Jan. 18, 2008
We are back in the Utah State Capitol. It's beautiful. It has always been, but now its fresh, clean and brightened. Among the state capitol buildings of America, it has no peer. It is an enormous credit to the small population of the early 1900s, and to the generosity and foresight of a few benefactors. It is as safe from the whims of Mother Nature as we can reasonably make it, and with proper care it should serve as far down the road as we can see. Every Utahn should take pride in this magnificent and stately structure and should take the opportunity to visit it sometime in the near future.
While the legislative session formally convenes on Monday, Jan. 21, we begin holding budget-related meetings last week. I serve on the Higher Education Appropriation Committee. Higher Ed's outreach to rural Utah is on the upswing. Partnerships with universities are bringing more offerings, and distance learning has been enhanced with the expansion of Utah's Education Network under the direction of Emery County native Mike Peterson. Over the last two years, the number of education network users throughout Utah has increased from some 100,000 to over 1.5 million. That's really quite impressive.
Shortly after the Crandall Canyon disaster, the Governor asked me to serve on the newly formed Mine Safety Commission along with Senator Dmitrich, Mayors Gordon and Piccalo from Huntington and Price and other prominent persons from the Wasatch front. The members were thoughtful and capable. We have tried to steer a reasonable course to enhance safety without saddling the coal industry with more unproductive regulations or red tape. Our final report will be out shortly.
The experience taught me something else. I tip my hat to the local response to this immensely challenging event in our lives. Of all those who had a role at any level in responding to the Crandall Canyon tragedy, federal, state, or local, none was better prepared or functioned more appropriately than did the local miners, public officials, communities, churches, and private citizens in Emery and Carbon counties. If there is a silver lining in all of this, it surfaced in the lives of people and institutions close to home.