Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Last Thursday night, the gavel came down concluding another legislative session. Our session lasts 45 days, one of the shortest in the country. It is fast paced, but it forces the system to be efficient. Here is a funny video clip done by Sutherland Institute that clearly shows how most of the days feel. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1ztE41iGQWU
Toward the end of the session, things get intense. As the deadline gets closer; fatigue becomes a constant. Important issues become even more urgent. But, I am convinced that this is the way government should work. A part-time legislature is so much better than a full-time law making organization. It costs less and is more efficient. But most importantly, it keeps government closer to the people in an accountable and transparent way.
I want to thank all those who emailed or called during the session. At times, it overwhelmed my intern and I. I am sorry that we weren't always able to respond, but your input was always appreciated. Now that the Session is complete, the frequency of the newsletters will change to monthly/bi-monthly. If you have questions or concerns, please contact me.
We spent all of last week working on the floor. On Monday night, we discussed bills until about 8:30 in the evening. On Tuesday we worked until 7:30 p.m. That day we took action on about 175 House bills. On Wednesday, floor time began at 8:00 a.m. and we adjourned about 15 hours later. Thursday was the final day and we worked right up until midnight. It was a very productive session this year and I’ve enjoyed being part of the process.
Here is a list of all the bills that were passed this session and are now waiting for the Governor's action. http://le.utah.gov/asp/passedbills/passedbills.asp.
The budget bills are mostly just a list of where the money is going to go. Here is a link: http://le.utah.gov/~2013/bills/sbillint/SB0004.htm.
After all the smaller budget bills have been passed, they are all put together into one overall budget bill and then passed by the legislature and signed by the Governor, just like any other bill. Here is a link to the final budget bill. http://le.utah.gov/~2013/bills/sbillint/SB0003.htm
The fact that a bill is not heard in the final days does not mean that it is not important. It probably means that we ran out of time. Many of the issues studied by interim committees are bills that made it part way through the process, but time ran out before it could make its way entirely through. If the bill has merit, it usually comes back the next session.
Some senate bills that were on the House floor this week:
SJR11 http://le.utah.gov/~2013/bills/sbillamd/SJR011S01.htm rejects the United Nations Agenda 21 and urges state and local governments across the United States to reject it as well.
SB120 http://le.utah.gov/~2013/bills/sbillamd/SB0120.htm provides the state forester with the authority to temporally restrict target shooting in areas where hazardous fire conditions exist.
SB 189 http://le.utah.gov/~2013/bills/sbillamd/SB0189S02.htm asks insurance companies to pay for oral chemotherapy the same way it does intravenous chemotherapy.
SB24 http://le.utah.gov/~2013/bills/static/SB0024.html changes the Election Code regarding absentee ballots.
SB20 http://le.utah.gov/~2013/bills/sbillamd/SB0020.htm amends the Medical Assistance Act to require a health care provider to give a patient notice that some personal identifying information may be shared with the state's Medicaid and Children's Health Insurance Program.
SB77 http://le.utah.gov/~2013/bills/sbillint/SB0077S02.htm requires government entities to post all meeting minutes on the Utah Public Notice Website.
SB196 http://le.utah.gov/~2013/bills/sbillint/SB0196S03.htm allows governments to keep the data collected by police license plate readers for a maximum of nine months. It also requires a court order to be able to access the data.
SB267 http://le.utah.gov/~2013/bills/sbillamd/SB0267.htm did not pass, but would have given taxpayer support and incentives to building a convention center hotel in Salt Lake City. The new hotel could generate as much as $30 million in state tax revenue over the next 7 years. Senator Adams, the bill sponsor, said that this bill would create a "post-performance tax credit."
SB262 http://le.utah.gov/~2013/bills/sbillint/SB0262.htm dealt with housing and employment discrimination based on sexual orientation. Senator Urquhart sponsored the bill. Here are his reasons for sponsoring the bill. http://www.senatesite.com/home/urqu-nondiscrimination/
Senator Reid opposed the bill. Here are his arguments against it. http://www.senatesite.com/home/sb262/#more-6785
Some House bills that we had this week:
HB134 http://le.utah.gov/~2013/bills/hbillint/HB0134S03.htm implements a suicide prevention program in each school and a process for notifying parents if their child expresses a suicidal threat or is involved in bullying. This bill had 46 co-sponsors.
