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.
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.
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.
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.