Cough, Cough, Choke
No doubt about it—choke, choke—air quality was, is and will be the biggest story of the year in Utah. This is mainly because the state is schizophrenic when it comes to the health and well-being of its citizens. Good for you, Gov. Gary Herbert, for asking the Legislature to cough up (no pun intended) $100 million for clean air. Too bad you still think coal is the future of Utah industry and businesses shouldn't be burdened with unnecessary regulations—you know, to tamp down on those particulates. Here's the sad state of affairs: Rep. Stewart Barlow, R-Fruit Heights, who heads the Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environmental Quality Appropriations Subcommittee, tells The Salt Lake Tribune the state's economy might be slowing down. And while Herbert suggests incentivizing wood-burning stove replacements, you might remember that didn't go very far.
Just to belabor the point—you remember, air quality is the story of the year—Rep. Joel Briscoe, D-Salt Lake, is valiantly trying to pass a carbon-tax bill this year. Ha! That's great—except for the tax part and, well, save the coal industry! But he's on the right track trying to change behavior. So, you might wonder why the Legislature is so ready to start taxing those electric and hybrid cars—those expensive cars that people hope will save the planet. The Deseret News' Jay Evensen thinks that's not too bad because it's just so unfair to other vehicle owners. If you want to be fair, he says tax miles driven. The D-News, meanwhile, is running a thoughtfully researched series on air pollution. One story prominently mentions Utah's anti-health politics. Another—pay attention, governor—offers a graphic that shows the top reason tech employees might leave the state is air quality.
The Great Disdain
Finally, we start the year with a great disdain for the citizenry and more especially legislative constituents. Marijuana. Enough said about the most misunderstood word in the English language. And did you know it wasn't even on the ballot? Utahns voted overwhelmingly—despite the "Mormon" influence—to approve medical cannabis, a derivative with usually less THC than its recreational counterpart. Still, the Legislature has deemed it crucial to interfere in the legislation because opioids are apparently the drug of choice. Watch now for it to mess with the redistricting initiative because incumbents might lose to more popular alternatives. Medicaid expansion is probably also on the chopping block because it will cost something and Utah would rather spend money on roads than on sick people.