Saturday, March 11, 2017

SINE DIE SILLINESS: JP and The Cache County Boys


Every year after we adjourn Sine Die, several legislators get together to put on skits, awards, and other entertainment.  Since I play guitar, I have been involved in after hours entertainment quite often.  Last year we played a parody of Sweet Home Alabama and roasted our colleagues.  This year, we chose Credence Clearwater Revival's Proud Mary to adapt to the grilling.

Here is our performance at 1AM on the House Floor:



A special thanks to my band mates Curt Webb, Ed Redd, and our new bassist Val Potter.  All three of these guys hail from Logan (where I also attended USU for a time).  Something musical must be happening in that valley.

For those of you interested in reading the lyrics and the accompanying photos, here they are:



Enjoy!

2017 General Session Update: Week 7 - Grand Finale



Looking back on the final week of the Session, let me just say that it is a blur in my mind.  We passed a lot of bills and killed a few of them as well.  Here are some major highlights.


Sales Tax Head Fake

Previously, there was a lot of deliberation and consternation regarding our sales tax policy and the idea of making changes to even out the volatility of revenues.  As it turns out, the assumptions that lead to proposing the policy change in the first place were completely wrong.  Fortunately, the policy came to the House where 75 brains were then put to work dissecting and critically analyzing the idea.  In the end, the idea was abandoned because it was needless.


Clean Air




The House passed SB197 to help in the effort to improve air quality along the Wasatch Front.  The bill provides sales tax exemptions for refineries to purchase equipment needed to convert their operations to Tier 3 fuel standards.  Once converted, the improvement to air quality would be the equivalent of removing 4 out of 5 vehicles from the road.  So, the impact would be substantial.

The bill gives the refineries a couple of years to move in this direction and the exemption is only good for equipment used to convert to the higher standard.  Hopefully, this incentive will drive some positive changes in the coming years.


Protesters - Take Two



International Women's Day was during the last week of the Session.  In a sequel to the Women's March during the first week of the Session, this second event was much more subdued.  This time my own constituents came to the Capitol and sent in a green card to invite me out of the House Chamber to visit with them.  I gladly obliged.

We had a great discussion even if we had two very different philosophical view points.



Letter Grades for Schools

Our body deliberated extensively a bill to revamp how schools are graded for public judgement.  I am a big opponent of the letter grade system for schools because it glosses over so many aspects that make up a school community.  I feel that we should do away with letter grades for schools and simply allow the statistics and attributes speak for themselves.



Mr. Peterson's Bills

HB23 - Rooftop Solar Tax Credit Phase Out - Passed out of the Senate.  Ready for signature from the Governor.

HB24 - Student Prosperity Savings Account Tax Credit - Passed out of Senate.  Ready for signature from Governor.

HB64 - Property Tax Relief Amendments - Passed out of Senate. Ready for signature from Governor.

HB73 - Child Placement Amendments - This bill did not get funded.

HB158 - State House Boundary Amendments - Passed out of Senate. Ready for signature from Governor.

HB270 - Inmate Housing Amendments - This bill will be discussed over the Interim. 

HB448 - Community Reinvestment Amendments - Passed out of Senate. Ready for signature from Governor.


Tweet of the Week


Photo Gallery


VFFs - Vest Friends Forever - Rep. Adam Gardner and me.


Super Intern McKenzie Forbes and me in front of the Dias.


Rep. McKell, after adjourning, runs a faux resolution retiring SB54 from Legislative lexicon.


We play a parody of Credence Clearwater Revival's Proud Mary and roast our colleages 
at 1AM on the House Floor after adjourning sine die. 

Conclusion

This session was another year of growth for me as a Legislator.  I took on some difficult bills and also learned a lot.  This was my first year as Chair of the Government Operations committee and I believe we did a good job vetting the bills that came before us.  We also had fun while we were doing it.  I tried to keep our committee conversations upbeat and sprinkled with appropriate humor.  I also discovered early in the Session that our political fabric is under great strain after my lighthearted comments were distorted to foment an eruption of bitterness and anger.  I learned a lot from that. With that glaring exception, the Session was the mildest that I have yet to experience here on the Hill.  Staff that I spoke to said that our Leadership teams ran the Session better than they can ever remember.  So, hats off to Greg Hughes, Brad Wilson, Francis Gibson, and John Knotwell for their hard work keeping the Legislative process moving smoothly.       

