Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Week 3 of the 2017 Legislative Session is in the books! A total of 50 bills have passed through the legislature while committee agendas and reading calendars continue to be filled with more bills. Public Lands continue to be one of the biggest issues facing the legislature this session. Senate Majority Whip – Stuart Adams, recently wrote a great articledescribing why he supports the resolution to rescind Bears Ears National Monument. [ http://www.senatesite.com/2017/why-i-support-hcr11/ ]
Each year during the Utah Legislative session, the federal delegation is invited to speak to the Utah Senate and give a report on their activities in Washington D.C. This week, we were honored to hear from Congressman Chris, Jason Chaffetz, and Rob Bishop. Congressman Stewart spoke about the need for greater civility and graciousness in our discourse. Congressman Chaffetz reported on his recent conversation with President Trump and his efforts on various reforms including the postal service and the tax code. Congressman Bishop focused on federalism and the “Article One Project.”
It was our pleasure to hear a special musical number from the Tony award winning singer and actor and Utah resident, Alfie Boe. We also honored Utah’s snow removal teams, who work tirelessly to keep the roads clear and keep Utahns safe.
Week 3 Top Issues
I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again, the budget is the most important item we work on during the legislative session. Every year we are tasked with passing a balanced budget before the 45-day session expires. This week we approved all of our base budgets for our eight appropriation subcommittees. Dividing appropriations into subcommittees like public education and social services helps us to give a deeper look at the many appropriations requests we receive each year. After the subcommittees consider the requests, they report back to the Executive Appropriations Committee (EAC) how they recommend spending their budget. After the subcommittees and the EAC have discussed the budget, the subcommittees are ready to present their base budget bills to the legislature as a whole for consideration. You can watch the Senate pass the subcommittee base budget bills here. You can also learn more about the budget process here.
UTA Governance Overhaul
The Utah Transit Authority (UTA) has been an agency of controversy for the last couple of years. There has been public concern over the executive salaries, travel expenses, perceived deals with developers who are connected to the board, and public meetings. Over the years UTA has taken various steps to fix many of these problems, but their biggest problem still remains — a lack of good constituent services. SB 174, sponsored by Senator Harper, would change the UTA board to an eight-member board with each member representing a different district of equal population. Each board member would need to be confirmed by the Senate. This bill also creates a citizen board advisory board in order to create a more constituent-oriented UTA with better communications from local users. This bill passed out of the Senate Transportation, Public Utilities, Energy and Technology with a favorable recommendation.
In the News: Salt Lake Tribune
20 Years later, it is time we look at Escalante Grand Staircase National Monument
Last week the Senate passed a resolution that calls on the President to overturn the Bears Ears Decision. This companion resolution, sponsored by Senator Okerlund calls on Congress to begin a discussion over the boundaries of the Escalante National Monument. Almost twenty years after the monument designation there are numerous questions. Is a national monument the best land use policy for that area? How is this monument restricting economic opportunities? How is the monument impacting the revenue streams for local counties? Some areas need to be protected inside the Monument but some areas can also be opened up. Listen to the floor debate here.
What is an Equity Pupil Unit and How will it help School Kids?
SB80 School Funding Amendments, also known as the Equity Pupil Unit, is sponsored by Senator Fillmore and described as the way that we will keep our promise to Utah school kids made 100 years ago. That promise was that, no matter the economic situation of your school district, you’ll have adequate funding for your education. He said that SB80 will take future growth in the state’s Education Fund and use it to grow education faster at the lower funded school districts and will grow a little bit slower at school districts with much higher funding.
Senator Fillmore said that this will not take money from some districts to give to others. Every school district will keep every penny of property tax that is levied in that district. Instead the bill creates a formula allocation change in the future so that education funding will grow a little bit faster for school districts that have a harder time generating revenue on their own. Listen to the floor debate here.
It is an honor to serve you in the State Senate. Please do not hesitate to let me know your opinions on issues coming before the Legislature.