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.      



2017 General Session Update: Week 3




Week three was full of committee meetings and bill hearings.


BEDLjuice

Our Business Economic Development and Labor Appropriations Subcommittee (say that 10 times fast) heard a lighting round of appropriations requests.  Committee members were each asked to list their top 10 priorities for ongoing funding and top 15 priorities for one-time funding.  We received 52 one-time requests and 18 ongoing requests.  Here are my top ranked funding priorities from the committee (not in any particular order):

Ongoing

1.  DABC - Funding for Critical Needs (staff, compensation, etc)
2.  Dept. Heritage and Arts - Security for Rio Grand Facility
3.  Dept. Heritage and Arts - Multicultural Youth Summit
4.  Dept. Heritage and Arts - Sustainability Grants
5.  Dept. of Commerse - Controlled Substances Database
6.  Econ Dev - Targeted Industries Procurement and Supply Chain Expansion
7.  Econ Dev - Engineering Initiative
8.  Natural History Museum of Utah
9.  Econ Dev - Impact Utah Manufacturing Support
10.  GOED - Financial Services Cluster Director

One-Time

1.  GOED - Business Resource Centers
2.  GOED - Sundance (small approp)
3.  Utah Advanced Materials and Manufacturing Initiative
4.  Spring City Historical Building
5.  Hill Air Force Base Air Show
6.  George Beard Photography Exhibition
7.  Utah Refugee Scout Program
8.  United Way of Ogden
9.  Ogden Pioneer Stadium
10.  El Systema@Salty Crickets
11.  Boys State/Girls State
12.  Youth Impact
13.  Utah Humanities Museum on Main Street
14.  Restoration of Grantsville Donner Reed Museum
15.  GOED - Financial Services Cluster Director

The requests varied widely in amounts from $2,000 to $1.1M.  The committee chairs will be looking at available funds and then allocating amounts based on committee priorities.  We will know more early next week on the recommended amounts and who received enough committee support to even show up on the list.  I spread the good word on our local needs.



Federal Delegation Visits

We were privileged to hear from several of our Congressmen this week.  


Representative Christ Stewart offered some particularly poignant remarks.  You can watch those here:



We also had Congressman Rob Bishop visit with us.


State Rep. Adam Gardner (who, as Young Republican at WSU, door knocked with me back in 2008 during my first run for office) was able to also reunite with his old boss.  He later worked as staff for Congressman Bishop.  Their reunion was pretty funny.  You can watch that here:




  Mr. Peterson's Bills



My bills are moving through the system.  A couple were numbered and finished the drafting process.  Here is the latest:

HB23 - Solar Tax Credit Phase Out - This bill is on the House 3rd Reading Calendar and will be presented Monday or Tuesday of Week 4

HB24 - Student Prosperity Savings Account Tax Credit - This bill is right behind HB23 on the board.  Should be heard very soon.

HB64 - Property Tax Relief Amendments - This bill passed the Senate Committee and is on the board for a final hearing on the Senate Floor.

HB73 - Child Placement Amendments - This bill has been in the House Judiciary queue since the beginning of the session.  I hope to present it this coming week.

HB158 - State House Boundary Amendments - This is a technical fix-it bill that will align house districts with the Box Elder/Cache County line.  Due to map maker errors and poorly recorded map changes decades ago, the geocoding and legal boundaries were off by a few dozen feet.  This bill is on the House Consent calendar and will be heard Monday.

HB270 - Inmate Housing Amendments - This bill reduces the halfway house burden placed on any one community and spreads the housing of inmates returning to society based on county population.  This bill has not been assigned to committee yet.

HB307 - Energy and Innovation Research Grant Program - This bill creates a $1M competitive grant program to promote the development and deployment of new and innovative energy technology.  This bill has not yet been assigned to a committee.

HB318 - Recycling Development Zone Tax Credit Repeal - This bill repeals a wonky tax credit that costs the education budget about $1M per year.  Under current law, the credit is set to expire in 2021.  This bill will be heard in committee on Wednesday.


Random Happenings



This guy just came strolling through the hallway one morning at 8am.  He didn't say much but seemed friendly enough.


I leave my office door open on the fourth floor of the Capitol to help foster communication with my colleagues.  But, my guitar equipment appears to be an irresistible attraction to many passers by... as in this case, the Executive Director of the DABC. 

So far, the most commonly asked question I get is "Dude, an Epiphone? Where's the Gibson Les Paul???"  It appears guitar snobs also walk the halls of the Capitol.

    
After giving each other a bear hug (no, I am not kidding),  Utah Democrat Party chief Peter Corroon and Utah GOP head James Evans testify at committee together to support a bill presented by Rep. Patrice Arent.  



None of us like to be bored at the Capitol.  Fortunately, we have a solid Plan B in case we slip into the doldrums.  

Coming Up...

Look for more Floor time this next week and more controversial bills to hit the board.  We killed our first bill of the season this week.  More bills are sure to walk into Legislative crossfire.  Look for excitement to come.



  









    


Saturday, February 4, 2017

2017 General Session Update: Week 2



Week 2 of the General Session proved to be eventful.  

