nUtah 3rd District Congressman Jason Chaffetz loves publicity and seemingly doesn’t care if getting it means painting Utah as a racist, xenophobic backwater. That’s exactly what Chaffetz accomplished in a recent appearance on Comedy Central’s The Colbert Report where the host recommended Chaffetz anti-immigrant plans include coating Mexicans with fluorescent, paint and Chaffetz cemented his dignified appearance by leg wrestling. Chaffetz was in the news again proposing a bailout package for right-wing radio talk hosts he believes are endangered in Obama nation. He’s co-sponsoring a bill to prohibit reinstatement of the so-called broadcasting “fairness doctrine,” apparently recognizing that “fairness” is a handicap for conservative talkers. He’s been in Congress just one week, folks. Seems Utah voters can’t stop giving comedians material.
nOne of the first acts of the new U.S. Senate was ending a Republican blockade of a massive wilderness bill that aims to create 2 million acres of new wilderness throughout the country. Included are protections for parts of Zion National Park and a section of the Virgin River, which would become Utah’s first “wild and scenic” water. The wilderness package includes some provisions of a Washington County lands bill proposed by Utah’s delegation that initially looked like a giveaway to developers. But while it still allows for selling public land around St. George for development, the sell-off is scaled back and doesn’t appear to include a damaging desert pipeline planned to drain Lake Powell to feed growth in Utah’s Dixie.
nFirst out of the chute in the 2009 Legislature is a slate of ethics “reform” bills lawmakers hope can put this summer’s ugly taint of bribery behind them. Unfortunately, the proposals—like a one-year cooling off period before lawmakers can become lobbyists—just nibble at the edge of corruption. One bill promises to lower the price of meals lawmakers can anonymously take from lobbyists but contains loopholes allowing meal tickets costing less than $15 and receptions for groups of lawmakers to not be reported at all. Lobbyists are already adept at using group gifting to get around existing reporting rules. The bill package says nothing about reforming an ethics investigation process that came up woefully short in probing two bribery allegations this summer. tttt