Memorial Day

Memorial Day

This Memorial Day, we are once again reminded of the great sacrifices made throughout the history of our nation that have allowed us to live as we do—in freedom and prosperity. The blessing of freedom is granted through the sacrifices of those who have served with honor and devotion. We are forever grateful to our service members and their families, and express to them our deepest gratitude

Legislative Update: May 2017

Legislative Update: May 2017

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Legislative Update: May 2017

 Separation of Powers

The United States Constitution clearly states that it is the role of the legislative branch to establish election procedures in Article 1, Section 4: “The Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by a Legislature thereof.” The executive branch does not have the authority to establish the process for a special election; the governor’s role is to declare that an election will take place.

The separation of powers is one of the most fundamental principles of our government and protects all of us from abuses inherent in concentrations of power. The governor’s decision to call an election without allowing the Legislature to fulfill its legal and constitutional duty is disappointing and exposes the vacancy election process to unnecessary legal risks.

The Speaker of the House, Senate President and both minority leaders signed a bipartisan op-ed defending the separation of powers and urging the governor to call a special session and partner with the Legislature to ensure Utah citizens do not go unrepresented in the U.S. House of Representatives longer than necessary. It is the role of the legislative branch alone to lay out the parameters of an election and in the case of a special election mid-term to replace a representative in Washington, time is of the essence. In these historic times, as Congress is tackling issues of great consequence, one vote could make all the difference.

Utah is one of only three states with no statutory provisions prescribing the process for a U.S. House of Representatives special election to fill a vacancy, and we have been fortunate not to have needed it at any time in recent memory. But now we do. And now is the time, through the process established both in the Constitution and federal statute, to take up this issue and allow the Legislature to fulfill this important mandate.

Secretary Ryan Zinke Visits Utah

U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke visited Utah for a four-day listening tour regarding Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments. The visit was part of an effort to provide local communities a voice in federal land management decisions.

During Secretary Zinke’s visit, he met with federal, state, local and tribal leaders, community members and residents. While touring Grand Staircase-Escalante Monument and the recently designated Bears Ears National Monument, he was able to listen to the concerns and ideas of various groups and community members.

President Trump recently tasked Secretary Zinke with a review of the national monument designations under the Antiquities Act over the past two decades. The intent of the Antiquities Act was to set aside only the smallest area necessary to protect significant archaeological or historical sites, yet it has been used in recent years to lock up vast swathes of land with little or no archaeological or historical value. As these lands, our lands, become little more than the playgrounds of the rich from around the world, it becomes increasingly difficult for our own people to sustain and support families and viable communities.

Though there are differing opinions about how to best manage public lands, one thing all sides can agree on is that there is a need to protect these historic and culturally significant sites. The question is one of what ought to be done with the millions of acres that do not contain important artifacts or history, yet are locked up in monument designations.

During the tour of Bears Ears, representatives were able to witness a search and rescue operation for a sweet dog named Badger that had been stuck at the bottom of a cliff for days. See pictures here.

Clean Air Legislation

One of the top concerns of many of our constituents is the quality of Utah’s air. Lawmakers, stakeholders and community members continue to take positive steps to reduce air pollution across the state.

On May 16, members of the Utah Legislature joined Governor Gary Herbert at Ensign Elementary School for a ceremonial bill signing of nine pieces of legislation that passed the 2017 session. During the event, it was also announced that Utah would receive an additional $7.5 million from the Volkswagen settlement to replace approximately 100 diesel school buses with natural gas buses.

Members of the Utah Legislature have engaged in a significant bipartisan effort to improve air quality, and we remain dedicated to working together to continue to find innovative solutions.

 

Legislation:

HCR 5, Concurrent Resolution on Clean Fuel School Buses, supports the dedication of a portion of the state funds from the Volkswagen settlement to replace many of our dirty diesel school buses with clean fuel buses.

HCR 8, Concurrent Resolution Regarding the Volkswagen Settlement, helps establish the framework necessary for Utah to receive its share of the funds from the Volkswagen lawsuit settlement.

HCR 18, Concurrent Resolution Encouraging Utahns to Consider Smog Rating When Purchasing a Vehicle, encourages citizens purchasing a vehicle to consider smog rating and other environmental impacts.

HB 96, Petroleum Vapor Recovery Amendments, creates a requirement for operators of gasoline cargo trucks to prevent the release of petroleum vapors into the air.

HB 183, Emissions Settlement Amendments, establishes the Environmental Mitigation and Response Act, including establishing an expendable special revenue fund administered by the director of the Department of Environmental Quality.

HB 392, Air Quality Policy Advisory Board, establishes the Air Quality Policy Advisory Board to identify legislative actions to improve air quality, identify and prioritize potential legislation and funding to improve air quality and make recommendations to the Legislature on improving air quality in the state.

HB 405, Hydrogen Fuel Production Incentives, provides potential incentives for the production of hydrogen fuel.

