Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Week 3 of the 2016 Legislative Session is already over – time is really flying by now! We’ve just wrapped up a long week of committee meetings, budget balancing, and two-a-days on the Senate floor.
If you haven’t been reading the Senate’s daily journal pages, you’ve been missing out! You can find these posts at www.senatesite.com, the Senate’s blog.
If you’d like to meet in person regarding any of the legislation listed below or to discuss any other issue, I’ll be hosting a series of town halls this week and I’d love to see you meet you.
Tuesday, february 16th 7:00pm
Orem City Council Chambers
Wednesday, February 17th 7:00pm
Provo City Library
Saturday, February 20th 9:00am
North West Plaza, 1134 North 500 West
The budgetary process is almost complete. Our State constitution requires us to pass a balanced budget every session. As part of this process, each department in the executive branch proposes a budget. The legislature reviews each budget in Appropriation Subcommittee meetings and typically funds 98% of the executive department’s proposal. The bills that emerge from this process are known as the base budget bills. To receive the full funding, the remaining 2% of the proposal is then justified by the agency and the Appropriations Subcommittees. This practice encourages agencies to look for programs that may be unnecessary and to make other cost savings adjustments.
Our Office of the Legislative Fiscal Analyst has a robust page on our website where you can find budget quick facts, information on Utah’s Fiscal Health, subcommittee information, and much more. Feel free to peruse the site: http://budget.utah.gov/
HB 13 Alcoholic Beverage Event Permit Amendments, Rep. Oda, Senator Stephenson
This bill makes a few important changes to how the state distributes alcoholic beverage event permits. Previously the law said a permit “may” be given if all of the qualifications were met. This bill would change the language to say that a permit “shall” be given if all of the qualifications are met. Senator Stephenson, the floor sponsor for this bill, related an example of Snowbird not receiving a permit for their Oktoberfest event after they applied. Stephenson questions how it would be possible to host an Oktoberfest without beer? This was an event that attracted tourists and made Utah look foolish according to Stephenson. This bill passed unanimously through the Senate and has been signed by the Senate President. It has been returned for the Speaker of the House to sign after which it will go to the Governor. Here’s an article about the bill.
SB 38, School Funding Amendments, Senator Stephenson
Approximately 65,000 students in Utah attend Charter School (ten percent of Utah’s students). In terms of per pupil spending, however, the Charter School Funding Task force found that the amount spent on charter school students is lower than public school spending. SB38 is designed to make spending on charter schools more equitable. The concern has become what is the number that represents equity and how do you address the equity issue. There is much debate about what should and should not be considered in determining an equitable number and then what is the appropriate funding mechanism to address the inequity. This bill passed through the Senate and will now be considered by the House.
School Board Elections
SB 78, State Board of Education Candidate Selection, Senator Millner
Recently, a federal district court judge ruled that our method of selecting members of the State Board of Education is unconstitutional under the first amendment. In our old system, a selection committee nominated 3 candidates for each school board district. Out of those 3, the Governor would select 2 candidates for the general election. The basic argument was that the selection committee, acting in their official government capacity, could completely suppress political views with their selection of the nominees. What this bill does is specifically prohibit the selection committee from basing their selections on political factors, affiliations, or educational viewpoints as required by the judge. It is a short term fix for the 2016 election cycle and repeals January, 2017. Hopefully, the legislature will determine a more permanent solution for future elections. This bill has passed the full Senate and now awaits consideration by the House.
There are three options being considered as a permanent solution to State School Board elections. One is partisan elections, a second is nonpartisan elections and a third is a hybrid option that includes partisan, nonpartisan and appointed members. Representative Hall is currently sponsoring a bill that would establish non-partisan primary elections. Some concern has been expressed about this approach because it does not place a limit on the number of primary candidates.
The bill passed through the Senate this week. Currently, the bill is awaiting being heard in the House Education Committee.
