Tuesday, March 18, 2014

2014 General Session: Fewer Bills Passed...Sort Of

This year we passed fewer bills than in recent years...though still above historic levels.  Here is the chart showing the number of pieces of legislation passing both bodies since 1998:

For those of you curious about what passed, here are some highlights:

For those of you who want to dive into the minutia, here is the exhaustive list:

Monday, March 17, 2014

2014 General Session: Final Round Up

The General Session is over.  The lights are out and the halls are empty.  Here is a summary of the last week's blur of activity.

The House stayed late Monday evening to finish debating bills that originated in our body.  We wrapped up final debate on our bills Tuesday evening.

On Wednesday, we began debating Senate bills.  This is also when most of the drama dealing with our State budget was brought to a close.

Mr. Peterson's Bill Drama

One of the most interesting stories regarding the life of a bill relates to my HB336 - Courts Systems Task Force bill.  This bill passed the House on February 27th with a 67-2 vote.  It went over to the Senate where Senator Valentine sponsored the bill for me there.  The bill passed out of the Senate Judiciary committee unanimously on March 5th.  It was debated on the Senate floor on the last day of the Session and voted forward with a 19-9 victory.  As it was approved through both bodies, the bill went to the enrolling office where it would be prepared for the Governor's signature.

That is when the drama began.  Around 1pm of the final day, I received a note that the Senate wanted to recall the bill for another vote.  Confused, I headed over to the Senate to find out what was going on.  After consulting with my Senate sponsor, we discovered that House and Senate leadership had not included the task force in its budget agreement.  Since the task force required funding, and none had been allotted to it, the bill died metaphorically after it crossed the finish line.  The Senate dealt the fatal blow when it struck the bill's enacting clause upon recall.

This was an obvious disappointment.  I did a postmortem investigation to find out what went wrong.  In the end, the bill was the victim of the House/Senate budget negotiations.  In consulting with House leadership they expressed their condolences but indicated there was no other action that I could have taken to keep the bill alive.  There simply wasn't enough time at that late stage of the Session.

Next year we will be back with the bill.  However, this next time we will have the bill funded through an appropriations subcommittee to guarantee the funds are available prior to passage through the Legislature.  This will help us avoid the unpredictable outcomes of budget wrangling that occurs at the end of the Session.

Mr. Peterson's 2014 Successes

We did get some good things done this Session.

1.  We passed HB53 - Juvenile Restitution Amendments - This closed loopholes in how judges can enforce restitution for juvenile offenders.

2.  We passed HB340 - Local District Boundary Adjustments - This bill will allow Ogden City to negotiate with local water service districts to improve water service to areas near BDO.

3.  REALVICTORY - While there was no funding available this year for recidivism reduction programs, we did get the program in front of Legislators for the first time.  This vetting has produced some good results with Weber County now showing interest and expressing a desire to include it jail programming for inmates held in Weber County Jails.  The results from Weber County's experience will help us vet the program further and help us make the case for statewide implementation next year.

4.  Third House - I completed my tenure as Chair of the Third House this session.  It has been a very rewarding experience.  I was able to summon some musical talent and act as a much needed comic diversion which helped relieve some of the stress the body felt after vigorous and often emotional debate.  My role involved announcing our social calendar and providing some brief episode of entertainment after debate time was over.  There was talk of keeping me in this role if I am re-elected.  However, I notified leadership that this would be my last year serving in the Third House so I have more time to spend on legislation and committee work.  

  The final hours of the Session I was able to spend with my wife at my side.  We concluded at midnight.  The After-Session show featured a band we scrapped together to sing Mama Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up To Hold Office.  Rep. Curt Webb and Rep. Dan McKay sang, I played guitar, and Rep. Ed Redd was featured on bass.  

Speaker Lockhart shared an emotional good-bye and many Legislators announced to the body that they would not be seeking re-election.  That is not the case for me:

I look forward to a vigorous campaign and placing my name on the ballot again for consideration by the people of District 9.

In the meantime, if you have any issues or concerns about state government, CONTACT ME, and let's find a solution together.

Monday, March 10, 2014

2014 General Session: Update 3

The sixth week of our General Session was a building crescendo of activity in anticipation of the last week's grand finale.

Committee Work

As Vice-Chair of the Political Subdivisions Standing Committee, I had several opportunities to chair our meetings and vet bills in a group discussion.

A notable bill included increasing the subpoena power of the Legislature.  This comes in response to the John Swallow investigation.  The Legislature sent many subpoenas to our former Attorney General's lawyers in order to obtain evidence in the investigation.  His lawyers contended that legislative subpoenas were not of the same weight as those issued by other entities and thus they were ignored.  Rep. Jim Dunnigan's bill HB414 should make a significant difference if we ever have to convene an investigative committee in the future.

I also sit on the the Business and Labor Standing Committee.

We heard a bill that would eliminate business property taxes for any item worth less than $10,000.  The sponsor of this bill, Jim Nielson, suggested in HB391 that the tax revenue lost from this change should be made up by being shifted to real property instead.  It was a very interesting discussion and we moved the bill to interim study over the summer to iron out the wrinkles and get a better understanding of the effect this would have on the taxpayers.

Floor Time

This week we also passed some significant bills on the house floor.

