Guest column: Google, secret ballots and energy independence
This past couple of weeks the Legislature has considered some very interesting and worthwhile issues.
Just this Friday in our Business/Labor Committee we contemplated a bill before us that dealt with the longstanding question of who owns the Internet. Rep. Bradley last presented HB450 to our committee. This bill deals with the quandary of who owns a trademark as it relates to various search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Internet Explorer? Two Utah based companies, XANGO and 1-800-CONTACTS. He presented a persuasive argument that competitors advertising on these search engines, unfairly pray on the registered trademarks and brand names that they have spent millions of dollars on to build their brands. It became apparent to me during this hour-plus long presentation that these guys might have a point.
This "bid for hits" procedure on these sites is a very fluid process that can change daily based on who wants to pay the most for each "hit" to garner the top spot that appears after a user inserts the key word in the search field. This may sound at first blush like unadulterated free market capitalism to which I say "Sign Me Up!" What I'm not sure of is if it's fair for a competitor to piggyback a trademark owned by someone else by simply bidding against that trademark holder for top spot on the "hit list".
I went to committee convinced that I was going to vote against the bill, but after hearing the arguments on both sides came away voting for this bill that provides some protection for Utah companies that register their trademarks in our state.
HJR8 Joint Resolution regarding secret ballots was also heard in the House Business/Labor Committee a few days ago. This bill simply adds the words to Article IV, Section 8 of the state constitution to say, "All elections, including elections under state or federal law for public office, on an initiative or referendum, or to designate employee representation, shall be by secret ballot."
The right to vote for anything should be guaranteed to every individual by secret ballot. There may be a move afoot in Washington to change this and this resolution protects the rights of every individual. This is a Constitutional amendment and will need 50 votes in the House and 20 in the Senate and approval by the governor before a vote of the people can be considered in the general election in 2010. I support this measure.
We also received word in the last few days that Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar has suspended the permits to drill for natural gas in the Tavaputs area in Carbon and Duchesne counties. This is a terrible decision by the Obama administration. This area contains over one trillion feet of natural gas that could supply up to 60 percent of Utah's needs for years to come. What's worse is that this resource would provide the state over $100,000,000 yearly in mineral lease monies and severance taxes to support our general fund needs. This is one of those deals where you scratch your head and wonder, "What in the hell are they thinking back there in Washington?"
The Legislature passed a resolution last week for Governor Huntsman to take to Washington and plead our case to reverse this foolish action. Stay tuned.
Here is a status update of the bills I am sponsoring since my last Legislative Report.
HB18 Water Right Applications and Records: Passed both houses unanimously.
HB68 Development Exactions: Passed both houses unanimously.
HB85 Mutual Benefit Corporations-Judicial Liens: Passed both houses unanimously.
HJR6 Joint Resolution Revising Property Tax: Referred to Interim Study.
HJR12 Joint Resolution Supporting Hydrogen Power from Advanced Coal Technology: Passed House unanimously and is waiting a vote in the Senate.
HB389 Application to Appropriate a Small Amount of Water: Heard in Committee on March 2 and is awaiting a House vote.
Again, I thank the citizens of District 67 for giving me this fascinating opportunity to serve in our Legislature. I also wanted to let everyone in Carbon County know that Senator Mike Dmitrich and Representative Brad King left big shoes to fill, but that Representative Christine Watkins and Senator David Hinkins are both doing great.