Legislative Update: Week #4
HJR 8, Joint Resolution Supporting the Retention of Public Educators
This week the House passed, on a vote of 62-7, HJR 8, Joint Resolution Supporting the Retention of Public Educators. The resolution recognizes the shortage of credentialed public educators in the state, acknowledges the critical nature of public education to Utah’s prosperity and lays out a mechanism for potentially increasing educator salaries.
Because almost 64 percent of Utah is controlled by the federal government, educational opportunities and funding options for public education are severely constrained. Nearly 65 percent of state tax dollars are dedicated to education in our state. Even when combined with federal dollars, over 40 percent of our funds are dedicated to education, the highest level in the nation.
The resolution ends by proposing that 50 percent of any new ongoing revenue from the management of public lands transferred from the federal government to the state would be used to increase salaries of public school teachers.
We know the state is able to manage its lands well for education. The School Institutional Trust Lands Administration, SITLA, currently manages parcels of public land throughout Utah for the benefit of education. The funds generated through activities on these lands are placed into the Permanent State School Fund, which has grown from $18 million in 1983 to over $2 billion in 2015. Interest generated from investments within the fund are then distributed as discretionary dollars for use by Utah’s public schools. This year alone those distributions totaled over $49 million on the management of only about 6 percent of our lands.
This resolution will allow our state to begin to prioritize the ways in which public lands-generated funds could be used and is one small step toward dealing with the issue of teacher retention and public education dollars.
HB 202, Trespass Amendments
The House recently passed HB 202, Trespass Amendments, with just one dissenting vote. This bill creates a new definition under the trespass statute called “long-term guest.” It would make it easier for an individual who invites someone into their home temporarily to rescind that invitation without being forced to go through the eviction process.
A long-term guest is defined in this bill as someone who is not a tenant but who is given permission by a resident to stay in their home for a period longer than 48 hours. There have been circumstances where, upon refusal to leave when asked, guests have attempted to establish rights to remain on the premises. Under this law, that guest would be guilty of criminal trespass and law enforcement action could be taken.
HB 146, Partially Filled Prescriptions
Utah, like many states, is facing an opiate epidemic that has led to hundreds of deaths due to narcotic overdoses. Seventy percent of those who misuse narcotics report obtaining the drugs from family, friends or off the street. The practice of illegally obtaining narcotics is commonly referred to as diversion.
H.B. 146, Partial Filling of a Schedule II Controlled Substance Prescription, would help reduce diversion by allowing a partial prescription to be filled instead of the full amount by the request of the prescriber or patient. A partial fill is considered anything less than the initially prescribed quantity of the controlled substance. Subsequent fillings of the original prescription must occur at the pharmacy that originally dispensed the partial fill.
The amount allocated cannot exceed the total quantity prescribed. The cost shall not exceed the original cost of the full prescription if a person chooses partial fills and uses the entire amount.
Instead of depending upon various efforts to safely dispose of unused medication, H.B. 146 will empower patients and prescribers with the ability to request a partial fill of a Scheduled II controlled pain medication, including Norco, Lortab, Hydrocodone, Vicodin, Percocet, Morphine and Oxycodone. This bill defines and codifies partial prescription fills into state law and complies with recent changes in the federal law.
Legislative Update: Week #3
The Western Hunting and Conservation Expo February 16-19
Over 40,000 sportsmen will descend on the Salt Palace in Salt Lake City next week, February 16-19, for the Western Hunting and Conservation Expo. Visitors will hail from 45 states and 17 countries.
Hunting is a $2.3 billion industry in Utah and adds significantly to the state’s economy. The event itself is projected to generate $30 million in economic activity, including $5 million in private funds to be used for conservation purposes within the State of Utah.
Three hundred sixty vendors are slated to participate in the expo.
Importance of Outdoor Industry to Utah
Utah has become a top destination for those drawn to our lands, our wildlife and the markets that exist here for outdoor products. The outdoor recreation industry is an integral part of our state culture, and each year Utah hosts three Outdoor Recreation Summits (Ogden, Moab and Cedar City) to address the industry and regional concerns, and build relationships among various parties.
