Bah, Humbug! Congress never seems to give the Utah delegates what they really want on their holiday wish lists.
So, not surprisingly, their lists this year look about the same as they have for a decade. But members hope that the new Congress will finally act like Santa instead of Scrooge.The top two items on Utah members' lists are: Pass a bill needed to complete the Central Utah Project, a water project the delegation has fought to defend each year since the 1950s; and fund compensation of cancer victims of nuclear testing, another top issue for the past decade.
The 101st Congress came close to giving them both - but fell short.
For example, both the House and Senate passed different versions of a bill to increase the CUP's debt limit to allow its completion. But the two chambers could not work out their differences, so the bill died.
Also, Congress passed a bill to apologize to and authorize compensation of atomic downwinders - but it has yet to fund that compensation. It also ignored some key groups hurt by atomic testing, which the delegation will try to add into the new law.
Sen. Jake Garn, R-Utah, predicts the CUP bill should pass fairly quickly next year. "We have all the key elements worked out. All the groups affected are behind it now. That puts us nine months ahead of where we started last year."
The major problem remaining is that House Interior Water and Power Subcommittee Chairman George Miller, D-Calif., has tied to the bill his proposed reforms of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. "People had no problems with the CUP part of the bill. But they did with reclamation reform," Garn said.
Rep. Jim Hansen, R-Utah, appears headed to become the ranking Republican on Miller's subcommittee, which he says should help the CUP bill. Rep. Wayne Owens, D-Utah, said he and Garn will introduce identical bills in the House and Senate quickly after Congress convenes to jump-start the issue again.
Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Rep.-elect Bill Orton, D-Utah, also said the CUP bill has their highest priority and backing. Some squabbling among the delegation in past years has slowed the bill - but it appears not to be a problem this time.
The only tiff in the delegation concerning the bill may be between Owens and Hansen. Hansen has not been a central figure in the CUP legislation in past years but now wants that central role because he will be the ranking Republican on Miller's subcommittee.
But Owens has been leading the House fight for the CUP bill and wants to continue it. He would not comment on Hansen's plans to take a bigger role other than to say, "I'm delighted that he's finally willing to help."
On the downwinder bill, Hatch and Owens are planning to work hard to obtain funding for compensation payments. They also plan to try to obtain compensation for ranchers whose sheep herds were killed by atomic testing - which has not been covered yet.
Hatch also wants to increase compensation amounts for downwinders. Owens wants to change the law so that victims don't have the amount they paid to attorneys from previous court settlements subtracted from government compensation.
Hansen also wants to prohibit any of the compensation money from going to lawyers, whom Hansen insists are notneeded to file claims. His last opponent, Kenley Brunsdale, is a lawyer whom Hansen charged in the campaign was improperly seeking to represent downwinders. Owens and Hatch do not support the amendment.
Following are some of the other issues on various members' list of legislative priorities for the upcoming year:
UTAH WILDERNESS - Orton and Owens have agreed to hold a series of public meetings throughout Southern Utah to work out which U.S. Bureau of Land Management areas should become wilderness - another years-old issue.
Owens has proposed that 5.1 million acres be designated as wilderness. The BLM has recommended only 1.9 million. And elected Republicans generally want no more than 1.4 million. Meanwhile, 3.2 million acres of "wilderness study area" is treated as if it were wilderness until some action is taken.
Owens has said he would be content to take several years to "educate" the public on the matter, and he hopes public opinion changes to match his. Orton wants the process to move more quickly, as do all the Republicans. However, all parties say virtually no chance exists for passage in 1991.
EDUCATION FUNDING - Hatch and Owens want to change federal-funding formulas in education, which give Utah less per pupil than any other state. "We don't have anywhere to go but up," Owens said.
But Hatch adds, "The way things work around here is that it will likely take a long time to change this." Hatch is the ranking Republican on the Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee, which oversees education.
HAZARDOUS WASTES - Garn and Owens both are proposing somewhat different legislation to prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from forcing mortgagers from paying the cost of cleaning up hazardous wastes from properties they obtained through foreclosure.
Garn complains all that does is worsen the savings-and-loan crisis and punishes mortgagers who had nothing to do with the creation of the hazardous wastes.
CAMPAIGN REFORM - Orton, Owens and Hatch list it as a top priority. Orton said his experience running for office convinced him that incumbents have all the advantages. "Now as an incumbent, I would like to change the system to give challengers more opportunity."
The three favor various reforms ranging from limiting donations from political action committees to setting limits on spending and giving free television ad time to candidates.
DEFEND DEFENSE - Hatch and Hansen said they plan to defend the mission of military installations in Utah to ensure their future and avoid the axe in the next round of proposed base closures expected to be announced early next year.
S&L BAILOUT - Garn, the ranking Republican on the Senate Banking Committee, plans to push for more money to allow the government to take over failing thrifts.
"The current funding is not enough," Garn said, which may force regulators into "Rube Goldberg" schemes to sell off the failing thrifts. Such creative schemes led to the forced resignation of M. Danny Wall, a former Garn aide, as the nation's top thrift regulator.
HEALTH AND LABOR - Hatch plans to push a new child-labor law to allow more teenagers to work "and get them off the streets." He also plans a bill to provide better access to health care for the poor and a food-safety bill.
He also plans major battles to fight Democratic initiatives such as forcing employers to give workers health insurance and a job bias bill that he says would create racial quotas.