Saturday, March 10, 2018

SINE DIE SILLINESS: The Cache County Boys...And That Other Guy

Our annual Sing Along and Roast was a hit this year.  We topped off years worth of performances with this politically incorrect piece of pointed satire. 

With Reps Webb, Redd and me retiring,  Rep. Val Potter will need to solicit some new talent to keep the tradition going.

2018 General Session: Week 7

Week seven took us to the finish line on state business for the year. 

Our week started out with contention regarding the Utah GOP Central Committee bylaws.  Our committee voted on HB485 to guarantee candidates a place on the ballot this election cycle.  A companion bill HB338 also was written.  Both bills passed the House and died in the Senate without a hearing on the floor.  The question of the Republican party's status now rests in the hands of a judge.  It will be an interesting election year!

The Legislature also tried to stem damage from a potential $700M tax increase from the Our Schools Now initiative.  The initiative threatened to destabilize Utah's balanced tax structure by mandating higher taxes on income. In a compromise, the legislature agreed to a much smaller property tax increase while also passing legislation to reduce the income tax.  The compromise also calls for a question to be placed on the ballot to ask citizens if they would tolerate a 10-cent increase in gas taxes.    

My Democratic colleague Rebecca Chavez-Houck announced last year she was leaving the Legislature.  Since she is in the minority party she hasn't had a chance to chair a standing committee.  So, I handed the gavel to her and let her steer our final committee meeting for the year.  

Rep. Mike Shultz and I on the House Floor.

Senator Greg Buxton and I on the Senate Floor. 

Reps. Carl Albrecht and Kelly Miles on the House Floor.

We find that the press sometimes doesn't like to report all the good things the Legislature does.  Good news doesn't sell apparently.  But, the truth is we achieved a lot this year on suicide prevention and opiate issues.  

Rep. Mike Noel and his wife hang out on the House Floor during the final night.  Mike just announced his retirement.  He has been a strong voice on the Floor since I have been at the Capitol.

My sweetheart came to spend the final night with me.

Here I am at 1:30am announcing my retirement.

Mr. Peterson's Bills

HB20 - Political Activities and Elections - This bill was a technical clean up bill which passed and the Governor has signed into law.

HB80 - Child Placement Amendments - The third time IS the charm.  After passing this bill two years in a row unanimously only to see the bill go unfunded ($59,000), we passed it this year AND funded it. 

HB110 - Lobbyist Licensing Amendments - A lot of ink was used reporting on the effort to provide workplace harassment training for lobbyists as a condition of licensing.  I spent hours in meetings negotiating with the lobbyist camp and running interference between them and our legal staff who were trying to craft effective language that was not to onerous.  Yet, in the end, this bill died in the Senate without a debate on the floor due to a lack of time.  The hilarious irony is that late in the Session I submitted an amendment to HJR16 which incorporates this same training idea for the media and that bill passed!  So, lobbyists don't take the training for now yet the press will start doing so next year.

HB126 - Offender Housing Amendments - This bill was drama from start to finish.  At first, I had to overcome some significant disagreements between me and the Department of Corrections.  Once we overcame that obstacle, getting the bill written correctly proved a challenge.  Later, House Leadership tangled with Senate Leadership and the program was unfunded with dozens of other programs falling to the same fate.  In the end, we pulled the funding provision from the bill but kept the policy directive in place for future construction of new community correctional centers.  Unfortunately, the way that was drafted created confusion between leadership and the fiscal analysts who each had their own ideas on how the funding mechanisms were interpreted.  We got a last minute amendment in place the afternoon of the final day of the Session and the bill passed and now sits on the Governor's desk awaiting a signature.  Future legislatures will fund the initiative.  As it's funded, we will see significant changes across the state in how our inmates are reintegrated back into society. 

HB270 - Teacher Employment Amendments - This bill sailed through the House and Senate and sits on the Governor's desk awaiting a signature.

