Policy Buzz: Webb’s Random Observations

The Ken Ivory Kerfuffle. The complaint by leftist group Campaign for Accountability against Rep. Ken Ivory is obviously more of a publicity stunt than anything else. It’s a big stretch to allege Ivory is “engaging in an illegal scheme to defraud local officials out of taxpayer funds.”  

This is a political and public policy issue, not an issue of theft. Even if Ivory’s approach to the states taking over federal land has little chance of success, he’s not committing fraud. It may be that county officials feel the education/publicity component of what he’s doing is well worth the money they’re spending. City, county and state governments hire consultants and lobbyists all the time do try to persuade other levels of government to do what they want them to do. At worst, the counties are unwisely spending money. But that’s between them and their voters. Ivory is certainly not fraudulently taking money away from them.

Personally, I believe the whole matter of public land ownership and other federalism issues deserves a lot more level-headed, practical, non-ideological discussion. I’d like to see us focus on what works and what doesn’t work. I don’t always agree with Ivory’s approach to these matters, but a rational look at these issues shows the country would be a whole lot better off with a smaller federal government and more responsibility at the state level.

Rand Paul Makes America Weaker. I haven’t decided which GOP presidential candidate I like best. But it’s certainly not Rand Paul. I would never vote for him to be president. He’s shown a cavalier disregard for national security. By torpedoing reauthorization of the U.S. Patriot Act, Paul and others of his ilk have weakened our intelligence agencies’ ability to detect threats and prevent terrorist attacks. I agree with Sen. Orrin Hatch that the compromise, the USA Freedom Act, creates unnecessary delays and impediments in protecting national security. I fail to see how the NSA’s mass collection of telephone numbers threatens anyone’s privacy or security – unless you’re a terrorist. Far greater cyberspace threats exist than the NSA.  

Should Utah go Unicameral like Nebraska? Governing magazine writer Charles Chieppo writes in a blog post that states ought to adopt unicameral legislatures like Nebraska. Bicameral legislatures create “unnecessary and costly duplication,” he says and are designed for inefficiency. My view is that Nebraska’s bicameral legislature might work OK, but I wouldn’t recommend it for Utah. In a state dominated by one party, it makes sense to have two legislative bodies with slightly different dynamics and approaches to public policy. Legislatures weren’t designed to be efficient. Citizen freedom is protected better when it’s difficult, within reason, to make new laws.

Transportation of Future. Lots of exciting things are happening in the transportation sector. I will write more on this topic in the future. The Wasatch Front Regional Council’s new 2015-2040 transportation plan has more of a focus on public transit and “active” transportation (biking and walking trails and lanes) than past plans. That makes sense, because young people are driving less. That’s been demonstrated by a number of studies. Public transportation use is up 40 percent per capita among young people, and bicycle use is up 24 percent overall. This means public transportation and active transportation facilities will be more and more important in the future.