In Utah, minorities are more than twice as likely as whites to be contacted by police looking for crime suspects. Their odds of being searched and arrested also are greater. Why is that good news? Because state officials bothered to ask. For years, Utah’s Legislature has been reluctant to set up tracking systems that would discover whether or not minorities are targets of police. And, last year, lawmakers considered undoing a law requiring police to note the race of people they stop. Instead, the state’s Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice conducted surveys that discovered the high number of police contacts with minorities. Another piece of good news the surveys found is that Utah minorities aren’t being profiled for traffic stops. More white drivers were reported being pulled over.
Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr.’s lobbying during the legislative session torpedoed several anti-immigration laws that would have hurt Utah’s economy. But he recently signed the worst one, a grab-bag measure to turn local police into immigration cops and put Utah residents out of work. Huntsman says he signed it because he’s hopeful the federal government will figure out immigration before Utah’s law goes into effect in 2009. If not, there’s still a chance for Utah lawmakers to come to their senses. Lawmakers delayed implementation of the omnibus immigration law to study potential impacts of the measure. While a separate law to create the study died, legislative leaders say they’re still committed to meeting with business leaders to find out how badly they messed up.
At least one Utah congressman thinks there are better uses for Utah’s open spaces than storing radioactive castoffs from Europe’s nuclear programs. Democrat Rep. Jim Matheson has introduced a bill that would allow federal nuclear regulators to ban foreign imports of low-level nuclear waste, unless the waste was generated by U.S. overseas facilities. If passed, Matheson’s bill likely would stop Utah-based EnergySolutions plan to import 20,000 tons of nuclear waste from decommissioned nuclear reactors in Italy. Current U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission rules allow such imports as long as the U.S. facility accepting the waste is properly licensed. Matheson notes many of Europe’s aging reactors are being mothballed and worries foreigners will be looking for somewhere to bury the remains.