Deseret News ran this national story on its local front page: "Drugmakers fought state opioid limits amid addiction crisis." A joint investigation by the Associated Press and the Center for Public Integrity discovered that drugmakers have spent millions and enlisted an army of lobbyists to kill or weaken legislative measures aimed at opioid abuse. This is a big deal in Utah where more than 4,600 people have died from drug overdoses in the past 10 years, 603 in 2014 alone. That's a 36 percent jump over 2006, and it's happening all over the country. This should be a warning to lawmakers taking money from pharmaceutical companies—opioids are a cousin to heroin. Utah's Good Samaritan law needs to be updated and funded. And they might want to look more closely at medical marijuana. A University of Michigan study noted that patients using medical marijuana for chronic pain reported a 64 percent reduction in their use of opioids.
It's always curious when media organizations have to fight for information that should be public. That's what happened with a draft plan for managing Utah's water resources. The document obtained by The Salt Lake Tribune compiles comments from multiple sources, including the 38-person committee that was appointed by Gov. Gary Herbert. Sure, there are controversial remarks in the paper, but the public should be given a chance to parse through the pros and cons. But committees don't trust the public they work for, and seem to prefer taking input from friends and conversing internally. Some groups, like the Utah Rivers Council, have tried unsuccessfully to comment. And we're talking about proposing legislation. Robert Grow, co-chair of Envision Utah, has now invited people to contact him with concerns. Let's just hope he makes those comments public.
Rock the Vote
You can rejoice in the fact that Utah is no North Carolina. That's where the Supreme Court had to intervene saying a voter ID law intentionally discriminated against black and young voters most likely to vote Democratic. Still it's anyone's guess whether Utah voters will turn out for Donald Trump as they did for Mitt Romney in 2012, at a rate of 80.15 percent. Two years later, that fell to 46.25 percent for the local legislative cycle, a legislative update from Kate Bradshaw noted. Deseret News ran a New York Times story on its front page that explains why 40 percent avoid going to the polls. Well, motivation is one thing. Age and opportunity and education are others. Utah is doing a lot right with vote-by-mail and its pilot Election Day registration, which ends this year. But ultimately, it's everyone's right and responsibility to vote.