Utah Cap Haps Blog

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Week Seven Review

Capitol Pic of the Day

In the beginning of the session, there was a record 1,224 bill files opened. In the end, we passed only 43% of the bills opened, or 528 bills, which is 42 more bills than last year. For context, I created a 15 year chart. 

The House saw some changes in process this session and legislators were given more time in committees to dive deeper into the issues before them. This also sped up the floor process as House members were able to debate bills more confidently knowing they had previously been vetted by colleagues in the respective committees. I felt that there were better quality bills passed due to the added efforts by the standing committees. 

As for the context of policy making, I cannot remember a session where there were so many weighty issues covered at the same time. The magnitude of what was accomplished in just 45 days is astonishing. There were several generational lawmaking achievements that came out of the 2015 legislative session. There were also a couple of big issues that did not end with a successful compromise. 

Nondiscrimination and Religious Liberty:

SB296 is a historic anti-discrimination and religious freedom bill that had a very emotional debate in the House of Representatives. 

This grand compromise brings together all of the various stakeholders in ensuring protection against discrimination in the narrowly categorized areas of employment and housing. 
SB297 is a companion bill that addresses marriage by public officials. Both of these pieces of legislation are the culmination of significant work over a period of many years. 

These two bills are game-changing in recognizing the rights of individuals as it relates to the expression of personal beliefs, while balancing protections of certain rights (Fox13 story). 


The current gas tax has surrendered nearly one-third of its value to inflation since 1997 and its purchasing power has ironically been further eroded by vehicle fuel efficiency. Reaching a consensus between the House and Senate on long-term funding reform for transportation infrastructure is significant. As mentioned in previous blog posts, there were two primary proposals that were being considered: SB160 with a 10 centers per gallon fuel tax and HB362 with a more comprehensive approach to addressing the long term needs. The House sent over HB362 to the Senate where they amended it by inserting a 5 cent per gallon fuel tax, as well as fee increases for registrations on certain vehicles. This version was sent back to the House for concurrence and the House did not concur.

The House successfully negotiated to drop the registration fee piece but unsuccessfully negotiated the 5 cent piece. What we are left with is a compromise that will serve the people of Utah now and into the future in both urban and rural areas of the state. I voted yes because I ran on the preparation of our population doubling in the next 30 years and there are inherent limitations and restrictions on the funding source that pays for transportation infrastructure. 

Criminal Justice Reform:

HB348 will result in millions of dollars of reinvestment into the criminal justice system by changing the way we sentence and treat many offenders. I was happy to co-sponsor this legislation and voted yes for this bill, as well as for the companion bill, HB454. Integral to this reform is the relocation of the Utah State Prison (HB454) and building of a new facility capable of accommodating the types of treatment and rehabilitation programs proven to reduce recidivism and return offenders to society better prepared for reintegration. 

Healthcare Expansion:

The House and Senate were unable to come up with a compromise on Utah Cares vs Healthy Utah. There was a joint announcement on Day 45 by the House, Senate and Governor, where they introduced a concurrent resolution to continue the discussion. 

HCR12 is a commitment  to work together through the next several months to resolve the coverage gap created by the Affordable Care Act. Together, they have set a targeted timeline of July 31, 2015 to come up a renewed proposal. I voted yes to support continued discussions. 

School Board Elections:

School board elections was another area that did not end with a compromised solution. The House sent over to the Senate HB186, a nonpartisan election bill which was hijacked and inserted with language that made it partisan, before going to the ballot for the public to decide if it should be governor appointed. SJR5 was also sent over in an effort to get it on a ballot for a constitutional amendment. I voted no on both proposals to honor my commitment to my constituents who wanted nonpartisan elections. What now? This matter will be left up to the courts on another pending court case, if it doesn't come back in a special session.

Vox Populi - Adjourned at midnight Sine Die


I am happy to report that all of my bills passed out of the House and Senate with unanimous support in each body. 

HB218, HB312 and HB324 will take effect in the second week of May. 

I appreciate the stakeholder involvement and input on each piece of legislation and look forward to continuing the great relationships established through this process. 


The final budget was largely achieved with a healthy collaboration between the House and Senate. Higher education saw a boost with $170 million budgeted for new buildings and maintenance. 

As for public education, the State Board of Education had requested a WPU funding increase of 2 percent and received 4 percent, which was the largest increase in WPU funding in nearly a decade. There was a motion to amend to raise the WPU even more, which I supported, but it failed.

A $50 million allotment was also appropriated for enrollment growth. In addition, the Legislature passed SB97, which authorizes a statewide property tax increase for school equalization. I voted no for this based on constituent responses, but it passed nonetheless. 

The Executive Appropriations Committee met for the final time on Wed. March 11th. Click here for the list of budget items that were funded in the final bill of bills, or SB3. I've also included details below.

Here is a list of all of the appropriations bills for the 2015 session. 

[See week 3 blog post for detailed items funded in base]

HB1, Higher Education Base Budget
HB2, Public Education Base Budget
HB4, Business, Economic Development and Labor Base Budget
HB5, Retirement and Independent Entities Base Budget
HB6, Infrastructure and General Government Base Budget
HB7, National Guard, Veterans' Affairs and Legislature Base Budget
SB1, Public Education Base Budget Amendments
SB4, Current School Year Supplemental Public Education Budget Adjustments
SB5, Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environmental Quality Base Budget
SB6, Executive Office and Criminal Justice Base Budget
SB7, Social Services Base Budget


HB3, Current Fiscal Year Supplemental Appropriations [Detailed List]
HB8, State Agency and Higher Education Compensation [See Highlighted Provisions]
SB2, New Fiscal Year Supplemental Appropriations [Detailed List]
SB3, Appropriations Adjustments (Bill of Bills) [Detailed List]
SB8, State Agency Fees and Internal Service Fund Rate Authorization and Appropriations
SB9, Revenue Bond and Capital Facilities Amendments [Audio listing items included]


Representative Dee led out on an effort to raise $25,000 for the Utah Honor Flight, a program that is aimed at getting aging veterans to Washington D.C. to give them an opportunity to see the memorials that were built in their honor. We ended up surpassing that goal and raised $35,000 for this effort. It was a touching contribution and I very much respect and appreciate Representative Dee's heartfelt leadership on this effort. 

I was also able to spend some time with my family this week. They had the opportunity to sit with me on the floor. Additionally, I had several great visits with constituents that were on the hill for various reasons. It is great to be able to share the experience with people from the district. 

It has been an honor to represent you this session and I look forward to keeping you posted throughout the interim period.