Transportation Way-Back Machine


UDOT Took our North Utah Caucus on a trip through transportation spending history.  What did we discover?  It turns out Utah County has absorbed the largest share of transportation resources over the past 10 years.  The I-15 CORE project was by far the largest part of that.  Nevertheless, with Utah County continuing to explode in population, this trend may continue.  Utah County has almost more developable land remaining than Weber, Davis, and Salt Lake Counties do combined.  Nevertheless, Northern Utah Legislators are pushing to make sure our part of the State is not forgotten.


A Partisan Floor Debate - HB11

We debated a bill that would remove partisan balance from many boards and commission whose members are appointed by the Governor.  I voted against the bill in committee and then drafted a substitute to present on the House Floor to preserve partisan balance on several of the most politicized commissions.  You can watch that contentious debate below:



HB 23 - Solar Tax Credit Phase Out

Rep. Jeremy Peterson and Ryan Evans, President of the Utah Solar Energy Association

Consensus was reached with the Solar Industry over my bill to phase out the tax credit.  Our compromise calls for the credit to remain in place for the rest of the year and then taper over the next 5.  The tax credit will end in 2022.  You can read more about the hatchet being buried in the Salt Lake Tribune.  





The bill passed committee this week and moves on to the House Floor for a vote.  I am grateful the Solar Industry was able to come to the table and negotiate a compromise that was good for consumers, schools, taxpayers, and solar businesses.  


The Bad Landlord Program



HB178 Came to our Business and Labor Standing Committee this week.  The bill effectively guts Ogden's Good Landlord Program by prohibiting the city from offering a licensing discount to owners to agree to not rent to felons with a record on in the past four years.  The program has had a tremendous impact on improving the quality of Ogden's neighborhoods and this bill threatens the existence of the program.  I spoke against the bill but the bill passed committee on a split vote.  

You can hear the committee debate and my comments on the bill HERE.  The bill now goes to the House Floor where I have an amendment prepared to present.  


Special Guests


I hosted my daughter and her friends from Ogden Preparatory Academy at the Capitol on Friday.  I tried to teach them that Government can be fun.



So far, so good.  It was fun hanging out with this bright group of young people. 


Coming Soon...

Look for more bill drama on the floor as controversial bills are presented.  Our Government Operations Committee heard several bills this week that passed out of committee and will be sure to spark lively discussion on the floor.  



















Saturday, January 28, 2017

2017 General Session Update: Week 1



GETTING STARTED


The first week of the Session was extremely eventful.  We started out with a swearing-in of all the existing legislators and special swearing in of the freshman class of new Reps.
 

They all look a little nervous...and rightfully so.  I remember the feeling of swimming under water my first session.  


NEW SESSION, NEW GIG


After the election in November, House Members received their committee assignments.  For the past two years I served as the Vice-Chair of the Revenue and Taxation Committee.  I was actually getting quite comfortable there and attempting to become a more finely honed tax policy specialist.  Well, that plan changed this year when Speaker Hughes asked me to serve as the Chairman of Government Operations.  I accepted the appointment and will be managing the committee agenda which hears a lot of election law bills.  Look for a busy agenda as we mop up the mess from process problems discovered during this last year's election cycle.  


The best part of the new job, of course, is the view from the office.


DANTE'S INFERNO

I posted about the giant protest on Monday and was quickly brutalized.  You can read more about that experience and my thoughts here:



MR. PETERSON'S BILLS

Here is the status of the bills I am working on currently:

HB23 - Income Tax Credit Modifications (Solar Tax Credit Phase Out) - We finally had a gathering of stakeholders on Thursday morning to hammer out a final compromise on the bill.  In the meeting, the industry immediately asked to not make any real changes for another year.  That was a pretty funny thing to suggest given the history of this issue.  We rejected that idea and settled on a different compromise that the industry can live with and the legislature can feel good about.  That compromise will be presented to committee next week as a substitute bill.

HB24 - Student Prosperity Savings Plan - We thought the bill would be sent to the House Floor since it passed interim committee unanimously.  However, the bill showed up with a $3 Million price tag.  That turned out to be a tad bit optimistic since that would correlate with $60 Million in private donations to disadvantaged and intergenerational poverty youth.  Fortunately, we found a model that more accurately reflects the taxpayer burden of the bill and the cost will be about $5,000 annually.  

HB64 - Property Tax Relief Amendments - This bill went straight to the House Floor and passed unanimously this week.  You can watch the brief bill presentation HERE

HB73 - Child Placement Amendments - This bill came out of rules this week and was assigned to be heard at the Judiciary Standing Committee. It will likely be heard this coming week. 


STATE OF THE STATE

We heard the Governor offer his priorities this year.  His speech was great.  Unfortunately, the view was not.  



MR. PETERSON'S OTHER ISSUES

I do have a couple other bill files being worked on but they are not numbered yet.  

National Popular Vote

I have been speaking with colleagues about the issue of the National Popular Vote.  This issue will be a study item for us to explore in the future.  Look for more from me on this fascinating topic. You can learn more in the meantime HERE

Inmate Housing Reform

I have a bill file that is being written that will redesign Utah's halfway hosue system to more evenly distribute halfway house inmates across the state.  