The interests of hunters align well with those who want to see the State of Utah control its own public lands. We have always been a public lands state and most Utahns want to keep it that way, but they reject the notion that federal bureaucrats thousands of miles away are better stewards of the land than the people who live on and around it. On state-managed lands, we see better erosion control, healthier watersheds and stronger, more vibrant herds – all of which benefit hunters and other outdoor recreationalists.
Utah has consistently shown its commitment to healthy public lands, with the largest active watershed and wildlife habitat restoration program in the U.S. Since 2005, over 1.3 million acres have been restored through this program at an annual cost of approximately $14 million.
Our 43 State Parks receive more visitors per acre than our National Parks, and they do it without running the maintenance deficits and backlogs that burden the federally-managed parks. In 2013, when the federal government shut down, state leaders stepped forward to reopen the National Parks in Utah, using over $1.5 million in state funds that still haven’t all been reimbursed.
Utah is committed to the management of our lands in a way that allows for greater access and use, and healthier forests, ranges and wildlife. We welcome those who want to come here and enjoy the many benefits offered by Utah public lands.
Commission on Federalism
The Commission on Federalism has been meeting regularly thus far this session in order to identify where the federal government has been impinging on state sovereignty.
Utah’s federal delegation has sought clarification on the areas and issues where state legislators have seen overreach and where and how they would like to have a greater ability to govern their own affairs.
House Speaker Hughes and Senate President Niederhauser have asked the Commission to work throughout the session to prepare a list of areas and specific items to present to our federal delegation for consideration.
Information about the Commission, its meeting times, agendas and recordings, can be found on the Legislature’s website.
H.C.R. 11, Concurrent Resolution Urging the President to Rescind the Bears Ears National Monument Designation, passed the House and Senate and was signed by Governor Gary Herbert on the evening of Friday, Feb. 3. It is now headed to Utah’s Washington delegation. This concurrent resolution urges the new administration to remove the 1.35 million acre monument designation made by the previous president shortly before leaving office.
Nearly 70 percent of Utah is under federal management and control, and 90 percent of Utah’s population lives on just 1 percent of its land. The Antiquities Act, created by Teddy Roosevelt, was never intended to be used to lock up large swathes of land; it was meant to set aside only the smallest area necessary to protect significant archaeological or historical sites. This monument declaration claims to protect such “antiquities” as star-filled nights, coyotes and pine trees. While these are a part of Utah’s wild areas, they are certainly not what has ever been contemplated as worthy of protection under the Antiquities Act.
Congressman Stewart Addresses House
On Thursday, February 9, Congressman Chris Stewart gave his annual report to the Utah Legislature. During his visit, he addressed Congress’ priorities, which include reforming the tax code and repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act. Rep. Stewart expressed that we as Americans have the responsibility to speak the truth, listen respectfully to others and protect Americans and America’s interests around the world. Click here to watch his remarks (begins at 15:34 mins).
Congressman Chaffetz Visits the Utah House
During the Majority Caucus meeting on Thursday, February 9, Congressman Jason Chaffetz gave an update on what he is working on in Washington, as well as his recent meeting with the president. During that meeting, Chaffetz asked the president to repeal the Bears Ears National Monument designation. He mentioned to the caucus that he would like to do away with the Antiquities Act in its entirety.
Rep. Chaffetz talked about the new Congress’ aggressive reform agenda, including repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act, reforming the burdensome U.S. tax code and rebuilding the military infrastructure. He expressed his desire to do away with the U.S. Department of Education, saying that states and the many layers of interested parties, from parents to teachers and principals to school boards, pretty much have it covered.
Historically, our personal property has all been tangible and easily identifiable, but recent technological advances have changed that. Unlike in the past, much of what we own today is intangible, digital property and the law is trying desperately to catch up with this new reality. One of the central questions around which new policy has yet to be clearly established is the question of how to appropriately handle virtual property after the death or incapacitation of a loved one.