Now on to the interim and drafting new bills for 2018...  

Saturday, March 4, 2017

2017 General Session Update: Week 6




Week 6 was heavy with big votes on big issues.


Sales Tax on Food



The Legislature has been informed that our current tax structure is woefully prepared for the future.  Changes in the economy have meant decreasing tax revenue to pay for increasing demands for services.  Much of this is related to shifts in what people purchase and how they purchase it.  The shift has left the State unprepared for the future.

Many reforms are on the horizon.  We attempted to navigate a three pronged approach to tax reform involving income taxes, single sales factor taxation for manufacturers, and sales taxes.  That idea proved too unwieldy to comprehend and parse in the short time we have left on the Hill.  So, we decided to move in a more measured direction as we work through reforms a piece at a time into the future.

The proposal on the table is a restoration of the sales tax on food with a reduction in the sales tax on everything.  Why?  The sales tax funds everything in government outside of education.  Unfortunately, the current model which excludes food is highly volatile which makes funding government services unpredictable.  By lowering the tax rate for everyone and broadening the tax base by restoring taxes on food, this funding source for services becomes more stable over time.

Poverty advocates have been chiming in for a while about avoiding a restoration of taxes on food.  I agree that it would affect our lowest income families the most.  So, to mitigate this problem, the tax reform proposal includes a Grocery Tax Credit for retired folks and an Earned Income Tax Credit for working folks.  These two credits would offset the food tax for those living in poverty.  As proposed, this tax structure would not increase tax revenue to the state but merely even out its ebbs and flows over time. This change will help set the table for looking at other reforms down the road.      

I support this proposal in concept.  The bill should be released anytime and ready for a public hearing on Monday.  

Alcohol Reform



HB442 - Alcohol Amendments - This bill reforms Utah 's alcohol laws significantly.  Probably the most headline worthy part of the legislation is that it gives restaurants with bars the option to remove the "Zion Curtain" feature that was mandated in 2009 for new restaurants.  It also phases out dining club licenses and makes some other changes related to off-premise retailers.  You can listen to what the bill does HERE.    The buffer area, "Washington" wall, and curtain options give restaurants plenty of options to choose from.  I voted for the bill in committee and on the floor.

Electric Vehicle Tax Credits

HB29 - Electric Vehicle Tax Credits - This bill died on the house board 37-38.  The tax credit is set to expire this year and the bill as proposed would have phased out the tax credit over several years.  I supported the bill and voted for it on grounds that a tapered phase out was a much better policy. 

Gun Laws

HB 237 - Firearms and Domestic Violence Modifications - This bill would make Utah a "constitutional carry" state but would also forfeit the firearms of any person convicted of domestic violence.  I supported the bill and voted for it.  We need more good guys carrying guns.      

Motorcycle Helmets



SB159 - Helmet Requirement Amendments - This bill would have required motorcycle riders between the ages of 18-21 to wear helmets.  I was a big NO vote on this bill.  I am disappointed the committee felt the need to restrict the liberty of riders to choose for themselves.  

Mr. Peterson's Bills

HB23 - Rooftop Solar Tax Credit Phase Out - Passed out of the Senate.  Ready for signature from the Governor

HB24 - Student Prosperity Savings Account Tax Credit - On the Senate board waiting for funding approval.

HB64 - Property Tax Relief Amendments - This bill passed the Senate with a unanimous vote and now goes to the Governor for a signature.

HB73 - Child Placement Amendments - This bill passed the House and Senate committe unanimously.  It awaits funding prioritization early next week. 

HB158 - State House Boundary Amendments - This bill passed the Senate Floor unanimously and goes to the Governor's desk for a signature.

HB270 - Inmate Housing Amendments - This bill will be discussed over the Interim. 

HB448 - Community Reinvestment Amendments - This bill was heard in a House Committee and passed unanimously.  It awaits sifting and being placed on the House board for debate Monday.  

Napoleon Dynamite 

This week I was notified by House staff that Jon Heder (of Napoleon Dynamite fame) was coming to Capitol Hill to visit the Governor, Senate, and House.  Speaker Hughes asked me to host him in the House during his visit.  It was a fun experience.


