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Day 26: Week 4 in Review

February 23, 2013

This flag, which I viewed at the Davis GOP Lincoln Day Dinner, was with Sherman’s platoon on their March to the Sea during the Civil War:

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This week we hit the halfway mark. We have introduced fewer bills this session than any other in the past decade. Here is a report on the number of bills and Sen. Valentine’s assessment of why: http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/29410286/highlight/326363

Monday we did not meet due Washington and Lincoln Day. On Tuesday morning, we honored the Utah Mother of the Year, Judy Cook, and the Utah Young Mother of the Year, Michelle Lehnardt. We also honored the winners of the 41st Annual All-State High School Art Show.

We held important discussions in the Public Education and Social Services Appropriations Committees about an education funding equalization idea and a discussion about what effect an operational expansion in Medicaid would have on the state.

The appropriations committees are putting together their priority lists. These lists rank the importance of various programs for funding and will be sent to the Executive Appropriations Committee as the final budget is prepared.

Public Education receives the largest portion of the discretionary money in the state budget. Just over half the state’s $13 billion budget goes directly to the State Board of Education (public K-12 education) and the State Board of Regents (higher education).

Here is a break down of where the State Board of Education gets its money to spend. About 10% comes from the federal government. The rest is from various state and local taxes. The Utah Constitution mandates that 100% of all individual and corporate income tax be spent on education. All of the profits from the sale of alcohol in the state are spent on K-12 public education. A portion of the state sales tax goes to education; money collected from our Trust Lands fund about 1% of the education budget. Just over half of all property tax revenue goes directly to public education.

What is even more complicated is keeping track of how it is spent and making those expenditures transparent.
Tim Beagley, Chair of the State Charter Board tweeted this week that “there may be three or four people in the whole state who fully understand it.”

Senator Mike Lee spoke on the floor last Tuesday. He talked about the pending budget cuts. These cuts will have a significant impact on national defense spending. Senator Lee found it “stunning” was that even though it knew the cuts were coming, the Pentagon has done nothing to prepare for them.

Utah has prepared for pending budget cuts. Last November, each state agency created a plan for how they would cut their budgets in the event of 5% or 25% cut of federal funds. If our funds are cut, at least we have a starting point — even if we don’t know when the cuts are coming or how sever they will be.

On Wednesday, Senator Hatch visited. His message was similar: Sequestration will likely happen; there seems to be no real effort to pass a federal budget; “We are going to go through some trying times.”

Here is a link to Senator Lee’s remarks: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ElHrruZ87RA

And here is one to Senator Hatch’s: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2eVbnO4x9E4

Here are some of the bills that passed the Senate this week and will move on to the House:

SB 56 http://le.utah.gov/~2013/bills/sbillint/SB0056S01.htm
This bill, which I sponsored, creates the Utah 211 Referral Information Network. 211 can be called for help navigating community service organizations. Here is a link with more information. http://www.fcc.gov/guides/dial-211-essential-community-services

SB 60 http://le.utah.gov/~2013/bills/sbillamd/SB0060.htm sponsored by Senator Dayton, requires the State Health Department to annually report data to the Health and Human Services Committee on abortions performed in the state. The data is already collected and sent to the Federal government. This bill simply requires that it be reported to the state legislature as well.

SB 158 http://le.utah.gov/~2013/bills/sbillint/SB0158.htm allows a municipality to keep up to 25% of the excess of their estimated revenue in their general fund. Senator Henderson’s bill provides another way that cities and counties will be able to prepare for upcoming volatility in their budgets.

So far about 100 bills have passed both floors. The only bills that have been signed by the Governor are the base budget bills and HB 61 that gave University Status to Dixie State. The last day the Governor may sign or veto a bill is April 13th. The normal date for bills to take effect is May 14th. Here is a link to the running list of the bills that have passed and are waiting for the Governor’s signature. http://le.utah.gov/asp/passedbills/passedbills.asp

One bill on that list is SB53. It passed off both the House and Senate floors with no dissenting votes. This bill, sponsored by Senator Reid, will help the state address the problem of intergenerational welfare.

Another one on the list is SB 141. It would create an account called “More for Education” where you could donate additional money to the education fund via your state income tax form.

Senator Jenkins is sponsoring legislation that would examine relocating the state prison. Inwould be very interest in your input on this issue. SB 72 creates a board that would study the possible relocation of the state prison in Draper. If the decision to relocate the prison were made, the board would then study possibilities and oversee new development of the land. The major reasons that relocation of the prison needs to be considered are: modernization, rehabilitation needs, and potential economic development. Here is a link to the bill: http://le.utah.gov/~2013/bills/sbillint/SB0072S01.htm

Floor time ended on an emotional note on Friday. We passed HJR 6 recognizing the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War. The last few lines of the resolution sponsored by Senator Jenkins were, “NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Legislature of the state of Utah, the Governor concurring therein, recognize the 50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War and those who fought, suffered, and died in the conflict. BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Legislature and the Governor urge the citizens of Utah to reflect on the service and sacrifice of many during the Vietnam War.”

Next, holding with our annual tradition, we honored members of our Armed Forces and recognized the fallen soldiers from our state. Ten units from Utah have deployed members. Eight of those units were represented on the floor. But our recognition was happily incomplete. I am pleased to report that no members of our Utah Units were killed in the past year.

If you would like to see pictures of these tributes, they are here: http://www.senatesite.com/home/

I like you, am so grateful for the great sacrifices that have been made by others to preserve the freedoms of our land and to protect and promote freedom in other parts of the world.

Every day on the senate blog, we post the Senate Journal. It is a fun way to keep track of the events of the day. The link to the blog is http://www.senatesite.com/home/

You can also follow what is happening during session on Facebook, Twitter or Pintrest.

http://www.facebook.com/utahsenate
https://twitter.com/utahsenate

I am grateful to represent you in the Utah State Senate. Remember to let me know if you come to the Capitol. I hosted four Boy Scout groups plus another five groups of citizens this past week.

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