A proposal before the Utah Legislature this year, HB 13, would allow residents to pass down social media and email accounts after death. With this bill, individuals can select an individual to handle those accounts and specify the level of access.
The bill sponsor, Rep. Lowry Snow, says he has had nothing but positive feedback about the legislation, including from both Google and Facebook.
Evidence – Based Policy Making
According to a recently released study by Pew Charitable Trusts and the MacArthur Foundation, Utah is one of five states leading in the application of evidence-based policy making, ranked second in the nation.
State leaders have tended to focus efforts and financial resources on ensuring that policy prescriptions and programs are solving problems not only efficiently, but effectively. As Utah House Speaker Greg Hughes often says, “We let good information drive good decisions.” We can’t afford to do things any other way.
Our state, with its young population, large families and access to significantly less than half the land within our borders, faces many unique challenges. While these challenges impact our ability to fund services to the same level as many other states, they have also led to public policy that tends to prioritize solutions that work well for the right cost. In Utah, we really do more with less.
The recently designated Bears Ears National Monument was created using the Antiquities Act through executive action. Every locally-elected official in the San Juan area has opposed this monument, as has every one of our state and federal officials who represent the area. The Utah House of Representatives, with the passage of HCR 11, recently expressed strong opposition to the Bears Ears National Monument and urged the President of the United States to rescind it.
Is there a constitutional and legal basis for states to gain control over the public lands within their borders?
Yes. The Utah Commission for the Stewardship of Public Lands compiled a world-class legal team of renowned constitutional scholars and litigators to examine the legal theories surrounding the transfer of public lands to the states. They determined that based on the constitutional cornerstones of the Equal Sovereignty Principle, Compact Theory and Equal Footing Doctrine, “legitimate legal basis exist to attempt to gain ownership or control over Utah’s public lands.” It was their recommendation that the commission and Legislature urge the governor and attorney general of Utah to “consider instituting litigation against the United States of America under the Original Jurisdiction of the U.S. Supreme Court.” These legal theories and arguments apply not only to Utah’s litigation efforts, but are largely applicable to other western states as well.
One of the most important responsibility state legislators have is to pass a balanced budget. You may have heard that this isn’t a “good” budget year. However, our fiscal analyst predicted the budget so accurately that it will be a standard budget year, which happens to follow after a few years of budget surplus. The base budget, which was approved by the Executive Appropriations Committee in December, for fiscal year 2018 is $15.2 billion. That is about $100 million more than the fiscal year 2017 budget. Learn more about Utah’s budget here.
Annual Capitol Event: Tech Day on the Hill
On Monday, January 30, Utah tech leaders gathered with legislators and students for Tech Day on the Hill to express support for collaboration between industry, government, and education. The event focused on a STEM Action Center’s upcoming computer science pathways initiative. Tech industry companies provided hands-on exhibits, including Adobe and Domo. On this same day, the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, the Women Tech Council and Silicon Slopes announced a new partnership to combine efforts on technology workforce development and to ensure Utah’s tech industry continues to be successful.
Utah’s Emmy Award Winning Program
Utah’s own ProStart “TeenChef Pro” show that won two Rocky Mountain Regional Emmy Awards. This television program recently received funding again during the May 2016 Special Session. On TeenChef Pro, Utah teens enter into a cooking competition, and the best chef wins a scholarship to the professional culinary school. This program helps promote the critical school-to-career curriculum into our high schools. The ProStart program is in 62 schools and every district and has been training Utah culinary professionals for 20 years.
Legislative Update: Week #1
Opening of the 2017 Utah Legislative Session
On Monday morning, Jan. 23, the 2017 Session of the Utah Legislature was called to order by former Speaker Mel Brown. After a prayer by LDS leader Elder Dallin H. Oaks, the Hillcrest High School Vocal Ensemble performed the National Anthem.
The posting of Colors was performed by the Utah National Guard, and Ted Garcia led the Pledge of Allegiance.
After the election that just took place last November, all members of the House were administered the Oath of Office by Mel Brown.
