Dear friends and neighbors,
I was pleased with the outstanding attendance at my first two Town Hall Meetings. Thank you for being involved and supporting me in the senate. Also, I appreciate everyone who took time to fill-out the survey. The results have been posted on my website. I will continue to do all that I can to represent you.
We have finished week two and the bills are beginning to move.
After a bill leaves the committee, it moves to the floor. Each bill is read three times on the floor. The first time is just an introduction, which means that the title is read and the bill is listed on the board. The second time it is read is when the debate on the bill begins. During this time, everyone has a chance to question the sponsor of the bill, amendments can be suggested and voted on and either accepted or rejected. If the bill passes that reading, it is put on the third reading calendar where it is voted on once again. If it passes this final time then it moves on to the House to go through the same process.
Remember you can see the content and follow the progress of any bill on the legislative website http://le.utah.gov/.
Another way you can see what is going on each day is from the SenateSite Live Stream. Each day, senate leadership meets with members of the press to answer questions. You can watch it here and you can even text in questions if you would like to participate:
Some of the bills that were on their "second read" on Monday were SB 30 and SB 115, both presented by Senator Dayton. These two bills actually went through the entire process last year but did not make it through the third reading calendar by the final night; as a result the bills had to go through the process again.
SB 128 Financial Transparency in Education, SB 42 Medical School Admissions Funding and SB 45 Workers' Compensation and Directors or Officers, all passed their final third reading on our floor and will now move on to the House committees.
On Monday morning the Social Services Appropriations Subcommittee discussed the merits of the state's Medicaid preferred drug list. Later, the Revenue and Tax Committee discussed a proposal for a tax exemption from database access. This bill, SB 124, passed out of the committee and has moved to the floor for further discussion.
Also that day the Education Committee passed HB 51 out to be voted on the floor and after quite a long discussion SCR 5, Concurrent Resolution Endorsing Utah Education Excellence Commission also passed out of the committee.
On Tuesday morning, one of the appropriations committees that met was Infrastructure and General Government. This committee is tasked with allocating funds for state buildings and properties. For example, one of the requests made to the committee was from Southern Utah University. They were asking that $2.7 million be appropriated to them to purchase property that could be used for expansion of university housing and parking.
Here is the agenda for the meeting, with a list of everyone who had financial requests for the committee that day.
On the floor Tuesday, most of the bills on the third reading calendar passed without much debate. Those bills have now gone to the House committees. There were, however, quite a few bills on the second reading calendar that drew some intense debate. You can listen to any of the floor debates live on the legislative website or you can find links to the archived recording under the audio tab on the front page of the legislative website.
Wednesday was the deadline for passing the base budget bills. Here is a link to a document that shows the budget allocations for eight of the appropriations committees:
On Wednesday, the Senate Education Committee passed out SB162. This bill sponsored by Senator Urquhart clarifies the fee structure for high school concurrent enrollment classes. Concurrent enrollment is an important key to college prep and increasing Utah's college graduation rates. Here is a link to the bill: http://le.utah.gov/~2013/bills/sbillint/SB0162.htm
The committee also passed out SB 122. This bill would create a three-year pilot program where schools could implement programs that help develop student's skills such as communication, teamwork, goal setting and problem solving. There was a lot of positive testimony given about how such programs change children's lives. If you would like to listen, here is a link:
SB 122 is a good example of the usefulness of a fiscal note. The requested amount is $240,000. It is not much money in terms of the entire budget, but even so, it is necessary for us to do a cost/benefit for each proposed program so that even small amounts of money are spent wisely.
Here is a link to the bill:
And here is a link to the fiscal note: http://le.utah.gov/lfa/fnotes/2013/SB0122.fn.htm
SCR 4, was heard in the Senate Business and Labor Committee. Senator Bramble is sponsoring this Resolution. It states that the Utah Legislature and the Governor support Israel in its legal, historical, moral and God-given right of self-governance and self-defense upon its own land.
Here is a link to the Resolution: http://le.utah.gov/~2013/bills/sbillint/SCR004.htm
On the floor Wednesday, we discussed several House bills that have moved through Senate committees and to our floor. We were honored to have some visitors from the Ukraine and passed several Senate bills off of the third reading calendar. Those bills will now move on to House Committees.
One bill that will be moving to the House is SB 53, Intergenerational Welfare Reform sponsored by Senator Reid. This bill coordinates the efforts of five state agencies to rescue children from intergenerational poverty. No one voted against this bill. Here is a link to more information the problems this bill addresses. http://www.senatesite.com/home/two-types-of-poverty/
Another bill that passed off our floor with no dissenting votes was SCR 3. This Resolution addresses the advantages of local control when dealing with endangered species. There are many past instances where local conservation timeline efforts have been very efficient. This Resolution supports Iron County in their local efforts to remove prairie dogs from endangered species list.
On Thursday, Weber State University visited us in the rotunda to show us some great research, student involvement, and Senate Smiles. Senator Margaret Dayton and Representative Curt Oda also held a press conference regarding SB 120 and wildfires issues in Utah. We welcomed student representatives from the Boy’s and Girl’s Clubs of Utah to the floor.
We are beginning to see how the budget might take shape. Although the final figures will not be ready for another week and a half, it looks as though a sizeable share of the budget will go to Medicaid reform. Half of the budget money already goes directly to the education fund and it looks as though much of the remaining half will go to entitlement programs. The good news is that due to wise management, we are not in the red. But the bad news is that we still do not know how much we will see from federal funds.
This lack of knowledge continues to affect the Appropriations Committees as they meet throughout the weeks hearing budget briefings and requests and sift through those requests to prioritize and allocate their funds.
Congressman Chaffetz spoke to us on Friday. He said that his number one concern is the lack of fiscal discipline from the federal government--the United States currently pays $700 million in interest each day. In the first quarter of this fiscal year entitlement spending increased 16%. He also reiterated the importance of balancing the budget with spending cuts, not tax increase.
Here is a great quote from Ronald Reagan that Senator Henderson shared with me about the important blessing of freedom that we enjoy.
"Perhaps you and I have lived with this miracle for too long to be appreciated. Freedom is a fragile thing, and it is never more than one generation away from extinction. It is not ours by inheritance; it must be and fought for and defended constantly by each generation, for it comes only once to a people. Those who have known freedom, and then lost it, have never known it again."
I am grateful to be your representative in the Senate as we all continue our fight to preserve our freedom for the next generation.
Each day there is a general recap of what is happening on the senate blog. You can see them here:
I would like to invite you to come to the Capitol and witness first-hand the brilliant processes that govern our work. It is a busy few weeks but if you have concerns or comments, please feel free to contact me.
Senator Wayne Niederhauser