Friends and Neighbors,
Week 3 of the 2017 Legislative Session is in the books! A total of 50 bills have passed through the legislature while committee agendas and reading calendars continue to be filled with more bills. Public Lands continue to be one of the biggest issues facing the legislature this session. Senate Majority Whip – Stuart Adams, recently wrote a great article describing why he supports the resolution to rescind Bears Ears National Monument. [http://www.senatesite.com/
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.”
This week, the Senate recognized the winners of the 2017 Annual Senate Art competition. In all, three of the winners were in my district: Emilly Johnson from Springville High School, Easton Bowring from Monticello High School and the overall winner, Cadence Peterson from Mapleton High School. You can see her painting below. We have such talented students here in this state.
I am sponsoring a bill (SB171) to designate Native American Rock Art as the official artwork of the state of Utah. In this state, we have the good fortune to be surrounded by countless numbers of paleographic depictions left by some of Utah’s earliest inhabitants (I’ve included an example below). These depictions are vivid reminders of the contributions by Native Americans to our culture and history.
Week 3 Top Issues
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.
UTA Governance Overhaul
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. SB 174, sponsored by Senator Harper, 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 with a favorable recommendation.
In the News: Salt Lake Tribune
20 Years later, it is time we look at Escalante Grand Staircase National Monument
Last week the Senate passed a resolution that calls on the President to overturn the Bears Ears Decision. This companion resolution, sponsored by Senator Okerlund calls on Congress to begin a discussion over the boundaries of the Escalante National Monument. Almost twenty years after the monument 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 be opened up. Listen to the floor debate here.
Pornographers May Soon Be Defending Themselves in Court
Though it hasn’t been debated officially on the hill yet, Senator Weiler’s new bill, SB185 Cause of Action for Minors Injured by Pornography, is one of the bills that people are paying attention to in Utah and across the country. His resolution in the 2016 legislative session, SCR9, Concurrent Resolution on the Public Health Crisis, had Senator Weiler in newspapers, on the radio, and on television programs around the world. This bill would give minors the option of suing pornographers in court if they are able to prove emotional or psychological damage. The bill was presented in the Senate Judiciary, Law Enforcement, and Criminal Justice Committee onThursday the 9th.
What is an Equity Pupil Unit and How will it help School Kids?
SB80 School Funding Amendments, also known as the Equity Pupil Unit, is sponsored by Senator Fillmore and described as the way that we will keep our promise to Utah school kids made 100 years ago. That promise was that, no matter the economic situation of your school district, you’ll have adequate funding for your education. He said that SB80 will take future growth in the state’s Education Fund and use it to grow education faster at the lower funded school districts and will grow a little bit slower at school districts with much higher funding.
Senator Fillmore said that this will not 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. Listen to the floor debate here.
Is your Barber Licensed to give you a Massage?
Senator Weiler told the Senate Business and Labor Standing Committee that some Utah barbers were approached by regulators about their practice of providing brief neck massages following hair-cuts. The barbers were told that state law does not allow them to offer these massages as part of their service. Senator Weiler was approached by some of these barbers to discuss the matter. He said the changes made in his bill, SB172 Barber Licensing Restriction Changes, amount to twenty words added to code. These twenty words allow a barber to briefly massage the neck and shoulders by manual or mechanical means.
The committee heard from professional massage therapists as well as Mark Steinagel, the Director of the Utah Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing. The massage therapists stated their opposition to the bill. Their belief is that barbers do not have the breadth of training and education to safely off massages to their customers. Mr. Steinagel said that DOPL supports the bill under the existing parameters. The division’s belief is that the barbers are not offering the massages as any type of therapy and are not competing with licensed massage therapists in the state. Listen to the committee meeting here.
Senate Approves a bill to make Boards and Commissions Non-partisan
Many of the state boards and commissions here in Utah require that no more than a certain number (e.g. seven members) can belong to the same political party. Originally, these requirements were meant to ensure the boards benefitted from multiple opinions. In practice, however, the partisan requirements have created staffing problems. For instance, the Radiation Control Board could be staffed by doctors but how many doctors are there in the state who have both the expertise to serve on the committee and do not all belong to the same political party? Furthermore, what happens if the only qualified doctor–who also happens to have the necessary partisan affiliation–lives in St. George and must commute to SLC to serve on the Board? This bill HB11) solves 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 quality the determining factor, not partisanship.