HB384 - Trust Deeds and Statutes of Limitations - I spent many hours in meetings with the Bankers Association, Chase, Wells Fargo, the Credit Union Association and others trying to get this bill right.  Unfortunately, we ran out of time.  I will pass this issue on to another colleague to work on over the interim for next session.  Clarifying Utah's statute of limitations for foreclosing on mortgages is an important issue to resolve.  

Friday, March 9, 2018

Mr. Peterson Will Not Seek Re-Election in 2018

It is with both reverence and reluctance that I announce my intent to retire from the Utah House of Representatives.  I will not be seeking re-election in 2018.  I am immensely grateful for all the support that has been given to me and my family during the past eight years as I have served at Capitol Hill in behalf of the people of District 9.  I am forever indebted to those
who have helped me in being elected to and serving in higher office.

Having consulted with my dear wife and family, we feel that now is the right time to take a pause from public service as we focus on shepherding our four daughters through adolescence and give much needed attention to our growing business ventures.

District 9 needs a strong voice at Capitol Hill and I encourage anyone with the aptitude to serve to file to run.

May God continue to bless our community and the great state of Utah!

Saturday, March 3, 2018

2018 General Session: Week 6

Week 6 saw the Legislature enter its traditional logjam as bills streamed out of committee en masse and landing on the Floor reading calendars.  The committee agendas this week were typically followed in ad lib fashion as bill sponsors were double or triple booked trying to present all of their bill files to multiple committees during the same hour block.  Nevertheless, we survived.  The week also saw some interesting and important events.

We started off the week honoring our firefighters.

My oldest daughter Hannah spent the day with me on the Hill.  She had a great time and really enjoyed herself.

Mitt Romney paid us a visit.  I had the opportunity to ask him about his views on the Administration's criticisms of NAFTA and the potential for trade wars.  Given the announcement from the White House of steel and aluminum tariffs a couple days later, my question was prescient.  

We worked till after 10pm on Tuesday debating bills.  We worked so late that the lights automatically turned off.  

My third oldest daughter, Sophie,  spent the day with me at the Capitol.  She brought a fake powered wig and waited all day for me to pull the Abraham Lincoln hat out of my props closet (yes, my office has one of those) and get this photo taken.

Before that, she did what most of us in our committee meetings really want to do.

My mom, sister, and daughter spent some time with me as well.  Then they headed downtown to do some shopping.

Majority Leader Brad Wilson is teased by Minority Leader Brian King who #Resists the sign requirements for Floor desks.

The State Central Committee of the Utah Republican Party took actions that inadvertently threaten to sabotage the elections this year.  It was a wild meeting that devolved into disorder and chaos and culminated in the adoption of bylaws that, ironically, would obliterate the caucus/convention system that the SCC is trying to protect. 

 Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox gave us a frank and honest legal briefing on the matter.  The bottom line?  Republicans should be terrified.

Here is a video that is the perfect metaphor for results of the SCC meeting.  The 51 people that voted for the bylaw change have set off a thermonuclear reaction that is far more dangerous than anticipated..

"This incident pushed the dangers of fallout from nuclear weapons (i.e. SCC meetings) clearly into the public mind."

The Democratic party sent me a thank you letter for donating to their party...even though I didn't. 

My youngest daughter, Esther, spent the day with me at Capitol Hill.  

We debated and passed out a Medicaid Expansion bill that would leverage the State money already going into the program to cover more people with the addition of Federal dollars. The program would require a Federal waiver. If the wavier is not granted, nothing changes.  If it is granted and the bill implemented, the bill would terminate the program if the Federal Government made any changes to their contribution to the program.  The program also has work requirements and other common sense provisions unavailable in previous Medicaid expansion proposals.

Mr. Peterson's Bills
HB20 - Political Acitivies and Elections - This bill has been signed by the Governor.

HB80 - Child Placement Amendments - This bill is tabled on the Senate 3nd Reading Calendar and should be funded.

