Wayne Niederhauser

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Week 5 Newsletter 2015

Last week, the big issues of the session started to get votes on the floor of the Senate and the House. It takes time to get through committee and rise to a vote in each chamber. Medicaid expansion received a lot of attention as the Governor and the House fight over what program to implement. The debate on medicaid will continue this coming week along with transportation funding, medical marijuana, anti-discrimination, religious liberties and prison relocation just to name a few.

Here are a few interesting stats about the movement of bills this past week:

As of noon on Friday there were 133 Senate bills in House committees and 192 House bills in Senate committees. In all the House had introduced 467 total bills and the Senate has introduced 301 into the process.

 

99 House bills and 73 Senate bills have been passed and are in possession of the Governor. Here is a link to a list of all the bills that have been passed so far: http://le.utah.gov/asp/passedbills/passedbills.asp 

On Friday, we honored Utah's fallen soldiers. I am always grateful for those who dedicated individuals and their families who make sacrifices for our freedoms. Here is the press release with the names of those we honored.http://utahpoliticohub.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/2.27.2015Fallensoldierfamilieshonored.pdf

If you come to the Capitol, let me know. The best way to reach me is my by Senate phone 801-742-1606 or email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.or you can email my intern Ross Watkins: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Sincerely,

Signature


Senator Wayne Niederhauser
Bills:
Most Utahan's agree that draconian regulation of residential wood burning stoves is not where the focus should be in terms of air quality improvement. 


 Here is a link to a recent poll.http://utahpulse.com/index.php/features/business/1834-poll-utahns-oppose-november-through-march-wood-burning-ban 


 A bill discussing wood burning limits has been released in the House. HB 396 http://le.utah.gov/~2015/bills/static/HB0396.html would set standards at levels that would allow unrestricted burning on green days and no burning on red days but on yellow days EPA certified stoves could burn without restrictions. We need reasonable compromises that will protect our air on the worst days, but still allow people to use and enjoy their wood stoves.


 Senator Okerlund is proposing SB 216, titled high Cost Infrastructure Tax Credits. This bill would provide tax credits to companies who chose to locate in rural areas. There are many businesses who are expressing an interest in moving to rural areas and this bill would provide tax incentives to new or expanding mining, manufacturing, industrial or distribution businesses. It would not include retail businesses because the goal is to expand infrastructure. When that is done and jobs are created, retail follows.http://le.utah.gov/~2015/bills/static/SB0216.html 


 HB 40, titled Expungement Amendment, has passed from the House with a vote of 68-3 and is now ready to move through the process in the Senate. This bill would under certain circumstances, allow an expungement of criminal record to some individuals. The intent is to reduce the rate of recidivism and help people reenter society and gain life skills through employment that they would not be able to obtain if they still had a criminal record. Here is a link to the language of the bill: http://le.utah.gov/~2015/bills/static/HB0040.html 


 SB 33 is a bill sponsored by Senator Osmond that is now in the House. This bill would require schools to help parents and their children compare options of early graduation and various college-ready pathways beginning in 8th grade so that high school schedules could be crafted that will help each student reach their individual goals. The bill would also increase the centennial scholarship amount for students who do graduate early from high school. Here is an article that explains the billhttp://www.sltrib.com/news/2216484-155/committee-approves-bill-clarifying-parents-right and here is a link to the bill:http://le.utah.gov/~2015/bills/static/SB0033.html

Medicaid:

The decision on what will actually happen regarding health-care expansion is by no means over, the House has their own opinions as to what the best solution would be but ultimately, the House, the Senate and the Governor have to agree on a final solution, so the negotiations and the ideas will continue to work through the process. It has been a frustrating and long process to try and solve this problem and perhaps the fact most infuriating of all--is that in spite of all the time and worry that so many people have put into coming up with what would be the best possible solution for a problem we did not create--there is another case pending before the Supreme Court next month that could throw everything into yet another tail spin. The case is called King v. Burwell and it challenges whether or not it was legal for subsidies to be given to individuals who bought their coverage through the federal government's HealthCare.gov exchange or if everyone is actually required to purchase their coverage through the state exchanges. Here is a news article from Washington D.C. that discusses the issue with Governor Herbert:http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/govbeat/wp/2015/02/21/republican-governors-worry-about-fate-of-obamacare-subsidies/

And here is a link to all the amici briefs that have been filed thus far for the case: http://www.scotusblog.com/case-files/cases/king-v-burwell/

This continues to be a frustrating issue that can only be blamed on federal intrusion.

