I am sad to see Maine’s Olympia Snowe leaving the U.S. Senate.
Utah is not Maine, so normally I wouldn’t comment on Snowe, but I can’t get over the nagging thought that Snowe, a well-known moderate, is leaving because Utah’s voters elected Sen. Mike Lee two years ago.
Snowe is leaving because Congress has become dysfunctional.
The Senate “routinely jettisons regular order … serially legislates by political brinkmanship … and habitually eschews full debate and an open amendment process in favor of competing, up-or-down, take-it-or-leave-it proposals,” she has said.
How does Utah’s new guy put Congress back to work? By vowing to block every nominee by President Barack Obama for every office, no matter who, no matter what.
Lee has his panties in a twist over Obama’s recess appointments in January — appointments Lee and the rest of the Senate failed to approve because of the divisiveness that is driving Snowe back to Maine.
Obama found a way around obvious obstructionism. Lee doesn’t like it. Lee is on the march.
Lee says he’s defending the Constitution, but members of his own party are backing away. I agree with President Obama, who said, “One senator gumming up the works for the whole country is certainly not what our Founding Fathers envisioned.”
It would be nice if Lee quit representing just the Tea Party and worked for the rest of Utah. I am not optimistic.
• Rep. Steve Handy, R-Layton, had a very good editorial Friday calling me a naysayer for my skepticism about the Utah Legislature’s effort to take control of all the federal land in Utah.
But I wish our lawmakers were more skeptical. Handy ignored critical questions that could make the Legislature’s effort a very expensive exercise in futility.
Handy said the Utah Constitution disclaimed title to federal lands only so the federal government could sell them. However, he doesn’t show where there’s a deadline for that supposedly promised sale to take place.
With no deadline, no specific contract, the federal government hasn’t failed to do something, it just hasn’t done it yet. Native Americans can discuss the U.S. government’s long history of ignoring treaties more strongly worded than Utah’s Enabling Act.
Handy claims this land will give more money to education in Utah. He doesn’t say how the revenues, if they show up, will be dedicated to Utah education on top of the inadequate money schools already get.
The Legislature has a history of using new education funding to take old funding away, leaving education with the same amount. It did that when it started giving income tax revenues to higher education.
Rep. Ken Sumison, R-Lehi, claims getting federal land will let Utah eliminate its state income tax, which provides $2.5 billion a year to education.
Handy said Utah needs $3.6 billion to bring its education funding up to the national average.
How will Utah do that if we take away $2.5 billion at the same time?
Even if you ignore all that, there’s no reason to trust the Legislature to protect this land.
Handy promises it will be protected, but another sponsor, Rep. Roger Barrus, R-Centerville, said last week that Utah will be able to cut approval of oil wells and mines from six years to 45 days.
Six years is a long time, but 45 days is irresponsible. Much of this land is ecologically sensitive and adjacent to national parks.
The Legislature’s own lawyers say this whole thing is probably unconstitutional anyway, so how does this do anything but give the Utah Attorney General more money to play with?
Funding lawyers instead of education does not make students smarter.