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Curt Bramble

Senator Curt Bramble - District 16 Utah

Week 5 – 2017 Legislative Session

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Dear Friends and Neighbors,

We are holding a town hall next Saturday (March 4) at 9:15 in the Clark Auditorium (Utah Valley Regional Medical Center, Northwest Plaza, on the corner of 500 W. and Bulldog Blvd. in Provo). We will have a continental breakfast. Please come and discuss the issues.

With Week 5 of the 2017 Legislative Session over, we are now more than two-thirds of the way done! We have passed a total of 163 bills and they just keep on coming. You can keep track of these bills with the bill tracker tool found here.

This week we were also  honored to hear reports from Senator Orrin Hatch and Congresswoman Mia Love. You can watch Senator Hatch’s report here: [http://utahlegislature.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?clip_id=21303&meta_id=679808 ] and Congresswoman Love’s report here: [http://utahlegislature.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?clip_id=21331&meta_id=681014 ]

You can click on any of the linked bills in this letter to take you to the bill homepage. The most recent version of the bill will be displayed. You can also click to find the status of the bill, vote counts, and all the audio/video of floor and committee debates! Thank you for your interest in our legislative process.

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My Bills

Cyber Exploitation Amendements 

SB232 was heard on the Senate floor on Friday and passed the 2nd reading calendar with a unanimous vote. This legislation deals with sexploitation which is commonly used as a form of control over victims of sexual violence. Keep an eye on this bill as it gets voted on again in the Senate and then will move to the House.

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Online Sales Tax

In Utah, our legislative fiscal analysts have estimated that around $220 million of owed sales tax goes unpaid because of online purchases. While Utahn’s are currently required to pay sales tax for their online purchases, fewer than 2% actually pay their owed tax. That is $220 million that we could be spending on education, infrastructure, and social services.

Because online retailers are not required to collect the owed sales tax, this also creates an unfair advantage to online retailers, and makes it difficult for our local, brick-and-mortar businesses to thrive. 1SB 110 would balance the playing field and help collect the owed tax. This bill would require retailers who earn over $100,000 of sales in Utah to begin collecting sales tax. For an affiliate, the threshold is $10,000 of sales in Utah before they are required to collect sales tax. This bill passed out of the Senate this week and will now be considered by the House.

 

Other Week 5 Issues

Drone Regulations

Each year for the last couple of years, we have seen bills about unmanned aircrafts, otherwise known as drones. Because drones are a newer technology, states across the country are still working on how to best regulate them.  1SB 111Unmanned Aircraft Amendments, would clarify a unifying drone code for Utah that would include federal standards for safe flying practices. It also addresses concerns about privacy and voyeurism by defining them in code and declares it unlawful to attach a weapon to a drone. This bill passed out of the Senate unanimously, and is now being considered by the House.

Animal Euthanasia

We all love our pets. We want them to live happy lives, and have peaceful deaths. SB 56 Animal Shelter Amendments, would create a less stressful manner of euthanasia for animals. This bill does away with the gas chambers that have previously been used, and instead requires euthanasia be done by injection, which is quicker, less traumatic, and less costly.

New bill would allow Department of Licensing to cite unprofessional conduct

Senator Ipson presented SB184 on the floor this week. This bill allows the Department of Professional Licensing to create rules governing the professional and unprofessional conduct of Professional Structural Engineers. This bill passed unanimously through the Senate and will now be heard in the House.

Senate gives green light to Cannabinol Research Bill

One of the major concerns with Medical Marijuana is the lack of consistent research regarding the benefits and side effects of different cannabinol-based products. HB130 is a bill that paves the way for further research by allowing the possession of cannabinol as part of Department of Health Institutional Review Board approved research project. This bill passed the House and the Senate.

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The Fix-it Ticket Bill

Senator Jake Anderegg describes SB 90 Vehicle Inspection and Registration Amendments as a simple Fix-it Ticket bill. It provides for a two-week window for anyone receiving a citation related to safety or emissions issues for their vehicle. In other words, if a person is pulled over by law enforcement and issued a citation for a broken tail light, if the broken tail light is fixed within two weeks, the fee for that violation will be waived. Senator Anderegg said that this ensures that the focus of citations is safety and not revenue. This bill has passed in both the House and Senate and has returned to the Senate for enrolling.

