Civil rights has become a vulgar term on Capitol Hill. In the course of one week, Utah House members debated a constitutional amendment that affirmative action is illegal and Republican senators considered (in private, as is their wont) whether to honor John Browning on the same holiday as Martin Luther King Jr. The affirmative action amendment, which was approved in a committee earlier in the session, has stalled on the House floor. And Senate Republicans shelved the idea to honor Browning, a Utah native who invented or refined many of the gun technologies still in use today, on the same holiday as King. For lawmakers who claim to represent the people, that’s a lot of time spent kicking those in the minority to the bottom of the mountain.
Hoping to increase the amount of trash diverted from the landfill, Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker announced a proposal Feb. 18 to expand the recycling program throughout the city. This will include an additional 20 sites for recycling glass and year-round collection of yard waste. Additionally, the city will reduce the number of times it collects bagged leaves and, instead, will encourage people to use the yard-waste containers to reduce the use of plastic bags. Sanitation fees are already scheduled to increase $1.25 per month in July, but the recycling program changes would mean a sanitation fee increase in July of $3.50 per month for those residents who don’t sign up for the yard-waste program. Now it’s only a matter of time before legislators discover what Becker is doing to help the Earth and move quickly to squash it.
Any hope for a sex-ed program that would actually teach, instead of preach, was dashed against rocks of silence in the Senate Education Committee on Feb. 22. Sen. Steve Urquhart, R-St. George, wanted to substitute his Senate Bill 54 with a new version that would have clarified that schools can teach, but not advocate, contraception. It also gave districts an option to offer parents the materials if school administrators didn’t want to teach sex ed. But to even debate the bill, Urquhart needed a motion from one of the committee members, who chose instead to sit in silence for an excruciating five minutes before adjourning. In a Legislature fond of verbal whippings, the silent treatment was probably the most effective spanking delivered to any legislator this session.