This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2017, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
"Everything old is new again."
Peter Allen, All that Jazz
Utah legislative sessions now imitate race-around-the-world type television shows where legislators compete, often ruthlessly, in meaningless and time-wasting challenges in hopes to be the last one standing at the end of the day. The race has begun for 2018.
May 9 was the first day legislators could file bills for the 2018 legislative session.
Hate crimes, e-cigarettes and the right to die are just the beginning of a torrent of pet issues that will inevitably never see the light of day. This is not to say these issues are not important. For example, hate crime legislation would be a welcome addition to Utah's overall civil rights framework. But there is only so much time in each session.
In 2017, legislators filed over 1,200 bill files, hoping to see those files turn into bills. Of those, 810 bills were introduced to committees. Ten years ago 733 bills were introduced. For a proudly-conservative state, this is anomalous to the basic ideology of limited government.
Indeed, the Legislature passed a record-breaking 535 pieces of legislation. But no tax reform. No election reform, which it has claimed recently to desperately need. And little clean air reform. Instead, it spent an inordinate amount of time on throw-away issues like harassing livestock and public lands. And on the state alcohol monopoly.
The Legislature should focus on major priorities, and leave pet projects for the end of the session, if time remains. Not the reverse. After passing a general budget, major priorities should include improving air quality, increasing education funding and tax reform, where necessary.
The Legislature has been chipping away at our bad air problem for the last decade. But press conferences and stalled bills don't make for better air. It was successful in passing legislation in 2017 to encourage production of Tier 3 fuels, but are million-dollar tax breaks for oil refineries really the best we can do?
Kudos to the Legislature are also due for increasing education funding in 2017. But it just wasn't enough. Utah schools need more money to pay teachers, implement innovation and upgrade defective buildings, disproportionately located in our poorer communities. Tax reform may be part of this effort, and even the President of the Salt Lake Chamber agrees reforms should be considered to modernize the tax code while protecting competition and growth.
These should be the priorities for the 2018 legislative session.
At the very least, keep Utah out of the national news with embarrassing bills like .05 DUI limits and reversing medical abortions.