Legislative Update: November 2016
Solar Tax Credits
During November interim, an interesting education funding issue was raised in conjunction with an examination of state tax credits. Because income taxes are dedicated to funding public schools, when tax credits are granted, education budgets are directly impacted. In 2002, when rooftop solar tax credits were implemented in Utah, the purpose was to stimulate a new industry that would help us clean our air and decrease our dependence on fossil fuels, but that didn’t yet have much of a foothold in our economy.
Since that time, the market has worked incredibly well as innovation has brought down the cost of solar power by over two-thirds and the number of people choosing solar has skyrocketed.
The Utah State tax credits available to consumers who purchase rooftop solar equipment is not capped and thus, the loss of money from education for this purpose is also not capped. The impact of these credits on the education fund will likely top $20 million this year alone and if current trends continue, could hit $40-$60 million in 2017, increasing each year thereafter.
In a state with already-limited public education dollars, it no longer seems prudent for taxpayers to subsidize a burgeoning and increasingly popular industry with dollars meant, and desperately needed, for the education of our children.
The 4th Special Session of the 61st Legislature
On Wednesday, November 16, 2016, the House and Senate met for the 4th special session of the 61st Legislature to consider two bills, H.B. 4001 Solid Waste Amendments and H.B.4002 Class B and C Road Fund Amendments.
In Utah, “Class A” roads are maintained by the State, “Class B” roads are maintained by counties and “Class C” roads are maintained by cities. Legislators worked with stakeholders including Utah League of Cities and Towns and the Utah Association of Counties to find a solution. H.B. 4002 changed the apportion formula for distributing gas tax revenue to cities and counties to ensure equitable funding for both Class B and C roads.
H.B. 4001 clarifies the definition of a “Solid Waste Management Facility” to exclude facilities that process scrap metal. During the last general session, the Legislature passed a similar bill; however, the governor vetoed it but said he would call a special session for the bill to be heard again in the Legislature if the sponsors of the bill were able to work through concerns with the EPA. During the special session, the bill passed both the House and Senate, again.
Forbes ranks Utah best state for business
Utah was again recognized by Forbes Magazine as the Best State for Business and Careers. Six out the last seven years Utah has ranked number one on the list, with 2016 marking the third consecutive year in the top spot.
“Utah also boasts a business-friendly legal climate and a fiscally sound government – it’s one of only 10 states to hold a AAA bond rating from all three ratings agencies. One marker of fiscal responsibility: State government employment is down 11% over the past five years despite an 8% rise in the population,” according to Forbes Magazine.
Utah state lawmakers are focused on eliminating burdensome regulations, keeping taxes and costs of doing business low and improving the education system. This is evidence that conservative leadership does deliver for Utahns, who are innovative, entrepreneurial and industrious.
Watch a short video by Forbes here.
What exactly is a special session?
The Utah State Legislature can only pass bills when they are in session, which is for 45 consecutive days a year from late-January to mid-March. Occasionally, situations arise that need more immediate attention. In those cases, a special session can be called by the governor to authorize the Legislature to pass bills.
Article VII Section 6 of the Utah Constitution states: “The Legislature may not transact any legislative business in a special session convened under Subsection (1)(a) for which the Governor has not provided 48 hours advance public notice, except in cases of declared emergency or with the concurrence of two-thirds of all members elected to each house.”
Legislature honors the family of fallen officer, Cody Brotherson
The Utah State Legislature is deeply saddened that yet another officer has been struck down while serving in the line of duty, protecting his community. This tragic loss was felt across the state. We cannot adequately express our gratitude for those who risk their lives every day to ensure the safety of the residents of our state, and we will never forget the sacrifice of Officer Brotherson. At this time, we offer our deepest condolences to his fiancée, family, friends, co-workers and the law enforcement community.
The House recognized Union Middle science teacher
The House recognized Union Middle science teacher, Erin Hemingway, for her selfless actions. Hemingway disarmed the suspected shooter and administered first aid to the victim during the incident at the school on Oct. 25, 2016.
Utah Lawmakers Rendition of the Mannequin Challenge