Sunday, March 15, 2015

General Session 2015 - Grand Finale



The sprint to the finish of this year's Session was full of drama and high stakes negotiations.

Vaping, Prostitutes, and Cock Fighting

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Sen. Gene Davis presents his bill enhancing penalties for cock fighting.
Our Law Enforcement Standing Committee heard testimony on three very interesting bills the final week of the Session. We heard a bill which regulated unsealed packages of E-cigarettes.  Our committee agreed that more needed to be done to keep addictive substances out of the hands of children.  We also heard a bill on prostitution that changed the law so that bartering was included in the definition of exchanging something of value for sex.  Finally, we heard a bill that elevated cock fighting to a felony. Interestingly, the 'cockers' who filled the room in protest claimed that cock fighting just doesn't happen in Utah.  Yet, they gave passionate testimony about the supposed virtues of cock fighting.  But, when pressed on whether they had ever participated in a cock fight in Utah, they suddenly couldn't recall ever attending or hearing of one occurring.  The committee saw through this and passed the bill to the House Floor for a vote.

Medicaid Expansion Drama

The debate over whether to enact Healthy Utah as the Governor and Senate wanted, or to enact a more sustainable model like Utah Cares as the House proposed, could not be resolved in the time we had in the session.

Majority Leader Jim Dunnigan spars with Minority Leader Brian King and Rep. Rebecca Chaves-Houck on Medicaid Expansion policy.

But that doesn't mean it was a milktoast debate. On the evening of March 5th, the minority party attempted to lift the failed Healthy Utah bill from the committee which voted it down and place it on the Floor for debate.  Such a motion could only be successful with majority approval of the body.  The motion failed but the minority party was able to put pressure on majority party colleagues by placing them on the record with their vote.  Many of these folks are in swing districts.  Obviously, the majority didn't appreciate this political flanking.

The votes on the motion to lift the dead Healthy Utah bill from committee to the Floor for debate. 
Then, the next morning the minority party attempted to substitute the Utah Cares bill up for debate with Healthy Utah.  That motion also failed, with more votes going on the record.  The fruitless efforts strained the patience of the body.  The House feels very strongly about its position on Utah Cares.  Ultimately, the Legislature will be called into a Special Session once the Governor, Senate, and House can come to an agreement on how to move forward.

Education Funding

The budget this year was a bumper crop of sorts.  We were able to fund education with a 4% increase in the weighted pupil unit (WPU), which is the highest increase that has been made to education funding since 2008.  The Education Appropriations Chairman said,"This news comes with a congratulations...and a warning", alluding to the seasonal cycle of the economy and tax revenues and what happened after 2008.

However, the brisk funding increase didn't stop a massive protest at the Capitol demanding more funding.

Utah Teacher's Union fills the Capitol to demand even more money after Legislature funds biggest increase in education spending in 7 years. 
SB296 - Anti-discrimination and Religious Freedom

The biggest social issue bill to hit the Legislature in years worked its way quickly through the Senate and the House Judiciary Committee.  The bill makes sexual orientation and gender identity a protected class in regards to housing and employment.  I felt the bill was unnecessary from a housing perspective.  I also protested the way in which this weighty of an issue was worked so quickly through the process.  You can watch my floor speech regarding this subject below:

  

The Senate bill sponsors, Stuart Adams and Steve Urqhardt, are standing behind me during this debate.  The bill passed 65-10 (I voted against), was signed by the Governor the following evening, and is now the law of the land.

Mr. Peterson's Results

This year was a successful legislative season.  All four bills that I ran passed scrutiny and are on their way to the Governor's desk for a signature.  I also was also able to persuade our committee to fund Unit Reduction in Ogden's historic neighborhoods.  This will go a long way toward helping Ogden catch up to the rest of the state in the way of economic development.  The state will be funding the program with $750,000 of grant money this year.     

End of the Session


I was able to have my wife join me for the last hours of the Session.  Our work was completed at midnight.  The Governor came to speak to us and then we were able to unwind for a half hour with some comedy schtick.


Rep. Ed Redd and I sang a parody version of the Beatles tune Life Goes On.  Here are the lyrics that got the crowd laughing:

Dixon’s bill gives bodies to cadaver dogs.
 But only if they're someone no one missed. 
But before the Governor will sign the bill
He wants to add Greg Hughes name to the list.
 
Chorus:
O Brad Dee O Brad Daw Life Goes On, Daw!
O Brad Dee Daw Life Goes On
O Brad Dee O Brad Daw Life Goes On, Daw!
O Brad Dee Daw Life Goes On
 
Thurston ain't afraid to mess with Edward's bills
To make a change or even substitute
She don't know what she did to deserve all this
She's tried so hard to make us not pollute.
 
Arent demands action and the answers to
Why voters do not show up when they should
Let’s face it, we know voters simply do not care
Unless you tell them that they cannot burn their wood
 
McKay is learning to win over hearts and minds
So he can get the votes to pass his bills
But then he spars with our Parliamentarian
And we cast in all our 'NO' votes for the kill.

Miller likes to taunt the House Majority
He thinks that Healthy Utah is so cool
We all hope that next year he will understand
When all of his great bills are held in Rules.
 
Coleman wants to fill the streets with Tesla cars
Johnny pouts because they don't use gas
The Senate does not like our rowdy attitude
Van Tassel'd love to come and kick us in the _(awkward silence)_.

It was a great session.  I look forward to working on more issues facing our State over the summer.


1 comment:

  1. Although I am not a mature person, at least that's what my family tells me, I feel I must make a quick observation. I found it interesting that you chose to call the rally for increased education funding a protest, "However, the brisk funding increase didn't stop a massive protest at the Capitol demanding more funding." I wasn't able to come, so I don't know what it should be labeled, but I understood it to be a rally. A rally and a protest may be synonyms, I wouldn't know for sure as I only teach 5th grade and am immature, at least that's what my family tells me.

    ReplyDelete

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