As the nation’s economy falls deeper into the dumps, the Utah Legislature is reacting with typical compassion. State health directors recently warned that budget cuts would likely result in closing services for disabled children. Meager monthly assistance checks that Utah cuts for the poorest of the poor are set to run dry in August. Still, lawmakers talked during recent interim meetings about implementing mandatory drug testing for welfare recipients. Never mind the fact that such payments go overwhelmingly to single women with children, for the purpose of feeding their babies. A new drug-testing regimen would cost Utah big money to implement and defend in court.
If enough people scream long and loud enough, even the Utah Transit Authority will get the message. The state’s bus operator has reversed itself on plans to jack up the price of rides for disabled residents while scaling back service. The UTA told lawmakers it had dropped the plans and would now seek grant funds to fill budget holes. Better yet, the controversy appears to have prompted new creativity: UTA plans to look into a dispatch center to efficiently schedule trips for those who have trouble getting to a bus stop and examine ways that regular buses can go slightly off their beaten path to pick up disabled riders.
Some state lawmakers are promoting a new federal law that could keep roofs over the heads of Utahns by preventing good renters from being kicked out on the street if their landlord is foreclosing. Federal law now allows renting to continue even after homes or apartments go into foreclosure. And if the property is sold to a new owner, the renter can’t be forced out for at least 90 days. That’s important in Utah, where the number of properties in foreclosure now ranks sixth highest in the country. Rep. Wayne Harper, R-West Jordan, is pressing for additional state protections.