Renewable Energy Innovation Grants

I am working with the Governor's Office of Energy Development to create a $1 Million grant program for development and deployment of new renewable energy technologies. 


SPECIAL GUESTS

I was grateful to have the President of the Ogden Stake of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Kent Collins, offer the opening prayer for the House on Friday.  I invited my two nephews, Bruce and Preston Thomas, to lead us in the Pledge of Allegiance.


Look for more to come next week!





DRAMA TRAUMA: My Week In Dante's 5th Circle of Hell





The first day of the 2017 Legislative Session saw one of the largest protests to ever materialize in the Capitol Building.  Estimates are that 6,000 people filled the marble halls of the Rotunda.


Our business in the Chamber concluded early into the protest so I decided to walk around to get a feel for the event.  I took many photos and decided to write a playful and lighthearted report about what I saw.  On Tuesday morning around 8:30am I posted that report on this blog.  The gist of my post was two fold.  First, I felt that the protest message hurt itself by invoking vulgarity (which I am on the record denouncing when it came from our President).  Second, the protest had so many different messages that trying to focus a conversation on the issues proved unwieldy.  

Peaceful protest is an American tradition.  Its purpose is to air grievances and to promote discussion.  Often times counter-protests are part of that process.  Regardless, gathering together in peaceful assembly has always been to make a point.  So, as a lawmaker attempting to receive that point, and also help initiate a discussion, I offered my own candid perspective on what I saw.  No malice nor ill-will was intended.  You can read the original blog post (which my wife proofread and approved before it was published) for yourself below:



The response I received was swift, organized, and acidic.  By 4pm on Tuesday, my cell phone (which I use for work, personal, and legislative purposes) was rendered unusable by the volume of calls coming in.  The messages left on my voicemail were caustic.  I checked the traffic on the blog site and it became apparent the post was going viral.  The reaction was certainly not what I expected and the harsh feelings were definitely not what I was trying to provoke.  In deference to the ugly feelings being created, and in the expediency of regaining use of my cell phone, I deleted the post.  

Whether that deletion was a wise decision or not is up for debate.  In hind sight, I imagine that the post could have received national attention.  In fact, I started getting angry calls from other states on Wednesday.  But, the deletion also created an air of 'secrecy' which just made it that much more interesting to people.  So, I received the double monikers of 'despicable' and 'coward'.  The deletion even earned me the title of Friday's Boner of the Day on X96's Radio from Hell Show.  I beat out a boner candidate who stole medical equipment from a girl with cerebral palsy, and a candidate who, as a coach, lied to kids about having cancer when instead he was going to jail for embezzlement.  So, it appears that a blog post deletion amounts to serious moral turpitude.      

From the larger perspective, this whole episode highlights the deep and poignant divisions that exist in our society.  What would be perceived as playful banter being written by a Democrat, equals hostile aggression from a Republican. Our self-segregating echo chambers are naturally hostile to new or different worldviews. Our desire to be heard is limited by our desire to be validated. It takes a lot of practice and patience to engage in civil discourse when the differences and the effort required to overcome them is large. But, for the sake of our Republic, the effort is worth it.

 I have a conservative world view.  At Monday's event, I could have stayed comfortably within the secure hallways and corridors of the Capitol and found a quiet place to ignore the protest.  But, instead I spent about an hour wandering around and observing.  The people were friendly and I didn't feel threatened at all.  People were smiling.  I was the only guy in a suit which made me stick out like a sore thumb.  That visual irony wasn't lost on me which is why I joked about being "undercover" and took a couple selfies.  Nevertheless, I made an effort to discover what was being said, even if there wasn't an instantaneous acceptance of the message.   

When discussing this communication problem with my Democratic colleagues (who also thought the original blog post was fairly benign) they chuckled a little at the negative feedback I was getting because it was the response they expected.  A female Democratic colleague told me: "Just walk away.  You can't touch this.  This is toxic for you as Republicans." She appears to be right.

Yet, the irony here is that Republicans control government everywhere you look in Utah.  If you want your message to lead to action, it has to be heard.  To be heard the message has to be conveyed, received, then understood.  From what I can see among my colleagues, the message of Monday's event isn't being received well nor is it understood at all.  Sadly, the vitriolic response my colleagues have watched me receive has dampened any of the little enthusiasm they had to engage.  The risk-reward ratio just doesn't payoff for them.  Nobody wants to be needlessly demonized for disagreeing. 

Civility in disagreement is paramount in importance. A friend in House Minority Leadership and I chatted about the need for this no less than three times this week.  Both of us are of the opinion that everyone needs to pull themselves out of their comfort zones to have a healthy dialogue.  I also spoke with Marina Lowe of the ACLU and offered to help present civic engagement classes to inform citizen activists on the best ways to interface with lawmakers.                

I am a lighthearted guy. So, it is disheartening to see that my attempted humor was misinterpreted as outright contempt.  Clearly, the rift in worldviews is wide.   I look forward to the day that rift can heal and we can all laugh together again.  After all, laughter is the best medicine.