Education:

There has been some concern about excessive testing requirements in the schools. Last year legislation was passed reiterating that although schools were required to administer the national assessment tests, students were not required to take them. Nor could schools or teachers be negatively affected if parents exercised their option to opt their children out of those tests. However, the language of last year's bill proved to be a little bit ambiguous causing different school districts to interpret the statute in different ways and the results were confusing to parents. To remedy that, SB 204 further explains parent's rights in the directing their child's education and clarifies how the opt-out option to testing works.http://le.utah.gov/~2015/bills/static/SB0204.html

Senator Millner is sponsoring SB 196http://le.utah.gov/~2015/bills/static/SB0196.html, which would add flexibility to the way high school students fulfill their math requirements. The bill would require students to show college-entry level competency through one of several options like an AP, ACT or IB test score or pass an assessment test. The requirement would be met according to the students post high school goals. As the former president of Weber State University, Senator Millner is well acquainted with the huge problem of students who, upon entering a university, must take remedial math classes. (40% of all college students take at least one remedial math class. Remedial classes do not count towards graduation, so they are just more time and money spent in college.) Senator Millner's sponsorship of this bill is just one more example of the benefits of having "boots-on-the-ground" experience of a part-time legislature. Her bill has passed the senate and is now in the House.


SB 53 is a proposal to make the golden retriever Utah's official domestic animal. Senator Osmond ran this bill because students at Daybreak Elementary wanted to learn first hand how the legislative process works. The students did the research and helped write the bill, testified in the committee and they were in the gallery when the bill was debated on the floor. Here is a link: http://le.utah.gov/~2015/bills/static/SB0053.html

The bill has now moved to the House.

Other Topics of Focus:

 

Transportation

Transportation funding is becoming a bigger and bigger issue.

Here is an article that articulates how the federal transportation funds are focusing such urgency to the problem. http://www.sltrib.com/home/2206162-155/story.html The state director of our Department of Transportation, Carlos Braceras, testified before Congress this week about the need for a reliable long-term federal transportation plan and explaining our Unified Transportation Plan (which is quickly becoming a national model.) Because the federal government is becoming more and more unreliable in what they will fund, we need to prepare for our future transportation needs--which are outpacing our current funding sources. There are currently several proposals that would increase funding in different ways.

 

Religious Liberties

Religious liberties and justice are among the most discussed topics this session. In one sense, that may be particularly fitting for this year. 2015, marks the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta, a document believed by many to be one of the earliest and most fundamental assurances of religious liberty, freedom and the limits of the rule of law. SJR 17 is a resolution, sponsored by Senator Howard Stephenson and co-sponsored by all 28 senators, that recognizes the anniversary of this important document.  


Here are Senator Stephenson's thoughts on the Magna Carta:http://www.senatesite.com/home/magna-carta/

And here is a link to the resolution:http://le.utah.gov/~2015/bills/static/SJR017.html

 

Medical Marijuana

Senator Madsen is proposing a bill that would make medical use of marijuana legal in the state. Some believe that legalizing the drug is bad public policy and others believe it will be very helpful in treating various medical conditions. I am interested in your thoughts.