SB 24, Heavy Duty Tax Credit Amendments, extends the heavy duty vehicle tax credit to include heavy duty vehicles with hydrogen-electric and electric drivetrains.

SB 154, Solar Access Amendments, prohibits community associations from denying owners the ability to install solar systems under certain circumstances, while still allowing restrictions of size, location or manner of placement of such systems in certain circumstances.

 Budget

Our legislative fiscal analysts are constantly searching for new and better ways to illustrate the state budget and offer some perspective for citizens. Check out one of the new tools at Utah Budget Dataviz to see where new money went, filter by subcommittees, search a particular item or view previous years. These are just a few of the ways you can break down and view the copious amounts of data that go in to making up the Utah State budget. 

Federalism

The basic concept of federalism has never been political; rather, it is a fundamental structural principle meant to protect our liberty. An understanding of its purpose and meaning has become, tragically, lost for all too many of our citizenry today.

The Commission on Federalism, in connection with Utah Valley University’s Center for Constitutional Studies, recently created a course on federalism to help provide citizens and state and local government officials with a better understanding of America’s unique constitutional system. The one-hour course is taught in a series of six videos by constitutional professors and scholars from around the country and can be viewed here.
 

Utah Law Enforcement Memorial – May 2017

Law enforcement officers from across the state solemnly gathered at the annual memorial service outside the Capitol to add the names of three fallen officers to the Utah Law Enforcement Memorial on Thursday, May 4.

The ceremony honored two officers killed in the line of duty in 2016, Utah Highway Patrol Trooper Eric Ellsworth and West Valley Police Officer Cody Brotherson, and Salt Lake Special Officer Rollin R. Tanner, who died in 1927.

The Utah Law Enforcement Memorial Wall has 142 names.

Three names of fallen police officers added to the Utah Law Enforcement Memorial

Three names of fallen police officers added to the Utah Law Enforcement Memorial

Law enforcement officers from across the state solemnly gathered at the annual memorial service outside the Capitol to add the names of three fallen officers to the Utah Law Enforcement Memorial on Thursday, May 4.

The ceremony honored two officers killed in the line of duty in 2016, Utah Highway Patrol Trooper Eric Ellsworth and West Valley Police Officer Cody Brotherson, and Salt Lake Special Officer Rollin R. Tanner, who died in 1927.

The Utah Law Enforcement Memorial Wall has 142 names.

Legislative Update: April 2017

Legislative Update: April 2017

Legislative Update: April 2017

Legislative Site Visit Recap

Many members of the Utah Legislature recently returned from a two-day site visit tour of Southern Utah, with stops in Millard, Beaver, Iron, Garfield, Piute and Sevier Counties. In addition to various site visits, the bus ride consisted of presentations from officials in many of the areas through which the lawmakers were traveling. They visited the largest power plant in the state, Intermountain Power Plant (IPP), which, incidentally, produces power mainly for the Los Angeles area. Power seemed to be the theme of the day – from traditional coal-fired to fuel storage to windmills to solar. Southern Utah produces and provides energy for much of the state and beyond and the legislators visited a few of those sites, including Magnum fuel storage, First Wind and the Red Hills solar project.

Another major theme was education. Not only did lawmakers enjoy presentations by representatives of Southern Utah University and Snow College, but were able to hear about many of the challenges facing rural schools. Despite limited budgets and falling rates of enrollment, rural districts are facing their challenges head on in meeting the educational needs of their students.

It was clear that no matter where on the political spectrum one falls, one of the greatest issues facing those in rural Utah is the ever-encroaching power of the federal government as it relates to federal lands, and the need of local officials to have more control.

The opportunity to see other areas of the state and speak with residents, business and education leaders and local representatives in their own communities, had a significant impact on those from more urban areas whose constituents oftentimes face far different challenges. The experience will allow for greater understanding of the unique issues faced by rural Utahns and hopefully lead the state to new ways of solving old problems in our rural communities. 

2017 Interim Committees

Interim committees study key issues facing the state, hear public comment and recommend legislation for the upcoming session. Unlike during the general session, when the Senate and House each have standing committees comprised of only their own members, interim committees are made up of both senators and representatives.

On April 11, the Legislative Management Committee adopted a revised interim committee schedule. Four appropriations meetings are scheduled during the 2017 interim. This will allow additional time for thorough review of the budget. There are six interim committee meetings scheduled for 2017 that will be held May through November. A list of interim committees and study items can be found here. 

Utah 4-H – Mock Legislative Session

Utah State University Extension Utah 4-H youth gathered at the Utah State Capitol to hold a mock legislature. The future leaders had the opportunity to experience the role of the legislator and learn first-hand about the lawmaking process.

During the mock legislative session, 4-H members presented and debated bills from the 2017 legislative session on the House floor. The students also held committee meetings where they presented their sponsored legislation. Representative Paul Ray and members of the Office of Legislative Research sponsored the event and observed the proceedings.

