Hits & Misses: Government Goals – UTA reform, partisan gerrymandering, ag-gag laws and more

Source: City Weekly

Erase Our Sour Feelings
Dear Sen. Wayne Harper, you are fabulous and smart, and we will keep saying that as you carefully and thoughtfully consider reining in the Utah Transit Authority. We know that many of the board members and developers are your close friends. But they’ll forgive you. We’ll call you brave and say you have your constituents’ best interests at heart, if only you will choose to make the quasi-public UTA a state agency under the direction of a transportation secretary—one of the main reform options recently discussed by a legislative task force, according to a Salt Lake Tribune report. That would instantly erase our sour feelings about those bonuses, junkets and secret deals that have tainted UTA’s reputation.

What About Democracy?
Republicans in charge: Maybe it’s human nature, and Democrats in charge would be just as territorial, but the powers that be just won’t give democracy a chance. So please, Sean Reyes, think about the people. Think about the voters. You just signed an amicus brief for Utah, asking the U.S. Supreme Court to support partisan gerrymandering. But they call it “redistricting,” something our Legislature does every 10 years to preserve their power. Utah’s attorney general joined 15 other Republican AGs, saying it’s just dandy and constitutional as hell. In fact, there are good arguments that voters need to choose their representatives, and not the other way around. Alliance for a Better Utah brought the brief to light, even though it had been filed a month ago.

Transparency Goals
We are huge fans of transparency in government. In fact, truth in all forms is a pretty good goal. The Center for Constitutional Rights and Defending Rights & Dissent just released a report that points to “powerful corporate interests” including the American Legislative Exchange Council as the drivers behind states’ “ag-gag” laws—which purport to protect farms from “eco-terrorism” and prohibit the whistleblowing and undercover investigations that often embarrass the agriculture industry. Idaho’s law was ruled unconstitutional by a federal court in 2015, and Utah’s was similarly struck down earlier this year. Utah Sen. David Hinkins told the judge the law targeted vegetarian people trying to kill the animal industry. And state records quoted a farmer saying he didn’t “want some jack wagon coming in taking a picture of them.” A KUER report noted 16 states have passed such laws since the 1990s. With lawsuits and appeals pending, there’s more controversy come.

Read City Weekly article here.

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