 Here is an article pointing out some of the problems with the idea:

http://www.sltrib.com/opinion/2215962-155/op-ed-medical-marijuana-is-not-sensible

Here is an article supporting the issue http://www.cityweekly.net/utah/pot-for-pain/Content?oid=2722718&showFullText=true

Here are a radio and a video segment of the senator and others explaining the issue. http://www.senatesite.com/home/madsen-marijuana/#more-12066

 

Prison Relocation

The Prison Relocation Commission met on Friday afternoon. There are now five approved sites to be officially considered. Through the past year, 45 sites were considered and now these final sites will continue to be evaluated in terms of things like ground issues, wetlands and utilities access. Ultimately, the decision will come down to cost effectiveness with the overall goal being to keep the facility away from the population and make it conducive to the topography of the land. The final decision is expected to be made by early summer.


 Here are links to the reports and recommendations reviewed in the meetings: http://le.utah.gov/interim/2015/pdf/00001922.pdf

http://le.utah.gov/interim/2015/pdf/00001935.pdf

And here is some interesting information on what prison facilities have looked like historically and what our new facility might look like:http://le.utah.gov/interim/2015/pdf/00001934.pdf

 

Internet

I don't know if you have been watching the issue of whether the FCC should control the speed of (and therefore implicit access to) the Internet, but it looks as though the decision has been made. Here is a New York Times article with a video that explains what will happen.

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/25/technology/path-clears-for-net-neutrality-ahead-of-fcc-vote.html?_r=0

And here is a link to the fact sheet released from the FCC:http://transition.fcc.gov/Daily_Releases/Daily_Business/2015/db0204/DOC-331869A1.pdf

Bills Concerning Count My Vote:

We voted on SB 43 earlier this week. This bill dealt with the Count My Vote initiative and SB 54 that was passed last year. There was a bit of confusion surrounding what this bill would have done. SB 43 would not have nullified SB 54. The only intent of the bill was to allow the Republican party more time to organize themselves and rewrite their by-laws so that they feel that they are in compliance with what needed to be done to become a qualified party. It is a matter of opinion as to how much work the Republican Party actually needs to do to become compliant, but the organizers of Count My Vote felt that allowing them more time would be a breach of the deal that we made with them last year. Additionally, they have implied that if the legislature goes back on their part of the deal, they will renew their efforts to collect signatures to put their initiative on the ballot.


I recognize and probably share many of your concerns about what SB 54 did to the traditional caucus system.


First, I would like to remind you what I had to remind myself before I voted on SB43. The reason last year's legislation (SB 54) was necessary, was because the Count My Vote organization had spent a great deal of money and time collecting signatures that would force their issue to the ballot. (There are many who wondered if the signatures were collected in an honest manner, but that is not a point that is worth rehashing because there is nothing that can be done about it now.)


If Count My Vote had been successful, the result would very likely have been an alteration to our state's Constitution that would have forever eliminated the caucus system. SB 54 was an attempt, and I believe a successful attempt, to preserve as much of the caucus system as possible.

SB 54 was a deal. The legislature made an agreement with the Count My Vote group that they would stop their attempt to constitutionally eliminate the caucus system in exchange for a legally recognized alternative route, other than the caucus method, by which someone could put their name on the ballot.


 SB 54 did not eliminate the party convention system, but it did eliminate the exclusivity of the convention selection method. As it stands now, there are two possible types of parties that a candidate can affiliate with.


 One type is a registered political party. To be a nominated candidate for a registered party, the candidate must collect a specific number of supporting signatures after they have declared their intent to run. These candidates are not required to go through any sort of convention system, nor do they have an endorsement of any party. So such an individual could identify himself or herself as a Republican or a Democrat, but the political party does not necessarily need to endorse that individual.


 The other is qualified party. If a candidate wants to represent a qualified party on the ballot, they could collect the required amount of signatures or the candidate could be selected through the traditional caucus convention process or both. But a candidate representing a qualified party is the only type of candidate who can be unequivocally endorsed by a party. She can't just say she is a Republican and expect the party to endorse her. I believe that the best practice for such an endorsement would be the traditional vetting process done be delegates through the caucus process.

The newsletter is sent out weekly during the legislative session in January through March and monthly during the balance of the year. Occasionally, I will send you alerts when there is important or urgent information. Your email will be kept safe by my email service, Constant Contact, and I don’t share it with anyone.

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