The overwhelming majority of bills that reach the governor's desk this week deserve his signature. But Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr., ought to veto a few of them.
At the top of this list is SB48, the bill that was supposed to fairly equalize the costs of new public school facilities statewide, but which instead would lead to hidden tax increases throughout Salt Lake County. The bill was necessitated by a vote last November in which residents of the Jordan School District's east side decided to split off and form their own district. That left the remaining west side with the lion's share of new construction needs and little money with which to build.
In a small way, this exemplifies a problem that exists statewide. The public school system is supposed to provide an equal education for all children, but children who live in wealthy districts have obvious advantages over those in poorer ones. Wealthy districts can raise tax revenue with much less difficulty.
But instead of enacting a statewide equalization plan, the bill grants a bit of one-time money to most school districts in the state, then sets up a permanent equalization plan only in Salt Lake County to help the remaining Jordan District. That would require those districts to raise property taxes to compensate for the loss. SB48 specifically allows those districts to ignore the law governing tax increases and enact that hike without public notices or hearings.
Anyway you look at it, this is a bad bill. The Jordan District does need help, but not this way. Huntsman needs to take a firm stand, let lawmakers know this isn't an acceptable effort, then negotiate a real equalization bill that could pass during a special session.
Huntsman also ought to veto the omnibus immigration bill. Although this bill, SB81, went through a lot of changes and is not nearly as harsh as originally written, it still is a step in the wrong direction. If allowed to become law, it would make obtaining employment harder for illegal immigrants, who are in fact economic refugees.
The real solution would be a way to allow workers who are necessary for the economy, grant them some sort of work permit that keeps them from having to forge Social Security cards, and keep track of who they are and how long they stay. As lawmakers correctly noted in a resolution, the job of initiating such a plan belongs to the federal government, not to the states.
SB81 won't take effect until July 2009. That means there is plenty of time for revisions. It also means the issue could be ignored and become law as written. Huntsman should veto it and require lawmakers to begin again next year.
Finally, Huntsman should veto SB105, which sets up a new Judicial Performance Evaluation Commission to evaluate judges. Although no lawmakers or judges would sit on this panel, eight of its members would be appointed by the House Speaker, the Senate president and the governor. The danger for political pressure on judges would be too great. Also, some members would not belong to the state bar and would not be qualified to determine whether judges are following laws and proper procedures.
Simply put, SB105 would fix problems no one has demonstrated exist.