The final week of our Legislative Session this year was quieter than usual but still contained some nuggets of drama.
Monday morning we debated HB391 which stated statutorily that Utah would not opt in to Medicaid expansion. I fully endorsed this bill due to the debilitating budget constraints that Medicaid expansion will impose on Utah. A promise that can't be paid for is no promise at all. The bill passed our House and was sent to the Senate. Ultimately, the Senate watered down the bill, the House agreed to the changes, and we approved it and sent it to the Governor. Look for more on the Medicaid issue over the summer. The debate is just getting warmed up.
We completed debating all of our House sponsored bills on Monday.
We began our work in earnest to debate Senate bills. One of the major issues we faced this year was that a large portion of Senate bills, 44% to be exact, did not get a House committee hearing. This placed us at a significant disadvantage when debating the bills on the House floor. Since no Representatives had heard the bill presented and we relied on the House floor sponsor for information on the details, we took a skeptical view toward larger Senate bills. Some of the bills were controversial...especially the ones regarding education. We voted down many of these bills since they had not been vetted at House committees. As the maxim goes: "When in doubt, don't do it." Many of these bills simply didn't do.
Wednesday's work was tedious. We stayed until 11pm to finish the day's debates. The tempo was brisk until about 9pm when lethargy took over the room. Then our debate became much less concise and more rambling in nature. Tired legislators make for wordy legislators.
We did have some last minute drama involving alcohol policy and the Senate on Thursday.
Rep. Ryan Wilcox ran a bill that would eliminate the Zion Curtain. We passed it out with huge margins. However, the Senate was not excited to receive the bill. They were even less excited to receive other bills relating to alcohol reform that we passed with equally high margins. In fact, all the bills, except for Rep. Wilcox's, were held at the Senate Rules committee and not even discussed for a vote. I found the process to by very disconcerting. When Rep. Wilcox's bill came back to us gutted and with new Senate amendments, we resisted accepting them. That put the bill in a Conference Committee for the House and Senate to hash out their differences. I sat in the room as they negotiated (I use that term lightly) on the issue. I will write more about what I saw in another post; but, the bottom line is the Senate, as it is currently constituted, has no genuine interest in loosing alcohol policy in the state. Watch for an election year clash between the House and Senate on this very subject in 2014. It will be fireworks.
The last half of the day saw us debate several big bills. One of the biggest was the bill to give a tax credit to developers for building a new hotel near the Salt Palace Convention Center. The army of lobbyists hired to push the issue did a disservice to the cause more than it helped. The parties involved wanted it so badly that it smacked of desperation. We voted the bill down. Upon it's defeat, you could sense the shock from the gallery above. It was filled with the whooshing sound of scores of lobbyists leaving the room in disappointment.
The issue may come up again next year. Once a study of the Salt Lake hotel market is completed in May, we should know with more certainty whether the tax credit makes sense. The data will tell.
Post Session Fun
At midnight we ended our Session. As is custom, we present some gifts and entertainment. I played in the Jackwagons again this year. None of our performances were polished but the humor was definitely present.
First up was Derek Brown, Curt Webb, Spencer Cox, Ed, Redd, and Dan McKay singing a rewritten version of Piano Man by Billy Joel. Very good work!
We were also presented with this hilarious video on the overhead monitors. It is a rickroll of Journey's "Don't Stop Believing". Rep. Ryan Wilcox and my intern were the chief conspirators in putting this together. VERY funny:
Finally, here is video of our Jackwagons performance featuring Mike Noel, Ed Redd, and Me:
Overall, this was a great year. I look forward to the interim and finding solutions to constituent problems for the 2014 General Session.
If you have any issues or concerns you want to see addressed, please CONTACT ME.