The opinions stated in this article are solely those of the author and not of The Iron County Today.
With the Utah Legislature in session, there is so much to write about. Here are a few observations on two controversial issues.
The issue on which I hear the most complaints is the Legislature’s “ignoring” the voters on citizen initiatives, especially Proposition 2 (medical marijuana) and Proposition 3 (expansion of Medicaid health coverage for low-income residents). In the case of Prop. 2, legislators agreed even before the citizens votes to alter the language even if it passed. Prop. 3 was different, with elected officials complaining about the consequences but waiting until the first week of the session to “fix” it.
The reality behind the two initiatives is not the same. One can make a case that the medical marijuana vote was aided by the very decision to change it. I’m not sure a majority of Utahns would have voted for it if the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints had campaigned forcefully against its passage and the proposal’s opponents had unleashed a fear-based advertising campaign against it. At least legislators were forced to address the issue and, even though the language was dramatically changed, in some cases medical marijuana is not legal in Utah. For now, that is a victory.
The Prop. 3 situation is quite different. Utahns passed the initiative – and it passed in a majority of House and Senate districts too – fully knowing that a small tax increase would be required. Granted, conservative legislators now forecast that the tax increase won’t pay for the added costs, and some say the Medicaid money will fall about $60 million short in the near future.
But even if the forecast is correct, a change in the coverage is cruel when the Legislature admits it will have a nearly $1 billion surplus this year and intends to pass a $225 million tax cut. The voters agreed to raise their taxes to fund Prop. 3. Legislators should acknowledge the voter intent and not deprive some 50,000 working Utahns from accessing the program.
If legislators want voters to become more involved in the political process, they shouldn’t be dismissing the will of the voters and claim that the citizens were simply ignorant.
Another controversial issue – one that has Utahns almost evenly split – is the future of beer sold in grocery stores. Only two states – Minnesota and Utah – require grocery store beer to be “3.2 in alcohol in volume,” and major breweries are phasing out the 3.2 production. In the near future, beer could totally be gone from grocery store coolers.
It that happen, beer drinkers will be forced to buy higher alcohol content beer from the state liquor stores unless legislators agree to a bill sponsored by Sen. Jerry Stevenson that would allow a small amount (less than a teaspoon) of alcohol to be added to grocery store beer.
This should make perfect sense. Beer drinkers will consume less alcohol under Sen. Stevenson’s bill, and grocery stores won’t have to increase prices on other items to make up for their loss in beer profit. If his bill doesn’t pass, drinkers can load up at the state liquor stores on beers that have at times double the amount of alcohol.
If Sen. Stevenson’s bill fails, it will be just another example of products being regulated by men and women who have no understanding of the product. That would be like me, an English and Communications major, being seated on a panel regulating nuclear energy.