Resolution for an Article V Convention fails in the Senate

Those who have followed the Article V Convention debate over the years know that this is a contentious issue. House Joint Resolution 3 Calling for a Convention to Amend the Constitution of the United States sponsored by Representative Merrill Nelson passed in the House with 29 representatives from both parties voting against it.

In the Senate, those opposed to the resolution talked about the possibility of unintended consequences. Senator Gene Davis talked about the risk of destroying the separation of powers now outlined in the U.S. Constitution. Those that support the concept argue that most fears are overblown because of the requirements for ratification. Senator Thatcher pointed out that there is little chance that three-fourths of the states would vote to do away with any of the Bill of Rights. The Joint Resolution failed in the Senate with a vote of 12-16-1.


It is an honor to serve. Please follow me on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/curtbrambleutah. You can e-mail me at anytime with issues and concerns you might have.

Curt

2017 Legislative Session – Week 3

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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/ ]

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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

The Budget

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.

In the News: Utah Policy | Deseret News | Salt Lake Tribune

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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.

In The News: Deseret News | Salt Lake Tribune

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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.

Curt

 

 

2017 Legislative Session – Week 2

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Dear Friends and Neighbors,

Week 2 of the 2017 Legislative Session is in the books! A total of 11 bills have passed through the entire legislature but committee agendas and reading calendars are filling up with bills in a hurry.  We typically spend more time at the beginning of the session in working on appropriations and the state budget.

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We had some exciting events happen on the floor this week. We witnessed the proposal of Senator Henderson’s intern (she said yes). Senator Anderegg read an emotional citation honoring the Search and Rescue Dog Handlers that participated in the effort to find his missing niece – Annie Schmidt and bring closure to his family. ( https://goo.gl/5JL0ed )

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Senator Henderson sponsored a resolution honoring a true American hero and Utahn, Gail Halvorsen. The resolution read in part:

“during the Berlin Airlift from 1948 to 1949, Halvorsen, moved by the gratitude and resilience of the children living in that devastated city, dropped tiny handkerchief-sized parachutes filled with candy from his C-54 for the children of Berlin to chase down and collect — an act for which he was affectionately nicknamed the “candy bomber,” and, though he was nearly court-martialed for doing so, Halvorsen continued to make his candy drops for several months;”

“… almost 70 years later, Halvorsen’s service to the children of Berlin stands as one of the foremost examples of kindness and human compassion, bringing relief to a war-torn country and joy to children in need of a little bit of hope”

Sales Tax Collection

I wanted to take a moment to update you on one of my bills. 1SB 110 Sales Tax Collection Amendments

Sales tax applies to all Utahns no matter where they make their purchases, online or in store, but currently only brick-and-mortar stores facilitate the collection of the sales tax. States across the US are running into issues with collecting sales tax from online purchases, because only companies with a physical presence in a state can be constrained to collect and remit the owed sales tax. This creates an unfair advantage to online retailers.

This bill establishes under what circumstances retailers not physically based in Utah would be required to collect and remit sales tax by establishing an economic nexus. Previous legislation has tried to tie economic nexus to number of transactions from a state, this bill chooses to shy away from transactions and instead focusing on earnings from the sales. In the event that a retailer earns over $100,000 of sales in Utah, they are required to begin collecting sales tax because their economic imprint is substantial in Utah. For an affiliate, the threshold is $10,000 of sales in Utah before they are required to collect sales tax. This bill passed out of the Senate Revenue and Taxation Committee with a favorable recommendation.

I asked this question in my 2017 survey and wanted to share with you the results: – “Long standing current state law requires consumers to pay sales tax on online purchases. Which option of sales tax collection do you prefer?”

