When the 101st Congress opens next week, the top priority for Utah's five members of Congress will be reauthorization of the Central Utah Project.
The failure to get more than a stopgap bill in 1988 was the major news of the year, and the problems that surfaced during those CUP debates will dominate work on the bill in the new Congress.After the water project, everything else is an also-ran in the Utah congressional sweepstakes.
There is likely to be dissension within the delegation on proposals to put 5 million or more acres of federal land in Utah into wilderness reserves. Rep. Wayne Owens, D-Utah, favors moving ahead with the wilderness designation, but the state's Republicans and Gov. Norm Bangerter, siding with ranchers, farmers, mining, oil and gas companies and other users of the public lands, are opposed to designating more than a million acres or so as wilderness.
Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Owens plan to work for passage of a scaled-down compensation bill for victims of fallout from the atomic bomb tests of the 1950s and '60s. In 1988, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected a suit by the victims on grounds that the government could not be sued in such cases. Though earlier compensation efforts have failed over a 10-year period, Hatch and Owens believe they can get action in 1989.
Owens listed project BOLD as the third entry on his 1989 card. BOLD is former Gov. Scott Matheson's plan to consolidate scattered state land sections into usable blocks, an idea that conservation groups have not looked kindly upon, nor have some county officials.
Rep. Howard Nielson, R-Utah, an economist by profession and a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee will focus his attention on his committee.
At the top of Nielson's economic list is restraining Korean steel imports that undercut prices at Geneva Steel. He also mentioned anti-acid-rain legislation, which he hopes to channel in a way to benefit Utah's production of low-sulfur coal while not harshly penalizing smelters and other sulfur emitters.
Other Nielson ideas include fine-tuning the rules for the telecommunications industry, reforming product liability laws, rewriting the 1978 natural-gas law, and considering the Canadian free-trade agreement. That agreement is likely to hurt the domestic uranium market, already nearly dead.
Nielson told the Deseret News that he would rather see state lands handled on a case-by-case basis, rather than under a Proj-ect BOLD-like approach.
Rep. Jim Hansen, R-Utah, plans to work on the House Armed Services Committee to back Utah's military bases. Hansen said that if Fort Douglas is closed he will offer legislation to turn the property over to the University of Utah.
Other Hansen priorities include support for the $1 billion electronic warfare test range, for building the biological lab at Dugway for less-hazardous testing, and construction of new radar approach facilities at Hill Air Force Base.
Sen. Jake Garn, R-Utah, will lead the CUP effort in the Senate and the opposition to new BLM wilderness designations. Garn, who flew in space aboard the shuttle nearly four years ago, is also the leading congressional advocate of building the space station.
Hatch, in addition to the radiation bill, will concentrate on passing a child-care bill and a care for the handicapped measure.