Sen. Howard Stephenson, R-Draper, is backing legislation that would vest tremendous power in a 15-member board appointed by the governor which would have broad authority to decide what services towns, cities, counties and the state can provide and what unfairly competes with businesses.
"It seems to me the state government should exercise its authority in whatever way it can to ensure the rights and liberties of people," said Stephenson, the head of the Utah Taxpayers Association, which supports the bill.
He believes the state's proper role includes making sure "local governments aren't getting into the business of business and putting private concerns that have invested their capital out of business," said Stephenson.
Stephenson, who chairs the Government Competition and Privatization Subcommittee, said lawmakers keep hearing from business owners who say their survival is being threatened by competition from government-owned entities, and said that is the path the former Soviet Union took and it paid a price. He also noted that government has a built-in advantage because it is exempt from taxes that businesses must pay.
Under the proposed bill, labeled as a "working draft," any business owner that felt he or she was being hurt by unfair competition could go to the Government Competition and Privatization Commission, which would decide if the activity was a "core government function."
If not, it could order the government to stop and, if the municipality refuses, go to court to seek fines and penalties.
Some of the things on the hit list, according to the Tribune:
* Catering and reception halls. Operators have said the low prices to rent public buildings, like Red Butte Arboretum or the Salt Lake Library for receptions undercuts private reception centers.
* Municipal golf courses. They can charge lower rates than private courses.
* Recreation centers. They compete with private gyms.
* Trash collection. Cities disposing of their own trash cut into opportunities for private firms.
* Ambulance services. Some cities are offering municipal ambulance services, competing with private entities.
Which leads one to wonder. Could grocery stores file a complaint about State Liquor Stores?
Or, could a private school complain about a public school? Because, apparently, public schools are in competition with private schools.....