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Day 40: Week 6 In Review

March 8, 2013

On Friday, President Neiderhauser extended me the honor of sitting in his chair and conducting the Senate while he stepped away:


We have completed our last full week of the session. It has been very busy. On Tuesday, we met three times on the floor. A morning and afternoon session and then an additional floor session in the evening. Working through the bills takes time and we have a deadline, so working a few nights toward the end of the session is not unusual.

On Monday, Senator Stuart Adams held a press conference with Governor Herbert to unveil his bill SB 275
This bill creates incentives for school districts to convert their buses from diesel fuel to natural gas. Hopefully UTA will convert to natural gas as well.

There are many advantages to using natural gas to fuel vehicles. Because natural gas burns much cleaner than conventional gasoline or diesel, natural gas reduces carbon monoxide emissions by 90-97%. CO2 emissions are reduced by 25-30% and nitrogen oxide emissions are cut by as much as 60%. In addition to those reductions natural gas emits almost no particulate matter. Also, in Utah, natural gas is about half the price of gasoline.

Every bus that is converted to natural gas will have the equivalent effect of taking 15 to 20 gasoline-powered cars off the road. Here is a link to the press conference and more information on this important step in improving the air quality in Utah.

Another bill that addresses air quality is HB 210 this bill will allow each county to work with the Department of Air Quality to address air quality problems unique their own county. Currently the entire state must comply to the same requirements even though the degree of the problem varies considerably according to the geography.

John Nord, who is retiring as the state’s transportation director, was honored this week in the Senate. In the 12 years he served at UDOT, he oversaw, among many other projects, the I-15 corridor project. That massive project was completed under budget and sooner than expected, saving the state billions of dollars. Here is a link to the citation presentation on the senate floor.

Frequently we have groups and organizations come to the capitol rotunda to show their accomplishments. On Thursday, 250 high school students came to participate in an Iron Chef-type cooking competition. It was truly amazing to see just how talented these students are with a chef knife. You can see some pictures of the students and their amazing food creations on the Thursday blog post

Even though the sequestration cuts have gone into effect and we have much uncertainty on the horizon, I was pleased to see that in general consumer confidence in our state is holding steady. We are all frustrated at the way the federal government is handling the current economic situation, but I am grateful that Utah has weathered the storm as well as it has.

Here is a link to an article about Utah’s Consumer Attitude Index done by Zions Bank.

In Utah, the sequestration cuts will have the biggest effect on Hill Air Force Base. Maintaining the base is critical to Utah’s economy. Senator Jerry Stevenson has worked closely with the base for many years. Here is a link to his thoughts on what can be done to help support HAFB in the near future.

We spent a lot of time wrangling through the budget this week. On Monday, the executive appropriations committee began their meetings to put together the final budget bill.

We are leading the nation in economic recovery, but just as every year, there are more requests for additional finances or money for new programs than available funds. As an example, the Social Services committee alone had 68 new funding requests totaling over $80 million. The committee’s discretionary budget for such expenditures is less than $10 million. This is an example why budget allocations are so difficult.

A few decisions have been made concerning what the final budget bill will contain.

The legislature will increase public education’s Weighted Pupil Unit by 2%, which should mean a raise for teachers. That money will filter down to the districts so they can increase employee compensation including salary and benefit changes. We are recognized nationally as having the most equitable method of income tax revenue. (100% of state income tax revenue goes directly to this public education budget.) An additional $68.5 million will be spent to manage the growth in schools.

State workers will also get a 1% pay raise.

It will take $19 million to pay the bill for last summer’s fire damage, and $2,400,000 will be allocated to purchasing iPads for school children.

As the Executive Appropriations committee puts the final budget together, they are constantly referring to the prioritization of the committees. This process makes the budgeting allocation public and transparent–don’t you wish the Federal government would do it this way?

These are some of the bills we will be addressing in the next few days:

We are still discussing the prison relocation bill. We are now on the fourth substitute of the original bill. Here is the link It is very important that the decision making process be handled the correct way. The discussion regarding the possibility of moving the prison has been going on for many years. The Prison Relocation Development Authority met for over a year before the decision was made that relocating the prison would be economically feasible. Here is a link to Senator Jenkins discussing the newest version of the bill. (When he says PRADA board it means the Prison Relocation And Development Authority.)

SB 226 is a bill that would collect sales tax on Internet retail sales. 24 other states are trying to pass the same legislation.

SB 279 would provide funds for an interactive web-based individualized math program for students in kindergarten through grade 6.

HB 76 has been a bit confusing to some. This bill will NOT change anything concerning Utah’s concealed carry permit. It changes the open carry law. Right now, anyone can legally carry a gun–but it must be in full view at all times AND the gun cannot be in “ready fire” which means the chamber must be empty. The problem is that if for any reason your gun becomes covered, like your jacket flips over the top of the gun or it starts to rain and you put on a jacket, then you have broken the law because your weapon is now concealed. HB 76 changes the law so that you can put your jacket on but the requirement to carry it with an empty chamber if you do not have a concealed carry permit will remain just as it is now.

Some of the House bills we have passed so far:

HB 24 Utah Retirement System Amendments
This bill amends the provisions of the Utah State Retirement and Insurance Benefits.

HB 294 modifies the Traffic Code by amending provisions relating to overtaking and passing bicycles and mopeds on the highway.

HB 194 removes a $70 million unfunded liability that the state has. Currently, public employees can transfer sick time to a retirement benefit of health insurance. There simply is not enough money to continue this practice. The Utah Public Employees Association supports the bill.

HB 73 establishes a procedure for the holder of a prescriptive easement for a water conveyance to abandon all or part of the prescriptive easement.

HB 254 This bill requires a college or university within the state system of higher education to award credit for certain military service training and experience.

HB 113 enacts provisions authorizing a county governing body to represent the county and consult with the federal government in certain federal land development and regulation actions.

HB 272 provides that under certain circumstances an operator of a vehicle facing a steady red arrow signal may cautiously enter the intersection to turn left from a one-way street into a one-way street.

I really enjoyed my wife visiting me on the Senate floor:


One Comment
  1. Ryan Robinson permalink

    Todd. I have been pleased with your work and positions but your summary of the open carry bill is nonsense. What you are allowing is for hundreds of criminals and gang members who can’t qualify for a concealed permit to no longer need the permit to conceal the firearm from lae enforcement and the public. Good citizens already have a mechanism to conceal carry. Now nonfelon criminals can as well. Worst bill on the hill this year that exploits our frustration with the federal govt. This bill does much more than protect the rancher whose jacket accidentally covers his rifle. To fail to mention the cons of this bill is disappointing.

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