– Have the merchant collect sales tax on items at the point of purchase.  86.90%
– Have the consumer track sales tax and report it when they file their income taxes.  12.18%
– Have the merchant give the government a report of sales and then notify consumers of sales tax owed.   0.92%

I will share more survey results in the coming week.

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Bears Ears

This week we also debated HCR 11 Resolution to Rescind the Bears Ears National Monument Designation

Sponsored by President Niederhauser

This week, the Senate debated a resolution that calls on President Trump to overturn President Obama’s Bears Ears decision.  The resolution sharply criticizes President Obama for using the Antiquities Act—which was designed to help protect Native American structures and objects—to set aside 1.5 Million acres of Utah land for environmental protection. Among other things, the resolution chides Obama for ignoring the wishes of the residents of San Juan County-many of whom are Native American. This resolution passed the House and the Senate and was signed by the Governor.

Video Updates

Each week I have been posting a short video on my Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/curtbrambleutah. Follow me for updates.

Please e-mail me with your thoughts on issues being debated. It is an honor to serve you.

Curt

2017 Legislative Session – Week 1

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Dear Friends and Neighbors,

Welcome to the 2017 Legislative Session! The session was opened by former Senate President Al Mansell who swore in our current Senate President Wayne Niederhauser. President Niederhauser’s inspiring opening remarks called for a rebalance of power between the State and Federal Governments and celebrating Utah’s participation and leadership in women’s suffrage.

Overall, we have had a productive and busy week. While the media has focused on issues like medical marijuana and alcohol this week, there have been many other issues and bills discussed by the legislature. Thank you for your interest in our legislative process.

Passing a balanced budget is the most important responsibility we have as legislators. If we accomplish nothing else, we will at least pass a balanced budget. The base budget for FY 2018 is about $15.2 billion, which is around $100 million more than the FY 2017 budget. Typically, the largest chunk of our budget (around 30%) goes to public education followed closely by social services.  You can learn more about our budget here.

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I wanted to discuss some of the bills that have been heard this week.  The first bill is one that I am sponsoring: SB 114 Election Law Amendments

The 2014 election reforms known as SB 54 added a second path to the primary ballot through signature gathering. However, these reforms introduced the new issue of plurality in the primary process. “Plurality” occurs when no candidates receive a majority of the vote. SB114 address this issue by bumping the filing period up in the year and instituting a runoff election in the instance of a plurality vote. The bill already has significant support among Senators and is on the agenda for committee discussion on Monday.

Here are some of the bills I am interested in following:

SCR 04 Concurrent Resolution Honoring Colonel Gail Seymour Halvorsen

Sponsored by Senator Henderson

Senator Deidre Henderson is working on a bill to express appreciation for a local hero. Her resolution—SCR4–honors Gail Halvorsen, also known as the Candy Bomber, who brightened the lives of the children of post-WWII Berlin by dropping parachutes containing candy and gum from his C-54.  Joined by James Stewart of the Civilian Air Patrol (Retired Colonel), she presented her resolution before the Government Operation Committee this week. You can listen to them recount the touching story of the Candy Bomber’s life of service here. You can watch a video on Colonel Halvorsen here. This bill passed unanimously out of committee.

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Conclusion

Again thank you for your engaged citizenship. Connect with the Utah Senate for updates 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. Feel free to visit our new website for updates, articles, and information: www.senatesite.com. You can listen to committee hearings and floor discussions at le.utah.gov.

You can connect with me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/curtbrambleutah, my email is: cbramble@le.utah.govIf you’d like to meet with me, you can reach out to my intern, Stephen Lockhart at 801-361-5802.

It is an honor to serve you.

Curt

25+ Volunteers Walking our Neighborhoods

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Today we had over 25 volunteers show up and knock on doors to get our campaign message out in the Northeast part of Senate District 16. It is gratifying to have so many supporters take time from their busy schedules on such a beautiful Saturday to help on our campaign. We couldn’t do it without the unwavering support of so many good friends.

Throughout the campaign, we have had an optimistic message of hope for a bright future, while recognizing the myriad of challenges we face. As the campaign heads into the Primary on Tuesday, June 28th, a big and sincere THANK YOU to the legions of volunteers that have shown up and helped knock on over 6,000 doors in Senate District 16.

