Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Each year during the Utah Legislative session, the federal delegation is invited to speak to the Utah Senate and give a report on their activities in Washington D.C. This week, we were honored to hear from Congressman Chris, Jason Chaffetz, and Rob Bishop. Congressman Stewart spoke about the need for greater civility and graciousness in our discourse. Congressman Chaffetz reported on his recent conversation with President Trump and his efforts on various reforms including the postal service and the tax code. Congressman Bishop focused on federalism and the “Article One Project.”
It was our pleasure to hear a special musical number from the Tony award winning singer and actor and Utah resident, Alfie Boe. We also honored Utah’s snow removal teams, who work tirelessly to keep the roads clear and keep Utahans safe.
We also had the wonderful opportunity to recognize our snow plow team in Utah for the wonderful work they do to keep our roads safe. Even with our many guests, we were still able to get work done.
Here are some of the issues we worked on this week in the Senate:
I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again, the budget is the most important item we work on during the legislative session. Every year we are tasked with passing a balanced budget before the 45-day session expires. This week we approved all of our base budgets for our eight appropriation subcommittees.
Dividing appropriations into subcommittees like public education and social services helps us to give a deeper look at the many appropriations requests we receive each year. After the subcommittees consider the requests, they report back to the Executive Appropriations Committee (EAC) how they recommend spending their budget. After the subcommittees and the EAC have discussed the budget, the subcommittees are ready to present their base budget bills to the legislature as a whole for consideration. You can watch the Senate pass the subcommittee base budget bills here. You can also learn more about the budget process here.
SB 27 Motor Vehicle Accident Cost Recovery
Currently, if there is an accident that damages public property (a sign or rail) the Department of Transportation (and only the DOT) will ask the guilty party’s insurance to cover the cost of property damage. This bill allows any state entity the ability to work with a third party to recover costs. This is a pretty common practice in other states and allows for a more efficient manner of recovery costs from accidents. This bill passed out of both chambers unanimously.
1SB 93 Property Assessment Notice Amendments
This bill came about because of an issue one of my constituents brought to my attention. This constituent found that they only received property assessment notices when they received their property tax statement. This does not allow for enough time for parties to contest the assessment, and can throw budgets out of whack. To resolve this issue, this bill requires a county treasurer to provide notice of the amount of unpaid costs and expenses, as well as contact information of the municipality to a property owner. This bill passed out of the Senate Revenue and Taxation Committee with a favorable recommendation and is now on the Senate 2nd reading calendar.
SB 174 Public Transit and Transportation Governance Amendments
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 many of these problems, but their biggest problem still remains — a lack of good constituent services. As I mentioned last week, I am seeking to institute several changes with the Utah Transit Authority (UTA) in hopes of solving some of our reoccurring problems. This bill SB 174, would change the UTA board to an eight-member board with each member representing a different district of equal population. Each board member would need to be confirmed by the Senate. This bill also creates a citizen board advisory board in order to create a more constituent-oriented UTA with better communications from local users. This bill passed out of the Senate Transportation, Public Utilities, Energy and Technology Committee with a favorable recommendation and is now on the Senate 2nd reading calendar.
In the News: Salt Lake Tribune |
Big Issues of the Week
School Funding: Equity Pupil Unit
SB 80 School Funding Amendments would give more funding to poorer school districts. This bill would take future growth in the state’s Education Fund and use it to grow education funds faster at the lower funded school districts in exchange for slightly slower growth at school districts with traditionally much higher funding. It is not the intention of this bill to take money from some districts to give to others. Every school district will keep every penny of property tax that is levied in that district. Instead the bill creates a formula allocation change in the future so that education funding will grow a little bit faster for school districts that have a harder time generating revenue on their own. This bill passed out of the Senate and is now up for consideration in the House.
Status: House Education Standing Committee
Last year, the Legislature passed a resolution (SCR 9) declaring pornography a public health crisis. This year we are discussing additional efforts to keep our children safe from any potential harmful effects of pornography. SB 185 Cause of Action for Minors Injured by Pornography, would provide families who feel that their child has been injured by pornography the option of suing pornographers in court if they are able to prove emotional or psychological damage. The bill passed out of the Senate Judiciary, Law Enforcement, and Criminal Justice Committee with a favorable recommendation.
Status: Senate 2nd Reading Calendar
Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument
HCR 12 is a companion resolution to the Bear Ears resolution, calls on Congress to begin a discussion over the proper boundaries of the Escalante National Monument. Almost twenty years after the designation there are numerous questions. Is a national monument the best land use policy for that area? How is this monument restricting economic opportunities? How is the monument impacting the revenue streams for local counties? Some areas need to be protected inside the Monument, but some areas can also reasonably be opened up. This bill was less controversial during floor debate than the Bears Ears Resolution, because it has a slightly different intent. This resolution does not ask that the entire Grand Staircase-Escalante monument be eliminated, rather it asks for a discussion and opens the door for compromise. This bill passed out of both chambers and will be sent to the Governor for his signature. Listen to the floor debate here.
Motorcycle Helmet Requirements
SB 159 Helmet Requirement Amendments, would raise the mandatory age for wearing a helmet on a motorcycle from 18 to 21. Very few motorcyclists in serious accidents even make it to the hospital, and those that do often run up bills over $1 million, which goes beyond the average insurance coverage. The state usually ends up covering at least some of that cost. This bill passed out of the Senate Transportation, Public Utilities, Energy and Technology Committee with a favorable recommendation.
Status: Senate 2nd Reading Calendar
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