HB165 http://le.utah.gov/~2013/bills/hbillamd/HB0165.htm requires an FBI fingerprint check for individuals who apply for a child care license in Utah.
HB147 http://le.utah.gov/~2013/bills/hbillamd/HB0147.htm creates a new state commission to promote coalitions and collaborative efforts that will uphold and encourage a healthy culture of strong and lasting marriages and stable families. The commission will find ways to contribute to greater awareness of the importance of marriage and leading to reduced divorce and unwed parenthood in the state.
HB 89 http://le.utah.gov/~2013/bills/hbillint/HB0089.htm modifies the Public Safety Code regarding peace officer certification.
HB 81 http://le.utah.gov/~2013/bills/hbillamd/HB0081S02.htm directs the Department of Health to establish a public education program regarding the impacts and dangers of congenital cytomegalovirus (CMV) infection and methods of preventing CMV infections.
HB 287 http://le.utah.gov/~2013/bills/hbillamd/HB0287S01.htm requires a law enforcement agency to return a firearm to the legal owner under certain requirements; and provides for a sworn declaration as acceptable evidence of ownership of property.
Senate Majority Leader Ralph Okerlund says that this has been a really great year for education. Because of careful allocation, we have been able to do quite a bit for public education this year. There is nothing more important in our state than our children. They are the most important key to our economic growth and productivity. I am grateful that we have the money to expand educational options.
Last Monday we passed SB4, the supplemental education budget.
SB271 http://le.utah.gov/~2013/bills/sbillint/SB0271S03.htm will create a system for a letter grade for each school based on student proficiency growth and college and career readiness. This is an idea that we have been working on for several years. Jeb Bush endorses the idea. Here is a link to more information on school grading and a letter from Governor Bush supporting the idea. http://www.senatesite.com/home/jeb-bush-endorses-sb271/#more-6822
We also passed several bills that help with technology in the schools.
SB209 http://le.utah.gov/~2013/bills/sbillamd/SB0209.htm allots $3 million to iPads for school children.
SB 284 http://le.utah.gov/~2013/bills/sbillint/SB0284S01.htm spends $2.4 million to expand the very successful smart schools technology program.
$4.7 million will be put into more literacy software in schools by SB260 http://le.utah.gov/~2013/bills/sbillint/SB0260S03.htm.
$70,000 will be used to implement educator evaluation software from SB257 http://le.utah.gov/~2013/bills/sbillamd/SB0257.htm.
SB279 http://le.utah.gov/~2013/bills/sbillint/SB0279.htm did not pass but would have allocated $5 million to purchase web-based K-6 math education programs.
HB 306 http://le.utah.gov/~2013/bills/hbillamd/HB0306.htm makes changes to the election process and term lengths of a school community council and modifies a formula for distributing money under the School LAND Trust Program to public schools.
HB 393 http://le.utah.gov/~2013/bills/hbillamd/HB0393.htm allows a school district or charter school to establish competency-based education programs and assessments that would result in course credit if the student demonstrates competency in the subject rather than take an entire class.
To guide Utah with long-term education goals, SCR5 http://le.utah.gov/~2013/bills/sbillenr/SCR005.htm was passed. Based on studies showing that by the year 2020, 66% of all jobs in Utah will require post secondary degrees, SCR5 sets goals for a 90% proficiency in reading by the 3rd grade and that 43% of all adults in Utah will hold a higher ed. degree or postsecondary certificate by that year.
As the education task force created by SB169 http://le.utah.gov/~2013/bills/sbillamd/SB0169.htm begins its work, we expect that there will be even greater things happening on Utah's education front.
Here is a Desert News article that I very much agree with and appreciate. It was published when we began the session. It articulates well the feelings I have for the process and my colleagues. http://www.deseretnews.com/article/765621205/2013-Utah-Legislature-Thanking-the-individuals-who-stand-up-and-serve.html?pg=all
Utah is still doing great in so many ways. Last week Forbes Magazine in an article titled "The Best and Worst Cities for Jobs This Spring" ranked Salt Lake City as third in the nation. 24% of Salt Lake City employers expect to hire additional employees. Here is a link to the article: http://www.forbes.com/sites/jacquelynsmith/2013/03/12/the-best-and-worst-cities-for-jobs-this-spring-3/
I am proud of Utah. I am proud of the accomplishments we have made this session.
I am grateful for the opportunity to represent you in the Senate.
Senator Wayne Niederhauser