Speaker Greg Hughes’ Opening Remarks
Speaker Greg Hughes spoke on the opening day of the 2017 General Session of the Utah Legislature. His speech focused on a number of issues, including the carnage and human suffering that is occurring within the state as homelessness has proliferated. The Legislature has started to move the needle on the issue, he said, through work done by the Justice Reform Initiative (JRI), Medicaid funding through HB 437 and the Homeless Initiative, as well as coordination and collaboration with local governments to make the system better and provide much-needed assistance where appropriate.
He went on to say that this effort is just beginning, and a critical component of further reform rests on the ability of officials to rid the downtown area of those criminals who would prey on the very vulnerable. With the best of intentions and the idea that economies of scale would most effectively and efficiently meet the needs of the homeless population, we have found that the greatest beneficiary of this consolidation of services has been the drug cartels that have infiltrated the area.
The Speaker also spoke about the recently-designated Bears Ears Monument as proof that the federal government clearly believes they are better stewards of the lands within our state than those families and individuals who have lived on and around those lands – taken care of them, worked on them – their entire lives. He expressed that Utah has become the ATM for political payback to special interest groups as Democrat presidents leave office.
He went on to speak about the state income tax reform under Governor Huntsman in 2007 that gave our state a flatter tax, allowed us to be more competitive with surrounding states and strengthened our economy. If we want more money for education, he pointed out, the very most important policy issue we can focus on is public lands. Those states that spend substantially more money on education aren’t left without 68 percent of their state’s lands to fund that system. We all need to realize that a successful fight for public lands ultimately leads to more education funding.
Speaker Hughes closed by explaining that he and Senate President Niederhauser would be tasking the Commission on Federalism to begin the process of identifying where the federal government has infringed on the state’s sovereignty and right to govern, and submit that information to our federal delegation so changes can be considered at the federal level.
With the recent designation of the 1.35 million acre Bears Ears National Monument and changes in Washington, public lands are a big issue and one that impacts Utahns in many ways. Yet, many in the public still have questions. We’re going to try to answer a few of them periodically, so stay tuned.
Has a transfer been done before?
Yes. During the 19th century the federal government controlled as much as 90 percent of all lands between Indiana and Florida. Midwestern and Southern states recognized the toll this was taking, banded together and compelled Congress to pass legislation transferring federal lands to their care and management. Today, less than 5 percent of the land in these states is controlled by the federal government. The transfer of public lands to willing states is nothing new; it has a long and storied history.
Moving from Homelessness to Self-reliance
After being convicted of a federal crime in another state and spending 21 years in the Utah State Prison, Brandon Kitchen was released into a strange city – homeless, jobless and unsure of where to go next.
Brandon just happened to meet a woman who told him about The Road Home, and that is where he spent his first night of freedom. He still recalls the palpable feelings of despair that permeated the facility and its inhabitants.
At one point, Brandon recalls, he faced losing his bed at the shelter as a consequence of having a job; he was told there was no way for him to have both, because leaving to work a job kept him from standing in line all day for a bed. Eventually, through the efforts of the Pioneer Park Coalition, a workers’ bed program was instituted to help those like Brandon, who were trying to become self-reliant.
The morning after he arrived at the shelter, Brandon met Salt Lake City Police Deputy Chief Fred Ross, who told him about the department’s Homeless Outreach Service Team (HOST) program. This program allowed him to secure a job and within three weeks, Brandon worked his way out of the shelter and into transitional housing. Soon after, he moved into his own apartment and is now living with his partner, Heather, and their twin boys, born June 9th.
Despite his past, Brandon understands that self-reliance is the path his future will follow. As he will tell you, “Fred Ross, Scott Howell, HOST, the Pioneer Park Coalition and others, they showed me the way. They gave me hope. Not a handout, but a hand up. That’s the key.”
Did you know?
Last year, in 2016, the Utah Legislature passed a bill that amends the traffic code to allow the operator of a vehicle to cross the double white lines of an HOV lane when necessary to ensure the safety of emergency vehicles and emergency services personnel.
