Planet Utah • Before Utah was admitted to the Union, Brigham Young advanced an isolationist policy because he didn't want Mormon settlers exposed to corrupt outside influences. It seems that attitude still exists among some legislators, who don't recognize that Utah schoolchildren live in the real world and will have to compete for jobs in a global market where provincial viewpoints will hold them back. But it's encouraging that the Utah Senate approved a bill that would allow the state Board of Regents to give additional weight to International Baccalaureate courses in awarding state-sponsored college scholarships. SB100 passed 21-7, despite some legislators who opposed the clause that rewards students in the rigorous IB program. Sen. Margaret Dayton, R-Orem, reiterated her preposterous statement that IB courses are somehow suspect because they don't originate in Utah.
Overstepping state authority • The Legislature is likely to delay implementation of a bill creating a guest-worker program for immigrants in Utah, pending congressional action on comprehensive immigration reform. That's a sensible action, especially since SB116 was never going to become law. Under the U.S. Constitution, immigration law is a federal matter; states have no authority to grant any kind of visa, for work or anything else. While SB116 was the most humane part of a package of immigration bills passed in 2011, it has no chance of being upheld in court. There is hope that Congress will act soon to reform federal immigration law and allow more immigrants some type of work visa to fill the needs of U.S. businesses and to give them legal rights and even a path to citizenship. Utah should back off.
Welfare restrictions • Conservative Republicans are no friends of people receiving government help in the form of welfare. But it seems that Utah Republicans backing a bill to restrict how welfare recipients spend their money are mostly reacting to a federal law in order to retain Utah's block grant funds disbursed through the Temporary Aid for Needy Families program. Most Utahns getting aid through TANF are single mothers who are not likely to spend their money at casinos, liquor stores or strip clubs, the types of expenditures prohibited under HB209. Other states apparently have a problem that doesn't exist here. The program is strict in requiring that recipients spend at least 30 hours a week in work-related activities and limits the time anyone can receive TANF funds. The new restrictions, though necessary under federal law, should not become burdensome to Utah families on welfare.