If you want to know where your polling location is, please visit vote.utah.gov.

A Strong Advocate for Conservative Values

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State Senator Curt Bramble is a strong advocate for our shared conservative values.

Protecting unborn children

As a father and a grandfather, Curt Bramble is staunchly pro-life. That’s why he worked to pass first-of-a-kind legislation recognizing the rights of unborn children to be given anesthesia to prevent pain before an abortion.

Defending local control of education

Curt Bramble opposes federal overreach into the state education system. Even our own state government needs to micromanage less and allow for more local control of curriculum – because parents and teachers know best.

Demanding transparency from government

When the Republican legislature passed a bill that harmed government transparency, Curt Bramble fought against the popular will of his own party and not only got the bill reversed, but he passed new legislation that made it easier for the public to access government information.

 

Vote Curt Bramble in the Republican Primary Election, June 28th.

Find your polling location by clicking HERE.

Interim Day at the Legislature

By | Legislation, Legislative Update | No Comments

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Our legislature is part-time and the bulk of our efforts is in session during the last week of January to the middle of March. There are interim days every few months where we meet and are updated and in some cases, if the Governor calls a special session, we take legislative action.

Here is the report from our interim day.

Approval of Appointments

Part of the Senate’s Constitutional responsibilities are to approve appointments by the Governor (Article VII Section 10) to different boards, commissions, and judicial bodies. This past interim, we confirmed two judges to the Appeals Court, the judicial body directly below the Supreme Court, and 1 judge to the 3rd District Court (Read more here). We also confirmed appointees for three commissions. You can view the complete list here: http://senatesite.com/utahsenate/june-senate-confirmations/ 

Competency Based Education

The Education Committee continued its discussion of competency based education. Competency based education is an approach to education that allows students to master an educational component before moving on to more advanced material. The curriculum and schedule are built to accommodate the student’s pace of learning. Senator Millner proposed forming a working group to identify barriers to competency based education and to find Which body is most appropriate to deal with the barriers. For instance, if it’s a problem of funding, the Legislature would be the best body to address the barrier.

To hear the audio, click here.

Minimum Vehicle Insurance Premium Limits

The Business and Labor Committee took a look at vehicle minimum coverage limits, and trends in premium costs. Like Health Insurance premiums, vehicle insurance premiums have increased substantially in the past decade. During this time, Health care costs have increased but vehicle coverage limits have not necessarily kept pace with the surge in health care related expenses. When the health care costs of an accident exceed the coverage of the premium, the hospitals will bill the individual for the excess costs.

Currently, the state’s minimum coverage is $25,000 per person and $65,000 per accident but we haven’t changed the minimum limits in a long time. Nationwide, Utah appears to have some of the highest coverage limits. Only two states have higher per occurrence limits, Alaska and Maine. This may be an issue that receives more attention in the coming months.

Catch the audio here.

The Education Committee takes a hard look at the Teacher Shortage

The state is facing a teacher shortage. In the past five years, enrollments in teacher preparation programs have decreased, graduates from teacher programs have decreased, and the existing workforce–whose average age is 42–is aging. Over 48% of school districts in a survey of 31 districts reported not having a certified teacher for every class, and nearly all (90%) acknowledged that the pool of applicants is shrinking.  At the same time, the state is also experiencing difficulty retaining new teachers. In the class of 2011, 40% of the teachers that started in the profession are no longer teaching this year. A significant number of teachers in this state will leave the profession within their first year. Our student population, meanwhile, has increased and will continue to increase as the population of the state grows, which may further compound the teacher shortage.

What is causing this? There are numerous causes. Surveys and research suggest that a lack of professional development and support, low pay, working conditions, and attitudes towards teachers are among the leading factors. The unique demographics of our state may also play a role. For instance, many of our teachers will eave the profession to focus on their families.

