Friends and Neighbors,
It’s that time of year again! The 2017 Legislative Session is alive and kicking. We have just completed the first week of Session and I have been busy running bills that you requested and working on a balanced state budget.
Here is a review of the week:
Passing a balanced budget is the most important responsibility we have as legislators. If we accomplish nothing else, we will at least pass a balanced budget. You may have heard that this will be a “bad” budget year. The truth is this will be a standard budget year, it just happens to follow after a few years of surplus budgets. The base budget for FY 2018 is about $15.2 billion. Typically, the largest chunk of our budget goes to public education.
We have eight appropriations committees that provide oversight and recommendations on budget matters concerning their various charges (i.e. education, social services, environment, etc). After the eight committees filter through the copious appropriations requests they receive, the chairs report to the Executive Appropriations Committee with their appropriations recommendations. The Executive Appropriations Committee then prepares a complete budget proposal for the Legislature to approve.
Again in this session I chair the Infrastructure and General Government Appropriations Committee that oversees transportation, buildings, technology, finance and all state support services like fleet and purchasing.
Here is a chart of the FY 2018 base budgets for each committee, as approved by the Executive Appropriations Committee prior to the General Legislative Session. You can learn more about the budget here.
Some of my Bills
1SB 14 Emergency Telephone Services Amendments
Emergency responders in Utah have had a recurring problem with responding to emergency calls and arriving at a hotel or office building, but not having specific information as to where in the building the call was made, making it difficult to locate the person in need. This bill would require businesses and governmental entities when they update their telephone services to allow for outgoing calls to not only share the address of the building, but to also identify where in the building the call originated. It would also require that there be instructions next to the phone on how to dial out in the event someone needs to call 9-1-1. This bill passed through the Senate unanimously and is now in the House Rules Committee.
SB 38 Specialized License Plate Amendments
This issue was brought to my attention by a constituent. There are certain commercial vehicles that only receive one license plate. These vehicles typically have things in tow, but when they are not towing anything, these drivers are frequently pulled over for a lack of a rear license plate, even though they are not required to have one. This bill allows for the drivers to request a second plate for the back of their vehicle. This bill passed out of the Senate unanimously and is now in the House Transportation Committee.
1SB 40 School Bus Inspection Revisions
This bill would require any bus that transports students to go through an annual inspection on top of the standard annual emissions and safety inspections. It would also allow for random inspections of 20% of the fleet a year. This bill passed out of committee with a favorable recommendation and has now been sent to the Senate 2nd reading calendar for consideration of the entire Senate.
SB 85 Amendments to Child Welfare
There is a limit to the number of foster children that may be placed in one foster home at a time. As often as possible, we try to keep siblings together in foster care. This bill allows a group of siblings who have bonded with a particular foster family to return to that family if their trial home placement does not end in permanent placement, even if that causes foster parents to exceed the established number of foster children in the home at a time. This bill passed through the Senate unanimously and is now in the House Rules Committee.
Hot Topic Issues this Week
Medical marijuana has been the hot topic of the last couple sessions. This week, the legislators who have worked on past medical marijuana bills held a press conference to announce the direction they are taking this year on the issue. There will not be a bill seeking to legalize marijuana this year, in part because of the new Trump administration. It is difficult to know whether the Trump administration will crack down on marijuana as it is still illegal on a federal level.
There will be a bill encouraging the University of Utah to research the various potential medical benefits of marijuana. We will also see a regulatory framework bill that would outline how to manage medical marijuana in the event it becomes legal in the future.
Every year we see a handful of bills dealing with alcohol. This year there is serious talk of potentially doing away with the Zion Curtain and replacing it with new provisions to eliminate underage drinking as well as drunk driving. Eliminating the Zion Curtain is just a small part of the plan though. Representative Wilson and Senator Stevenson are hoping to make several changes to alcohol policy including how alcohol is displayed, training servers and operators, and enhancing drunk driving enforcement. This will be a big issue to follow this session.
The 2014 election reforms known as SB 54 added a second path to the primary ballot through signature gathering. However, these reforms introduced the new issue of plurality in the primary process. “Plurality” occurs when no candidates receive a majority of the vote. SB114 addresses this issue by bumping the filing period up in the year and instituting a runoff election in the instance of a plurality vote. The bill already has significant support among Senators and is on the agenda for committee discussion on Monday.
In the News: Salt Lake Tribune
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