HB110 - Lobbyist Licencing Amendments - This bill passed passed the House Floor and was heard by Senate Committee.  It passed out of both bodies.

HB126 - Offender Housing Amendments -   This bill's funding was caught in the crossfire of House and Senate negotiations.  We are looking for any funding mechanism we can find at this point.  If not, we will pass the bill with no appropriation and have the blueprint in the books for future funding.

HB193 - National Popular Vote Interstate Compact - This bill will return to rules committee and expire.  Our committee vote count was never sufficient enough to bring it up for discussion and pass.  I am still convinced it is a sound policy proposal despite the vitriolic emails and phone calls I received from the misinformed. 

HB270 - Teacher Employment Amendments - This bill passed the Senate and is being enrolled.  It goes to the Governor's desk for a signature. 

HB384 - Trust Deeds and Statute of Limitations - This bill fizzled out this week.  We had another round table with the banks and credit unions and our second draft of the bill created more complications than expected.  This issue will be discussed over the summer and another bill brought back in 2019.  

Saturday, February 24, 2018

2018 General Session - Week 5

Week 5 was short but punchy.  We came back from President's Day to a 3rd Reading Calendar chuck full of bills to debate.

But, before we debate any bills, we have to brave the morning commute to the Capitol.  NOTE: In order to "reduce speed", you must have speed to begin with. 

We had a heart wrenching recognition on the House Floor of Deserea Turner.  She is a shooting survivor who was left for dead by two classmates in Logan last year.  Her  head wound has left her physically impaired and has caused some mental impairment.  But she is improving.  She is a strong girl.

We recognized Orin Hatch on the House Floor and declared February 21st as Orin Hatch Day.  To celebrate this new holiday, we all dressed up like politicians.

The Legislature's love/hate relationship with premium creamy chocolate continues as we restock with consolation prizes to hand legislators after their bills fail.  For example...

Our Oversight Committee proposal was panned by the Utah League of Cities and Towns who effectively lobbied a majority of representatives to stick a knife in the bill.  The bill has since had the knife pulled out of its heart and is being resuscitated after the city provisions are amputated from the bill language.

We had a serious discussion about tax reform for the state.  There are four major bills on their way through the Legislature that realign our tax structure.  Combined, they would decrease taxes while shifting some of the tax burden more evenly from one source to others. Two of the bills increase taxes and two of them decrease taxes if passed alone. However, we took no position as a body on the combined package and will be debating each of the bills on their merits. This scenario could prove to be an explosion of excitement as we near the end of the Session.

Congresswoman Mia Love paid us a visit.  She candidly shared her feelings about President Trump while Speaker Hughes simultaneously offered us his best poker face.

I presented HB384 at committee which deals with preventing predatory foreclosures on orphaned 2nd mortgages left over from the Great Recession.  The committee hearing was heated.  You can listen to the presentation HERE.  Afterword, we gathered with the Credit Union Association, the Bankers Association, and Lundberg and Associates to forge a path forward.  After about 3 hours of discussion we found a way that would appease all parties involved.

You know its been a long day at work when you are almost the last guy to leave.

Quote of the Week

"I hope this bill dies in the Senate."

- Rep. Francis Gibson speaking about his own bill

Mr. Peterson's Bills

HB20 - Political Acitivies and Elections - This bill is sitting on the Governor's desk.

HB80 - Child Placement Amendments - This bill is tabled on the Senate 3nd Reading Calendar.

HB110 - Lobbyist Licencing Amendments - This bill passed committee this week on a 6-3 vote and is scheduled to be heard on the House Floor.

HB126 - Offender Housing Amendments -   This bill waits on the Senate 2nd Reading Calendar. 

HB193 - National Popular Vote Interstate Compact - This bill is still in possession of our Government Operations Committee.

HB270 - Teacher Employment Amendments - This bill passed Senate Committee unanimously and is on the Senate Consent Calendar.

