Utah Cap Haps Blog

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Pre-Session Highlights

I'm excited to start blogging about the happenings on Capitol Hill as we approach this upcoming legislative session.

One of the things I've been working on is meeting with as many school principals and directors as I can before the session. I've met with half of the schools in the district so far and have learned a great deal about the public school system. I've gained a deep appreciation for the people who bring passion into the classrooms of our schools and I'm grateful to them for helping me be better informed when voting on education bills. 

Dist 31 schools include (random order):

I'm looking forward to serving my first term in the Utah House of Representatives. Here is a summary of the committees I've been assigned to, with a link to the meeting times, agendas, and materials that will be discussed.

The Legislature will be considering many important issues in the upcoming session. Below is a quick summary of a few big items that we will be discussing (random order). The common theme among all of these items is how to fund critical needs with the limited resources we have in the most responsible and effective way possible.

1. Education: Education funding continues to be a top priority. We can expect a robust discussion about where and how to spend this year's surplus of education dollars. As mentioned earlier, I've been meeting with schools in the district, as well as various education groups to learn more about their challenges and priorities. I will continue to gather feedback as we head into the session.

2. Medicaid Expansion/Health Reform: The Legislature will be considering various proposals, including the Governor's Healthy Utah Plan and other options proposed by the Legislature's Health Reform Taskforce, to provide healthcare coverage for uninsured adults who fall into the coverage gap (earn too much to qualify for Medicaid but not enough to qualify for federal premium tax credits).

3. Transportation: Utah's gas tax is fixed at cents per gallon (24.5 cents) rather than a rate per gallon and it has not increased since 1997, or 17 years. The main funding source for roads is shrinking, while vehicle miles traveled are going up. This funding dilemma coupled with unreliable federal dollars have created growing pressure on how we fund transportation infrastructure going forward. The Legislature will be considering various proposals to alleviate this issue in an effort to address the priorities outlined in Utah's Unified Transportation Plan.

4. Social Justice Reform: Discussions about moving the prison have opened up doors for social and criminal justice reform. Various proposals to reduce recidivism and the prison population will be evaluated.

5. Transfer of Federal Lands to Utah: Roughly 70% of Utah's land is owned by the federal government. There are proposals to pursue the transfer of federal public land to state ownership (excluding national parks, national monuments, and national recreation areas). We can expect a robust discussion on this effort.

Thanks for taking the time to read. Stay tuned for more and in the meantime, watch for updates on my Facebook page and some regularly posted Capitol pics of the day. Please feel free to contact me at any time regarding any issues, concerns, or other legislative matters that are important to you.