2014 Session Recap

Despite what Pat Bagley says, we actually get stuff done here. Here’s just a few things we did.

Air quality:

HB121, sponsored by Rep. Becky Edwards, would have allowed the Utah Department of Air Quality to implement standards higher than federal guidelines. This bill passed the House, midway through the Session, but got stuck in the Senate. You can probably expect this one to come back.

HB31, Pollution Control Amendments by Rep. Ryan Wilcox adds pollution control devices to the list of business inputs exempt from sales tax. It passed the full Legislature and is now on its way to the governor.

House Joint Resolution 6 grants Stericycle the required legislative approval it needs to move from its current location in North Salt Lake. This resolution also provides support for the move after many of the citizens in the North Salt Lake area reached out for help. The plant is likely to move to Tooele County. The resolution is sponsored by Rep. Greg Hughes.

HB61, Clean Air Programs, sponsored by Rep. Arent, now allows the state to provide loans to individuals or businesses to replace certain maintenance equipment with high efficiency models. This bill passed on the final day of the Session.

Education:

You’ve probably heard all about the Public Education Modernization Act. HB131 would create a statewide one-to-one initiative, placing a device into each of the public education students in the state. Rep. Gibson told the committee it was time to start being more competitive. “It’s time to take the first steps”. We have an in-depth analysis to explain more about the one-to-one initiative. The bill was left on the House floor, due to a lack of funding. However, the Education Task Force is looking to study the concept during the interim.

The Legislature did, however, continue to fully fund public education. The weighted pupil unit (WPU) was increased by 2.5%, and the 2015 budget accounts for all new students moving into the public education system. By the numbers:

  • $65 million was added in order to fund the roughly 10,000 new students expected in the upcoming fiscal year, to fund an additional 10,300 students expected in Utah schools this fall.
  • $62.5 million added towards the weight pupil unit for the upcoming school year. That’s about a 2.5% increase.

Rep. Hughes’ Utah School Readiness Initiative, HB96, passed the full Legislature late in the Session. This bill creates a program for at-risk children to attend quality preschool programs. Grants would be made available for preschools that meet certain criteria and allow children access to their programs. These grants would be funded by private investors, with the state as a backer.

Personal Privacy:

A few weeks ago, we talked about House Bill 70, Forcible Entry Amendments, by Rep. Roberts. This bill takes steps to mitigate risk to officers and people who may be subject to a search warrant. The bill was substituted to address some concerns within the law enforcement community. The bill requires, with some exemptions, that officers identify themselves and must wait a reasonable amount of time before entering a specific premise. This bill has passed the full Legislature.

HB128, Electronic Device Location Amendments, now protects individual’s private data from being scooped up by a state or local law enforcement entity. The bill would allow law enforcement officials to request a search warrant to gather data, but any additional data gathered outside the scope of the search warrant would need to be deleted within a 24 hour period, and would not allow that data to be held against any person. We have more information about the bill from earlier in the Session.

Health care:

HB105, the bill that would allow cannibas oil to treat those suffering from epilepsy and other neuro-related illnesses, passed the Legislature overwhelmingly. The bill creates stipulations for those sufferers to get cannibas oil, which has been shown to help those suffering with some neurological disorders. The Department of Health will issue waivers to those deemed in need by a board-certified neurologist.

HB88, helps additional people covered under PEHP and low-income families that have children with autism. The bill would continue a pilot program, started in 2012, allowing children to receive Applied Behavioral Analysis treatment under these conditions.

Another autism bill made its way through the House. Senate Bill 57, would require insurance companies to provide autism treatment to suffering children ages 2-9.

The big move and build:

Moving the state prison from its current location in Draper has been an idea the Legislature has been dealing with for years. Progress is being made this session. The Legislature took the position to support the move. HCR8, now moves onto the governor.

Salt Lake is getting a new hotel. HB356 establishes tax credits for a hotelier to build a hotel along with meeting space near the Salt Palace Convention Center. The bill also calls for advertising all corners of Utah, encouraging conventioners to stay and explore all that we have to offer.

Investigative Committee:

The House Special Investigative Committee wrapped up their work late in the Session. The final report has been presented, and is available for the public to view. The report itself is over 200 pages, and exhibits add another 3,700 pages. Enjoy.

Part of that report included suggestions that could be made to Utah’s campaign finance laws. House Bill 394  is one of those. This bill, now that it’s passed the Legislature, would require candidates to report expenses made by third parties that work with a campaign.  This bill was sponsored by Rep. James Dunnigan, chair of the Investigative Committee.

HB390, sponsored by Rep. Chavez-Houck, is another bill that came from the Investigative Committee. HB390 would add additional penalties for those who try to obstruct legislative committees by tampering or falsifying evidence.

Public lands:

The fight to gain control of Utah’s public lands continued during 2014. HB151 will create a commission to work with many different stakeholders to advise the state how best to access and manage the federally-controlled lands. The Daily Herald was there. This bill also passed the full Legislature.

Alcohol:

A bill to add stipulations and other requirements to bars that voluntary install breathalyzers moved through the Legislature and moves to become law. HB190,, sponsored by Rep. Greg Hughes, would ensure that those who opt to install breathalyzers are kept to standard, including monthly inspections and ensuring data collected is not used for any other purpose besides calibration.

HB376, makes some modifications to the Alcohol Abuse Tracking Committee studies. The annual study shows trends regarding alcohol consumption across the state. You can read last year’s study while you wait for the next report, which will arrive in July.

A bill to remove the more popularly known “Zion Curtain” did not make it through the Legislature this year. The bill, HB285, would in return of the Zion Curtain removal, replace it with notices on certain restaurants letting patrons know that alcohol is poured openly. Safe bet we’ll see this one again too.

Additional miscellaneous stuff:

HB286, Child Sexual Abuse Prevention, sponsored by Rep. Angela Romero, creates an education program to help children understand what abuse is, and how to prevent and/or stop it. The education program is left up to the districts to decide how to implement it, whether that be via a parent/guardian, or through an educator.

Minority Leader Jen Seelig sponsored HB157, Rape Kit Processing Amendments, gives victims of sexual assault more information about the assailant. The victim is now kept up to date on the processing of the assailant’s DNA and the continued investigation.

Rep. Lee Perry and Becky Edwards teamed up with Sen. Karen Mayne to protect voter data from being sold by the state. SB36, protects many pieces of a voter’s information, including birth date from being sold. The bill also protects data from being sold to those who look to sell products or services.

Did we miss any? Tell us what you think.