In other words, it is not a violation of the law to cross the double white line when moving out of the carpool lane to clear room for emergency vehicles and personnel on the side of the road.
Annual Capitol Event: Maps on the Hill
Maps on the Hill takes place each year in the State Capitol Rotunda during our Utah Legislative Session. The Utah Geographic Information Council (UGIC) and AGRC put on the event. Students and professional topographers teach electedofficials and the general public about maps and new mapping technologies. These presentations also demonstrate how mapping technologies can be used to support lawmakers in their decisions.
House Floor Debate
The Utah House of Representatives met on the floor to debate eight bills Tuesday, Jan. 24. H.B. 12 stirred the most discussion on the floor before being successfully passed, 74-0-1.
This bill ensures the inclusion of a place for voters to write an email address and phone number on absentee ballot return envelopes. Poll workers will use this contact information if a returned ballot is rejected. A poll worker will then contact a voter via email or text, and the voter will be permitted to correct their rejected ballot.
Legislative Update: Summer 2016
Unmanned Aircraft Over Wildfires
During the special session on July 13, the Legislature considered legislation related to the use of unmanned aerial vehicles over restricted wildfire airspaces.
Throughout this summer’s wildfire season, we’ve seen numerous instances of drone interference in efforts to fight fires throughout the west and here in Utah, firefighting aircraft have been grounded a number of times as a result of drones. This puts members of the pubic and their property at risk, in addition to endangering the lives of those working to put out these fires as quickly and efficiently as possible.
In 2016, Rep. Kraig Powell sponsored HB 126, that would prohibit an individual from flying an unmanned aircraft in certain areas during a fire and provide criminal penalties for violations.
Because of persistent problems just this year, a new bill was proposed and presented to the Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environment Interim Committee during July interim. The new bill would modify the penalties of the earlier bill and authorize authorities to shoot down or jam the signals of drones flying too close to wildfires. HB 3003 passed favorably out of committee and was supported by the full Legislature and signed by Governor Herbert.
Controlled Substance Database Revisions
In 1995, the State of Utah instituted a controlled-substance database to consolidate information of all such prescriptions within the state. The purpose was to identify over-utilization and misuse of controlled substances.
A number of years ago, concerns were expressed that some law enforcement officers were accessing the database for investigative purposes in violation of the Fourth Amendment rights of those whose private information was being viewed and searched.
In 2015, the Legislature passed SB 119, which required law enforcement officers to obtain a search warrant, requiring probably cause, in order to run a search on an individual in the database. This necessary protection inadvertently led to a situation where probation and parole officers were unable to access the database pursuant to their duties. Parolees and probationers agree to searches and supervision as a condition of their release and therefore are not eligible for the same Fourth Amendment protections against searches and seizures as the population at large.
During July interim, Sen. Todd Weiler presented a revision to the Health and Human Services Interim Committee that would allow for access to the database by parole and probation officers without the requisite warrant. The committee voted favorably to recommend SB 3001, sponsored by Sen. Weiler, with House sponsor Rep. Dan McCay, to the full Legislature, which then voted in favor of the bill later that day during the Special Session.
New State Fair Park Stadium
During the third special session of 2016, the Utah Legislature unanimously voted to support HB 3002, sponsored by Rep. Sandra Hollins and appropriating $10 million of the $17 million needed to build a 10,000 seat stadium at the state fair park. The additional funds necessary to build the facility will include a $3 million contribution from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, $2 million from Salt Lake County, $1 million from Salt Lake City, with the remainder coming from private donations.
The stadium will serve as the home of the Days of ’47 Rodeo and will be used throughout the year to attract other large events, concerts and sporting competitions. It is expected to be completed during the summer of 2017.
Additional interim highlights can be found here.