SB 43, Firearm Safety and Violence Prevention in Public Schools, Senator Weiler
Senator Weiler has sponsored legislation designed to provide a pilot program for Utah eighth graders to learn about firearms safety and what to do in the case of a firearm threat at school. S.B. 43, Firearm Safety and Violence Prevention in Public Schools, would not teach students how to use firearms, but rather what to do and who to tell if a firearm is found. The bill would also train them on what to do in situations with an active shooter.
Lots of questions about the safety of such a measure have arisen – but the bill clarifies that the class would never involve an actual firearm, and parents who object to the class reserve the option to have their children opt-out. The school districts will make all decisions related to the class like whether it is held before, during, or after school and whether or not the school district will participate at all.
During testimony in the Senate Judiciary, Law Enforcement, and Criminal Justice Committee, it was pointed out that Utah children have been killed or injured because they handled found firearms. Many children in Utah grow up around firearms and are aware of the potential danger but many are unfamiliar with them and do not have the opportunity to learn at home. This class will give those children the opportunity to learn in a politically neutral environment.
The bill passed out of committee favorably on a vote of 4-0-3 and moved to the Senate floor. The bill passed a second reading on a vote of 18-7-4. After being substituted and amended to ensure political neutrality and change the funding source to the Education Fund, the bill passed the third reading on a vote of 22-5-2.
SB 107, Hate Crimes Amendments, Senator Urquhart
Senator Urquhart, the sponsor of this bill, openly admits to previously being against hate crime legislation. Previously he was of the opinion that a hate crime is really just a normal crime, but now he feels differently. Hate crimes, according to Urquhart, are an attack on a community and not simply an individual. SB 107 would punish the act and intention behind the act. If convicted of a hate crime it would enhance the penalty by one degree. It must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt that one of the motivations in committing the crime was hate.
In order to prevent violating first amendment rights to free speech, this bill will not hold against someone something they said separate from the crime, or their affiliations, or their donations to groups. In the committee, Senator Urquhart gave the example of if a person in the privacy of their home talks about how much they hate African Americans that is within their first amendment rights and cannot be used against them in court. However, if this same person is out on the street and says I hate African Americans so I’m going to go inflict harm on this one in front of me, that would be used in court against them.
This law is modeled after the Wisconsin law, which has already held up in court. Proponents of this bill hold that the existing hate crimes law in Utah is ineffective and near impossible to enforce. Opponents to the bill complained against the subjectivity of the identifiers listed in the bill. The bill includes more than the standard protected classes. Senator Weiler, asked the presenters if the same identifiers in this bill were used in Wisconsin or any of the 44 states with hate crime laws and the presenters were not aware if they were of not. This bill passed out of a Senate committee with a favorable recommendation, and will be debated on the Senate Floor – likely next week. To listen to the presentation from the committee, click here.
SCR 11, Concurrent Resolution Urging the Rescheduling of Marijuana,
This concurrent resolution sponsored by Senator Shiozawa urges Congress to drop marijuana from a Schedule I drug to a Schedule II. Changing the schedule of the drug would allow for research to be done on marijuana and allow scientific methods in discovering the benefits of marijuana.
Senator Shiozawa, an emergency room physician, sat on the Health and Human Services Committee this interim as the committee studied medical marijuana. Because there is limited studies due to the nature of a schedule I drug, much of the science presented to the committee was inconclusive. There were studies suggesting marijuana is harmful and not beneficial at all, and an equal number of studies saying that it is uniquely helpful and effective. Senator Shiozawa feels that the two marijuana bills being considered fail to address what he considers to be the fundamental question. Where is the research that clearly identifies which conditions, if any, can be effectively treated with marijuana? This resolution would serve to help answer that question.
This resolution has been assigned to the Senate Health and Human Services Committee. Here is an article about this resolution.
Senator Madsen and Senator Vickers’ Medical Marijuana bills are still making waves here at the Capitol, and over the weekend the LDS Church put out a statement in opposition to the Madsen bill, but there wasn’t any legislative action taken this week on either one. Here’s what I wrote last week about the measures, in case you missed it:
SB73, Medical Cannabis Act, Senator Madsen
In the committee meeting, the sponsor said that this bill is about liberty and compassion. This bill allows for whole plant use to treat a number of specified medical conditions. The plant may not be used in combustible form (no smoking), but it can be used in vapor, edible or oil form. Physicians would not be permitted to prescribe more than 20% of their patients at a time marijuana.
