It’s nearing the end of Week 3 at the legislature so pat your pockets and make sure your keys are secure. The ride is getting bumpier.
“No one in Logan would steal a car—maybe in St. George,” said Sen. Lyle Hillyard, who resides in Logan and ergo must not be an auto thief. He was just kidding around, of course. But seriously, Hillyard wanted to know, who’s on the hook for all the toll fines racked up by ripped off cars?
Meanwhile, you’re probably asking yourself: On which toll roads are these car thieves joyriding? It’s the ones that will be created after Senate Bill 71 passes—which will certainly be applied first to congested lanes that wind up the canyons.
From the Senate floor on Monday, Hillyard asked if the bill’s sponsor had considered carving out an exception for people who find themselves in the undesirable situation where your car is stolen and driven on a toll road, and then—as if things couldn’t get any worse—the original owner later has trouble re-registering that car because its license plate has been flagged for violating the toll. Anyone who’s had to go through that ordeal will attest that it’s pretty annoying.
Senate President Wayne Niederhauser responded that the Utah Department of Transportation has some enforcement leeway, and indicated it would work itself out. The bill would give UDOT the ability to impose an electronic toll through license identification. The bigger issue at play is that the gas tax no longer generates enough money to pay for road upkeep. In the coming years, Niederhauser noted, tolls might be the norm.
What else happened this week? Well, the anti-abortion bill seems as though it will survive through gestation. Of course, its most glaring flaw is that it’s unconstitutional, according to a legal analysis. That means when it’s finally delivered, it will likely be swaddled in a lawsuit and the taxpayers will be left awake and crying at night.
Rep. Raymond Ward proffered a substitute bill this week that would have provided services to about 250 individuals with Down syndrome who are languishing on a waiting list. The body voted, however, that Ward’s substitute bill was not germane to a bill that would outlaw women from getting an abortion if the reason was because the baby would likely be born with Down syndrome. Regardless, his point was clear. Why does lawmakers’ fervent defense of Utahns with disabilities wane after birth?
Party like it’s 2002! Both bodies of the Legislature voted on a resolution to allow an Olympic Exploratory Committee to continue pondering ways to get the Winter Olympics back to the Beehive, possibly in 2026 or 2030.
“I don’t think there is any venue better than the great State of Utah,” House Speaker Greg Hughes said. He might be right. Utah has winter game facilities, it has the Greatest Snow on Earth (*some winters), and it has helpful signs that prevent folks from confusing bars with restaurants.
The other bill that got a lot of press this week was one to undo protections for surrogate parents. It was tabled after a number of individuals, including Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox’s wife, spoke against it. The Salt Lake Tribune reports that Hillyard aimed to repeal the law he once supported after learning that it helped same-sex couples.
Odds and ends and odd endings
Finally, this week reminded us of the grueling work lawmakers do outside of the committees, caucuses and chambers. House and Senate leadership organized Monday morning to announce that Operation Rio Grande statistics would be available online for the public to monitor. Then, on Wednesday, several lawmakers attended a city meeting to arm wrestle Salt Lake City Council for control over a proposed inland port on Salt Lake City’s northwest quadrant. And Rep. Jon Stanard, a stalwart example of a traditional-values conservative who believes family and marriage are sacred so much that he’s backed legislation to prove it, abruptly quit the game. He was stretched so thin that he bowed out for “family reasons.” Nothing to see here!