Utah is a great place for many people to live. The variety of our natural scenery provides for a lovely backdrop, and our cities have their own unique culture. Additionally, with a fantastic winter perfect for skiing, it’s seeing better tourism and employment rates at the resorts than they’ve had in a decade or so.
However, we would be lying if we told you that Utah didn’t have its fair share of problems that needed solving. Some of our issues are petty and dry, and need a solution that fulfills everybody’s needs, while other problems have people divided pretty heavily. Regardless, Utah is a state that has been through a lot, and has the potential to grow into something even greater than what it already is.
If you’re traveling around the mountain west for seasonal jobs, it can be important to know about the political and social issues facing the area, even if you’re only going to be there temporarily. Here are some of the biggest political topics in Utah right now….
The horrific air quality and inversion
Everyone in Utah can tell you that breathing becomes quite an unpleasant activity once the colder months start to roll around. Indeed, Salt Lake City frequently has the worst air quality in the nation. The horrific air quality in our state has several causes. First of all, even though our landscape is beautiful, the mountains around the Wasatch Valley are a geographical bowl that makes it hard for air to cycle through. When the weather gets colder, the cold air gets pushed into a dense layer below the hot air. This means that particulate matter and pollution that we put into the air doesn’t dissipate anywhere, thus creating a sort of toxic soup that we all breathe.
While everyone agrees that Utah’s air quality is a major problem, it is unclear how to go about solving the problem, to many. The legislature doesn’t seem to have many solutions, and often underplays how much of an issue it is, choosing instead to declare that porn is the number one public health crisis in Utah. Regardless, it should be noted that nearly half of all particulate matter in our ozone is caused by vehicular emissions. This means that we can all help out, at least a little bit, to reduce our own effect on Utah’s bad air quality.
Potential new drunk driving threshold
Nearly everyone agrees that driving drunk is a reckless and irresponsible thing to do. However, based on the introduction of one new law, some people disagree about exactly what should qualify as driving under the influence. Currently, the blood alcohol content (BAC) threshold that qualifies for driving under the influence is .08% in Utah. This is the same as it is around the rest of the country. However, one state representative from Provo, Norman Thurston, is introducing a bill that would lower the BAC threshold to .05%.
If this new bill were to pass, it would make Utah the first state in the nation to have a lower BAC limit than .08%. However, some other countries in Europe, such as France and Germany, all have lower limits than we do here. The bill has many detractors, though, who say that this type of legislation would punish individuals who aren’t being irresponsible with their drinking habits, and choose to have a small drink with dinner. For more information about this new bill, check out this article here.
Selling of public lands
One recent political standoff in Utah came between Rep. Jason Chaffetz and several conservationist groups over whether or not to sell off 3.3 million acres of public lands. Jason Chaffetz drafted a bill that would have instructed the Interior Department to find ways to dispose of this “excess” land to companies that would utilize it for oil or mineral extraction. This isn’t the first time that Representative Chaffetz has attempted to carry through on this fight, as he has introduced this same bill, annually, ever since 2010.
There is some news that the dust has settled on this issue for a while, though. On February 2nd, Representative Chaffetz announced that he would no longer be pursuing the bill, due to pressure from conservationist groups. However, it is entirely possible, and likely, that we will see another fight over this issue in the near future. This topic is especially applicable to seasonal workers, as it could affect State and National Park employment and duties. However, it can also mean different opportunities as areas become privatized.