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.
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.
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.
Legislative Update: Week #6
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.
This year the Utah Legislature is working on a number of 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 317, Antelope Island State Park Funding Amendments, which creates the Antelope Island State Park Improvement restricted account and sets up a way to fund it.
- 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 11, Concurrent Resolution Urging the President to Rescind the Bears Ears National Monument Designation, so as to not place greater restrictions on use of the land and make it nearly impossible for recreationalists to use much of it as they do now.
- HCR 12, Concurrent Resolution Urging Federal Legislation to Reduce or Modify the Boundaries of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, in order to allow greater use on and around those lands for locals and recreationalists.
- 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.
- HCR 24, Concurrent Resolution on Native American Recreation and Public Purposes Grant, encourages the state of Utah to seek acquisition of the Bears Ears National Monument and supports a governance and management plan that includes southwestern Native American tribes.
American Red Cross Blood Drive
Rep. Mike Kennedy, Rep. Steve Handy, Sen. Brian Shiozawa and Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox hosted a blood drive with the American Red Cross. Blood donations are vital to a healthy and reliable blood supply, and legislators and interns enjoyed participating and giving back. There was also a little competition to see which legislative body could donate the most blood. We’re proud to announce the House won the competition! See more pictures here.
The Salt Lake Comic Con Co-Founders Visit
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. Read more about the Salt Lake Comic Con co-founders’ plan to become one of the most successful conventions in the world here.
Honoring Dr. Mario R. Capecchi
The Utah House of Representatives recognized and honored 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.
Legislative Update: Week #4
Over the past two years, stakeholders from all sectors — public, private and nonprofit — have been working to responsibly address the homelessness crisis we face in our state. The Speaker of the House, state leadership and the mayors of Salt Lake County and City announced the next steps to address the crisis in Utah. The plan includes a new direction, in breaking up the “one-size-fits-all” shelter model into three resource centers— two in Salt Lake City and one located outside the city but remaining in Salt Lake County.
This plan has four primary components:
- A redesigned shelter model with three new resource centers, tailoring services to population needs, in addition to the existing family resource center in Midvale. The two facilities in Salt Lake City will each be capped at 200 beds. These resource centers will serve distinct populations: adult women, adult men and a gender-segregated facility serving both adult men and women.
- Alternatives to shelter will continue to be pursued to draw down demand for emergency shelter. Efforts include Salt Lake County’s Pay for Success initiative which targets persistently homeless individuals, more affordable housing, behavioral healthcare treatment facilities, increased diversion, additional efforts to reduce length of stay at a shelter and prevent repeat stays, motel vouchers and other alternatives to meet shelter demand.
- System improvements that more efficiently coordinate resources across the housing and homelessness delivery system, including a coordinated entry and assessment system.
- A public safety and treatment initiative, similar to Operation Diversion launched last fall, to ensure neighborhoods are safe and individuals have access to treatment. This will include two more police officers at the Midvale Center and the opening of an additional 300 jail beds to allow for sufficient enforcement in and around these facilities.
At the request of the state, through a process facilitated by Salt Lake County, stakeholders will identify possible sites for a resource center located in an area outside Salt Lake City for consideration and approval by the State Homeless Coordinating Committee by March 30, 2017. The target date for the closure of the downtown emergency shelter is June 30, 2019.
Public Land Management
A bill was recently introduced in the Utah State Legislature which would put in place a new process for the sale or exchange of public lands in the state, emphasizing exchanges over sales.
H.B. 407, Utah Public Land Management Act Amendments, declares that the state should retain lands in state ownership “for the enjoyment and betterment of the public and state,” and that if any lands are to be sold, a super-majority support of two-thirds of the Legislature would be required. Any sales must be for fair market value, and the proceeds must be used to improve existing public land, acquire additional public land or increase utilization of the land by the public.
Under this bill, if Utah were to gain the ability to oversee and control at least 250,000 acres of public lands currently managed by the federal government, they would be placed under the purview of a new Department of Land Management. The director of that department would be elected by county commissions and councils, putting much more control in the hands of local governments, closer to the people.
The bill adds to language from last year’s H.B. 276 requiring management for multiple use, adding hunting. That same bill created a Public Land Management Fund which would be used for costs associated with managing public lands if and when they are returned to the State of Utah.
Concealed Carry Amendments
This week the House passed H.B. 198, Concealed Carry Amendments, that will lower the minimum age to obtain a concealed carry permit to 18 if all other eligibility requirements are met. Currently, Utah law already allows those 18-20 to carry openly.
With increased concern about sexual assault on college campuses, it only makes sense that those most at risk be permitted options giving them the ability to protect themselves.
A total of 16 states, in some way or another, allow those 18 and older to carry a concealed firearm.
Federal Delegation Visit
This week, Senator Orrin Hatch, Congressman Mike Lee and Congresswoman Mia Love all came to speak to the House. Sen. Hatch explained the work being done on the federal level to rescind the Bears Ears National Monument and asked the body to give President Trump a chance. Sen. Lee spoke to the House members about federalism, executive power and returning power to the people. Rep. Love recognized that many people are nervous about the environment in Washington, and soothed these fears by discussing the good she’s personally doing to improve immigration, transparency and healthcare.
A press conference was held on the Capitol steps to raise awareness about military and civilian suicide. A display of combat boots from the National Guard and shoes from Deseret Industries lined the south steps to represent the 613 lives lost to suicide in Utah last year. Of those, 466 were male and 147 were female. Thirty-three were youth, between the ages of 10 and 18, and 74 were Veterans.
Legislative Update: Week #4
HJR 8, Joint Resolution Supporting the Retention of Public Educators
This week the House passed, by a vote of 62-7, H.J.R. 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 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 for this purpose, 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 H.B. 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 opioid epidemic that has led to hundreds of deaths. 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, upon request of the prescriber or patient. A partial fill is considered anything less than the initially prescribed quantity.
If a patient chooses multiple partial fills, the total amount allocated cannot exceed the total quantity prescribed and the cost cannot exceed the original cost of the full prescription.
H.B. 146 will empower patients and prescribers with the ability to request a partial fill of a Scheduled II drug, rather than depending on efforts to safely dispose of unused medication in the case that only a portion of the original prescription is needed.
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.