Friday, February 22, 2013

General Session 2013: Week 4 - Dignitaries, Debate, and Honoring of Duty

This week was short due to President's Day Holiday but there were some notable events.

On Tuesday, Senator Mike Lee came and spoke to us.  He answered questions on immigration and where he stood on the Federal level proposals.

Also, we finally mopped up our HB-70 Railroad Museum Authority drama on the House Floor.  On Friday last week we experienced some confusion regarding how the Senate had amended the bill.  I pushed the pause button to keep the bill from failing amid the confusion and tried to tie up all the misunderstanding.  It would be best to watch Friday's video of the drama and then watch Tuesday's follow up.  Speaker Lockhart jokingly questioned my math skills to which I blamed Common Core Standards, only to have the House take the opportunity to throw in some tongue-in-cheek criticisms of their own. WATCH TUESDAY'S VIDEO HERE.

On Wednesday, Senator Orrin Hatch came to visit us.  He gave a two minute presentation then opened the Floor to questions.  I asked him about immigration and how it seemed the proposal on the table now echoes 1986's "Amnesty" but that this time a Republican House may want to fund enforcement provisions that were left unfunded by a Democratic House then.  That unfunding of enforcement provisions, by the way, is why it was considered a such an abysmal failure by all sides.  WATCH VIDEO OF SEN. HATCH'S SPEECH AND MY QUESTION.

One of the important issues Hatch also spoke about was Sequestration and how 11,200 employees at Hill Air Force Base may face a 10% pay cut starting April 1st.  This is a huge issue that will impact District 9 and surrounding areas immensely.  More to come on this subject....

On Thursday, I had the opportunity to present SB 53 - Intergenerational Welfare Reform.  This is a coup for Utah.  Currently we have our Departments of Government all working on poverty issues independently.  This bill requires our heads of Departments to coordinate quarterly and provide policy guidance and insight to help us eliminate intergenerational poverty.  Here is a brief fact sheet:

Utah Poverty Factiods by Jeremy Peterson

The legislation is so good that the Federal Government is looking at it to see if they might be able to benefit from our model.  We have 7 State departments involved in welfare assistance, the Feds have 37.  This bill will have an impact on how over $3 BILLION of your tax dollars are spent just at the State level.  Based on the reports we get this summer, we will start running bills next year to make meaningful changes to our welfare assistance programs.


Thursday evening was wrapped up with the honor of serving as Master of Ceremonies for our annual Speaker's Dinner which is a private gathering of all the House of Representatives and their spouses to socialize, relax, and here from the Speaker of the House. NOTE: This event is privately paid for by the Legislators.  No public money or lobby money is involved.

Friday was the day we honor those in Utah who serve in our Armed Forces.

First, we commemorated the 50th Anniversary of U.S. involvement in Vietnam and the war's Veterans.  It was an emotional presentation.

Then, we honored those who are currently serving in our Armed Forces.  We were glad to report that there were no fatalities in any of the units from Utah serving.  This is the first time in many years that this has been the case.  Representative Ryan Wilcox (R - North Ogden/Pleasant View) and his Mother sang the last verse of the Star Spangled Banner and followed by the whole House singing God Bless America.  It was very touching.

I was also grateful that my daughter Wynnie was able to join me on the Floor and see these events first hand.

  • Expect to see bills relating to alcohol licenses.
  • Another Sex Ed Bill is coming to the floor (this one keeps politics and religion out of school sex ed).
  • And finally the much anticipated gun bills are on the board and will likely be heard next week.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

2013 Economic Development Budget Priorites

Our Economic and Development Appropriations Subcommittee is in the process of hearing presentations from entities seeking public funding.  We have a limited availability of funds and many requests.  Here are the items we are deliberating on funding:

This list is not in any particular priority order.  We will be making our recommendations to the Executive Appropriations Committee soon.

Monday, February 18, 2013

General Session 2013 : Week 3 - Serenading and Scrimmaging

The week began slowly at first. We had an 8am Political Subdivisions committee meeting Monday which I chaired.  I think we all needed to do a few laps around the Capitol first to warm up and get our blood flowing.  You can listen to that committee meeting HERE and HERE.


Monday was also a special day for another reason.  I asked my intern to bring the acoustic guitar I keep in my office to the House Floor.

I apparently did something no one has ever done before and sang the day's social calendar announcements.  You can WATCH THE VIDEO HERE.  The response was positive.  However, it seems that the next day everyone expected it to happen again; and, when it didn't, the praise I received before turned to disapprobation.

