The 3rd week of the Session definitely clicked up a notch on the stress scale. Here are some sparkling highlights from the week's events.
Torturous Tampon Tax Talk
The big front page headlines this week came as our Revenue and Taxation committee discussed a proposal to eliminate sales taxes on tampons. Our committee voted the proposal down 8-3 on grounds that exempting more retail items from the tax base was bad tax policy in general. I chaired the committee during this presentation and was a 'No' vote. In retribution, my wife and four daughters now send me to the store to purchase these things.
I also received this delightful yet misinformed email from a member of the public:
I have a concern that your new "tampon tax" is going to create a lot of disturbance. Wether you like it or not, President Obama is fully against it, and I have to remind you that he is still sitting in the white house at this very second. so unless you want to disobey Mr Obama, who has literally given you FREE HEALTHCARE. Why do you think that it is necessary that women who are bleeding out of their vaginas would have to pay a tax for a piece of cotton to help them? Are you really that stuck behind in the 1800's mentality where white, straight, men ruled the planet?
Meanwhile, I was reminded this week how beautiful our democratic process has been designed.
I was made aware of a situation where a controversial bill (Bill X) was being held up in a committee. The bill sponsor (Rep. Bulldog) was pushing desperately to get the bill heard. However, the Chairman of the committee (Rep. Valiant) was locked in unsuccessful negotiations with stakeholders on another bill he was sponsoring. Unfortunately for Rep. Bulldog, his bill involved the same stakeholders as Rep. Valiant's. Thus, it seemed appropriate to Rep. Valiant to use Bill X as leverage to entice stakeholders to negotiation on his bill. Bill X was delayed and not put on the agenda as anticipated.
During this process Rep. Bulldog's friends on the committee became upset at the unnecessary delay. Agitation grew and Rep Valiant's committee members threatened to take action on the House Floor to place the bill on the agenda of another committee. Such a move would have proved damaging to Rep. Valiant's efforts at swaying stakeholders in his favor. The situation threatened to blow up in a bitter conflagration on the House Floor. Leadership got word of the planned coup and called a meeting to see if cooler heads could prevail. Ultimately, an understanding was reached. Bill X was placed on a future agenda.
While this story is interesting, it more importantly demonstrates the pressure release valves that exist in our parliamentary processes to avoid giving any one person too much power. The will of any one member of the body can be overcome with collective will of others. Meanwhile, the will of any Representative is checked every two years by the will of their voters. While Committee Chairs have more power and authority over the parliamentary process, it is not absolute power. These checks provide the foundations of our consensus building process and prevents a drift toward a tyranny of the minority.
Marijuana Memes and Making Friends
The entire Legislature received an email this week with this meme being the sole part of the message:
Given that a majority of our Legislature is of the LDS faith, including me, I swiftly responded with this:
Mr. Peterson's Bills
The Majority Caucus gave me an opportunity to present on the issue of Tax Credits and how they affect our state budget. I have a couple bills coming up related to this topic and how we can improve governance on the issue. Since Powerpoint and Tax Policy are two of the most boring things ever, I spruced up the presentation with a game and candy. Here is a .pdf of that presentation:
In what can only be called Perfect Timing, after making my presentation in Caucus, we went to the House Floor where my pending bills were immediately heard. Here is video of the Floor presentations:
I do have a couple other bills that have been released this week. I will be doing the leg work and blog posts on those early next week. They should be heard late next week in committee. One bill will phase out the tax credit for solar projects and another will create a tax credit review process as alluded to in the power point presentation above.
Donald Trump Jr. came to Utah with his wife and 5 kids to check out the political landscape and introduce Utahns to the Trump family. Our Caucus gave him an earful of policy concerns. He came to act as a character reference for his father's campaign.
My daughter Esther came to the Capitol and sat with me on the House Floor. Like daughter like father.
Former State Senator Dan Liljenquist came to discuss Retirement System reform. Representative Rich Cunningham made his proposal to adjust the way retirees use the system. It was a lively and passionate 7am debate!
Swish, Rebound, Swish
Our appropriations committee received at the last minute a request for funds to help get started on the Ogden Archery Complex which is proposed to be built at the old landfill site in West Ogden. Our committee was caught a little flat footed by the request but our Weber County delegation of the committee understood the importance of the project. The committee prioritized the project as item 30 on a list of 40 items. So, that wasn't exciting. I decided to tempt fate and make a motion to move the item further up on the list. The committee rebuked that attempt so much so that nobody else attempted to lift their items further up the priority list. You can listen to my attempted move below:
Tweets of the Week
Rep. V. Peterson presents "In God We Trust" License Plate bill. I propose an "In Science We Trust" amendment. #utpol #utleg #nacholibre— Jeremy Peterson (@jpetersoninutah) February 12, 2016
Look for more info on my bills. Look for more drama. And watch for more important bills to come to the House Floor for a vote. If you have any legislative concerns, feel free to CONTACT ME. However, given increasing constraints on time, my responses may become a little slower or a little shorter as we progress. Nevertheless, I appreciate your feedback.