HB384 - Trust Deeds and Statute of Limitations - This bill, despite the heated discussion, was passed out of committee and sits on the House 3rd Reading Calendar.  In an unusual move, the committee opted to move it forward trusting that we would collaborate with stakeholders to come to a consensus solution.  That process has occurred and the bill is being redrafted.  A substitute bill is forthcoming for stakeholders to review. 

Saturday, February 17, 2018

2018 General Session - Week 4

Week Four moved at a steady pace.  Here is the week in pictures.

The week started out with a 7am gathering of our Northern Utah Caucus.  As you can tell from the vantage point of the photo, I was a few minutes late to the meeting. 

Students treated us to a "Lion Dance" during lunch this week. 

Rob Bishop came to visit us at the Capitol and offered a report to our caucus.  The bottom line:  Washington is broken...still.  The Congress' concentration of power in House and Senate Leadership means that big legislation is always pushed forward via panicked emergency deadlines rather than thoughtful discussion and debate.  In my opinion, the way that Congress has organized itself prevents a change, even if the people are replaced.

Rep. Becky Edwards presented the bill to replace the statue of Philo Farnsworth at the U.S. Capitol with the statue of March Hughes Cannon.  Here Rep. Edwards speaks with the mural of Martha Hughes Cannon above her and her Senate Sponsor, Senator Todd Weiler, behind her.  

We had lunch at the Joseph Smith Memorial building with Deseret Media to discuss a bill that eliminates non-compete agreements for the news media.  Needless to say, they don't like the bill.  This lunch was held after a contentious committee meeting where the bill was passed on a split vote. I support the idea of eliminating non-compete abuses.  However, the bill is too broad in its current form and I voted against it in committee.  The most ironic part of the lunch is that Deseret Media appears to be a good actor in the industry while all the complaints we are getting from industry folks about abuses come from other media outlets.  The good news out of all this is that, while sitting next to Kevin Eubank, I learned his favorite place to ski is Snowbasin.      

Sadly, my National Popular Vote bill has inspired a pageant of ugliness in some uncivil corners of my party.  Look for an exciting post about 'Love' Letters I received on this topic at the end of the Session.  I have saved them all.   

Lobbyists of all types crowd the doors of the House Chamber.

Our annual Speaker's Dinner this year was held on the floor of the Vivint Arena.  It was a sentimental event and a nice way to honor Speaker Hughes. 

We were paid a visit by the Consul General of Canada Stephane Lessard.  He discussed the problems facing free trade between Canada and America and their desire to maintain trade between our countries.  Over 76,000 Utah jobs are tied to trade with Canada.  Exiting NAFTA would cost Utah approximately 18k-36k jobs.  NAFTA is a big deal for our state. 

Students from Ogden High School came up to the Capitol to learn how our system works. 

My daughter Wynnie came up to pal around with me for a day. 

Quote of the Week

"I support this bill...regardless who the sponsor is."

- Rep. Tim Quinn

Mr. Peterson's Bills

HB20 - Political Acitivies and Elections - This bill is sitting on the House Concurrence calendar and will be voted on Tuesday before going to the Governor's desk.

HB80 - Child Placement Amendments - This bill is on the Senate 2nd Reading Calendar.

HB110 - Lobbyist Licencing Amendments - This bill is scheduled to be heard at committee Tuesday, February 20th.

HB126 - Offender Housing Amendments - This bill was substituted and passed out of Senate Committee unanimously.  It will now wait on the Senate 2nd Reading Calendar while we prioritize funding.

HB193 - National Popular Vote Interstate Compact - This bill is still in possession of our Government Operations Committee.

HB270 - Teacher Employment Amendments - This bill passed House Committee unanimously and was placed passed the House on the Consent Calendar.  It now goes to Senate Committee for a hearing. 

HB384 - Trust Deeds and Statute of Limitations - This bill has been numbered and has been assigned to the House Judiciary Committee.