Citizen initiatives will not be on the ballot in this year’s general election. All of the circulated petitions—including one that created an independent ethics commission and another that would have removed elected officials from the redistricting process—failed to meet the K2-like thresholds for initiatives, including 95,000 required signatures statewide and 10 percent of the voters in 26 of the 29 state senate districts. Regardless of the initiatives’ purposes, the fact that none made it on the ballot emphasizes how effectively the voice of the citizenry has been muzzled by the Legislature. Pure and simple, it is almost impossible to get an initiative onto the ballot. Utah Republicans love to talk about their government—and yes, it is their government, not the people’s—as a republic, but these latest failed initiatives prove that Utah is closer to a fiefdom.
A few dollars owed for an overdue library book could sour young readers on one of the great public resources. To avoid that discouragement, Salt Lake City libraries are now allowing children to pay those fines by reading, with a $1 credit toward their fines given for every 10 minutes of supervised reading in the library. Children are not the only beneficiary of the reinvention of library fines, as fines may soon be waived for adults who ride their bikes instead of driving around the city. Reading while biking, however, will not earn extra credit.
In the name of protecting children (apparently, from ordering expensive wine from boutique vineyards), U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, unveiled a bill on April 16 that could make it much more difficult for wineries to ship their product directly to customers. The bill would make it almost impossible for federal laws to trump state laws regulating alcohol sales, even if the state law violates the commerce clause of the U.S. Constitution—you know, that thing politicians like Chaffetz dry hump daily. Already, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that states that allow in-state shipments of wine cannot prohibit out-ofstate shipments, a ruling this bill openly defies. Not coincidentally, the bill was reportedly authored primarily by lobbyists for the beer wholesalers, who are almost as threatened by the loss of their monopoly as Utah Republicans.