt Oda, R-Clearfield. It would merely empower a state official with relevant jurisdiction and knowledge to tamp down the risk of the kind of wildfires that did so much damage — and caused the state so much expense — last summer.

Passage seemed likely last week. ...

...But, just when the bill was to be taken up Friday by the full Senate, Dayton pulled it from consideration. There was, she announced, a new flurry of opposition to the bill, mostly in the form of online commentary and complaints. ...

Two men plead no contest to starting Dump Fire in Utah County — Salt Lake Tribune

Bring back shooting bill — Provo Daily Herald Editorial

... If gun owners want credibility as they properly defend gun rights, they should avoid irrational displays of emotion that tamp down very rational ideas. ...

Campaign spending caps now — Ogden Standard-Examiner Editorial

... The average voter now knows that it’s simply wrong to have no limits or controls on the campaign cash that fills pols’ coffers. There is an understanding that in our state, money talks, and an unethical businessperson has easier access to pols than an advocate for children’s health care, for instance. ...

And Utah is not the only state where the legislature is causing editors to pull their hair:

Facts be damned — Casper Star-Tribune Editorial

Thank God last week is through.

And, as far as invoking religion, that’s about as far as we’ll go in this editorial.

Last week was the time allotted by the Wyoming Legislature for "social bills" ranging from hot-button topics such as abortion and gun control. Emotions ran high, rhetoric ran hot.

That’s as it should be. Again, legislative leadership should be complimented for quarantining the social issues bill en bloc so that discussion and debate wouldn’t derail what is proving to be an otherwise productive session. ...

... However, what cannot be accepted so easily are comments made by a couple of legislators. We believe these statements must be challenged. To let them pass by without question or challenge would be to run the risk of giving them credence and even worse, acceptability. That is, some statements are so factually reckless or ethically suspect that they must be challenged.

As one of the institutions in the state charged with public discourse and dialogue, we believe it is our role to question the substance of these thoughts. ...

Montana can't afford craziness of Legislature — Bozeman Daily Chronicle Editorial

Here we go again. Lawmakers in Helena are off and running in the kooky category. This time a veteran Columbia Falls legislator, Rep. Jerry O’Neil, wants to reform the state’s criminal justice system to allow convicts to choose corporal punishment over prison time.

"Ten years in prison or you could take 20 lashes, perhaps two lashes a year? What would you choose?" O’Neil said.

What hardened criminal wouldn’t choose the latter? And those lashes should teach the criminal a constructive lesson. Violence begets more violence. And the perp is back on the street with an improved attitude. ...

... This is exhibitionist governing. Let’s get my name in the news no matter how whacky the bill may be. Either O’Neil knows this a dumb idea (which is a problem), or he doesn’t (which is an even bigger problem).

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