Week six of the Legislature (Tremonton Leader)

We have completed week six and will finish up the people’s business this Thursday, March 9 by midnight. 

We have been looking at the State Tax policy and trying to determine if tax reform is necessary and thus far we have not come forward with any solid changes that I can support.  We have however discovered that we have made over 80 million dollars in cuts this past session in areas no longer deemed necessary.   We have used the growth in income tax funds to fund the ongoing growth in education and provide funds for an increase in the weighted pupil unit(WPU) to provide teachers a pay increase.  We continue to work on other budget issues and bills as the session draws to an end.  Some of the key issues we dealt with this last week

Combatting Intergenerational Poverty

HB 240, Employability to Careers Program, recently passed the House of Representatives and was sent to the Senate for consideration. It seeks to help combat the growing problem of intergenerational poverty in our state and does it in a way that obligates state dollars only if successful.

The program uses a model known as “pay for success.” This model allows an outside foundation or philanthropic organization to provide the capital to a social service provider that will be responsible for the program’s design and administration. The state reimburses the funding organization only when an independent evaluator verifies that very rigorous and specific predetermined metrics have been met. The program also includes an evaluation to determine how much of the benefit to the state can be attributed to the intervention rather than to other factors, like the self-motivation of participants.

The Employability to Careers Program, outlined in HB 240, targets those who don’t have a high school diploma or GED, are unemployed or under-employed and eligible for public assistance. The end goal is to move them toward self-sustainability by providing opportunities to get a high school diploma, develop critical employability skills and start on a career path.

The service provider will work with those individuals who qualify, assisting not only in the completion of their high school diploma and development of job skills, but also in the development of employability skills, including life skills, communication, time management, problem solving and professionalism.

Based on a model developed by Dr. Young, a Legislative Fiscal Analyst, cost reductions to the state are projected to be $32.7 million over the first 15 years and revenue increases during that same period are estimated at $9.9 million. If the metrics are not met, the state does not pay and the money goes back to the state.

Public Lands

This year the Utah Legislature has been working on several bills that would allow us to better care for our public lands and permit greater recreational access on lands controlled by the federal government. These include:

HB 63, Hole in the Rock State Park, which creates a state park in the Hole in the Rock area.

HB 95, Little Sahara State Park Designation, which creates a state park in the Little Sahara Recreation Area.

HB 385, State Monuments Act, which establishes a process for the state to designate its own state monuments and creates rules for the management of them.

HB 407, Utah Public Land Management Act Amendments, which declares that the state should retain lands in state ownership “for the enjoyment and betterment of the public and state” and requires super-majority support of two-thirds of the Legislature for public land sales.

HCR 1, Concurrent Resolution to Secure the Perpetual Health and Vitality of Utah's Public Lands and its Status as a Premier Public Lands State, in order to reiterate that Utah is a premier public lands state and is committed to remaining a public lands state. It asserts that local control of Utah's public lands would result in greater opportunities for outdoor recreation, as well as economic opportunities for rural Utah.

HCR 014Concurrent Resolution of Wildfire Issues has passed the House and Senate and will now go to the Governor for his signature.  We hope this will encourage better plans for wildfire prevention and firefighting cooperation between the State and Federal agencies.

HCR 23, Concurrent Resolution Promoting Continued Access and Recreation on Lands Managed by the Bureau of Land Management, which supports expanding state and local control over access and recreation on BLM lands in order to ensure no loss of access.

We had a visit by the Salt Lake Comic Con co-founders, Dan Farr and Bryan Brandenburg, co-founders of Salt Lake Comic Con, visited this week during morning floor time. They expressed their desire to see the show grow here and contribute to Utah’s flourishing economy. Of the many comic conventions around the country, Salt Lake’s event is ranked number three, with more than 100,000 attendees.

With their staff, hundreds of volunteers, and over a hundred thousand attendees they have made Salt Lake Comic Con the most attended convention in the history of Utah...and 25% of those attendees already come from out of state.  Although we haven't yet produced the coveted hotel nights of Outdoor Retailer, we have significantly beat their attendance numbers. Now we believe we have the opportunity to impact the economy on the order of $50 million a year by 2020.  With the TV and Movie industry growing in Utah, the Comic Con co-founders have said: “We believe this creates an opportunity for us to step up and take advantage of an industry that is already thriving in Utah and make it even more beneficial to the state and its residents. We believe we can build something that will have much more impact if we are able to line up the type of support that Outdoor Retailers had here. Salt Lake Comic Con is only three years old and we’ve already helped generate tens of millions of dollars in economic impact to the area.”

We also honoredDr. Mario R. Capecchi, Ph.D. University of Utah School of Medicine, for his extraordinary work in the field of molecular genetics at the University of Utah for the last 44 years. Dr. Capecchi developed revolutionary gene-targeting technology using mice that have contributed to our understanding of, and treatments for, hundreds of diseases. His work earned him the 2007 Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine. 

My current legislation:

HB 186 Local Government Official Residency amendments bill is waiting for the Senate to take final action.  HB 237 Firearms and Domestic Violence Amendments which allows law abiding citizens to cover up a gun that they can legally carry openly now without a permit and mandates that judges will remove guns and ammunition from individuals convicted of qualifying domestic violence violations.  It notifies police when a restricted or prohibited person tries to buy a gun in a timely manner so that they can take appropriate action. It would raise the level of violation if someone commits restricted acts of domestic violence while they are carrying a gun passed the house floor but the NRA came out so opposed to the unloaded part and some of the domestic violence issues and it caused major issues with the Senate so the bill is likely not going to move forward this year.  

