Legislative Update: Week #2

Legislative Update: Week #2

Digital Assets

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.


Bears Ears

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.

Resource: http://le.utah.gov/interim/2015/pdf/00005590.pdf


The Budget

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.