The 2014 General Session has begun in earnest. Our first day was full of ceremony and memorials as Greg Hughes took the gavel to serve as our new Speaker of the House. Of course, due respect was given to Becky Lockhart and her family. Traditionally, the former Speaker will swear in the new Speaker. We were grateful to have an elder statesman in Rob Bishop (a former Speaker of the House himself) to do the honors in lieu of Speaker Lockhart's absence.
Since I am serving as the Vice Chair of the Revenue and Taxation Committee this year, leadership asked me and all the Chairs and Vice Chairs to do some follow up training on conducting committee meetings.
Of course, it wouldn't have been proper to retire from the Third House without a formal sendoff of my replacement. Here is video of me embarrassing my good friend Steve Handy after business was concluded for the day:
I leave the Third House with mixed feelings. It was a tremendous amount of work and required large amounts of energy. Yet, the relief it brought to the House, I felt, was an important element that healed wounds after days of difficult debate and contention. I will miss the job, but look forward to new experiences. For memory's sake, here is a "Best Of" video from 2014.
The week's meetings then began in earnest. Our appropriations subcommittees began hearing from Department Directors on how they planned to reduce their budgets by 2%. This budget reduction review exercise forces each department to take a hard look at their programs and cut waste. Many Directors we heard from were prepared and demonstrated an ability to meet the challenge. Others were less agreeable to the proposition and presented some creative accounting gymnastics in order to accomplish the task. We have been taking notes and will be budgeting based on the reports we are receiving.
Mr. Peterson's Bills Update
HB88 - Veterinary Practice Amendments - This bill was heard at committee and passed out unanimously. You can listen to the presentation HERE.
HB127 - Municipal Land Use Amendments - This bill is being clarified after the League of Cities and Towns asked to change some language to better align with its intent. We are working on some refinements which should be ready in the next few days.
HB204 - Tax Increment Amendments - This bill is also being clarified after the League of Cities and Towns asked for some time to review the impact it had on RDAs and bonding. We should have these issues resolved in the next few days as well.
Mr. Peterson's Appropriations Update
Ogden Historic Preservation and Unit Reduction - I have been speaking to members of my committee which will hear our formal presentation in a couple weeks. The proposal appears to be received warmly and the members I have spoken to understand the impact the request has for preserving state history while also moving Ogden forward as an flagship community in Northern Utah. I look forward to making our formal presentation in the coming weeks.
Utah Railroad Museum Authority Grant Writer Funding - I have requested that the Legislature fund a grant writer for our state railroad museums. The purpose is to use the skills of the grant writer to solicit grant funds outside of the state. These funds will allow the museums to enhance their offerings to the public and also become self-funding through the grant writing process.
Wood Burning Ban - I predicted the outright ban proposal would be DOA after we seeing the first public hearing on the subject. If the ban were to be implemented, the Legislature would certainly react to undo it. The executive branch can't risk that kind of political repudiation. So, the ban will morph into a much softer form if it survives at all.
Income Tax Increase - The proposal to tax your income an additional 2% failed in committee. Your wallets are safe for now.
Clean Air - We recently held a press conference outlining bills affecting cleaner air the state. One initiative includes converting state owned buses to natural gas. There is a laundry list of other bills so we will keep our eyes on how they progress.
This concludes the first update. If you have any legislative issues or concerns, don't hesitate to CONTACT ME.
NOTE: We get a lot of emails from folks outside of Utah. Please be sure to include your full name and property address in any correspondence so we can weed out the not-so-real constituents from any correspondence you send. Thanks!