Governor Herbert has issued a call for a special session of the Utah State Legislature on Wednesday, July 13. It will be held in conjunction with the regularly interim meetings scheduled for that day. Items that will be considered include:
1. H.B. 3002 State Fair Park Amendments – Rep. Sandra Hollins/Sen. Luz Escamilla – The appropriation of funds to the Capital Budget and related legislation for the purpose of constructing an arena at the State Fair Park. This will help fund the reconstruction of the new 10,000 chair state-of-the-art multi-purpose arena at the Utah State Fairgrounds. The new facility will serve as the new home of the Days of ’47 Rodeo and will be utilized throughout the year to attract large events like the World Series of Barrel Racing, professional bull riding competitions, concerts and sporting competitions
2. H.B. 3003 Unmanned Aircraft Amendments – Rep. Don Ipson/Sen. Evan Vickers – To consider legislation related to the use unmanned aerial vehicles over restricted wildfire airspaces. The interference of drones with the efforts to fight the Saddle Fire in Pine Valley highlighted the need for additional enhancements to the existing law. This is a follow-up to Rep. Kraig Powell’s H.B. 126, Unmanned Aircraft Revisions bill, that passed during the 2016 General Session. We anticipate amendments such as preventing a plane from taking off as an offense, increase fines, allow the incident commander to remove the drone if necessary, financial responsibility for lost fire retardant and the costs of wasted fuel and prevent owners of unmanned aerial vehicles from selling any footage from restricted wildfire airspaces.
3. H.B. 3004 Criminal Justice Reinvestment Amendments – Rep. Eric Hutchings/Sen. Brian Shiozawa – To consider legislation related to the Justice Reinvestment Initiative. This is needed to properly implement JRI H.B. 348, Criminal Justice Programs and Amendments, which passed in 2015. It was at the top of the Senate Board the last night of the 2016 session but the Senate adjourned at midnight before it was heard. This bill passed the House with one dissenting vote.
4. S.B. 3003 Judicial Nominating Commissions – Amendments – Sen. Peter Knudson/Rep. Mike McKell – To consider amendments to the code provisions regarding Judicial Nominating Commissions. This will allow the commission to ensure that there are five names per position that will be considered for appointments, addressing the three simultaneous openings in the Fourth District Court. Without this amendment, three appointments will need to be made from only five names.
5. H.B. 3005 Grandparent Rights Amendments – Rep. LaVar Christensen/Sen. Stuart Adams – To consider legislation related to grandparents ability to visit grandchildren adopted by a family member of the child. Upon vetoing this bill earlier this year, the Governor agreed to place H.B. 377, Grandparent Rights Amendments, on a special session call if the sponsor made certain changes, which included a specified time period for the petition, a limit to the number of petitions and notice to the adoptive parents.
6. S.B. 3001 Controlled Substance Database Modifications – Sen. Todd Weiler/Rep. Daniel McCay – To consider amendments to the exceptions to the warrant requirement to the controlled substances database for individuals on probation or parole. A drafting error occurred when a stand-alone bill was folded into another, which resulted in the continued warrant requirement for probationers and parolees being monitored for substance abuse issues. This is a clarification that amends the exceptions to the warrant requirement.
7. S.B. 3004 Continuing Care Retirement Community Amendments – Sen. Deidre Henderson – This legislation will address the security of investments in continuing care facilities. H.B. 323 Continuing Care Retirement Community Amendments.
8. H.B. 3001 Tax Credit Review Amendments – Rep. Jeremy Peterson/Sen. Curtis Bramble – It passed the Legislature and was signed by the Governor, but lacked an enacting clause. This legislation will provide that enacting clause. Similar to H.B. 310 ,Tax Credit Review Amendments.
9. S.B. 3002 Economic Development Revisions – Sen. Curtis Bramble/Rep. Val Peterson – Legislation to consider economic credits including certain sales and use tax exemptions to help encourage new enterprises data centers to built along Utah’s Silicon Slopes. This is similar to Sen. Bramble’s S.B. 178, Economic Development Revisions in the 2016 Session.
The Senate will also consent to appointments made by the Governor.
Schedule for day:
- Morning Committee Meetings – 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m
- Caucus Lunch Meeting – 10:40 to 12:40 p.m.
- Afternoon Committee Meetings – 12:50 to 2:50 p.m.
- Special Session – 3 p.m.