I met Jon in the hallway before walking him onto the House Floor.  It just so happened my girls were waiting to ambush him as he arrived.  Someone must have tipped them off.


We hammed it up for the few moments he was with us in the House and had a few laughs.  I brought "Vote For Pedro" t-shirts for both of us to wear.  He wasn't expecting that but was a good sport nevertheless.  Midway through our time on the Floor he leans over to me and says: "Now wait, is this whole thing for a photo op, or for your amusement?"  I responded with a smile: "Both."  Shortly after that, his handlers arrived and whisked him away to the Governor's office.  

Nobody had informed me why Jon was visiting us on the Hill.  I thought it was a fun publicity stunt to promote his new movie.  However, I discovered later that Jon was visiting the Capitol to advocate for Motion Picture Tax Incentives.  Hilariously, I ran a bill (that failed) to end those same tax credits last year.  Haha! When worlds collide.

NOTE:  Jon, if you are reading this, I forgive you.  We can still be friends.

Grand Finale

The dramatic conclusion to this year's session is upon us.  Look for a post-mortem of the week's events after the smoke clears.  



Friday, February 24, 2017

2017 General Session Update: Week 5



An abbreviated week 5 is in the books.  This week was a consolidation of business before starting our final slog next week to the reach the finish line on March 9th.

To Pay Voter's Postage or Not to Pay Voter's Postage, That Is The Question  

My friend and colleague Rep. Brad Daw ran a bill that would notify voters if their mail in ballot was spoiled due to a mistake.  That was a great idea.  However, he also included a mandate that counties pay for return postage.  To me, that was a problem for several reasons.  You can watch my amendment to his bill and the debate it ignited on the House Floor.




Mr. Peterson's Bills

HB23 - Rooftop Solar Tax Credit Phase Out - Passed out of the Senate.  Ready for signature from the Governor

HB24 - Student Prosperity Savings Account Tax Credit - On the Senate board waiting for funding approval.

HB64 - Property Tax Relief Amendments - This bill passed the Senate with a unanimous vote and now goes to the Governor for a signature.

HB73 - Child Placement Amendments - This bill is circled on the House 3rd Reading calendar and will be debated first thing next week.

HB158 - State House Boundary Amendments - This bill passed the Senate Floor unanimously and goes to the Governor's desk for a signature.

HB270 - Inmate Housing Amendments - This bill will be discussed over the Interim.  We met with the Department of Corrections on Friday and had a very constructive conversation.  We are committed to crafting a workable plan over the summer.

HB307 - Energy Innovation Research Grant Program - This bill has been abandoned due to unexpected conflicts between GOED, OED, USTAR, and GOMB that were unable to be reconciled by the end of the session.   
  
HB318 - Recycling Market Development Zone Tax Credit Amendments- This bill is being sent to the Interim for discussion with stakeholders.  We will be meeting in late spring to finalize a proposal for next Session.  

Random Happenings


Rep. Brian King hosted Tom Perez who is running to preside over the DNC.  He seemed surprised we all were clapping for him.  Speaker Hughes told him we are a friendly bunch.  


Winner of the Most Awkward Bill Title Award


We met with PTA members from Weber and Davis Counties.  We heard a lot of concerns and answered a lot of questions. 


Mia Love visited our body and spoke for several minutes.  


Animal Print Friday is catching on at the Hill.  Garishly dressed men like Reps Mike Winder, Scott Chew, and Norm Thurston join the ladies to celebrate.  


If you are looking for a good investment, Sandbag Manufacturers may be a safe bet.  Look for a Spring flood as our snowpack reaches record levels.  


Citizen lobbyist Steve Barton of the Ogden Sierra Club (Ogden Is Awesome t-shirt) poses with pseudo-professional lobbyists Alan Dayton and Steve Hunter.  What do we all have in common?  We're all proudly from O-Town.  

Ending the Week



 Look for more tantalizing updates to come...








  

Sunday, February 19, 2017

2017 General Session Update: Week 4


The Ogden Arts Community visits with Rep. Peterson outside the Chamber doors.

