Wirth Watching – Laws of Utah


SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 Utah) – So Utah’s legislature is back in session.  We’ve already heard about controversial bills being introduced.  We’ve also heard about lobbyists and special interest groups.

I went back to look at the very first state legislature in 1896 and I read the passed bills from 120-years ago.

Most of those early bills made sense. Like the one saying you can’t put poison in candy. Or, the one that said if you sell skim milk you have to say it is skim milk.

Utah became a state in January 1896 and in February 1896, the legislature got right down to business.

They passed lots of important laws for the new state of Utah.

For example, this a new state has herds and herds of sheep. So early on, a law was passed that said you have to dip your sheep at least once a year. And the good citizens of Utah responded.

In Utah’s early years, there were miners everywhere. They were kind of a gruff and rough crowd. So they passed a law about minors working with miners.  No-one under the age of 14 could work in a mine, nor could a female.

There were, also, dairy cows all over Utah in 1896. The consumer friendly legislature didn’t want anyone getting skimmed by skimmed milk scams. So if you skimmed the cream off the milk and sold it, you had to put the words “skimmed milk” in gothic letters.  That was the law or you have to face not less than a $10 fine.

Lawmakers were cranking out consumer laws left and right. Such as one about candy. No longer could you put poisonous ingredients into candy. That that was a tough law.

Now while there were protecting us from bad food with two laws, there was one law I don’t get at all. They repealed meat inspection that was on the books as a law to prevent the exposure for sale of ‘unwholesome’ or ‘diseased meats’ in cities having a population of 1000 inhabits or over. That law was repealed. Now you could sell all the unwholesome or diseased meat you want. Wow! The meat folks must have had a heck of a lobbyist.

And, of course, there was a law passed to get the legislators paid.

It paid $4.00 a day. Ironically that was a dollar a day less than they paid the sergeant-at-arms. Apparently there were people like sick meat eaters who were upset and might show up.

But there is bad news. I did discover some fiscal impropriety. Even a scandal. Right there in the budget of 1896. They sent our state’s assessment for the World’s Fair of 1896. This put the budget in a tailspin. There it is… an overdraft on account of the world’s fair warrant. A whole 4 cents!!! Spend, spend, spend. Might as well been a Nickel of reckless spending.

By the way… how does that compare to today? No difference.

Over the years our legislature has also wisely passed other outstanding laws. Such as you cannot fish with a crossbow nor can you discriminate against someone wishing to buy milk. 

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