Dear Friends and Neighbors,
With Week 4 of the 2017 Legislative Session over, we are now more than half way done! We have passed a total of 96 bills and they just keep on coming. You can keep track of these bills with the bill tracker tool found here.
Here is a review of a few of the big issues from Week 4:
Tax Change Proposal
A major proposal to amend the Utah tax code was introduced on Thursday. That proposal has several elements. The Income Tax part of the proposal would phase out the taxpayer credit quicker and reduce the Income Tax rate from 5% to 4.5%. The Sales Tax part would reduce the rate by 0.35%, effectively taking the sales tax rate from 6.85% to 6.5% in Salt Lake County, but would reinstate the full sales tax back on food. There would also be adjustments to Property Tax. The net effect would be no additional revenue to the state, but would allow for potential future growth in money for education. This is very preliminary information, but I wanted you to have it for your review and comments.
As you may remember, last week our appropriations subcommittees each passed their base budgets. This week, our appropriation subcommittee chairs presented their priorities to the Executive Appropriations Committee (EAC). After the base budgets are passed, the subcommittee chairs report to the EAC about the top priorities their committee has for funding, that were not included in the subcommittee’s base budget. These priorities are shared in hopes that the EAC will fund the priorities in the general budget.
We also received the revenue report this week. As I’ve shared previously, the budget this year is tighter than past years, though it is still a good budget year. Fortunately, our overall revenue is continuing on an upward trajectory. We will have a modest amount of one time and on-going revenue to fund education and other critical needs.
Unfortunately, the growth is not evenly distributed among our revenue sources, which could mean instability in the future. What is important to remember is that we still have more time left in the session to come up with solutions!
1SB 14 Emergency Telephone Services Amendments
You may recall reading about this bill in previous reports I’ve sent home. This bill seeks to help emergency responders locate callers faster in large, multi-room buildings. 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 both the Senate and House, but because the House made a few changes in committee, the Senate now needs to concur with the changes.
SB 183 High Load Motor Vehicles
There are height standards for vehicles in Utah. A several years back, due to EPA regulations, the large vehicle combination vehicles (often the vehicles carrying cars) caused those vehicles to have to raise the cabs of the trucks, but because of state standards the roofs of the cars had to be chopped lower to meet standards. Then, because the vehicles are so close to the limit, they often have to leave off part of the intended load. A number of other states allow their Departments of Transportation to distribute oversized permits so that the oversized vehicles can use their full towing/hauling ability. This bill allows our DOT to distribute oversized permits so that these vehicles may operate at their full capacity. This bill passed out of the Senate unanimously and is now being considered in the House.
SB 212 Professional Licensing Amendments
When I ran for re-election this past fall, I promised to work on creating less restrictive licensing for businesses. This bill is me keeping my promise. This bill focuses on principles that would offer the least restrictive method for licensing. This bill was actually recommended by committee last year, but died due to lack of time. I am working to make sure stakeholders have a say in this bill. I presented this bill to the Senate Business and Labor Standing Committee and it passed out with a favorable recommendation.
HB 218 Poll Location Amendments
During the last election cycle it became very apparent that we needed more polling locations. Under current law, however there were restrictions that prevented county clerks from adding new polling locations after a certain day. HB 218 would allow county clerks to add additional polling locations and notify the public after that date to accommodate demand. This bill passed unanimously in both chambers. I was the Senate sponsor of this bill.
Non-Partisan Boards and Commissions
Currently, when establishing regulations for a few of the hundreds of state boards and commissions, provisions exist in state law that require consideration of party affiliation, so that there wouldn’t be a board entirely or Republicans or Democrats. The idea was to promote multiple opinions on the boards, which is commendable. However, current law does did not say “Republicans” or “Democrats” at all, it simply requires that you ‘could not have more than a certain number of board members being from the same political party.’
Unfortunately, in practice this specification can make it impossible to fill certain boards for communities that are relatively small and homogenous. It is already difficult to find members with the necessary skill sets and experience to staff the committees and to add partisan affiliation on top of it all became too difficult.
HB11 resolves this problem by eliminating all references to partisan affiliation. Under this bill, neither the Governor nor the Senate are allowed to even consider partisan affiliation as a prerequisite to service on a board. The purpose is to make qualifications, ability and availability the determining factor, not partisanship. This bill paralleled the position most of you took last year to make sure state school board members did not have to file with a party label, but ran non-partisan.
I care far more about the desire, capabilities and willingness of a person to serve on the various boards and commissions than I do on about a partisan label. This bill garnered much debate on the Senate floor, but ultimately passed and will now be considered by the House.
Alternatives to EpiPen
EpiPen, a name brand auto-injector used for anaphylaxis, has been in the media throughout the last year for their skyrocketing prices. This rise in prices has caused more and more people with severe allergies or propensities to fall into anaphylactic shock to go without having accessible epinephrine (the drug in EpiPen). Current state code specifies EpiPen as the manufacturer for epinephrine, which eliminates competition and allows companies to charge whatever they want. SB108 is designed to open up the definition in code to include FDA-approved epinephrine auto-injectors from multiple manufacturers, not just EpiPen. The increased competition in the Utah market will likely drive down prices to the point that, hopefully, people will not go without this medication. The bill passed out of the Senate and will now be considered in the House.
In the News: Utah Policy |
Current Status: House Rules Committee
Convention of States: A call to potentially amend the US Constitution.
Every year for the last few years, we have seen resolutions dealing with Convention of States. This year keeps the course with HJR3, which calls for Utah to join other states in petitioning Congress to call a Convention of the States. The purpose of the Convention of States would be to consider amendments to the US Constitution designed to limit the power and jurisdiction of the federal government. This is a polarizing issue in Senate District 6. A flood of emails, phone calls, letters and messages have been sent to me that share your positions and passion on this proposal. I can report that your positions are fairly evenly split in support and in opposition to this bill and proposal. I continue to take input prior to voting on this bill next week.
Current Status: Senate 2nd Reading Calendar
School Assessment and Accountability
Over the last few years, we have worked on how to improve our school assessment and accountability system. We want to ensure that our school systems are helping our students learn and grow. SB 220 seeks to evolve to a school assessment and accountability system 2.0 if you will. This bill seeks to switch over from SAGE to ACT, establish a single meaningful statewide report of school performance, use multiple indicators focused on student level outcomes, and collaborate with the State Board of Education and other stakeholders to leave normative school grading and bell curves behind and instead establish set criteria for attaining each grade level.
Current 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