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September Interim

September 24, 2012

Interim week was busy this month.

The Executive Appropriations Committee met and heard reports on grants the state is receiving and a report from the Medicaid Inspector General. This office is new to Utah and the goal is to create proactive communication with medical providers that will diminish excessive expenditures, fraud and eliminate excessive medical practices that end up costing the state money. There were also reports from the Utah State Office of Education on the implementation of on-line testing and from the fiscal analysts office on how student growth will be calculated in the future.

Each of the interim committees met. I will hit a few of the highlights, but if there is something you are particularly interested in you can always listen to a recording of any of the meetings on our website. Archived recordings are at the bottom of the page.

A presentation on water rights issues took place in the Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environment Committee. Michael Styler, the Department of Natural Resources Executive Director presented 12 proposals for legislation that would clarify the use of water rights in the state.

Both the Political Subdivisions and the Revenue and Taxation Committee heard reports on the recent UTOPIA audit. Eleven Utah cities formed a consortium, pledging about $500 million over the next 32 years to back the necessary bonds to finance the Utah Telecommunication Open Infrastructure Agency (UTOPIA), an organization that would build a high-speed fiber-optic network. However, the network has yet to make a profit. The legislature requested that an audit be done to see what the ramifications will be to the cities in the consortium and the results are not good. According to the audit, UTOPIA is failing because of poor management and wasteful spending. So the cities (actually the taxpayers) are left on the hook to pay for a failing company.  Sadly there is very little that the state can do to remedy this situation for the cities. Here are some thoughts that Senator Valentine had on the problem.

The Business and Labor Committee (on which I sit) heard a follow-up from last month’s discussion on Alarm System Security Licensing. The language in the current law needs to be clarified because right now, people who work for alarm system companies such as janitors or human resource agents are required to hold a license. The Alarm System Security Licensing Board has indicated that this is unnecessary and so the language needs to be clarified. They also heard recommendations for procedural changes from the Uniform Building Code Commission and the Utah State Fire Prevention Board.

One of the items the Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Committee (another of my committee assisgnments) discussed was seat belt compliance law. In Utah, 70% of all crash related fatalities occur in high-speed crashes. However, people involved in those high-speed crashes are 13 times more likely to survive if they are using seat belts. Please be careful as you drive and always wear your seatbelt.

A report on the state’s Tourism Development plan was given to the Economic Development and Workforce Services Committee. The good news is that tourism related taxes are continuing to rise. This is due in part to the hard work of our tourism development team that has placed representatives in several European nations and makes a considerable effort to promote the wonders of our state around the world.

Last month that committee had a discussion on intergenerational poverty. S.B. 37, passed last session by Senator Reid, provided for a study on the intergenerational poverty in our state. The results of the study will be presented at a conference on October 9th. You can find details about the conference on this pdf.

The Education Committee was long this month. There was a discussion on the Replacement of the State Superintendent, a report on teacher quality and employment reform, discussion on the possibility of funding a state preschool and a report on the UPSTART program. (UPSTART is a computer pre-school readiness program that can be done at home.) If the state decides to implement a pre-school program it would be contingent on such requirements a small class sizes, trained teachers and use of a research-based curriculum. Senator Osmond is proposing the legislation. There was also a report given to the committee about what will happen as a result of federal sequestration to our education budgets. As part of the Budget Control Act of 2011, Congress was required to reduce the deficit by at least $1.2 trillion by January 15, 2012. Because they failed to do so, automatic across-the-board spending reductions will be instated in the FY2013 federal budget. The mandatory reduction rate will be either 8.2% or 7.6% depending what is being funded. If you would like to hear any of these discussions you can listen from this link.

A very interesting report was given to the Public Utilities and Technology committee on Utah’s coal industry. Last year 20 million tons of coal was extracted from Utah mines. There are nearly 5000 jobs in our state that are directly or indirectly related to our coal industry. This puts $600 million into our local economy. Some of Utah’s highest paying jobs are directly related to coal mining. This is a great boon to many of Utah’s rural areas. Additionally, because coal based electricity is so inexpensive here, it is a great incentive to entice business to build here.

The Transportation Committee heard reports on the results of a pilot program that increased the speed limit to 80 mph. in certain sections of the state. The results were good, showing enough of a decrease in accidents that the Department of Transportation is considering the change for other parts of the state as well. The Department also reported that it is looking into increasing the number of carpool lanes in the state as well.

The Senate also met quickly on the floor to confirm gubernatorial appointees. Here are the names of the appointees:

We had a bit of good news about the budget–there is a surplus. There was an unexpected surge in income tax and corporate income tax revenue that produced an additional $85 million. In reality that is only about 1.8% of our ongoing revenue, but every little bit helps. By a statutory mandate, $45 million will go into the Rainy Day Fund and the rest will be used for things like backfilling the budget error made by the Department of Education, paying for the many fires we had this summer and re-seeding those burned areas. What is remarkable to me is that the numbers we were given this year as we planned our $13 billion budget was only off by 1.8%. That is amazing. Our staff is conservative with the estimates we are given, so we always know what we have to spend. They definitely provide a valuable service to our state.

