Short takes on issues
Seismic matter • A bill that has stalled in the Utah House should be revived and passed. It is not much more than a recognition that some schools in the state would be unsafe during an earthquake, but that would at least be a start toward fixing what could be a major public-safety problem. Right now nobody knows just how many schools would probably collapse on Utah schoolchildren during a temblor, let alone how much it might cost to make them safe. That information is crucial. HB278 would require school districts to conduct a cursory evaluation of schools' seismic strength any time the district floats a bond for school construction or renovation. It's not enough, but it's a start. Some opponents say it would be an unfunded mandate on school districts. But other mandates are embraced when they further a particular ideological value, such as charter schools or online courses. Funding was found to renovate the Capitol. Schoolchildren are at least as valuable as state officials and employees.
Hang up and drive • Should Utahns under 18 be prohibited from talking on cellphones hand-held or otherwise and especially from sending text messages while driving? Certainly. That's what Rep. Lee Perry, R-Perry, would do in his HB103. It's an important public-safety measure responding to studies that show distracted drivers are as dangerous as drunken drivers. But the bill doesn't go far enough. The studies don't look only at young drivers. Older drivers using cellphones also pose a serious danger to themselves and others. All cellphone use by drivers should be banned.
Powering renewable energy • Rocky Mountain Power's Blue Sky program is promoting alternative energy development in Utah better than any government initiative. Since it began in 2006, the power utility's solar-energy award system has helped fund more than 80 community-based renewable-energy projects, with the number and investment growing each year. In its first year, Blue Sky contributed $448,000 to seven projects. In 2012 it provided just under $1.8 million for 20 projects. Schools, residential and commercial buildings have been able to reduce their power bills and their carbon footprints. Users contribute a certain amount for each 100 kilowatt-hour they use to fund Blue Sky support for renewables. More power to them.