This bill allows for a list of conditions to be treated with medical marijuana including multiple sclerosis, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, Crohn’s disease, epilepsy, chronic pain, as well as a few other conditions.
1SubSB 89, Medical Cannabidiol Amendments, Senator Vickers/Rep. Daw
The sponsors of this bill say their guiding principle in this bill is to “do no harm”. This bill is viewed by many as a scaled back approach to solving the medical marijuana quandry. This bill will allow for CBD, but not THC (known as the psychoactive component) in medicinal marijuana products. It would also only permit adults 18 and older to be prescribed marijuana. It allows marijuana use for epilepsy, appetite stimulation for HIV/AIDS, nausea and vomiting during chemotherapy, and a list of specified neuropathic pain conditions. This bill is intended to help begin studying the effects of marijuana for medicinal purposes and to start with a scaled back approach.
SCR 9, Concurrent Resolution on the Public Health Crisis
Senator Weiler became famous all over the internet this week when he said that pornography today is like tobacco was 70 years ago. This resolution calls for “education, prevention, research, and policy change at the community and societal level” in order to address what the resolution calls this “public health hazard.”
Although Senator Weiler did not officially present the resolution in committee until Friday, Feb. 5th, the legislation was already making waves in the media both locally and internationally, including a frank discussion about pornography on “The View” on Wednesday. Some experts have weighed in and opinions seem to run the gamut, from those who are in full support to those who believe that pornography is not addictive or harmful in any way.
The resolution was presented on Feb. 5th in the Senate Health and Human Services Committee.
Senator Weiler pointed out that this is a non-binding resolution that calls pornography a public health crisis. He said that the legislation is designed to bring attention to research that shows that pornography can be addictive and harmful, especially to developing minds. He is not trying to ban pornography, despite what many media outlets have reported. He did say that he is interested in looking closely at how England handles internet porn.
Though England is generally seen as more liberal than the U.S. when it comes to nudity and sexually explicit material, the government has had the foresight to require households to opt-in to having internet pornography available online. Senator Weiler provided the committee with 16 letters of support from various experts around the country and the committee heard from local researchers and experts who spoke in support of the resolution as well as Utah citizens with personal experience to provide context. The resolution passed out of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee with a favorable recommendation on a vote of 5-0-1.
Links to some of the media coverage:
SB80, Infrastructure Funding Amendments, Senator Stuart Adams
We can expect to see many water bills this session. One bill coming out of the Senate – SB80, Infrastructure Funding Amendments from Senator Stuart Adams, has been making waves in the Legislative world. This issue was available for public comment in the Senate Natural Resources, Agriculture, and Environment Standing Committee, and just passed its final Senate vote today on our floor.
The bill creates a water infrastructure fund, and would take this money from certain sales and tax revenue that was originally deposited into the Transportation Fund. Many citizens who spoke to the bill during the public comment period expressed concern that this money would be used on projects like the Lake Powell Pipeline. The bill’s sponsor, Senator Stuart Adams, said the fund at least initially would be a revolving fund intended to help local water authorities improve their outdated infrastructure. The bill passed out of the committee with a favorable recommendation on a vote of 5-2.
The bill was read on the Senate floor for a second time on Thursday, February 11th. There were a few questions and concerns discussed on the floor. Senator Howard Stephenson brought up his concern that Utahns collectively will be taxed to fund water projects that benefit a few Utahns, in some cases, people who pay the lowest water rates in the state. Senator Hillyard brought up the likelihood of state road projects being delayed to fund water projects that have not been scheduled or planned. Senator Jenkins pointed out that the water districts have projects that are too large to do without the state’s participation and that this bill allows the state to get in front of these needs. The bill passed the second reading on a vote of 19-10.
