One week in and our 2011 legislative session is already hopping. The economy and jobs are on everyone's mind. So what has this first week brought us?
Right off, they needed to designate a state gun, the Browning M1911. This is because as the sponsoring state representative Carl Wimmer stated, "This firearm has defended liberty and freedom." I thought guns didn't kill people, people did. So also don't people defend our liberty and freedom by fighting the wars, not the guns?
It has been noted that our Highway Patrol has been underfunded for years. But to help balance the budget it is recommended that the Department of Alcohol Beverage Control lay off seven control officers and turn their duties over to the Highway Patrol. Those functions include audits, back ground checks and server training. How does the Highway Patrol know how to train servers?
Despite also recording record profits from liquor sales (used to fund school lunch programs, etc), lawmakers are still pushing for more and more budget cuts including closing profitable stores.
The state park system is another area on the chopping block and in for severe cuts. They are facing a $3 million cut on top of last year's $4.5 million. Recommendations for closing five rural parks would hit towns like Green River hard.
On the same day in the news there was an article that State Representative Fred Cox wants the state to look at taking over Zions or Bryce from the Feds because Utah could run them much better.
Our underfunded education system is not sitting pretty. Higher education will be looking in the face of a $42 million cut. Our kids won't be able to afford college once we figure out how to educate them and get them ready for it.
Then there is the push for a constitutional amendment to give the Legislature the power to take over the state school board. Sen. Chris Buttars says it is to make sure the local school boards are held accountable for following state law.
He states that "special interest groups; including those that advocate for social justice have entered the system and become entrenched in some of our school districts."
Oh no. Not social justice!
There is a bill proposed to make it legal to shoot and kill feral animals. There is nothing in the bill that prohibits doing so in a neighborhood or populated place. Well at least there is no fiscal note attached to this bill.
HB211 is looking to direct the Department of Health to require some Medicaid recipients to do public service for their medical cards. A study had shown there are only about 100 working adults on a very bare bones form of Medicaid that this would probably apply to. Health officials would get to decide who would have to participate and how many hours and doing what type of work. It will cost more than what they are getting to administer the program. The Department of Health will not get any money to run it.
There are several more issues simmering, like the bill that Sen Wimmer is backing to require state law enforcement to ensure public access to all federal land declared off-limits by federal decisions. That one is a lawsuit in the making if I ever heard one. This when we are also proposing closing 10 courthouses across the state.
Whew. That was just the first five days; only 40 more to go.