Sunday, January 25, 2009

Rep. Bigelow wants to eliminate continuing education for contractors - but why stop there?

Rep. Ron Bigelow (R-West Valley) has proposed H.B. 249, which would eliminate the yearly continuing-education requirement for licensed contractors in Utah. Presently, that requirement is 6 hours of continuing education over a 2-year period.

Continuing education requirements in Utah are a hodgepodge of micromanagement. Plumbers have no such requirements. Electricians do (16 hours per year). Mortgage officers do (14 hours every 2 years). Real estate agents do (12 hours every 2 years). Lawyers do (27 hours every 2 years). Psychologists do (48 hours every 2 years). Licensed social workers do (40 hours every 2 years). Occupational therapists don't. Speech therapists do (24 hours every 2 years). Certified dieticians don't. Professional engineers do (20 hours every 2 years). Pest control professionals do (24 hours every 3 years).

Some of these requirements can be met by home study, some can't. Some can use online courses, some can't. Some have ethics requirements, some don't. Some have content requirement - for example, electricians have to take instruction on the latest code requirements, but lawyers can attend classes on any legal subject they find interesting.

The contractor requirement is the laxest CE requirement we've seen imposed under Utah law. 3 hours a year is too much for these guys, especially as learning about new (greener) technologies becomes increasingly important in reducing our dependence on foreign oil? But if the issue is whether the legislature is operating counter to its "free market" mantra, that's a different question. Should professionals keep up to date in their fields? Yes. Should that be market-driven, rather than a requirement? One would assume that Republicans would think so.

And if the legislature is going to decide continuing education requirements, how about some consistency? Why do social workers have to have a whopping 40 hours when real estate agents only have to have 12? And letting Utah lawyers go to any CLE that suits their fancy seems pointless. Frankly, we think much of the CE industry is just a money maker for companies that provide it, and it may be a time for a review of the whole concept. How about it, Rep. Bigelow?

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Utah should get first crack at the Guantanamo inmates

So, Pennsylvania Congressman John Murtha's offer to house Guantanamo detainees in his district is being evaluated as an economic opportunity for that state, apparently. Lots of federal dollars and jobs would be at stake, state reps note.

We say no fair. Utah should have first dibs on housing toxic prisoners -- we already house all of the nation's toxic waste, after all. And I think we all know where the facility should be: Tooele County, of course. They'll house anything.

Is there a risk? Not if it's done right. Besides, so what? We're talking money here. Some obvious precautions do come to mind, though:

H.B. 224: Rep. Sandstrom wants lawsuits for swearing? (Seriously)

H.B. 224, filed by Rep. Steve Sandstrom (R-Orem), is called "The Health Care Provider Abusive Work Environment Prohibition Act," and suffice it to say that Sandstrom might be an honored guest at the next Trial Lawyers convention.

Under Sandstrom's bill, health care employees could sue employers (including governmental entities), co-workers, and independent contractors for workplace "abuse" that includes the use of "epithets," undermining of an employee's performance, etc., if a reasonable person would find it "intimidating" or "humiliating." Gee, no one has ever accused a co-worker of those things before.

The bill says the abuse must be with malice, but it allows a court to infer malice in all sorts of circumstances, such as alleged expressions of hostility, alleged inconsistency with legitimate business interests, alleged failure to stop the conduct upon request, etc. In other words, the bill would make it virtually impossible for an employer to avoid a trial, because it would be easy for the employee to raise a jury question by simply filing an affidavit saying that one of these things happened.

If the employee wins, a court can award back pay, front pay, punitive damages, emotional distress, attorney fees, and a singing telegram of apology. Well, maybe not the last one, but there is no cap on emotional distress or punitive damages for claims against co-workers or third parties.

What the heck? This would be the most pro-lawsuit statute on the books. Even people who are (alleged) victims of racial or religious discrimination don't have it this good. So of course, inquiring minds want to know: Who among Sandstrom's family or friends is a health care worker who doesn't like her boss?

Obama belts out a tune on Guantanamo?

OK, it's a cheap shot taking advantage of a typo, but this headline from the Huffington Post earlier today was too hilarious:

Obama - Yes We Can (Sing).

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Guns don't kill toilets, people kill toilets (in Utah)

Some events provide so much ammunition (so to speak) for ridicule that it seems wrong to blog about them somehow. Candy from a baby, that kind of thing. Nah.

This morning, some idiot in the restroom at a Carl's Jr. in Centerville let his concealed weapon drop out of his pants onto the floor. It discharged, blasting the toilet. The puns have been flowing fast and furious on the comment boards:

"Gives new meaning to being shot in the head."

"He can just tell his wife he was shooting the s***."

"Carl's Jr? That's probably not the first explosion that has occurred in that bathroom."
And even the headline: "No. 1 (and No. 2?) with a bullet: Man's pistol blasts toilet to pieces"

I just want to know the idiot's name. He deserves some kind of award named after him, like the "Could Have Killed Someone Award," or "Can't Keep It In My Pants Award," or something. By the way, is it legal to keep a bullet in the chamber? My Google project for the day.

P.S. Maybe it's a good thing this happened, even if it did cause a woman heart palpitations. Who knows what heightened awareness of Toilet Danger might prevent?

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Love Corroon, but Europe?

We come to this post with admitted biases: We think most foreign travel by local officials is a waste of taxpayer money. We also think that Peter Corroon is a man of integrity. So, what to think about Corroon's trip to Europe with UTA reps and the mayors of Bountiful and Ogden? And not just any old Europe, but Vienna, Munich, Zurich, Nice, Bordeaux, Monaco, and Paris.

Corroon at least had a facial excuse for going, unlike the China 13 legislators two years ago, whose most articulate justification for traveling to The Middle Kingdom was "Uh . . . ." But come on. In this budget crisis? With no proposals submitted yet by UTA? You couldn't look at some video or talk with experts?

We can buy some UTA reps going; they will have to come up with the ideas. But the mayors? You're not public transportation designers. We call . . . BooooooonDOGGLE!

What cuts are legislators proposing for themselves?

Thank you to The Senate Site for posting the initial list of budget cuts recommended by staff. Reading through it, a lot of the cuts / deferments seemed to make sense, but we were particularly interested in what kind of self-sacrifice the Legislature has in mind to demonstrate leadership. It's on page 48, and by "it," we mean this single item:

Legislative staff may be reduced by 1.2 FTE per 1% reduction (18 FTE at 15%). Legislators would meet 1/2 day less per 1% reduction (7.5 days at 15%). Staffing for task forces and special requests will be limited. 2009: (-$1,484,200); 2010: (-$2,967,900).
Not insignificant amounts, but we have a couple of thoughts / questions for you more experienced budget-readers:

  • What percentages do these cuts reflect? Unless we are misreading the chart, the list does not appear to identify the percentages reflected by individual cuts (vs. total percentages at the end). So we can't tell, for example, whether $1,484,200 in reduced staff expense is 1% or 50%.

  • When it says that Legislators would meet 1/2 day less per 1% reduction, is that a total for the entire year (for example, fewer interim meetings?), or that the regular session would be shortened? Because we'll be up there every day lobbying for anything that shortens the time our legisature is in session.

  • What about other cuts, such as the $300,000 stay-at-home bonus for legislators?

  • If there is anything in the legislative budget for travel, how about eliminating it?

  • Why not eliminate the constitutional review staff, since legislators ignore their warnings anyway?

  • P.S. May we assume that Sen. Howard Stephenson will stop insisting that his fellow board member's son-in-law be given a multi-million dollar contract for "textbook review"?