On Friday, the bill was read for a third time. Though there was no additional debate on this reading, a few Senators chose to explain their votes. Senator Dabakis, in voting no, said that, to his perspective, the bill appears to be a Lake Powell pipeline bill and he wishes there was more information available showing where the funds will be going. Senator Dayton voted yes and wanted to point out that the bill was not a tax increase. When the fund was originally created by the legislature, it was designed to be for water projects in its entirety. Later, legislation was sponsored to take half away for transportation projects. Senator Dayton said that this bill was bringing the fund back to its original purpose.
The bill passed on a vote of 19-10.
Here’s a news story, if you’re interested in reading more: http://www.sltrib.com/news/3459714-155/lawmakers-utahns-wary-of-lake-powell.
A LIST OF ADDITIONAL BILL SUMMARIES YOU FIND INTERESTING:
SB114, “Municipal Utilities Amendments”, Senator Jerry Stevenson
This bill seeks to allow cities to treat cable or fiber as a utility just like gas or electricity.
SCR8, “Concurrent Resolution Approving the Test and Training Range Land Exchange”, Senator Jerry Stevenson
This bill proposes an exchange of state lands for federal lands within Utah. This will provide the State with valuable lands that have mining potential or that can be used for schools. The exchange will also provide valuable air space where the Air Force can test aircraft.
SB100, Traffic Fine Amendments, Senator Lyle Hillyard
This bill limits amounts received by local governments from traffic fine to 25% of the local government’s revenues, and allows the state auditor to monitor compliance. The media immediately renamed the bill the “Mantua Speed Trap Bill.” Senator Hillyard sponsored this bill ‘to reduce the incentive of policing for profit’.
SB59, Antidiscrimination Act Revisions, Senator Todd Weiler
The premise of this bill is to address the need for employers to provide reasonable provisions for pregnant women. Oftentimes women who are pregnant need additional breaks in order to pump milk or rest. This bill seeks to assure women who are pregnant that they will receive necessary accommodations based off their circumstance.
SB14, American Indian and Alaskan Native Amendments, Senator Van Tassell
American Indian and Alaskan native students have a significant achievement gap compared to other students in the state, and much of this is due to the high turnover rate of their teachers. SB 14 seeks to help American Indian and Alaskan native students succeed in public education by creating a pilot program to retain and improve teachers for these students. This program will fund the stipend, recruitment, retention, and professional development of teachers who teach in American Indian and Alaskan native concentrated schools.
2SB17, Revenue and Taxation Amendments, Senator Van Tassell
In January 2015, the Utah Supreme Court issued a decision in Anadarko v. Utah State Tax Commission which created the potential for a substantial oil and gas severance tax increase on every oil and gas company in Utah. This bill clarifies the statute and formula for calculating the oil and gas severance tax to basically keep the status quo so that oil and gas companies don’t have to pay this substantial tax increase. This bill is especially beneficial to the oil and gas industry right now because they are already reeling from dropping oil prices, and increasing their taxes would be crippling to the industry.
SB118, Uintah Basin Air Quality Research Project, Senator Van Tassell
The main purpose of this bill is to continue the ongoing effort to understand the unique ozone formation in the Uintah Basin by creating the Uintah Basin Air Quality Research Project. This will authorize the USU-Bingham Entrepreneurship and Energy Research Center to study ozone formation in the Uintah Basin. This bill will help to discover the cause and makeup of ozone formation in the Basin which will hopefully aid in the understanding of how to deal with its effects.
SB102, High Cost Infrastructure Amendments, Senator Ralph Okerlund
The main idea behind this bill is to incentivize businesses and corporations to invest in Utah. With this bill, businesses would be allowed post construction tax credits on any contribution that they made to the local infrastructure. Senate Bill 216 – High Cost Infrastructure – was passed in 2015. This year, SB 102 – High Cost Infrastructure Amendments – adds a small number of amendments to the statute. SB 102 also includes incentives for refineries to invest in equipment and processes that promote tier 3 gas emission. To qualify for this credit, refineries would have to have this project completed by the year 2020.
