Apparently, the $1 per pack increase in the tobacco tax, passed this year, was not intended to be a revenue generator. Instead, sponsoring Sen. Allen Christensen, R-North Ogden, tells the Associated Press that it really was intended to help curb smoking. The problem? Christensen found minimal legislative support when he lauded the public-health benefit. Late in this year’s session, he switched his tune, touting that the tax could bring in $43 million in new revenue, helping to balance the $1 billion budget deficit and, kazzam—-the tax was passed. Unless all of the tax revenue goes to fund smoking-cessation and tobacco-prevention programs. Christensen’s claim appears to be more smoke blowing out of his filter.
Energy companies will no longer be able to use a loophole in federal law to drill gas and oil wells in sensitive areas, thanks to a settlement between the Bureau of Land Management and environmental groups. The settlement stemmed from a lawsuit filed after the BLM approved 30 natural gas wells near Nine Mile Canyon, home to extensive American Indian rock art. By using the loophole, which has actually been used to approve hundreds of wells in Utah alone, an Environmental Impact Statement was not required. Not surprisingly, energy companies are crying foul, claiming that it’s too expensive to give a flying hoot about plants, animals and cultural history.
The candidate spending the most money in this year’s U.S. Senate race is not actually a candidate, but Club For Growth, based in Washington, D.C. According to the Deseret News, the club spent $120,000 leading up to the March 23 caucus meetings, primarily focused on getting new delegates elected who oppose Sen. Bob Bennett. They seemed to have had success, since many first-time delegates got elected and Bennett supporters were roundly booed at many caucuses. They also proved in the process how well the caucus system rewards homegrown activism and limits the influence of well-heeled national groups.