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Day 19: Week Three in Review

February 17, 2013

We have completed the third week.

Here’s a roster of the Utah State Senate, in case you were wondering about the amazing people I get to work with every day on your behalf

theutahsenate

On Monday the Senate Education Committee heard three Senate bills and two House bills. Senator Reid’s bill would create a sex-ed program for parents to use passed successfully out of the committee. Here is a newspaper article about what the bill will do:
http://www.deseretnews.com/user/comments/765613796/Sex-education-is-a-parental-responsibility.html

The committee also passed out Senate Bill 169. It establishes a task force to create long-term education policies that align public and higher education with development and job creation goals. Here is a link to SB 169: http://www.le.utah.gov/~2013/bills/sbillamd/SB0169.htm

In the Business and Labor Committee, Senator Bramble proposed changing the GRAMA law to allow public access to legislator’s emails. Here is a link to SB 94: http://le.utah.gov/~2013/bills/sbillint/SB0094.htm and here is a YouTube video where Senator Bramble describes the bill. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HI8g_2XoNsc&feature=youtu.be

Congressman Rob Bishop came to speak to us on Monday. He talked about what the sequestration cuts could do to Hill Air Force Base. He pointed out that the Obama administration has already cut $1 trillion from the defense budgets and sequestration mandates will cut even more. He also expressed his concerns over Utah’s adoption of the Common Core curriculum, saying that it will give the federal government too much control over our state education system. Here is a YouTube video of his remarks: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K_ll0r8kC9I

As you know on Tuesday evening, President Obama gave his State of the Union address. I am concerned that the President is not willing to address spending reductions. His solution to so many problems is to increase spending. The debt our nation has incurred is unsustainable, but we are all part and party to it. Right now 40 percent of what we spend in Utah comes from that unsustainable federal source. It has been a gradual process, but the states have surrendered much of their autonomy to the federal government–just so we could get back some of the money we paid in taxes.

We don’t know exactly when our nation will sit down to the consequences of the great debt that we have incurred. If Congress does actually “fix the debt problem,” every state will see a reduction in federal funds. Or if they do nothing and allow the sequestration cuts to take place, every state will see a reduction in federal funds. Either way we will lose budget money. Utah needs to have a real plan preparing us for the consequences—and we are working on one.

Earlier on Tuesday morning, Senators Henderson, Harper and Osmond held a press conference announcing a series of bills creating a contingency plan for when the federal funds decrease. The bill package is called Financial Ready Utah. There are seven bills all aimed at preparing Utah to be less dependent on federal money. We cannot just sever ourselves from all federal funds, and I am not sure that we will ever be able to do that. But we certainly need to be more cautious about how much we are accepting and the strings and requirements that come with the federal money we do accept. We need to be more self-sufficient and be less dependent on federal money. This move from dependency needs to be happening on every level right down to our families.

Here is a link to the press conference and the bills:
http://www.senatesite.com/home/blog2/

The Financial Ready Utah website has been prepared in conjunction with these ideas. Here is the link:
http://financialreadyutah.com/
This is an interactive website. Please contribute your ideas on frugal living and debt reduction and help spread the word.

There are many state legislators and leaders that are worried about the financial condition of the nation and how it will affect Utah. Here is an article co-authored by Senate president Wayne Niederhauser, House Speaker Rebecca Lockhart, Richard Ellis the State Treasurer and John Dougall the Utah State Auditor, encouraging everyone to be involved in preparing for the upcoming financial challenges.
http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865572931/A-plea-for-fiscal-preparedness.html

Each day we continue to sort out the details of the coming year’s budget. The Appropriations Committees met 16 times this week to work on budget distributions.

The state’s total budget is about $13 billion a year, but only a small fraction of that money is really discussed in the committees because so much of it is already allocated.

When Senator Jerry Stevenson and Representative Brad Wilson, the executive appropriations vice-chairs, explain the allocation process in town hall meetings, they do it with candy bars.