The state has made efforts in recent years to bolster support for teacher development. In this past session, Senator Millner sponsored SB51 which established the position of “teacher leaders” to serve as mentors that can provide guidance to newer teachers. The Education Committee will consider other options as the year progresses.

To see the reports and listen to the committee discussion, click here.

How bad is Utah’s Doctor Shortage? 

The Utah Medical Education Council presented the results of their recent research into the accessibility of health care to the Health and Human Services Committee. Across the state, there is a growing demand and shrinking supply of primary care physicians. In comparison with other states, we have one of the lowest primary care physicians to population ratios in the nation.  In fact, only Mississippi has a lower per-capita rate. Average wait times have increased new patient from 12.6 days in 2010 to 15.3 average days in 2016. Similarly, according to the Utah Department of Health, every county in the state of Utah is an underserved area for primary medical care, primary mental healthcare, and dentistry. These shortages may be especially pronounced in rural communities.

One of the key factors contributing to the shortage of primary care workers is the fact that primary care physicians do not make as much as specialists, a compelling consideration for doctors given the increasing costs of medical training. Research shows that doctors are most likely to practice in the area where they complete their residency. Consequently, increasing the number of admitted students to a medical program does not necessarily lead to more doctors in the state.

Loan repayment programs may be one of the solutions. We do have federal programs and some state programs medical graduates can utilize. For example, at the state level, we have a Healthcare Workforce Financial Assistance program that provides loan repayment and scholarship options for healthcare professionals. Learn more about this program here. 

To listen to the full committee meeting, click here.

Solid Waste Environmental Issues

This past session the Legislature passed HB 258, Solid Waste Amendments, but the governor vetoed the bill after the EPA noted that it would render the state’s program less stringent than federal standards. The Administrative Rules Review Committee, discussed the definition of solid waste as specified in HB 258 versus and the EPAs letters about the issue. There will need to be some negotiating on both sides to get the language right before the bill can be considered again.Listen to the meeting here to learn more about Solid Waste Amendments.

Economic Development Incentives

The Economic Development and Workforce Services Interim Committee discussed state economic development incentives. Ryan Hunter, with the Office of Legislative Research and General Counsel, presented numbers from a 2012 New York Times study.  This study placed Utah in the lowest quarter of the nation in terms of dollars spent. Only Nevada was lower than Utah among western states. An important point discussed by the committee was the total dollars spent compared to the economic benefits to the state. In other words, are the dollars spent bringing in jobs and other economic benefits? Nationwide, the benefit of such incentives has been studied to determine economic value. Do incentives bring in new businesses and does it increase employment?

The opinions are mixed. One study indicated that available transportation and low labor costs had as much effect on new businesses as incentives. More than one study found that economic development incentives were successful around ten percent of the time. The conclusion is that incentives may work if targeted effectively but that incentives for entrepreneurial strategies focused on new technology and new business may be as effective as luring existing businesses to relocate or expand to Utah communities.

To listen to the committee meeting, click here.  

Recent Changes to Unmanned Aerial Vehicles Regulations

Kim Gibb with the Department of Public Safety reported to the Government Operations Interim Committee on the state’s use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV), or drones. The Department of Public Safety owns 2 UAVs that are used by the Utah Highway Patrol, and the Department of Emergency Management. Last year, the department was informed by the FAA that the UAVs can’t legally  be operated without an FAA Certificate of Authorization unless they are operated under hobbyist guidelines, which limit the UAVs to flights below 400 feet. Applications for a Certificate of Authorization are currently being processed.

In compliance with Utah Code 63G-18-105, Ms. Gibb gave a report of all Department of Public Safety UAV flight operations from the previous calendar year.  The department deployed UAVs four times including two flights for media requests and two for Search and Rescue operations. So far, the Department of Public Safety is the only law enforcement agency that has complied with this reporting requirement. Representative Perry questioned the need for such reports, pointing out that using a UAV for criminal investigations requires a warrant, so a record of those activities already exists. He said that it seems pointless to require statewide reporting and that this section of the law may need to be repealed.

The listen to the committee meeting, click here.