 So, as a treat, I sang everyone a ballad/social announcement on Valentines Day.  You can WATCH THE VIDEO HERE.


This week also saw some of our first rancorous debates on the House Floor:

HB 13 - Protection of Children Riding in Motor Vehicles - This bill makes it illegal to smoke in a car if children are in the vehicle.  I spoke in opposition to this bill on grounds that we should educate rather than regulate.  The provision is highly difficult to enforce and the bill makes a violation a secondary offense...for now.  You can watch the debate HERE.  The bill passed by a margin of just three votes and now goes to the Senate.

HB 50 - Dating Violence Protection Act - This bill received a lot of media attention.  There was also a lot of vocal opposition on the House Floor.  You can watch the 45 minute marathon deliberation HERE.  I voted for this bill.

Bill Updates:

HB 70 - Railroad Museum Authority Amendments - This bill had a last minute hiccup and nearly died in technical limbo.  A senior Representative questioned the language in a Senate amendment (it was confusing language).  However, the language, despite its less than perfect prose, was technically correct and so we will likely send it to the governors desk on Monday for signatures.  You can watch the floor drama HERE.

HB 93 - Traffic Violations Amendments - This bill passed unanimously out of the House last week. It seems that passage peaked the interest of some insurance and civil liability people who began to find problems in the bill language.  There is nothing like passing a bill to stir up interested parties.  So, we took a second look at our language and substituted the bill in the Senate.  The new bill places the burden of compliance of the provision on the courts rather than on law enforcement officers.  The effect is the same, but we believe this new method will provide better justice, both criminally AND civilly.  This bill is being heard on the Senate Floor this week.

HB249 - Refugee Service Funds Amendments - This bill is sitting on the Governor's desk awaiting a signature.

SB 53 - Intergenerational Welfare Reform - This bill passed the Senate and is on the House calendar to be presented by me and heard this week.  

Up Next:

It is a short week but we double our Floor time hours starting on Thursday.  The tempo of debate will start to increase and patience will start to wear thinner.  Look for more interesting debates this coming week.

If you have any concerns you can always EMAIL ME.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Open-Ended Survey Reponses for 2013 Survey

On my constituent questionnaire that I mailed out, one of the questions was open-ended.  It asked:

What is the most important issue facing Utah?

The answers were varied but a majority of them coalesced around common themes and issues.  For your enlightenment, here are the results:

Keep in mind that the survey was far from scientific and our sample size is well below the number considered to be statistically significant.  Nevertheless, it is interesting what issues people that responded seemed to have in common.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

General Session 2013: Week 2 - Special Moments, Bills, and New Ideas

Special Moments

This year I was privileged to invite a friend to give our opening prayer and have my daughters lead us in the pledge of allegiance.

Bob Hunter, executive director of the United Way for Northern Utah, graced us with an invocation.

My daughters Esther (5), and Sophie (6), were excited when we rehearsed at home but quickly became shy in front of such a large audience.  They finally mustered the courage and led us in the Pledge.

My parents were also able to visit for this special occasion...

...and I was given the opportunity to introduce/embarrass them on the House Floor.  You can watch the prayer, pledge and introduction video HERE.  

Bill Update

I had several floor presentations this week:

HB-249 - Refugee Service Funds Amendments - This bill got a lot of questions at committee.  Most of the questions were related to details of our refugee programs, even though this bill deals with some minor technical oversight changes.  Anticipating more of these questions on the Floor, I prepared my presentation accordingly.  WATCH FLOOR DEBATE ON THIS BILL.

HB-70 - Utah Railroad Museum Amendments - This bill fixes a problem with the imbalance in the makeup of the current board.  However, whenever you want to clip the wings of somebody's majority position, it doesn't come without some resistance.  You can watch that turf squabble on the Floor.  Fortunately, we came up with a reasonable result with Ogden City and Union Station being included on the board.  WATCH FLOOR DEBATE ON THIS BILL .

HB-93 - Traffic Violations Amendments - This bill received a lot of attention at committee and was the culmination of two years worth of effort.  The Standard Examiner and Salt Lake Tribune both reported on the Floor debate. WATCH FLOOR DEBATE ON THIS BILL.

