Saturday, March 14, 2009

Raising a (half) glass to the Legislature

Well the hostage crisis legislative session is over, and now it is time to grade the folks on "temporarily" reside on Capitol Hill every winter.

In no particular order...

  • Liquor reform: The nation's most popular governor finally got something he wanted, an update to our liquor laws to make them more like the rest of the country. Gone are "private clubs," which were really just bars that were required by law to charge a cover fee. Ditto to the silly stickers on booze which did nothing but give you cache that you bought your alcohol at the state stores rather than smuggled it in (and cost the state $1M/year in printing costs). Same goes for the so-called Zion Curtain that made places separate their bar from the rest of their resturant with a glass wall. In exchange, there are tougher penalties for repeat DUIs and scanning of IDs of people who look like they might be under 35 (aka possibly faking). If only the weak beer rule would go away, along with the "no bar hopping" zoning rules, we would be just like everywhere else. This will be good for tourism, which in turn is good for the state's economy.

  • ethics reform: very minor improvements were made, and relucantly as well (I have to say I am dissipointed in Sen. Ross Romero (D-SLC) for putting his foot down at one year). The revolving door of legislators turned lobbyists is now delayed by 1 year...and it barely passed. Why does this matter? Former Speaker Greg Curtis is now a lobbyists for tabbacco interests, and "surprisingly" ciggarette taxes didn't happen this year, the only politically popular tax, along with a host of other anti-smoking bills.

  • The Budget: no thanks to Reps. Bishop and Chaffetz (as well as Sens. Hatch and Bennett), a half a billion dollar plug was put into the state budget from the federal stimulus package, enabling previously draconian cuts to important items like education to became more limited and precise. Still, another half billion had to be cut, meaning some government workers lost their jobs in a recession, and some good programs were harmed with the bad ones that were cut. Still, it could of been worse.

  • Tone: Sen. Bramble tried again to get back at teachers unions and the PTA for supporting the anti-voucher referendum. The anti-union bill (I think succeeded) but the PTA bill went down in flames. Sen. Buttars was an offensive moron again, but other than that, legislators got along much better and tried working with the other side in a constuctive fashion. I hear that everyone was much more relaxed and content going into the last day, and no stunts were pulled. They even ended "early," which always makes legislators less grumpy.

Overall, not as bad as it could have been, but it certainly could have been better. I still think the fiction of a part-time legislature should be ended so that the "saved by the bell" excuse will go away and people can honestly say why a bill was killed.

1 comment:

derekstaff said...

Says something about our beloved state legislature when the highest praise one can give is "It didn't go nearly as bad as I feared."