Crime Victim Reparation and Assistance Board Renewal

The Crime Victim Reparation and Assistance Board will pay close to $8 million in reparations to crime victims this year. This money does not come from taxes, but rather a surcharge for misdemeanors and felonies. The money is used to cover crime related expenses that would otherwise come out of the victim’s pocket. This board is currently up for a sunset review as it is set to expire next July unless legislative action is taken to continue the program. The purpose of the sunset review is to eliminate any needless programs and to improve existing programs.

To learn more about this board and hear suggestions on how it can improve, listen to the meeting here.

Death Penalty

The Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Interim Committee discussed the costs associated with capital punishment and how it compares to the cost of Life Without Parole Inmates in Utah. Gary Syphus, with the Legislative Fiscal Analyst’s Office, presented an estimate of costs associated with capital punishment that are above and beyond the costs of Life Without Parole Inmates. The estimated cost associated with death row inmates was approximately $1.66m. Senator Weiler asked if most of those costs were legal services provided by government and whether or not those cost would go away if the death penalty did. In other words, would the Attorney General’s office layoff attorneys if the death penalty were repealed in Utah? Mr. Syphus said that it was difficult to make that determination. Assistant Attorney General Andrew Peterson, told the committee that he and a few other attorneys handle appeals for the state but that none of them were devoted solely to death penalty cases. Later in the meeting, Senator Weiler pointed out that the estimated average annual cost of housing a prisoner is $27,000, but that other states have estimated the cost of housing geriatric prisoners at closer to $55,000 annually. In summarizing his point, he mentioned that those lobbying legislators this last session used cost as a reason to repeal the death penalty. He stated that there is not a clear cost savings for repealing the death penalty.

To listen to the committee meeting, click here.

Congressman Rob Bishop Discusses Bears Ears

Utah Congressman Rob Bishop has worked for roughly three years on a Public Lands Initiative and according to a representative from his office, the bill should finally be available for review at the end of the summer. Many of our state legislators on the Natural Resources, Agriculture, and Environment Committee, inquired as to whether all groups in Utah were invited to come to the table during discussions while creating this initiative and if there is opposition within the state to his bill. According to Bishop’s staff, nearly all Native American groups that reside in Utah are in favor of the Public Lands Initiative and have been invited to participate in the discussions.

To learn more about the Public Lands Initiative, listen to the committee meeting here.

Limited Purpose Local Government Entities

The Political Subdivisions Interim Committee discussed the purpose of limited purpose local government entities. These entities are authorized by state law to provide a limited number of designated functions with sufficient autonomy to qualify as separate governments. Entities that fall under the committee’s jurisdiction include: Local Districts, Special Service Districts, Assessment Areas, Community Reinvestment Agencies, Interlocal Entities, Conservation Districts, and Local Building Authorities. These entities are able to supplement services provided by many general purpose governments, but can be challenged by issues with accountability, transparency, and fragmented service provision.

To learn more about limited purpose local government entities, click here to listen to the committee meeting.

Public Utilities, Energy, and Technology

Utah’s Universal Service Fund was established by the legislature in 1997 as a way of providing phone service to those who live in high cost areas for phone operation. The fund is supplied by surcharges on land and wireless intra-state phone usage. Traditionally, the incoming funds have always largely exceeded the expenses incurred with providing the service, until this year. Starting at the beginning of this year the incoming funds have dropped while simultaneously operating expenses have increased. The legislature will evaluate why the service focuses on landlines when cell phones are cheaper and if changes to statute are necessary.

Catch more on the Universal Service Fund dilemma here.

Legislative management Committee Reviews Homeless Shelter Programs

This past session, HB 436, Housing and Homeless Reform Initiative, established a Homeless Coordinating Committee that is tasked with reporting to the Legislative Management Committee on the use of the funds and developments. They reported that the Midvale shelter, previously only open in the winter, will be open year round for the next four years, as two new shelters are built in Salt Lake City. The two new sites in Salt Lake City have not yet been selected. There will be opportunities for public comment before the locations are finalized.

To hear more about the progress of our homeless shelters,listen to the meeting here.

