Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Week 6, the last full week of the 2017 Legislative Session, is complete. Next Thursday at midnight will mark the end of the 2017 Legislative Session. At this point in the session, we’re working to finalize the budget and complete the process of turning ideas into bills and turning those bills into law. Next week’s legislative schedule includes at least one more packed day of committee meetings, and three full days of debate on the Senate floor.
The Budget – Always the Budget
After reviewing and prioritizing the sub-appropriations committees work, this week the Executive Appropriations Committee (EAC) presented their budget proposal for funding with new money in committee this week. One of the proposed changes to the budget is to increase education funding by 4% (see the full list of proposed changes here). The revised budget will be passed by Tuesday.
Student Assessment and School Accountability
Education legislation is a big topic every year. This year SB 220 seeks to reform our current system for student assessments and school accountability. Under this bill, our high schoolers would no longer take the SAGE test, but rather 9th, 10th, and 11th graders would take the ACT Aspire. Many students take the ACT in order to apply for higher education, and so switching to an ACT would help test students in a way they would find meaningful. This bill would also change our school accountability system to a criterion-based grading system and include a multiple indicator system to account for growth, proficiency, student barriers (such as language), and other meaningful indicators. After good discussion on the Senate floor, this bill passed out of the Senate this week.
In the News: Salt Lake Tribune |
Interference with an Officer
If a bystander witnesses a police officer making an arrest and stops to film the officer, does that constitute interference? With so much confusion about what might or might not constitute as interference, SB239 seeks to clarify that language in Utah State statute. There have been instances when officers have threatened to arrest people for just filming an arrest. This bill clarifies that recording the actions of a law enforcement officer does not, by itself constitute interference with an officer, willful resistance, disorderly conduct, or obstruction of justice. The bill has passed in the Senate and has been sent to the House for consideration.
Nearly every year, the legislature considers bills that would eliminate the “Zion Curtain”. This year HB 442, is comprehensive bill that would make several major alcohol reforms, including offering new alternatives to the Zion Curtain. Our current alcohol policies have produced great success in our efforts to prevent underage drinking and underage drinking and driving (we have some of the lowest rates in the nation), but there are still some inconsistencies under the law in part due to our nearly 400 grandfathered restaurants that were not required to implement the changes to our then new alcohol policies in 2009. You can learn about exactly what this bill does here on our Senate blog.
In the News: Deseret News | Salt Lake Tribune | Utah Policy
Blood Alcohol Content Limit
Did you know that the United States has a higher blood alcohol content (BAC) level than any other country in the world? Countries around the world typically have BAC levels of .05 or lower. According to the National Transportation Safety Board, a BAC level between .05 and .08 makes you seven times more likely to be in a fatal crash than if you had not been drinking. The lower BAC limits do not seem to impact the amount of alcohol consumed, but it does impact drunk driving. Lowering the BAC limit from .08 to .05 would result in an 11% decrease in deaths caused by drunk driving. HB 155 seeks to lower the legal BAC limit in Utah from .08 to .05. This bill does not seek to limit drinking, but rather to help drinkers realize that alcohol truly impairs your ability to drive and that you should not drive if you have been drinking. This bill originated in the House and is now on the 2nd reading calendar in the Senate.
Utah Moves Closer to Incentivizing Tier 3 Fuels
Currently, vehicle emissions contribute about half of the emissions in Utah, which causes polluted, unhealthy air quality. Tier 3 fuels reduce vehicle emissions, and according to the EPA, no state stands more to gain from switching to Tier 3 fuels than Utah. S.B. 197 would focus on the switch to Tier 3 fuels and would implement a $1.8 million tax incentive for refineries that move toward the production of Tier 3 fuels. You can read more about Tier 3 fuels here.
3SB 198 Utah Communications Authority Amendments
Prior to the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics, Utah established UCAN which was the early version of the Utah Communications Authority (UCA). Over the years UCA has had problems with mismanagement and theft. Recently a couple of audits highlighted 18 points that need to change in this organization. This bill, along with internal policy and management changes, seeks to address the issues identified in the audit. One of the problems we face with UCA is outdated equipment, and so this bill creates a funding mechanism for 9-1-1 system upgrades as well as instructs UCA to work with existing providers and structures where it is practical so that the State is not spending unnecessarily. This bill passed in the Senate and is now in the House.
2SB 229 Sales Factor Weighted Tax Modifications
There is an ambiguity in our corporate income tax code that causes certain businesses confusion about how they should file. This bill creates a predictable approach for the taxpayers that would help them determine whether they fall under single sales factor or not. This would eliminate an opportunity to game the system by preventing businesses from going back and forth on how they file. This bill passed out of the Senate and is now under consideration by the House.
SB 277 Revenue and Bond and Capital Facilities Amendments
Utah is growing quickly. To accommodate the growth, we have dozens of highway construction projects lined up for years and years out. I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that construction can be a slow, frustrating process. This bill would authorize the State to take out a $1 billion bond over 4 years in order to speed up several of our highway construction projects. The money from the bond would be used solely for projects that have scored high by UDOT’s. Unlike other years, UDOT is prioritizing roads based on safety and congestion, and not the legislatures based on what helps just your district. The main factors are improved traffic flow, reduced congestions, issue new debt to match existing transportation debt service retirement and improved economic development throughout the state through jobs and tourism. The Transportation Commission will prioritize the projects which will move up projects like increased capacity on I-15 in three counties, interchange improvements, and congestion relief.
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