Notable Moments

  • We heard an E-Verify bill in our Business and Labor Committee.  The sponsor agreed to run the bill for a former Representative who lost his election in November but had opened the bill file prior to his defeat.  The bill was worded awkwardly and presented by the former Representative.  Remarkably, it had no less than 12 people testify against it.  Only one witness supported it and in sentiment only...not on the bill's merit.  Needless to say, the bill withered and died in front of our committee.  
  • We heard a great bill HB-33 from Rep. Eric Hutchings from Kearns.  The bill would allow drug offenders who have cleaned up their lives to expunge their records after passing certain benchmarks.  It is a great piece of legislation which I spoke to during debate.    
  • I met with representatives of the UEA outside the Chamber doors to listen to some of their concerns and priorities this year.  They are asking for a 3% raise in the WPU which I think is reasonable.  However, when discussing solutions to our budget problems, it was suggested that we increase your income taxes. That idea is a non-starter for me.  Instead, I suggested deregulation which would help us grow economically and generate more tax revenue.  That idea was rebutted by how bad it would make our air quality.  So, I compromised and agreed to advocate for a tax credit on $2 face masks. (NOTE: This is my attempt at humor.  No hate mail please.)     

Next Up:

Watch for these headline grabbing bills...

  • HB-13 Protection of Children Riding in Motorvehicles - This bill will be heard on the Floor.  I will be speaking against it.  It is bad policy for a number of reasons.  Watch the floor debate on this one Monday.  
  • HB-50 Dating Violence Protection Act - I have been receiving a lot of phone calls supporting this bill and a few opposing it.  I am watching to see if there are amendments coming on this legislation that may address a couple of my concerns.  
I look forward to a busy week starting Monday.  If you have any issues or concerns, please CONTACT ME.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

General Session 2013: Week 1 - Training Wheels and Growing Pains

We concluded week one at the Legislature this week.  I believe that the House was experiencing individual and collective exhaustion by Friday afternoon.  Here are some highlights from the week.

Speaker Prerogative

Speaker Lockhart being sworn in by Former Speaker Nolan Karras

Speaker Lockhart gave a very direct and poignant speech on opening day.  She blasted the Feds for not providing a solid foundation for us to have clear direction forward for our State budget.  She also asked us to exercise restraint when running our bills and asked us to reconsider bills we were already running if it would add to the number of new laws on the books.  You can WATCH HER SPEECH HERE.

Already this week, several "repeal" bills have been run to reduce the amount of bureaucracy and laws on the books.  They have all passed nearly unanimously.

Freshman Jitters

We have a large and bright group of freshman legislators this year.  With such a large group being new, the same anxiety experienced by my much smaller freshman class in 2011 has percolated to the surface this time and shown itself in a more obvious way.  We experienced some technical difficulties the first day and one of our first votes was on adjusting Legislator pay.  The combination proved unsettling for some of the new Representatives and was voiced during meetings.  The lack of institutional memory (we have been working on the compensation change with their predecessors for 9 months) proves to be a disadvantage to new Legislators.

With such a new large group of Legislators, it also means that the senior members spend more of their time coaching and teaching.  I believe that is part of the exhaustion felt by our body collectively as we have spent a lot of our time showing the new guys and gals the ropes.  It is essential that they know some rudimentary procedure and protocol so the House does not fall into dysfunction.  Thus, we have worked to get them up to speed.

State of the State

My wife Kim and I on the House Floor at the State of the State

Governor Herbert arrived to speak to our body on Wednesday evening.  My wife Kim was able to join me and the Governor gave a very optimistic and encouraging report.  Utah is ahead in the country for job creation and economic opportunity.  You can read the Governor's speech HERE.
Taking the Helm

This year I was advanced to the position of Vice Chair for the Political Subdivisions Committee.  I conducted my first two meetings this week.  If you have an extra hour and a half and want to delve into the minutia of election law and the remaking of provisions for adequate protests in special and local district assessments  I strongly encourage you to listen to our meeting HERE (Note: Recording started after our meeting was called to order).

I also have been assigned to the Business and Labor Committee.  I am very impressed with the sharp minds and experience of the Representatives that sit on the committee with me.  

Bill Update

HB -70 Railroad Museum Authority Amendments - This bill was presented at committee and was approved unanimously.  You can listen to the committee presentation HERE.

HB - 279 - Refugee Service Funds Amendments - This bill was presented at committee and was approved unanimously.

Third House

Finally, I also serve as the Chair of the Third House.  My job entails announcing our social calendar.  But, just reading an itinerary is really boring. So, I try to liven it up a bit while I have the opportunity.

You can watch video of my presentations of the House Floor HERE, HERE, and HERE.