The first week of the general session was very interesting. Of course, it wouldn't be the first day of the session without some fanfare.
|Calvary Baptist Church sings The Battle Hymn of the Republic|
We also heard The State of the Judiciary from Chief Justice Matthew Durrant.
The speech was very blunt and highlighted the need for the state to fund drug treatment in light of recent criminal justice reforms. The state needs to fill a $16M funding hole to do that. The gap was left after the Legislature opted not to fund Medicaid expansion last year. Apparently, the Executive Branch's plan was to pass both court reform and Medicaid expansion last year and did not contemplate the possibility that expansion would not happen. Fortunately, there are plans in the works right now to fund the treatment described by Chief Durrant. I expect this issue to be resolved this Session.
Our first week on the House Floor was also fairly uneventful except for the barrage of committee bills that were vetted and voted upon during the interim. We heard over 30 bills that were unanimous in their committee votes and uncontroversial. It was unusual to see so many bills voted upon without much debate due to their sheer mundanity.
Since the Legislature is part time, the first week is a time for Representatives to yawn, stretch, and come out of hibernation. This means it takes a little time to get back into the groove of parliamentary parlance, bureaucratic jargon, and political euphemism.
Interestingly, our Revenue and Taxation Committee, of which I am Vice-Chair, has a reputation for being a tough and smart committee that is used to handling the hard issues. So, when our committee heard a couple lightweight bills for the first meeting, it didn't quite know how to handle them. One bill, which was a simple repeal of an obscure requirement for a report that nobody ever read or cared about, took over 45 minutes of discussion before it passed. I was next on the agenda with my Property Tax Valuation Notice by Email bill, a very easy issue, and we took over an hour wrestling with its nuances. Then the committee inexplicably held the bill. After watching this painful performance, other Representatives with items on the agenda that day ran for cover and asked to be bumped to another day rather than receive similar treatment.
Fortunately, this is a once-in-a-session experience.
Negotiation and Compromise
As all the issues advocated by various Representatives come to light with their bill files, competing interests also manifest themselves. I discovered that one of my bills interfered with some priority policy advocated by our House Leadership.
The great part about our system is that we are able to talk through our objectives and find common ground. I learned about our Leadership's vision for using Motion Picture Tax Credits as a stable source of incentives for attracting projects to Utah. After expressing my desire for greater accountability and transparency, we found a solution we all could agree upon.
State of the State Address
My wife accompanied me to the State of the State address by Governor Herbert this week. While I didn't take any pictures of the event, I did find the Governor's speech online rendered as a music video:
Our second Revenue and Taxation committee hearing was much more fruitful. I was able to present again the bill that was held on Tuesday as well as two other bills.
Here is audio of those bills being presented:
HB104, HB162, and HB170 all passed out favorably and will be heard on the House Floor.
Look for more potent bills to be discussed next week on the House Floor. There are a myriad of controversial topics coming up. I still have 6 bills in drafting right now that need to be numbered. I will be eagerly prodding stakeholders and staff to complete the writing and have the bills released for debate. The Session is just getting started and a lot can happen quickly. If you have any issues or concerns, don't hesitate to reach out to me.