The elections are fast approaching. Utah has gone to great lengths to make voter registration easy. You can register it in about 10 seconds on-line. Here is the link:

If you are a Utah resident (with a current drivers license) you can register to vote, change your voter affiliation, your name or address or register as an absentee voter until October 22 either on-line or at you county office building. Here is some additional information from the lieutenant governor about Utah voting.

The Senate Site is the unofficial blog for the Utah State Senate. Here are some recent posts that you might find interesting.

Here is a detailed report from my committees:

1. Business and Labor

Alarm System Security Licensing – Approved as a committee bill “Alarm Company Employee Licensing,” which modifies provisions relating to the licensing of alarm company employees. The definition of “alarm company agent” excludes certain alarm company employees from licensing requirements. Recommendations of the Uniform Building Code Commission: Received information from the Uniform Building Code Commission regarding its recommended changes to the State Construction and Fire Codes Act. Recommendations include the following:

• Adopting the 2012 International Construction Code, 2012 International Energy Code, and 2012 International Residential Code; and

• Deleting or modifying existing code provisions to conform to the adoption of the new 2012 codes.

Recommendations of the Utah State Fire Prevention Board – Received information from the Utah State Fire Prevention Board regarding its recommended changes to the State Fire Code. Recommendations include the following:

• Modifications of requirements for sprinkler systems in certain garages;

• Assurance of access by inspectors to pump and riser rooms; and

• Requirements for installation of carbon monoxide alarms.

Sunset Review: Insurance Department Coordination with Other States — Approved as a committee bill “Reauthorization of Provisions for Insurance Coordination with Other States,” which extends these provisions of the Utah Code for an additional ten years.

Unincorporated Business Entities — Approved as a committee bill “Unincorporated Business Entities,” which modifies Utah Code Title 48, Partnerships, to enact a new Unincorporated Business Entity Act, and modifies references to the partnership or unincorporated business entities provisions throughout the Utah Code. This legislation is based on recommendations from the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws.

2. Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice

Concealed Weapons Fees Report — Received a statutorily required report from the Bureau of Criminal Identification on the amount and use of fees collected for concealed firearms permit applications. The bureau projects 81,552 application requests for 2012. This number is an increase over the 76,943 requests in 2011 and 67,263 requests in 2010. The bureau anticipates roughly $2.6 million in fees collected and $2.3 million in expenditures including personnel, supplies, and operating expenses, for 2012, resulting in a fee surplus of approximately $300,000.

Crisis Intervention Team Training — Received a report from the Department of Human Services regarding the Crisis Intervention Team training program in Utah. In 2001, the state partnered with local police and the National Alliance on Mental Illness to provide training on how to respond to mental health crisis situations. The Legislature appropriated $118,700 from the General Fund in 2012 to fund this program. According to the Crisis Intervention Team program, 103 of 147 law enforcement agencies in Utah have an officer trained by the program, and there are currently 1,500 sworn Crisis Intervention Team officers in Utah.

Enticing a Minor — Received a status update regarding legislation being prepared that would amend current law to clarify that those who act in a way to entice minors to commit a sexual act do not avoid prosecution if they do not actually meet with the minor.

Housing State Inmates in County Jails — Received a statutorily required report from the Utah Department of Corrections regarding the calculated final state daily incarceration rate. The rate is $77.94 per day for 2012. The department reported that the 2012 state daily incarceration rate will result in payments to counties of:

•$61.57 per day for contracted jail beds that also provide treatment programs to state inmates;

•$56.90 per day for contracted jail beds that do not provide treatment programs; and

•$38.97 per day for jail beds used to house state probationary or paroled inmates.

Seat Belt Compliance on High-speed Roadways — Received a report from a legislator and the Utah Highway Patrol regarding compliance with seat belt laws and fatality rates on Utah highways. According to the Utah Highway Patrol, less than ten percent of all motorists choose to not use a seatbelt, however, they represent roughly fifty percent of all traffic fatalities and were twice as likely as occupants who used seatbelts to die in accidents that resulted in severely damaged vehicles.

Sexual Assault in Utah — Received a report from the Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice regarding sexual violence in Utah. According to the commission, rape is the only violent crime that has a higher rate in Utah than the national average.

The commission suggested that the Legislature consider creating a victim treatment fund and enacting legislation allowing a person to seek a protective order when he or she is not in a domestic living arrangement. Currently, dating persons who do not live together or have a child in common may not seek a protective order unless there have been two incidents of abuse.


From → 2012 Interim

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