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Day 41: Week Six in Review

March 4, 2012

Only one more week is left to finalize all the business of the state for the year and there are many decisions yet to be made, most importantly, finalizing the budget. The final budget is being crafted. The executive appropriations committee is meeting to sift through the recommended lists submitted by the appropriations committees. This is a very difficult and heart wrenching process. It is tough because there is simply not enough money to fund all of the deserving programs.

The money is limited and the only way to get more for additional programs is to raise taxes or eliminate funds from another part of the budget. It is difficult to draw those lines.

Funding so many deserving programs has led to the growth of state government in Utah. It is now my job to hold the line and make sure that we do not spend more money than we have. That is the process that we are going through right now — drawing lines about how to prudently allocate your tax funds in the name of bettering our state.

Frequently, the House has a different set of priorities than does the Senate. That is certainly the case this year. The next few days will prove interesting as we struggle through this refining process.

I was very busy in the committee meetings on Monday,Tuesday and Wednesday as we struggled to get as many bills heard as possible. We met on the floor twice each day this week. Next week we are scheduled to meet on the floor three times each day until Thursday, when we will meet until midnight.

The Utah Constitution dictates that we can meet no more than 45 consecutive calendar days and must end by midnight on the last day.

Here is a sampling of the bills we voted on this week:

HB74 would ensure road access to oil well fields.

HB 395 deals with several changes in gun ownership laws.

HB 129 protects a property owner in defending home and family against
criminal activity.

HB254 adds more chemicals to the list of those currently banned under state law that are used to make synthetic illegal drugs, commonly known as “spice”.

SB64 deals with performance pay and teacher evaluation.

HB307 clarifies the procedures for when a judge is asked to consider whether someone who has already been convicted should be deemed as factually innocent based on new and previously un-presented evidence.

SJR13 and SB287 both deal with the Governor’s concern that the state retain control over the curriculum that is taught in Utah classrooms.

HB284 would make changes to the number of concurrent enrollment classes that high school students could take.

HJR6 would add to the state Constitution a requirement that a portion of the state’s severance tax be preserved in a trust fund.

HB108 addresses online gambling.

As you can imagine, legislators are not always popular. However it is interesting to see the different reactions that come from various people. I try very hard to make decisions that reflect the will of the majority of my constituents.

I always appreciate the dialog generated from the questions and concerns that constituents have and are willing to share with me. We had many groups visit the capitol this week. It is always a great feeling to see the school children that visit us in the Senate.

On Friday, we had a group from Paradigm High Charter School in South Jordan do a dramatized recitation of the Declaration of Independence. It was a poignant reminder of the sacrifices made to establish this great
country.

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