We just completed our interim committee meetings and special session at the Capitol today. Here are some highlights from the day's events:
Revenue and Taxation Interim Committee
We heard testimony today regarding internal governance of the Tax Commission and also a problem surrounding property tax exemptions related to agricultural land. You can listen to our meeting HERE.
Government Operations Interim Committee
Our committee passed out two bills and some additional discussion. One deals with minor changes to SB54 language and how petitions to get candidates on the ballot are handled moving forward. The other bill dealt with parameters related to redistricting. The bill modifies the guiding principles so to place more emphasis on community cohesion rather than on exact equality in the population size of districts. We had State Auditor John "Frugal" Dougall come and make some recommendations to the legislature regarding areas of improvement that were needed in various ways the State conducts its business. You can listen to our discussion HERE.
Special Session Bills
Tax Credit Review Amendments - This was a redraft of HB310 which passed the house with flying colors during the General Session. Unfortunately, an egregious typo left the bill without an "Enacting Clause" and after the Governor signed it, staff realized it couldn't become law. So, the bill was brought back to the Special Session to be voted on with its Enacting Clause intact. The bill sailed through the House and Senate without a problem.
State Fair Park Amendments - There is a panicked effort to maintain the State Fair Park's viability in the community. This bill made temporary emergency changes to procurement practices to facility a fast renovation of the site to be ready by next summer. This bill passed.
Unmanned Aircraft Amendments - This bill increases penalties for individuals caught using drones in emergency areas like wildfires. It also allows violators to be liable for damages caused by their drone intrusion. This bill passed.
Criminal Justince Reinvestment Amendments - This bill tweaked the much needed yet sometimes much derided JRI legislation we passed two years ago. It permitted law enforcement to include more common sense provisions in sentencing and probationary situations. This bill passed.
Grandparent Rights Amendments - The original bill passed during the General Session (I voted against) and was ultimately vetoed by the Governor. The bill sponsor made some adjustments to the bill and limited grand parent visitation rights to situations where adoptive parents were related to the grand parents. This bill still seemed onerous to me since the only reason adoptive parents would not permit related grand parents to visit a child was if there was a serious strain within the family. It seemed to me that permitting the courts to force visitation rights in such a situation would make for very painful experiences for those involved. I voted against. The bill failed 27-40.
Controlled Substance Database Modifications - This bill made a common sense change regarding access of law enforcement to databases related to controlled substances. The bill passed unanimously.
Economic Development Revisions - This bill created sales tax exemptions for companies moving into Utah who would occupy large 150,000+ SQFT facilities and be using them for constructing data centers. The logic behind this bill is that data centers are very expensive and add significantly to the property tax base while requiring little in the way of community resources. Thus, such centers would help fund local education wherever they are built. The bill also reflects a philosophical drift away from taxing inputs in the manufacturing process and only taxing final products. This bill passed.
Judicial Nominating Commissions - This bill matched the number of judges nominated with the number of vacancies in the court. This bill passed.
Continuing Care Retirement Community Amendments - This bill deals with a very strange business model of retirement homes being funded by future occupants of the facility. Private equity donations would be collect to fund the construction of a facility that the "investors" had contributed to build. The issues surrounding the bill dealt with how the "investor/occupants" funds would be treated in the event they left the facility and what kinds of guarantees and securities can be offered. The bill creates some basic ground rules for the business model. The bill passed.
My Bill Files
I have many bill files open already and I am drafting bills on a variety of topics including property taxes, foster care, tax credits, teacher compensation, public notices, and more. Look for more details as discussions with stakeholders continue.