One bill we passed would give parents who are threatened with having their parental right revoke the opportunity to have their case heard before a trial jury rather than just a judge.  I voted against the bill because we will be discussing the issue in a larger context at the Courts Task Force.  Nevertheless, the House passed out LaVar Christensens's HB318 to the Senate with a 46-27 vote.

We also passed out HB105 which was Gage Froerer's bill allowing oil extracts from low/no THC cannabis plants to be administered legally as medicine with a prescription.  Parents of children with epileptic seizure problems celebrated its passage.

There was a lot of debate on the Legislatures effort to create a compromise with Count My Vote regarding their effort to neuter the Convention system of nominating candidates to go on the ballot.  Senator Bramble's SB54 passed the House.  I supported the compromise plan which created an alternative means of placing a candidate's name on the ballot through a petition while also holding intact the convention system.  The bar was set high enough on gathering signatures for a petition that it will allow the convention system to continue without the threat of becoming obsolescent.

A vote on HB228 to allow Utah School Board elections to become partisan races failed.

My Bills

My bills had an easy ride this week.

HB336 - Courts Systems Task Force we heard in a Senate Standing committee and was voted favorably out in a unanimous fashion.  The bill now sits on the Senate's 2nd Reading Calendar and is scheduled for debate.

HB340 - Local District Boundary Adjustments also passed out of a Senate Standing committee unanimously.

HB53 - Juvenile Restitution Amendments - has passed both Houses and sits on the Governor's desk awaiting a signature.

Final Thoughts

I am grateful for our part-time legislator.  I was paid $14,770 (not a typo) last year by the taxpayers to serve in the House of Representatives.  The General Session is 45 days plus once a month meetings during Interim Session.  Of course this does not include campaign time, meetings with constitutents and stakeholders on issues and all the other obligations that come with being a local dignitary.

However, this low pay and part-time status keeps the Legislature close to the people and grounded in the real world.  Nearly all the Legislators I serve with work full time jobs and sacrifice a great deal of time and fortune to care for the public's business at the capitol.  I have great respect for my colleagues who care enough about good public policy to work as hard as they do to make a difference in their respective communities.      

Saturday, March 1, 2014

2014 General Session: Update 2

Time is moving very quickly.  I am unsure if this is because I am getting older, or because my time is filled with more activity.  Time is constrained in February since it also includes my wife's birthday, our anniversary, and Valentines Day.  Thus, I now have three weeks to account for in this update.  Let's see if we can do it justice.

Dog Breed Ordinances

The one subject I received the most emails on (ever!) was a bill prohibiting dog breed discrimination ordinances in cities.  I opposed this bill on grounds that cities should be able to make law according to the social mores and norms of the people in their community.  You can watch the debate and my comments (around 1:39:00) HERE.  Regardless, the bill still passed with a vote of 43-28.

A Case of the Ever Expanding Sphere of Government

On February 11, we debated HB96.  It is a bill creating opt-in pre-kindergarten programs for the children of qualifying families who live in poverty.  This is new territory for the state.  I voted against this bill because it creates a temptation for parents to defer to the state in their responsibility to educate their child.  Obviously, the program will help some some children whose parents can't provide this beneficial resource.  However, my concern is now for those able parents who won't provide this resource since the state can now do it for them.  I believe this will have a negative effect on the vigor and culture of our communities.  In my view, the bill is a symptom of malaise in our society as yet more personal responsibility is relinquished to another new state program. The bill passed with a vote of 49-24.  

Lincoln's Birthday

It appears none of us were winners in this year's Lincoln look-a-like contest...

...except this guy.


Thanks to Rep. Jake Anderegg from Lehi, it is now legal to bury a dead horse on your property.  The horse mafia celebrated as the bill passed with a unanimous 69-0.

Special Visitors

Lisa Galvez, widow of former Representative Brad Galvez, was recognized.  She has found a warm circle of friends at the Legislature.

From the Mouths of Babes

I had a conversation with my 7-year old daughter who had a recent opportunity to come visit the Capitol with me.  We were driving in the car and I was explaining why people in Ukraine were protesting their government:

Sophie: "Dad do you like the Government?"Me: "Sophie, your dad is part of the Government...so yes I guess I do."Sophie: "Oh, I didn't realize that. What do you do?"Me: "We make laws. That is what we do in the Capitol. Remember? You sat with your dad on the House Floor and watched the other day."Sohpie: "But dad, you didn't make laws. All you guys did was talk and go blah, blah, blah."
Mr. Peterson's Bills

All of my bills have passed the House and are now on their way through the Senate.

You can watch video of the floor presentations of each bill:
If you have any questions or concerns, feel free to contact me at anytime. 



District 9 Voter Survey Results - 2014

The results are in on our voter surveys.  Unfortunately, the electronic version of the survey was a complete failure as none of the responses were recorded.  The service for the electronic version was provided by the State GOP and they have been notified of the problem.  Therefore, these results are from the the mailed in versions of the survey.

We had 230 responses come back in the mail.  Thus, the margin of error is high, and the sample is definitely not random.  However, the survey was mailed to likely voters of all political affiliations and the unaffiliated as well.

Here are the results for your review:

 I thought the results were quite interesting.  There are obvious partisan divisions in some questions but others are not so clear.  Many of the issues facing the state this year transcend partisan politics.