HB 341 State Park Name Protection Amendment will be heard on the floor of the Senate this week along with HB344 Utah Agricultural Code Amendments that recodifies the entire Agriculture code eliminating outdated language and updating the code with new definitions.

HB 425 Security Personnel amendments will be heard in the Senate this week as well.  The Security industry will be able to clear up what is expected of their industry and clarify what protections they must provide.

It was a productive week and we now have until March 9 to finish up all the work of this year’s session so we will likely go late every night this week.

Represenative Lee Perry

Dear Friends,

We have finally reached the end of the session, and I must admit, I am ready to go home. All our bills passed this year and we were even able to help a couple of other people’s bills through the process. It has been a good year and a lot of work is now finished. Aside from our work, below are some of the big pieces of legislation to come out this year.

1.   HB 442, Alcohol Amendment HB 442 which makes changes to the state’s alcohol policy, streamlines and standardizes Utah’s liquor laws by improving prevention measures, updating restaurant and retailer operations, clarifying licensing regulations and modifying the makeup of the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (DABC) Advisory Board.

It will improve training requirements for licensees, focusing on prevention of over-consumption and selling to minors, in addition to implementing new underage drinking prevention programs for 8th and 10th graders.

It also brings greater consistency to application of liquor law in restaurants by allowing three options for a buffer or barrier between the alcohol dispensing area and dining area. Restaurants can choose to either leave the currently prescribed barrier in place, install a 42” barrier between dining and dispensing or create a 10’ buffer for minors. There is nothing unique about these requirements, and many states have restrictions of some sort regarding children near bar areas, including Washington, Michigan, Wyoming, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Arizona, New Hampshire, Indiana, Idaho, Rhode Island, North Dakota, Oregon, Minnesota, Arkansas and Alaska.

2.   Clean Air

The Legislature just passed one of the most significant pieces of legislation for clean air in years. With SB 197, refineries in the state are incentivized to switch over to the production of Tier 3 fuels which have a lower sulfur content and provide for much cleaner burning.

If everyone in the state were to use Tier 3 fuels and cars, it would be the equivalent of removing four of every five vehicles on the road. The investment of producers to change from Tier 2 to Tier 3 fuels will be significant, in the tens of millions of dollars, and this bill provides a sales tax exemption on certain products that are needed for that transition.

Some of the other clean air bills passed this session include:

HCR 5, a concurrent resolution to support the dedication of a portion of the state funds from the Volkswagen settlement to replace a portion of our dirty diesel school buses with clean fuel buses.

HB 96, creating a requirement for operators of gasoline cargo trucks to prevent the release of petroleum vapors into the air.

HB 104, which allows counties to use revenue from emissions fees to maintain a national ambient air quality standard.

SB 24, extending the heavy duty vehicle tax credit to include heavy duty vehicles with hydrogen-electric and electric drivetrains.

The Legislature also appropriated an additional $1.65 million for air quality research and air monitoring.

3.   Justice Reform

Two years ago, the Utah Legislature passed HB 348, which began the process of reforming our state justice system. The point of that reform is to carefully screen those arrested for crimes in order to determine the main driver of their criminality: substance abuse, mental health issues or criminality itself. This will allow for diversion and treatment where appropriate, and improve our current high levels of recidivism.

We also began the process of reforming the juvenile justice system this year with HB 239, based on recommendations from the Juvenile Justice Working Group. These recommendations include preventing deeper involvement in the juvenile justice system for lower-level offenses, protecting public safety by focusing resources on those who pose the highest risk and improving outcomes through reinvestment and increased system accountability.

We appropriated funds for an electronic records system that will provide better communication among agencies and tracking of those in the adult system. It will enable judges to have access to screenings prior to sentencing and ensure proper placement of those more in need of help than incarceration.

If this process is followed, we will see more people in mental health and drug treatment programs. Last year the Legislature passed HB 437 which, in combination with federal funds, would have given the state $100 million to help the very most impoverished Utahns, including the chronically homeless and those involved in the justice system. A year later we are still waiting for full approval from the federal government to begin implementation. At this point we’re able to move forward with a small portion of the plan, giving us access to$22 million.

We also appropriated $17.4 million in new money for mental health/behavioral health treatment and $3 million for jail-based substance abuse programs. This should allow us to draw down another $32 million in federal funds.

This year the state has set aside nearly $3 million more for county jails to adequately deal with those who need to be taken off the street and incarcerated. This will alleviate jail overcrowding pressures that exist in certain counties and help law enforcement in doing their job, especially in cleaning up problem areas downtown.

4.   Increasing Education Funding

As we said last week, the legislature has determined to significantly increase education funding this year. A total of 57.5 percent of new revenue will go toward public education, the largest share in recent memory, and Weighted Pupil Unit (WPU) will see a 4 percent increase. Utah Schools for the Deaf and Blind will also receive a much-needed new campus in Utah County.

I just want to say thank you to everyone for the input, support, and for reading these newsletters. I love representing the people of Box Elder and doing the best I can down here each year. Thank you for the trust you place in me and I look forward to seeing you soon. I will be wearing boots instead of a suit, and I can’t tell you how happy that makes me.

 Thank you,

Representative Scott Sandall