Short takes on the news
Cry wolf for cash • Every year, the Utah Legislature gins up legislation that is clearly contrary to the public interest. One of the most egregious examples this year was a raid on the public purse for $300,000 to hand to a sportsmen's group that merely had to cry wolf to get it. Don Peay of Big Game Forever claimed the money would be used to fight federal efforts to reintroduce the grey wolf to Utah, never mind that the group has no registered lobbyist in the nation's capital, and that the feds aren't preparing to throw Utah to the wolves. Peay is no pauper. His group spends thousands of dollars to sweeten the re-election campaigns of the very people responsible for this gross misuse of tax revenue. If you wonder how this giveaway can be justified, you needn't waste your time. The legislators doling out the money didn't much bother to quiz the beneficiary. This is the second year in a row that this $300,000 tit-for-tat has been foisted on taxpayers with minimum fuss and maximum arrogance. The obvious question: What is more important to legislators, giving another $300,000 to our woefully underfunded public schools, or keeping Don Peay from having to sponge for funding that would be better spent just about anywhere else? Look in Peay's pocket for the answer.
Grounds for a prison • The Legislature applied some commendable caution to the idea of moving Utah State Prison from its Draper location to a less-urban site to be named later. But the proposal to tear down the prison and throw open the 690-acre site to developers did get a significant boost with passage of SB72, sponsored by Sen. Scott Jenkins, R-Plain City. The much-revised bill spells out how, and by whom, the state's Prison Relocation and Development Authority board will be filled. The governor picks six members, House and Senate leaders two each, and one seat goes to Draper. Though silent on the question of whether prison programs and operations should be handed off to private contractors, the bill unwisely permits the board to consider such proposals even though it was not authorized to solicit them. Moving the prison comes with a host of perplexing questions that must be answered before the walls come down. Chief among them is total cost. Absent a thorough independent study of how the move would pencil out, taxpayers could find themselves on the hook if the $500 million project winds up, as it easily could, costing a whole bunch more.