Webb Wrap: Holly takes over . . . Val Hale reflects . . . School choice lobby opposes Eskelsen-Garcia . . . Unaffordable care . . . Cost of fracking ban . . . Far right dominates talk radio


Welcome, Holly! I’m very pleased to welcome Holly Richardson as the new editor of UtahPolicy.com. She’s already doing a great job and I’m enjoying slowing down a little. I hope Holly will make her mark on the newsletter, shake things up, and take it to the next level. It’s her baby, from here on. However, you won’t be rid of me entirely, because I’ll still write a couple of times a week.


Val Hale talks about career highlights. Val Hale has been running the Governor’s Office of Economic Development for 6.5 years. He leaves next month for new adventures. Hale reflects on his years at GOED, especially as it relates to international business, in this interview with Julia Breinholt-Pappas from World Trade Center Utah.

Eskelsen-Garcia faces opposition. The Center for Education Reform, the nation’s largest school choice organization, isn’t happy about the prospect of former Utahn Lily Eskelsen-Garcia being appointed as secretary of education by Pres.-elect Biden. In a newsletter they called her a “fierce opponent of education excellence and choice, even for low-income kids and parents.” Garcia is a former Utah school teacher, former UEA president, and former national teachers union chief. A coalition of education reform groups is opposing her possible nomination. Read the newsletter HERE

The Unaffordable Care Act. Jeremy Roberts’ Facebook post speaks truth: “So, we just picked our health insurance plan. At minimum, I’ll pay $14,331.48 for coverage. That’s for coverage, not for care. Then I have a deductible and max out-of-pocket of $17,100. So, my family has no health problems. We don’t have prescriptions. There is no way we will hit our maximum out-of-pocket. So, I’m stuck paying at minimum $14,331.48 for routine doctors’ visits—plus the copay.

Alternatively, we could spend a maximum out-of-pocket of $31,431.48 if we did somehow need medical attention. I get it. Trump is a disaster and Republicans should have had a plan. But let’s not give Obama and the Democrats any credibility on healthcare. The ‘Affordable Care Act’ is anything but.”

Cost of ban on oil & gas development on Utah public lands. Pres.-elect Biden’s pledge to ban oil and gas leasing and fracking on public lands is meeting strong opposition from the Utah Petroleum Association and the Western Energy Alliance. In a news release they say a new study shows such a ban would cost nearly 73,000 jobs over four years and lost wages would total $19.6 billion.

Rikki Hrenko-Browning, president of the Utah Petroleum Association, said Utah ranks fourth in natural gas and fifth in oil production on public lands, and would lose $15.3 billion in GDP over the next 20 years. Between 2021 and 2024, a Utah drilling ban would eliminate 3,232 jobs on average each year in Utah; $1.3 billion in oil and natural gas investments; production valued at $650 million; $255 million in tax revenue to the state; $1.4 billion in GDP; and $664 million in wages.

Good read. In The Nation, a far-left publication, leading progressive radio talk show host Thom Hartman says Republicans are clobbering Democrats on talk radio, giving Republicans an edge in elections. “The vast right-wing talk-show network across the United States has enormous political sway—and Republican politicians know and embrace it.” Conservative talk show hosts build trusted relationships with their listeners, and Democrats can’t match that with advertising and social media. Hartman suggests ways Democrats can begin to chip away at republican GOP dominance. Read The Nation article HERE.

Climate impacts coming, but Utah is preparing. Utah is the state best prepared to deal with the health effects of climate change, according to a study by Johns Hopkins and Trust for America’s Health, cited by Route Fifty, a newsletter for state and local government leaders. The study examines state-level preparedness and says, “Protecting people from the health impacts of climate change will ultimately require both short- and long- term thinking and action, both local and global perspectives, and both mitigation and adaptation . . .” The study makes recommendations for state action.

Parting shot. It’s definitely time for Trump to fade into the sunset (fat chance of that). I voted for him (like nearly 60% of Utah voters), but the country needs to move on. However, honest people also need to acknowledge that massive problems occurred in November in a number of states that hastily arranged mail-in voting. I doubt the bad voting procedures would have turned the election around, and it’s too late to reverse the outcome. But these problems need to be corrected before the next election. 

Utah does mail-in voting right. We’ve been doing it for a number of years and our policies and procedures work just fine. By contrast, COVID-19 pushed a number of states to quickly institute mass remote voting, and some didn’t do it well at all. There were many inconsistencies and irregularities. State leaders need to get it right next time. 

If you have a comment, an item you think should be publicized, or just want to tell me I’m nuts, shoot me a message at [email protected]