Saturday, January 28, 2017

2017 General Session Update: Week 1


The first week of the Session was extremely eventful.  We started out with a swearing-in of all the existing legislators and special swearing in of the freshman class of new Reps.

They all look a little nervous...and rightfully so.  I remember the feeling of swimming under water my first session.  


After the election in November, House Members received their committee assignments.  For the past two years I served as the Vice-Chair of the Revenue and Taxation Committee.  I was actually getting quite comfortable there and attempting to become a more finely honed tax policy specialist.  Well, that plan changed this year when Speaker Hughes asked me to serve as the Chairman of Government Operations.  I accepted the appointment and will be managing the committee agenda which hears a lot of election law bills.  Look for a busy agenda as we mop up the mess from process problems discovered during this last year's election cycle.  

The best part of the new job, of course, is the view from the office.


I posted about the giant protest on Monday and was quickly brutalized.  You can read more about that experience and my thoughts here:


Here is the status of the bills I am working on currently:

HB23 - Income Tax Credit Modifications (Solar Tax Credit Phase Out) - We finally had a gathering of stakeholders on Thursday morning to hammer out a final compromise on the bill.  In the meeting, the industry immediately asked to not make any real changes for another year.  That was a pretty funny thing to suggest given the history of this issue.  We rejected that idea and settled on a different compromise that the industry can live with and the legislature can feel good about.  That compromise will be presented to committee next week as a substitute bill.

HB24 - Student Prosperity Savings Plan - We thought the bill would be sent to the House Floor since it passed interim committee unanimously.  However, the bill showed up with a $3 Million price tag.  That turned out to be a tad bit optimistic since that would correlate with $60 Million in private donations to disadvantaged and intergenerational poverty youth.  Fortunately, we found a model that more accurately reflects the taxpayer burden of the bill and the cost will be about $5,000 annually.  

HB64 - Property Tax Relief Amendments - This bill went straight to the House Floor and passed unanimously this week.  You can watch the brief bill presentation HERE

HB73 - Child Placement Amendments - This bill came out of rules this week and was assigned to be heard at the Judiciary Standing Committee. It will likely be heard this coming week. 


We heard the Governor offer his priorities this year.  His speech was great.  Unfortunately, the view was not.  


I do have a couple other bill files being worked on but they are not numbered yet.  

National Popular Vote

I have been speaking with colleagues about the issue of the National Popular Vote.  This issue will be a study item for us to explore in the future.  Look for more from me on this fascinating topic. You can learn more in the meantime HERE

Inmate Housing Reform

I have a bill file that is being written that will redesign Utah's halfway hosue system to more evenly distribute halfway house inmates across the state.  

Renewable Energy Innovation Grants

I am working with the Governor's Office of Energy Development to create a $1 Million grant program for development and deployment of new renewable energy technologies. 


I was grateful to have the President of the Ogden Stake of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Kent Collins, offer the opening prayer for the House on Friday.  I invited my two nephews, Bruce and Preston Thomas, to lead us in the Pledge of Allegiance.

Look for more to come next week!


  1. Mr. Peterson,
    A National Popular Vote will mean that Utah will have NO voice. Our population is so small that compared to other high population states, our numbers will not even influence a Presidential Election. At least under an Electoral College Utah has a voice. We are represented.
    Why do you want to delete our voice?
    Why would you want Hillary for President instead of Trump?
    I am grateful for an Electoral College to give the small states a VOICE!

    1. With National Popular Vote, when every popular vote counts and matters to the candidates equally, successful candidates will find a middle ground of policies appealing to the wide mainstream of America. Instead of playing mostly to local concerns in Ohio and Florida, candidates finally would have to form broader platforms for broad national support. Elections wouldn't be about winning a handful of battleground states.

      Support for a national popular vote has been strong in every smallest state surveyed in polls among Republicans, Democrats, and Independent voters, as well as every demographic group

      Among the 13 lowest population states, the National Popular Vote bill has passed in 9 state legislative chambers, and been enacted by 4 jurisdictions.

      Now political clout comes from being among the handful of battleground states. 70-80% of states and voters are ignored by presidential campaign polling, organizing, ad spending, and visits. Their states’ votes were conceded months before by the minority parties in the states, taken for granted by the dominant party in the states, and ignored by all parties in presidential campaigns.

      State winner-take-all laws negate any simplistic mathematical equations about the relative power of states based on their number of residents per electoral vote. Small state math means absolutely nothing to presidential campaign polling, organizing, ad spending, and visits, or to presidents once in office.

      In the 25 smallest states in 2008, the Democratic and Republican popular vote was almost tied (9.9 million versus 9.8 million), as was the electoral vote (57 versus 58).

      In 2012, 24 of the nation's 27 smallest states received no attention at all from presidential campaigns after the conventions. They were ignored despite their supposed numerical advantage in the Electoral College. In fact, the 8.6 million eligible voters in Ohio received more campaign ads and campaign visits from the major party campaigns than the 42 million eligible voters in those 27 smallest states combined.

      The 12 smallest states are totally ignored in presidential elections. These states are not ignored because they are small, but because they are not closely divided “battleground” states.

      Now with state-by-state winner-take-all laws (not mentioned in the U.S. Constitution, but later enacted by 48 states), presidential elections ignore 12 of the 13 lowest population states (3-4 electoral votes), that are non-competitive in presidential elections. 6 regularly vote Republican (AK, ID, MT, WY, ND, and SD), and 6 regularly vote Democratic (RI, DE, HI, VT, ME, and DC) in presidential elections.

      Similarly, the 25 smallest states have been almost equally noncompetitive. They voted Republican or Democratic 12-13 in 2008 and 2012.

      Voters in states, of all sizes, that are reliably red or blue don't matter. Candidates ignore those states and the issues they care about most.

  2. I agree that it is time to move on from the electoral college. We are a nation of individuals and each individual deserves to have a voice. If an individual (or group) doesn't feel that their voices are being heard, they can engage in the political processes through civic and political platforms.

  3. I don't agree and know many others who also do not agree with HB23 to phase out solar energy tax credits. We have to do everything we can to promote and use clean energy. The air this week, especially in Ogden and Salt Lake, has been dangerous for everyone who breaths it. Solar tax credit rewards people for their efforts to clean the air. We need to place our money on our values.


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