Saturday, February 27, 2016

General Session 2016: Week 5

The week started out in a lazy fog and ended in a tumultuous cloud of dust.  Here are some highlights.

The Solar Tax Credit Discussion

After meeting with stakeholders in the solar industry, we decided to discuss the issue over interim.  Here is the opening silo to that discussion that I presented in committee.

The Internet Sales Tax

Our Revenue and Taxation committee heard Mike McKell's bill proposing a sales tax reduction and enforcement of sales tax collection on internet transactions.  Before the tomato-throwing started, I took a moment to capture the crowd that packed our hearing.

This issue was hotly debated and ultimately passed our committee.  I supported the bill since I believe increasing the tax base and lowering the tax rate is sound and equitable policy.

Funding the Lake Powell Pipeline?

Our Rev&Tax committee also hear Senator Adams proposal to fund water infrastructure improvements.  His bill would put seed money into a fund to help finance future water projects.  This bill was derided by critics as merely a funding of the Lake Powell Pipeline.  But, in order to use any of the funds in the account for any project, it would require an act of the Legislature and a vote to do so.  So, while a future legislature may decide to use the funds for that purpose or any other, that was not our decision to make with this bill.  I voted to support the bill since the Federal government is no longer funding water infrastructure projects like they did back in the 1950's and 1960's.  We are on our own to maintain our existing water infrastructure; and if we need more, we are going to have to figure out how pay for it ourselves.  This bill was a step toward self sufficiency.  It passed our committee.

Liability for Gun Manufacturers

We heard a bill in our Law Enforcement Committee that would limit liability of gun manufactureres for crimes committed with those guns.  Our committee did some good work in parsing the language and making sure it didn't go too far in eliminating liability for defects in their manufacture.

One interesting thing about this bill was that it had a ton of editorial-like comments in the first half of the language.  I found this to be very unusual and so I contacted the sponsor the evening before the bill was heard.  He was committed to keeping this awkward language in the bill and so I proposed a substitute bill to be presented at committee.  We kept the meat of the bill intact but removed the editorial language.  The problem with the editorial language is that our law books are meant to be instructive.  This was an interesting issue and you can listen to motion to substitute and the ensuing debate here:


Protecting Children or Dividing Families?

Our Law Enforcement Committee also heard a bill that was highly contentious regarding the ability to remove children from potentially abusive situations.  Under current law, abuse has to be alleged in order to remove children from the custody of their guardians.  The bill proposed to change that to "the threat" of abuse.

The original presentation of this bill was also animated due to the fact that the bill sponsor brought an advocate who stood and debated with committee members.  Some of that debate got very pointed and contentious.  At that time we held the bill for refinement.  When the bill came back, however, it was presented in such a way that our committee continued to be unconvinced that the proper changes has been made.  Much of the committee's concerns were that the bill could overreach and cause children to be put into state custody who did not belong there.  It was a question of balance.

In the end, I voted for the bill but the bill still failed on a split tie vote.

Bad Ideas Clothed In Good Intentions

We also heard a resolution in our committee that spoke to the solidarity the Governor and Legislature have with our law enforcement community.  Unfortunately, the bill also asked law to turn on the lights on their vehicles at 11am the first day of every month for one minute in order to honor fallen officers.

When I inquired about this section, it became apparent that state law enforcement officials were caught flat footed and had not seen the bill prior to its presentation.  They didn't want to oppose the bill but recognized that the lights provision was unusual.  Our committee felt that it might prove a public safety hazard.

One of my fellow committee members attempted to amend the bill to say that the lights could only be turned on if it was a safe thing to do.  I wasn't convinced that the lights were the right thing to do since nobody in law enforcement had ever heard of the idea.  I moved to strike that section of the resolution which failed on a split vote.  The milder amendment passes.  The bill passed committee on a split vote.  I voted no. This bill may pose a particularly awkward one on the Floor to debate.  I am writing another amendment to propose on the House Floor to fix this bill.  


  I have to admit the message sounded interesting, if not a little odd.  I wasn't sure why retailers would be selling panties remotely.  I also started to feel bad for the Representative who got stuck running this bill.  Fortunately, I discovered later that the correct reading of the word was "parity".

Coming Soon....

Our floor time is increasing significantly and our speeches should be getting shorter...hopefully.  I have two bills that still need to be heard at committee this week.  More on those as events happen.

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