Mr. Peterson's Bills

Week four was a flurry of debate and bill presentations. Here is an update on my bills' status:

HB23 - Rooftop Solar Tax Credit Phase Out - This bill passed the house with a 60-14 vote.  It passed the Senate Committee unanimously (even receiving the vote of Senator Dabakis) and is on its way to the Senate Floor.  You can watch the House Floor debate below:




HB24 - Student Prosperity Savings Account Tax Credit - This bill passed out of the House unanimously.  It also passed out of the Senate Committee unanimously.  It is on its way to the Senate Floor.  You can watch that brief floor debate below:



HB64 - Property Tax Relief Amendments - This bill passed the Senate with a unanimous vote and now goes to the Governor for a signature.

HB73 - Child Placement Amendments - This bill was presented to the Judiciary Standing Committee and passed out with a unanimous vote.  It now moves to the House Floor for debate.

HB158 - State House Boundary Amendments - This bill passed the House Floor and Senate Committee unanimously.  It now goes to the Senate Floor for a vote.

HB270 - Inmate Housing Amendments - This bill was heard by the Law Enforcement Standing Committee.  The committee was very interested in the bill and what it was trying to accomplish.  However, there are still many details to work out with the Corrections Department.  We will be initiating those meetings in the next week or two and working over the interim.  You can listen to the presentation HERE.

HB307 - Energy Innovation Research Grant Program - This bill was heard by the Public Utilities Standing Committee.  The committee liked the bill but had some reservations about the details of how the program would integrate with USTAR and current GOED initiatives.  The bill was held to give us time to work out the details.

HB318 - Recycling Market Development Zone Tax Credit Amendments- This bill opened up a pandora's box of questions from the Revenue and Taxation Committee.  We substituted the bill to end the income tax credit and swap it out for a sales tax exemption for recyclers.  It turns out that not only recyclers but manufacturers are using the income tax credit as well.  Interestingly, manufacturers are already benefiting from a sales tax exemption today.  So manufactures are getting double incentives!  These are incentives even recycling companies aren't getting right now.  We are digging deeper into this issue.  The bill was held as we get the numbers ready to submit to the committee for a rehearing.

Floor Debate - Defending Ogden's Good Landlord Program

Rep. Brian King presented a bill that would have destroyed Good Landlord Programs across the state. I offered an amendment to exclude Ogden City and West Valley City because they carry the State's Halfway House inmate burden.  My effort to amend the bill starts at the 4m50s mark.  The vote is a nailbiter:





My Town Hall Meeting

After watching Jason Chaffetz town hall and then seeing my political opposition and our local paper advertise my town hall meeting like it was a concert event, I got a little worried about what kind of experience it was going to be.  Fortunately, the people who attended were spirited but well mannered despite of our difference in views on the issues.  You can watch the entire town hall event here.

We are headed into the final three weeks of the Session.  Expect more excitement ahead!





VIDEO: Rep. Jeremy Peterson's Spirited Town Hall Q and A



I held a mid-session town hall meeting last week to interact with constituents and offer a report of the bill files I am working on.  We had about 75-80 folks attend, including my wife and four daughters.  Many folks were from areas outside District 9 but who felt compelled to attend in order to offer their perspective on issues facing our state.  Also in attendance was my opponent in last years election, Kathie Darby.

Karen Thurber and John Hines ask questions during the town hall meeting.

The meeting touched on a broad variety of issues.  We recorded the entire event so you can watch for yourself what transpired and my responses some pointed questions.

Part 1

In part one we welcomed everybody and I offer a summary of all the bill files I am running this year.  The room quickly jumps into discussion surrounding my proposal to phase out rooftop solar tax credits.  Here is the first half hour of discussion:




Part 2

In the second part we discuss gerrymandering, funding halfway house reform, indigent defense, tone-deaf legislators, medical marijuana, intergenerational poverty, the Zion Curtain, funding education, and the Our Schools Now petition,



Part 3

In the third part, we enter a grand finale of questions touching on sex education, opiate addiction, the National Popular Vote, gridlock on 5600 S in Roy, Bears Ears Monument, and clean air,



A special thanks to all those who attended and participated in our conversation.  Even though we may not have seen eye to eye on every issue, I think we all came away from the event more informed and satisfied that our various viewpoints were able to be voiced and heard in the public square.  Look for another town hall meeting to be held after the Session ends in mid-March.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE: Rep. Jason Chaffetz vs. The Inconsolable


Congressman Jason Chaffetz held a town hall meeting recently to reach out to constituents and hear their concerns.  You can see for yourself what happened next:



This video has given me renewed respect for Representative Chaffetz.  I can't say that I would have withstood 90 minutes of this kind of treatment.  Somehow, he mustered the professionalism to address the crowd in a respectful tone and accommodating tenor.

