Monday, March 17, 2014

2014 General Session: Final Round Up

The General Session is over.  The lights are out and the halls are empty.  Here is a summary of the last week's blur of activity.

The House stayed late Monday evening to finish debating bills that originated in our body.  We wrapped up final debate on our bills Tuesday evening.

On Wednesday, we began debating Senate bills.  This is also when most of the drama dealing with our State budget was brought to a close.

Mr. Peterson's Bill Drama

One of the most interesting stories regarding the life of a bill relates to my HB336 - Courts Systems Task Force bill.  This bill passed the House on February 27th with a 67-2 vote.  It went over to the Senate where Senator Valentine sponsored the bill for me there.  The bill passed out of the Senate Judiciary committee unanimously on March 5th.  It was debated on the Senate floor on the last day of the Session and voted forward with a 19-9 victory.  As it was approved through both bodies, the bill went to the enrolling office where it would be prepared for the Governor's signature.

That is when the drama began.  Around 1pm of the final day, I received a note that the Senate wanted to recall the bill for another vote.  Confused, I headed over to the Senate to find out what was going on.  After consulting with my Senate sponsor, we discovered that House and Senate leadership had not included the task force in its budget agreement.  Since the task force required funding, and none had been allotted to it, the bill died metaphorically after it crossed the finish line.  The Senate dealt the fatal blow when it struck the bill's enacting clause upon recall.

This was an obvious disappointment.  I did a postmortem investigation to find out what went wrong.  In the end, the bill was the victim of the House/Senate budget negotiations.  In consulting with House leadership they expressed their condolences but indicated there was no other action that I could have taken to keep the bill alive.  There simply wasn't enough time at that late stage of the Session.

Next year we will be back with the bill.  However, this next time we will have the bill funded through an appropriations subcommittee to guarantee the funds are available prior to passage through the Legislature.  This will help us avoid the unpredictable outcomes of budget wrangling that occurs at the end of the Session.

Mr. Peterson's 2014 Successes

We did get some good things done this Session.

1.  We passed HB53 - Juvenile Restitution Amendments - This closed loopholes in how judges can enforce restitution for juvenile offenders.

2.  We passed HB340 - Local District Boundary Adjustments - This bill will allow Ogden City to negotiate with local water service districts to improve water service to areas near BDO.

3.  REALVICTORY - While there was no funding available this year for recidivism reduction programs, we did get the program in front of Legislators for the first time.  This vetting has produced some good results with Weber County now showing interest and expressing a desire to include it jail programming for inmates held in Weber County Jails.  The results from Weber County's experience will help us vet the program further and help us make the case for statewide implementation next year.

4.  Third House - I completed my tenure as Chair of the Third House this session.  It has been a very rewarding experience.  I was able to summon some musical talent and act as a much needed comic diversion which helped relieve some of the stress the body felt after vigorous and often emotional debate.  My role involved announcing our social calendar and providing some brief episode of entertainment after debate time was over.  There was talk of keeping me in this role if I am re-elected.  However, I notified leadership that this would be my last year serving in the Third House so I have more time to spend on legislation and committee work.  

  The final hours of the Session I was able to spend with my wife at my side.  We concluded at midnight.  The After-Session show featured a band we scrapped together to sing Mama Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up To Hold Office.  Rep. Curt Webb and Rep. Dan McKay sang, I played guitar, and Rep. Ed Redd was featured on bass.  

Speaker Lockhart shared an emotional good-bye and many Legislators announced to the body that they would not be seeking re-election.  That is not the case for me:

I look forward to a vigorous campaign and placing my name on the ballot again for consideration by the people of District 9.

In the meantime, if you have any issues or concerns about state government, CONTACT ME, and let's find a solution together.

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