100-year anniversary of the U.S. entering the World War I

On April 6, 2017, a ceremony to commemorate the 100-year anniversary of the U.S. entering World War I took place in the Capitol Rotunda, one of many events held around the country.

During the 2017 General Session, H.C.R. 2 Concurrent Resolution Recognizing the United States and Utah’s Participation in World War I passed the Utah Legislature. H.C.R. 2 helped establish a Utah World War I Centennial Commission. The purpose of the Commission is to develop a statewide awareness campaign to recognize the history of the war, the role the U.S. military played, the impact of the war on America’s and Utah’s society and culture and to remember those who served and those who gave the ultimate sacrifice.

According to the Utah departments of Veterans and Military Affairs and Heritage and Arts, over 21,000 Utahns went into the Armed Forces of the United States, 10,000 volunteered to serve and 11,000 were drafted. During WWI, 655 Utahns lost their lives and 864 were wounded.

New State Work of Art: The Spiral Jetty

New State Work of Art: The Spiral Jetty

The Spiral Jetty, a 15-foot-wide coil that stretches more than 1,500 feet into the Great Salt Lake, was designated as an official Utah state work of land art during the 2017 General Session.

The Utah Museum of Fine Arts refers to the Spiral Jetty as “Undoubtedly the most famous large-scale earthwork of the period, it has come to epitomize Land art. Its exceptional art historical importance and its unique beauty have drawn visitors and media attention from throughout Utah and around the world.”

“It truly is a bucket list item for art lovers around the world,” said Rep. Rebecca Edwards, sponsor of H.B. 211 State Work of Art.

In 1970, the Spiral Jetty was created on the desolate Rozel Point shoreline in the Great Salt Lake by Robert Smithson. The Dia Art Foundation leases the lake bed where the Spiral Jetty is located from the State of Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands. Dia collaborates with two organizations, the Great Salt Lake Institute at Westminster College (GSLI) and the Utah Museum of Fine Arts at the University of Utah (UMFA), to help preserve the artwork.

While studying for the 2015 AP Art History exam, an American Fork High School class was delightfully surprised to find that one of the 250 works of art was in Utah: The Spiral Jetty.

The AP Art History curriculum features the Spiral Jetty as one of the Top 250 art pieces. The curriculum is designed to focus on the layers of meaning of artworks from around the globe. The emphasis, to study art pieces from political, visual, cultural, historical, societal and economic angles with a focus on the broader cultural context of a smaller number of works of art intended to reflect world history. Some of the other art pieces include the Stonehenge, the Parthenon, Great Pyramids of Giza, Sistine Chapel, Machu Picchu, Westminster Palace, Versailles, Petra, Mesa Verde, Angkor Wat as well as works by Van Gogh, Michelangelo, Cezanne, Picasso, Rembrandt and Rodin. See the full list here.

“I think the Spiral Jetty is an excellent example of work that connects cross-culturally and why it was included in the AP Art curriculum,” said, Rep. Edwards, District 20. “It symbolizes how Utahns collaborate and work together to find the best solutions for our communities.”

H.B. 211 State Work of Art passed the Utah Legislature and was signed by the Governor.

Check out some of the stories about the Spiral Jetty being named a state work of art:

New York Times: ‘Spiral Jetty’ Is Named an Official State Work of Art by Utah

Smithsonian Magazine: Utah Chooses New State Works of Art

Apollo-Magazine: Robert Smithson’s ‘Spiral Jetty’ named official Utah state artwork

Salt Lake Tribune: Spiral Jetty and ancient rock art honored by lawmakers

Artnet News: Iconic ‘Spiral Jetty’ Voted Utah’s Official State Work of Land Art

KSL: Utah’s Spiral Jetty to become state work of art

The Davis Clipper: Legislators will be working into the night to wrap things up on Capitol Hill 

 

Week in Review: March 6-10, 2017

Week in Review: March 6-10, 2017

Legislative Update: Week #7

HB 442, Alcohol Amendments

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.

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.

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.

Increasing Education Funding

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.

The Security Behind the Scenes

There are many incredible men and women frantically working to keep the Utah House of Representatives running smoothly throughout the short, seven-week session. One such group is known as the Green Coats. They are led by the Sergeant-at-Arms, Mike Mitchell. This group of 15 men are responsible for security in our lobbies, galleries and committee rooms. KUTV on Channel 2 spotlighted the Green Coats in a recent news story . Watch it here.

A Tribute to Utah’s Fallen Soldiers

The House of Representatives had the privilege of honoring Utah’s fallen soldiers and their families on the House floor. Rep. Justin Fawson, who served in the National Guard for almost 10 years, paid tribute to these soldiers and their families in a moving speech. Rep. Fawson then asked for a moment of silence to remember these brave men and women.