If you listen to the first few minutes of the video, you can hear a lot of the crowd shouting the word "indivisible".  It turns out that there is a progressive grassroots movement by that name that is educating activists on how to best disrupt town hall meetings and other gatherings.   Here is an excerpt from their website:


AT THE TOWN HALL

  1. Get there early, meet up, and get organized. Meet outside or in the parking lot for a quick huddle before the event. Distribute the handout of questions, and encourage members to ask the questions on the sheet or something similar.
     
  2. Get seated and spread out. Head into the venue a bit early to grab seats at the front half of the room, but do not all sit together. Sit by yourself or in groups of two, and spread out throughout the room. This will help reinforce the impression of broad consensus.
     
  3. Make your voices heard by asking good questions. When the MoC opens the floor for questions, everyone in the group should put their hands up and keep them there. Look friendly or neutral so that staffers will call on you. When you’re asking a question, remember the following guidelines:

    Stick with the prepared list of questions. Don’t be afraid to read it straight from the printout if you need to.

    Be polite but persistent, and demand real answers. MoCs are very good at deflecting or dodging questions they don’t want to answer. If the MoC dodges, ask a follow-up question. If they aren’t giving you real answers, then call them out for it. Other group members around the room should amplify by either booing the MoC or applauding you.

    Don’t give up the mic until you’re satisfied with the answer. If you’ve asked a hostile question, a staffer will often try to limit your ability to follow up by taking the microphone back immediately after you finish speaking. They can’t do that if you keep a firm hold on the mic. No staffer in their right mind wants to look like they’re physically intimidating a constituent, so they will back off. If they object, then say politely but loudly: “I’m not finished. The MoC is dodging my question. Why are you trying to stop me from following up?”

    Keep the pressure on. After one member of the group finishes, everyone should raise their hands again. The next member of the group to be called on should move down the list of questions and ask the next one.
     
  4. Support the group and reinforce the message. After one member of your group asks a question, everyone should applaud to show that the feeling is shared throughout the audience.  Whenever someone from your group gets the mic, they should note that they’re building on the previous questions — amplifying the fact that you’re part of a broad group.
     
  5. Record everything! Assign someone in the group to use their smart phone or video camera to record other advocates asking questions and the MoC’s response. While written transcripts are nice, unfavorable exchanges caught on video can be devastating for MoCs. These clips can be shared through social media and picked up by local and national media. Please familiarize yourself with your state and local laws that govern recording, along with any applicable Senate or House rules, prior to recording. These laws and rules vary substantially from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.

AFTER THE TOWN HALL

  1. Reach out to media, during and after the town hall. If there’s media at the town hall, the people who asked questions should approach them afterward and offer to speak about their concerns. When the event is over, you should engage local reporters on Twitter or by email and offer to provide an in-person account of what happened, as well as the video footage you collected. Example Twitter outreach:

    “.@reporter I was at Rep. Smith’s town hall in Springfield today. Large group asked about Medicare privatization. I have video & happy to chat.”
    Note: It’s important to make this a public tweet by including the period before the journalist’s Twitter handle. Making this public will make the journalist more likely to respond to ensure they get the intel first.

    Ensure that the members of your group who are directly affected by specific threats are the ones whose voices are elevated when you reach out to media.
     
  2. Share everything. Post pictures, video, your own thoughts about the event, etc., to social media afterward. Tag the MoC’s office and encourage others to share widely.

This is pretty much what we saw at the Chaffetz event.  Prepared questions were read.  The crowd demanded a microphone.  Questioners asked several follow up questions for as long as they could. The crowd cheered wildly anytime a questions resonated with them. Everything was shared live on Facebook and social media.

Meanwhile, I have my own town hall meeting coming up.   I inadvertently volunteered as the House Punching Bag this session after provoking the ire of activists several weeks ago.  So, I do expect a lively and interesting event.   Look for a report on that next week.