SB71, Children’s Justice Center Amendments, Senator Ralph Okerlund
Senate Bill 71 adds three additional counties to the list of counties lawfully allowed have Children Justice Centers. These centers exist to help children who are victims of physical (including sexual) abuse by providing an environment in which they can address and heal from these traumatic experiences. The additional counties are Box Elder, San Juan and Summit. In addition, the AG is also charged with with providing training, technical assistance and other services to ensure that centers are able to provide quality services to children. These additional counties already have facilities available and only require funding for the servicing of the facilities.
SB134, Oil and Gas Conservation Fund Amendments, Senator Okerlund
This bill proposes to increase the Oil and Gas Conservation Account “cap” from $750,000 to $4.35 million – 100 % of the appropriation amount for the DOGM’s (Department of Oil, Gas and Mining) Oil and Gas Program. This means that instead of a limit of $750,000, the program can tap into the rainy-day account during bust years. This rainy-day account is filled by fees paid by oil and gas operators. During boom years, the extra fees collected can then be transferred into the General Fund.
SB131, Utah College of Applied Technology Governance Amendments, Senator Steve Urquhart
This bill reorganizes the board of the Utah College of applied Technology closely along the lines of the Board of Regents, with 15 members. Each college of applied technology will nominate 1 of the members.
SB107, Hate Crimes Amendments, Senator Steve Urquhart
This bill corrects Utah’s hate crimes law according to court opinion, and it adds a one-degree enhancement for crimes committed because of the victim’s race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation or gender identity.
SB1, Higher Education Base Budget, Senator Steve Urquhart
This bill changes the way that funds are appropriated for the operation of Higher Education. Instead of focusing on funding growth, this bill will fund performance. The formula of this bill appropriates funding for the 8 big schools in Utah, but there is a catch. Only the top performing school gets all the money that was appropriated to their school, the second best getting a percentage less, the third getting a percentage less than the second, and so on down the line. When the schools up their performance, they can earn back the money that was appropriated to them.
SB56, Nurse Practice Act Amendments, Senator Evan Vickers
This bill amends the Nurse Practice Act; amends definitions; requires a nursing education program to be accredited in order to qualify students to practice nursing in the state; and provides students of certain non-accredited nursing education programs time to graduate from the non-accredited program and qualify practice nursing in the state.
SB61, Smoking in Public Places Amendments, Senator Evan Vickers
This bill modifies provisions of the Utah Indoor Clean Air Act. This bill removes certain smoking prohibition exceptions for an international airport passenger terminal.
SB122, Wildland Fire Policy Updates, Senator Evan Vickers
This bill modifies procedures surrounding the management of wildland fire. This bill defines terms; requires a municipality to abate uncontrolled wildfire on private or municipality-owned land within its boundaries, under certain circumstances; authorizes a city, town, county, or certain special districts to enter a cooperative agreement with the Division of Forestry, Fire, and State Lands; states that a city, town, county, or a special district that enters into a cooperative agreement may be eligible to have the costs of catastrophic wildland fire suppression paid by the state.
SB108, Birthing Center Amendments, Senator Deidre Henderson
This bill prohibits the Department of Health from imposing certain requirements on birthing centers. This bill requires doctors and hospitals to allow licensed midwives to work in a licensed birthing center (defined to have 2-5 rooms) without having restrictions that are out of statute be placed upon them so that they may perform within the full scope of their training.
SB126, Committee Authority Amendments, Senator Deidre Henderson
This modifies provisions related to the Department of Health and its rule making authority. It requires certain committees such as the Primary Care Grant committee, the Health Facility Committee, the Child Care Licensing Committee, the State Emergency Medical Services committee, and the Health Data committee to require concurrence with the Department of Health.
Thanks for tuning in to my update.
Please know that I always love to hear your thoughts on these and other measures before our legislature.
I’d also like to invite you connect to the Utah Senate wherever you live on social media by visiting www.senatecloud.com. We’re on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, and all sorts of other sites.
I can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by phone at 801-376-8297. You’re welcome to join me at the Capitol any time this session and if you’d like to meet with me, you can reach out to my intern, Zach at 801-361-5802
Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to serve our district and thank you for all you do to make Utah the best state in the nation – and thanks for paying attention.
Utah State Senate, District 16