Point of the Mountain Development Moves Forward

With the State Prison set to move out of Draper, a commission has been organized to study how to develop the land after the prison has relocated. The commission had three panelists report that this site is truly one of a kind in the United States with access to infrastructure, a large employment base, and a large plot of land. At the end of its studies, the commission is to report their findings back to the legislature as a whole. The meetings will be public and many will allow for public comment.

You can listen to the first meeting here.

Indigent Defense Commission is Established

The Senate Judiciary Confirmation Committee met on June 10th and June 17th to consider the Governor’s nominations to the Indigent Defense Commission. The purpose of the commission is to assist the state in meeting the state’s obligations for the provision of indigent criminal defense services, consistent with both the US and Utah Constitutions. Each of the governor’s appointees were briefly interviewed by the committee. Unanimous motions were passed to recommend for confirmation the following individuals by the Senate: Justice Michael D. Zimmerman, Ms. Mary  Corporon, attorney, Ms. Nicole Cottle, General Counsel, West Valley City, Mr. Patrick Anderson, Director, Salt Lake Legal Defender Association, Mr. Ryan Loose, City Attorney, South Jordan, Mr. David Wilson, Chief Civil Deputy Attorney, Civil Division, Weber County, Senator Todd Weiler, attorney and Utah State Senator, Mr. Walter F. Bugden, Jr., attorney, Mr. Samuel Alba, former federal judge and attorney, and Ms. Claudia Jarrett, Sanpete County Commissioner.

To listen to the committee meetings, click here and here.

Budget Projections

The monthly revenue update indicated that for June our tax revenue  range might be $100 million below to $85 million above the revenue projections for the General and Education funds. This is a range rather than a set number because tax collections for the month are not completed.  It is anticipated to be most closely to $15 million below target projections. This does not mean we have a budget shortage; it is merely based off of projections for anticipated revenue.

To date, this fiscal year we have collected about $2 billion to the General Fund. While we have collected less than anticipated, we have still collected more than we did at this same time last year. Our economy is still growing steadily, just a little slower than projected. Knowing the accuracies of our projections is essential in helping us as a Legislature know how to appropriate funds every year.

To learn more about our monthly revenue update, catch the committee meeting here.

Legislators Tour Liquor Stores

A group of legislators had the opportunity to tour a liquor store and learn about their day-to-day functions and struggles. One notable issue, highlighted by a study conducted by the University of Utah, is the need for more liquor stores. This can be an alarming idea to many Utahns, but more stores do not necessarily entail an increase in sales and consumption. It is important to remember that the State is not in the business of promoting the sale or consumption of alcohol, but we are responsible for providing an efficient distribution business. Liquor stores are subject to local approval and can therefore not be forced upon an unwilling community.

To read more about my visit to the wine store, there is an article in Salt Lake Tribune and KSL.  

State Fair Park

The State Fair Park is proposing to build a new multi-use, state-of-the-art stadium that would include 10,000 seats and would be available for events year round. The facility could host the rodeo, the Days of 47 Rodeo, the World Series of barrel racing, professional bull riding competitions, team roping events, concerts, community and cultural events, and sporting events. The estimated cost of this facility is $17 million. The board is asking for the State to appropriate funds for this project. They are also seeking out other private donors and have thus far received a $3 million commitment from the LDS church and commitments from Salt Lake City and count.

To learn more about the proposed facility, listen to the committee meeting here.


If there are any concerns or insights you would like to offer as we move forward on these policy issues, I’d love to hear from you. Please call, text, or send an email.

See the Pics: Balloons and Breakfast

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Thank you to all who joined us for such a spectacular event. We had hundreds of families show up from the Senate District. We’re estimating over 375 of you came. Thank you.

Check out the gallery with all of the pictures from the event.

Here’s a look at some of behind the scenes set up!

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The sun rose on a beautiful day…and  we got to have some delicious breakfast.

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The fun began with taking many of you on your first balloon rides.

 

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Be sure to check out the gallery with all of the pictures from the event. We had a blast.