Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Week 2 of the 2017 Legislative Session is in the books! A total of 11 bills have passed through the entire legislature but committee agendas and reading calendars are filling up with bills in a hurry.
We had some exciting events happen on the floor this week. We witnessed the proposal of Senator Henderson’s intern (she said yes). Senator Anderegg read an emotional citation honoring the Search and Rescue Dog Handlers that participated in the effort to find his missing niece – Annie Schmidt and bring closure to his family.
Senator Henderson sponsored a resolution honoring a true American hero and Utahan, Gail Halvorsen. The resolution read in part:
“during the Berlin Airlift from 1948 to 1949, Halvorsen, moved by the gratitude and resilience of the children living in that devastated city, dropped tiny handkerchief-sized parachutes filled with candy from his C-54 for the children of Berlin to chase down and collect — an act for which he was affectionately nicknamed the “candy bomber,” and, though he was nearly court-martialed for doing so, Halvorsen continued to make his candy drops for several months;”
“… almost 70 years later, Halvorsen’s service to the children of Berlin stands as one of the foremost examples of kindness and human compassion, bringing relief to a war-torn country and joy to children in need of a little bit of hope”
Overall, we have had a productive and busy week. While the media has focused on issues like the Bears Ears and Escalante Grand Staircase Resolutions, there have been many other issues and bills discussed by the legislature. Thank you for your interest in our legislative process.
Here is a review of a few of the issues we dealt with this week:
Public Education Funding
The public education system is the largest recipient of state funds in Utah. Most of the funding comes directly from the Education Fund, though there are several other sources for funding public education such as local property tax revenue, revenue from the state liquor tax, and the Uniform School Fund to name just a few. Within the public education system, the Minimum School Program receives the lion’s share of the funding at 90% of the budget. This money goes directly to school districts and charter schools. The remainder of the budget is allocated for the School Building Fund as well as administrative functions.
Here is a graph that shows the funding sources that create our $15.18 billion public education appropriation budget this year. You can learn more about our budget here.
SB 36 Department of Transportation Amendments
This bill requires Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) to perform audits and allows them to employ auditing experts from outside of the department. Audits are important in helping our State agencies perform at a high level. This bill has already passed through both chambers.
Current Status: Senate for Senate President signature and enrolling
1SB 111 Unmanned Aircraft Amendments
Unmanned Aircrafts, or drones, are a newer technology that create regulation issues and confusion around the country. This bill seeks to clarify a unifying drone code for the State of Utah. This bill enumerates safe practices for flying drones, addresses privacy and voyeurism, declares it unlawful to attach a weapon to a drone, and clarifies the different rules for commercial versus private use. This bill initially came before the legislature last session, but I chose to hold the bill in favor of more discussion and work over the interim. Over the course of the last year, this bill has undergone many changes due to stakeholder input. This bill passed out of the Senate Transportation, Public Utilities, Energy and Technology Standing Committee with a favorable recommendation.
Current Status: Senate 2nd Reading Calendar
SB 174 Public Transit and Transportation Governance Amendments
As I am sure you’ve read in the news, the Utah Transit Authority (UTA) has been an agency of controversy for the last couple of years. There has been public concern over the executive salaries, travel expenses, perceived deals with developers who are connected to the board, and public meetings. Over the years UTA has taken various steps to fix several of these problems, but their biggest problem still remains-a lack of good constituent services. This bill would change the UTA board to an eight-member board with each member representing a different district of equal population. This would create a more constituent-oriented UTA with better communications from local users. This bill was introduced in the Senate today.
Current Status: Senate Rules Committee
In the News: Salt Lake Tribune |
Big Issues of the Week
Civil Asset Forfeiture
SB87 is designed to give the public more opportunities to have property seized by law enforcement returned. While up for consideration in the Senate this week, this bill underwent two new amendments. Amendment 4 would allow an innocent owner the opportunity to petition the seizing agency within 30 days if the claimant can provide evidence that establishes proof of ownership. Amendment 5, would require the seizing agency to respond in writing to the claimant within 45 days of the claim or relinquish the property. This bill, with the stated amendments, has passed out of the Senate.
Current Status: House Rules Committee
1SB 110 Sales Tax Collection Amendments
Senator Bramble is sponsor with me as Co-Sponsor
Sales tax applies to all Utahans’ no matter where they make their purchases, online or in store, but currently only brick-and-mortar stores facilitate the collection of the sales tax. States across the US are running into issues with collecting sales tax from online purchases, because only companies with a physical presence in a state can be constrained to collect and remit the owed sales tax. This creates an unfair advantage to online retailers.
This bill establishes under what circumstances retailers not physically based in Utah would be required to collect and remit sales tax by establishing an economic nexus. Previous legislation has tried to tie economic nexus to number of transactions from a state; this bill chooses to shy away from transactions and instead focusing on earnings from the sales. In the event that a retailer earns over $100,000 of sales in Utah, they are required to begin collecting sales tax because their economic imprint is substantial in Utah. For an affiliate, the threshold is $10,000 of sales in Utah before they are required to collect sales tax. This bill passed out of the Senate Revenue and Taxation Committee with a favorable recommendation.
SB82 Library Technology Use Amendments
In the Senate Government Operations and Political Subdivisions Standing Committee on the 31st, Senator Weiler presented SB 82 Library Technology Use Amendments. Senator Weiler said that about 15 years ago, Congress passed a law that stated that any library that accepts federal funds is required to filter internet content. About 12 years ago, the State of Utah said the same thing, that libraries that accept state funds are required to have filters on their internet connected computers. Both of these laws went into effect before the wide use of wireless internet. Senator Weiler found out that some libraries only have filters on their computers that are directly connected to the internet. If the library provides wireless internet service, that service is not always filtered. This bill is designed to extend the law that was created 12 years ago to include filtering of wireless internet at public libraries
In the News: Salt Lake Tribune |
Current Status: Senate 2nd Reading Calendar
2SB 114 Election Law Amendments
In 2014, SB 54 modified election code to provide an alternative route to the ballot; a candidate could go through a caucus, gather signatures, or do both in a primary partisan election. This created a potential problem with plurality of candidates. 2SB 114 changes the filing period and timeline of an election year to accommodate a potential runoff election. In the event that a primary has 3 or more candidates and none receive more than 35% after the initial primary election, then the top two candidates would go to a runoff primary in August in a vote-by-mail election. This bill would only impact partisan elections, which take place in the even numbered years. This bill passed out of the Senate. On Saturday February 4, the GOP Central Committee, based on this bill, voted to drop its lawsuit against the state on SB 54 and close a divisive chapter in Utah election process.
Bears Ears National Monument
HCR 11 is a resolution that calls on President Trump to overturn President Obama’s Bears Ears decision. The resolution sharply criticizes President Obama for using the Antiquities Act—which was designed to help protect Native American structures and objects—to unilaterally set aside 1.5 Million acres of Utah land for environmental protection. Among other things, the resolution chides Obama for ignoring the wishes of the residents of San Juan County-many of who are Native American. This resolution has passed in both chambers.
Current Status: Returned to the House for enrolling and printing
What do you think?
I am grateful to represent you in the processes that make Utah such a great place to live and raise our families.
I hope to hear your input on these issues this session. The best way to contact me is via email. I look forward to hearing from you.
Senate District 6