Test Your Luck: Playing Fast and Loose with the Law
The Coin Toss
Gold and silver coins are now legal currency in Utah. Reviving a political idea that most of us thought went the way of P.T. Barnum, West Haven GOP Rep. Brad Galvez (and 19 co-sponsors) decided America's finances are so precarious, residents can pay for their groceries using precious metals. During the summer, they studied establishing an alternative form of legal tender, although Richard Ellis, the state treasurer, told the Salt Lake Tribune, “The state simply isn’t equipped to accept, authenticate and store gold and silver.” We assume Wal-Mart isn’t equipped, either.
Rigging the Ring Toss
Despite their disgust for federal meddling in state affairs, lawmakers decided it was necessary they dally in local government. First order of business? Blocking Salt Lake City from establishing a historic district for the Yalecrest neighborhood for one year. A historic district would limit demolition or reconstruction of the neighborhood's historic homes and halt the advance of McMansions and Frankenstein additions. Sen. Wayne Niederhauser (R-Sandy,) a developer, drafted a law allowing homeowners to tear down 75 percent of any home for at least one more year.
Tug of War: Utah vs. Its Own Constitution
The writing was on the wall several years ago when lawmakers stopped asking staff attorneys to review legislation to make certain they don't bump up against the State and U.S. Constitutions. In the 2011 session, Sen. Margaret Dayton (R-Orem) led the movement to chuck independent legal review entirely, rendering the 40-year-old Constitutional Revision Commission meaningless. Prior to Dayton's movement, the commission would regularly review legislation and check proposed constitutional amendments frequently enough to spare Utahns national ridicule (and to reduce costly lawsuits opposing unconstitutional laws). One example: Two years ago, the commission offended lawmakers by pushing to review a proposed constitutional amendment banning affirmative action, a bill that mysteriously did not reappear this year. While many of our legislators are full-time ranchers, insurance agents and realtors, they still figure they know better than a review commission of hoity-toity attorneys and judges. You know, the legal experts. Now, they've gotten their revenge: The commission will jump to action only if asked. Which most likely means never.