Wednesday, December 19, 2012

All-Day Caucus: Big Changes Coming



We had an opportunity to meet as a Republican Caucus and discuss many of the issues we will be facing in the 2013 Legislative Session.

One of the important things we discussed was the Guiding Principles of our Legislative efforts this year.  Here they are:


2013 - Utah Republican Caucus Guiding Principles

Of our time, we spent about 2 hours discussing Obamacare.  I will be treating that subject in a whole separate post a little later.  You won't like what you read...but you need to know anyway.  Stay tuned for more on that subject.

BUDGET ISSUES

We also discussed our budget to a great degree.  With the "Fiscal Cliff" debate ongoing, it is making it very difficult for us to plan.  If everything stays like it is today (which it won't) then we have about $300 Million is new revenue to spend.  That is what we are building our budgets around.  However, if we "go ever the Fiscal Cliff" then our new revenue turns into a $200 Million deficit and we will have to cut programs.  It's a lovely scenario to say the least.  In my business, I always try to underpromise and overdeliver.  Consider this your warning that things could get ugly from a budget standpoint this session.  If not, then there shouldn't be too many complaints.

The governor's proposed budget is interesting in that it allotted for a 1% increase in the Weighted Pupil Unit and a 1% increase for salaries for state works but not a 1% salary increase for teachers.  I don't know if that was a technical oversight or posturing for negotiation.  Either way, that little detail is sure to get some attention from the education community.  Based on our discussion, the Legislature seems prepared to fund a 1% increase in teacher salary.

ALCOHOL

Alcohol policy will be changing this year as well.  I spoke to Senator Valentine over the summer and he indicated he is working on a Master License concept that would allow businesses that need multiple licenses to operate to consolidate to just one.  This would then free up the excess licenses for use by other businesses.  This should hopefully ease some of the burden in the business community who is impacted by the scarcity of supply of such licenses.  Also, we were told that there will be a proposed change to the "Zion Curtain" provision that places an awkward partition between bartenders and patrons at restaurant bars.

TAXES

The proposed food tax increase was brought up momentarily.  It was panned by the body. Don't expect a lot of excitement from the House of Representatives on this subject.

HELMET BILL

The last item of business was regarding the proposed Mandatory Helmet Bill for motorcyclists.  This bill was viewed very skeptically by my constituents.  It also didn't help that the rhetoric surrounding the bill was very divisive and highly agitated the opposition to it.  I spoke against the bill on the grounds that the people should be trusted to make decisions for themselves,  that micromanaging behavior based on trying to protect the public coffers was a slippery slope to greater government intrusion in our lives, and that this bill was an assault on a symbol of freedom and independence.  I asked for a Caucus position against the bill and one was received by unanimous vote.  What this means is that if the bill passes the Senate where it has originated, it will not make it far in the House and will most certainly fail a Floor vote.  

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