They start with 13 candy bars–each one representing $1 billion. The first 5 go into a pile that symbolizes public education’s budget. The next two go to higher education. Now there are six left. Just over two bars represent the entitlement payments that the Social Services appropriations committee oversees.

Now there are just over three candy bars left.

One bar goes to government operations. This covers the salaries, benefits and retirement for state employees. The courts, prisons and the highway patrol divide another bar. The final full bar goes to transportation. Dividing the last partial bar is where the appropriations committees spend most of their time.

Thus far the appropriations committees have had 84 funding requests above and beyond current funding.

Education always needs more than their seven bars. The new healthcare requirements could soon require considerably more and we are expecting less than usual from the federal government–but we still don’t know how much less. All of this makes for tough decisions.

On Wednesday, Dixie State College became Dixie State University. HB 61 has passed successfully on both the House and Senate floors and will now be sent to the Governor.
http://le.utah.gov/~2013/bills/hbillenr/HB0061.htm
In order to qualify for University status, the school had to meet several benchmarks set by the Utah Board of Regents. They now offer 42 bachelor’s degrees. The change gives Utah a total of six state Universities. This will be great for Utah.

We started to hear a lot of House bills in our standing committees. One that was heard in Health and Human Services on Thursday was HCR2. This resolution calls for the legislature and the governor to support the goals and objectives in the Utah Nutrition and Physical Activity Plan 2010-2020. Here is a link to the website for Utah’s plan to address obesity and health issues: http://choosehealth.utah.gov/providers/health-care/hc-tools-and-resources.php and here is a link to the resolution: http://le.utah.gov/~2013/bills/hbillamd/HCR002.htm

I hope you had a great Valentine’s Day on Thursday. Here is a belated Valentine wish from the senate:

Many times on the floor, you will hear the presenting Senator say something like, “this is a cleanup bill.” There are many reasons that a law might need to be tweaked or “cleaned up.” One example this year was HB 41, being run in the Senate by Senator Knudson. This bill removed a portion of the code dealing with campaign filing. The portion removed was outdated and had never been used. Here is a link to the bill. http://le.utah.gov/~2013/bills/hbillint/HB0041.htm

Another example was House 12, sponsored on our floor by Senator Valentine. This bill changes the law concerning people who work in the alarm security industry. The way the law was originally written created an inadvertent problem. Instead of just doing a background check on the people who actually come into your home and install an alarm system, it required that everyone who worked in the office (like secretaries and janitors) have a background check as well. The changes in HB12 fixed that problem.

When you are reading a bill, if the words are crossed out they are being removed, if the words are underlined, then those are new words that are being added. You can see where the words in HB12 will be changed.
http://le.utah.gov/~2013/bills/hbillint/HB0012.htm
Making changes like this takes time, but is necessary to keep the state running smoothly.

Several of bills are now in the committees and on the floor. You can read my bills for the 2013 general session at le.utah.gov.

I was glad to have two local scout troops visit me this week. If you are ever at the Capitol, please let me know.

There is a new way you can follow bills at the legislature! Bill Watch is a mobile app you can use on your phone or ipad to keep track of the issues that are important to you. With this app, you can search Utah bills by topic, bill number, or a legislator’s name. You can create a list of bills you want to watch and receive notifications when the status of a bill changes.

Here is the link for the Apple download:
https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/watch-utah-legislature-bills/id598951706?mt=8

and here is one for an Android:
https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.nicusa.utah.billtracker

Thomas Jefferson said, “freedom is lost gradually from an uninterested, uninformed, and uninvolved people.” Thank you for being interested and involved. I hope the information I send helps you stay informed.

As always, I appreciate the information you share with me and your interest in the process. Please feel free to contact me at tweiler@le.utah.gov or 801-599-9823

You can find a quick update each day on the senate website: http://www.senatesite.com/home/

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