Rolly: Firefighter sports injuries cost Salt Lake County taxpayers
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Salt Lake County fire officials have always encouraged their firefighters to work out and keep in shape. Participation in team sports has been seen as a good thing because it develops camaraderie and teamwork.

But the extracurricular activities cost county taxpayers an extra $300,000 a year.

Unified Fire Authority Chief Michael Jensen, who also is a Salt Lake County councilman, said when he and his management team learned the county's Workers Compensation carrier was charging $300,000 more in premiums because of the frequency of injuries from intramural football, basketball and "smoochy ball" (a concoction of football, hockey and soccer), they decided to order a halt to those activities.

The games were being played while the firefighters were on duty, but now they'll have to focus on individual workouts or perhaps a strenuous game of chess or two.

Not everybody took the cease-and-desist order well. One fire captain informed Jensen that, since the order, there had been a spike in injuries from "three-legged sack racing."

Buyers remorse? Leading up to the recent primary election in Utah, two candidates for public office in Utah County included their volunteer campaign work two years ago for Sen. Mike Lee among their lists of achievements.

A Republican candidate for the Utah House of Representatives mentioned his Lee connection on his campaign Facebook page. A candidate for a nonpartisan city council race included the connection in a flier.

They both received such a negative reaction for helping Lee get elected over incumbent Bob Bennett and primary challenger Tim Bridgewater, the House candidate removed it from his page and the city council candidate never brought it up again.

The House candidate lost, the city council candidate won.

Many political observers have said publicly that Lee's victory two years ago, and his replacement of respected statesman Bennett, gave pause to the very Republican voters who pushed for change that year. Those second thoughts helped incumbent Sen. Orrin Hatch, who soundly defeated his primary opponent, Dan Liljenquist.

Speaking of Hatch: If he is re-elected to his seventh term this fall and the Republicans win a majority in the U.S. Senate, the Utah senator would be third in line of succession for the presidency of the United States.

First in line to succeed the president, of course, is the vice president. Then it is the speaker of the House. Next in line is president pro tempore of the Senate.

That title is traditionally given to the senior member of the majority party in the Senate. Currently it is Daniel Inouye of Hawaii, a Democrat. But Hatch, if re-elected, would become the senior Republican in the Senate.

Had Richard Lugar of Indiana not lost his Republican primary race this year, there would have been a debate if Republicans gained control.

Hatch and Luger were sworn in on the same day in 1977, but Lugar was sworn in first. Some have argued the deciding factor should be whose name comes first in the alphabet. That would be Hatch. Others have said it should be the state that is first in alphabetical order. That would be Lugar. And others have said it should be the senator from the more populous state — again Lugar.

But it's all moot because Hatch won his primary and Lugar lost.

prolly@sltrib.com