Thursday, March 5, 2015

General Session 2015 - Update 4



We are in the final stretch of the session with only five working days left.  Tensions are high and events are happening quickly.

Hot Topic - Corrections Reform

Rep. Eric Hutchings presents his reform proposal to Majority Caucus
The house passed major corrections reform in HB348 this week.  The new law will focus on treating addictions and rehabilitating offenders rather than incarcerating them with more hardened inmates.  Our current system mingles low risk inmates with high risk inmates and the results have been disasterous by turning low risk inmates into professional criminals when they come out of prison.  I am very excited by the prospects of lower recidivism and better results from our prison system.  Our corrections system will actually be correcting problems.  You can listen to the insightful committee presentation HERE.

Hot Topic - Gas Tax


The House's version of a gas tax bill passed our Revenue and Taxation Committee.  I voted no. The proposal takes our 24.5 cent fixed tax and replaces it with a 24.5 cent tax that is calibrated as a percentage of $1.75 per gallon.  If the wholesale price of a gallon of gas rises above that amount the tax would rise accordingly as a fixed percentage of that higher price.  It is effectively a sales tax with some ceilings and floors on the tax amount.  The Senate passed a version of the gas tax that calls for a flat 10 cent increase in the current tax.

We expect that the House Gas Tax and the Senate Gas Tax will be morphed together to produce some hybrid bill before it is finally consideration for a vote on the floor.  We will see what comes to us for final review.

Hot Topic - Religious Protection/LGBT Non-Discrimination

L. Tom Perry speaks at LGBT non-discrimination press conference.
This is a very difficult issue.  The LDS Church and LGBT community have come together to  compromise on a religious freedom and non-discrimination bill.  The bill. HB296, was released yesterday at a press conference to announce joint support from both parties. After an initial review, I am troubled by the current language and very uncomfortable with the legal challenges that it may present.  Once this language insinuates itself into our books, it is there...forever.  At this point, I am unsure I can support the bill.  This is a highly volatile issue which cuts deep into sentiments on both sides of the discussion.  We will be discussing this issue more earnestly as the bill works it's way out of the Senate and into the House.

Hot Topic - Healthy Utah vs. Utah Cares

Healthy Utah is presented to committee.  Bill failed 4-9
There has been a lot written in the press about the House being unwilling to hear the Governor's Healthy Utah plan in committee.  In speaking to Legislators individually about their thoughts on the program, the program has less than 1/3rd support in our body.  Ultimately, the press and the Governor's office demanded a hearing.  The House agreed to hear the bill and it failed unsurprisingly in committee by nearly 2/3rds.

Fortunately, the House has another plan ready, known as Utah Cares, that will cover individuals up to 100% of the Federal Poverty Level and will use the Primary Care Network to help meet basic medical needs.  Utahns will have a bigger financial stake in the program and thus Utah will have greater flexibility with how the program is administered.  The program utilizes more local funding and more local control.  It is truly a Utah solution to providing access to healthcare for our disadvantaged population.    

Mr. Peterson's Bills

HB127 - Tax Increments Amendments

I presented my tax increment bill to the House Floor.   Here is video.  The bill gets off to an awkward start:


SB203 - Immigrant Consultants Amendments

Senator Escamilla asked me to sponsor this bill on the House Floor since we worked together on this subject back in 2012.  I was even able to plug Weber State University in the intro:


Lincoln Day Dinner


Governor Herbert and Lt. Governor Spencer Cox showed up to our Weber County Republican Lincoln Day Dinner.  Glad to see them make the trip up to our neck of the woods.

The Bow Tie Caucus




Of course, it wouldn't be right to go without participating in our annual bow tie day at the Hill.

In final thoughts, it is important for Utahns to be informed on the issues and be in communication with their representatives.  Due to time constraints, this will likely be the last update before the session is finished next week.  If you have any issue or concern on your mind, please CONTACT ME, and let me know your thoughts.  The events at the Capitol do cast a shadow over the rest of the State.  Lets keep government accountable and responsive.  



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