Utah Cap Haps Blog

Monday, September 28, 2015

September Legislative Updates

Capitol Pic of the Day


The details of the new Medicaid proposal established by the "Gang of Six" (Gov. Herbert, Lt. Gov Cox, Speaker Hughes, President Niederhauser, Senator Shiozawa, and  Majority Leader Dunnigan) will be presented to the Health Reform Task Force meeting on October 6th, 3-6pm. Public comment will be heard. Follow along and share with me your feedback. 


Retirement and Independent Entities Interim Committee - The committee met on Sept. 9th and heard an overview of the retirement contribution rates and upcoming draft legislation (agenda). There is a Retirement Working Group that is also studying the pros and cons of potential modifications of our current post-retirement restrictions. 

Elected Officials & Criminal Justice Appropriations Subcommittee - This committee meets twice during the interim period (in between general sessions). We met on Sept. 22nd, and will meet again next month. For our meeting, we spent a great deal of time discussing issues related to offender treatment and the Criminal Justice Reinvestment Initiative (agenda). We ran out of time for the last agenda item, which will be heard in the next meeting. Listen to the discussion here.


Huntington Power Plant
Years ago, the legislature used to do an annual informational tour through rural Utah. This year, they started it up again in an effort to see first hand, much of the issues we deal with on the hill but don't get to see or experience outside of the Wasatch Front.

We started with an introduction to the future of coal and power generation in Utah. We learned about the coal industry while passing by the decommissioned Carbon Power Plant, and later visited the new USU Eastern campus building where Lt. Governor Spencer Cox gave an update on the flood tragedies in southern Utah.
Lt.Gov Cox - USU Eastern

About half (47%) of our state's energy production comes from coal and 40% of Utah's energy consumption is from coal, which contributes to keeping our energy prices low in Utah. Coal production is a primary economic contributor to several rural counties in the Castle Country area and the industry requires balanced regulation so that its economic viability isn't harmed.

Six coal mines in the Emery County area have been shut down, resulting in a loss of about 250 jobs. That's quite an impact to a county like Emery where the population hovers just under 11,000 people.

Green River High School 
We then visited Green River High School and learned about the unique challenges facing small rural schools. Attendance isn't monitored too strictly since kids sometimes have to stay home to watch their younger siblings while their parents work. And since there is no hospital or dentist office in the area, it is common to have to miss a whole day for simple doctor appointments.

Some kids are on the bus for an hour and half every day. Tutors often ride the bus with the children to assist with homework during their long drive home. Teachers wear multiple hats and are stretched thin due to the lack of staff.

The Principal of Emery High who is also a county commissioner spoke to us about how the limitations are also opportunities. Every child who wants to participate in a sport is automatically in. There is no need for try-outs since there is always room for players. Teachers get to know the students and their families very well.

During the bus rides to our destinations, we heard from a variety of state and local representatives on the given issues.

In Grand County, tourism has grown to make up the majority of their revenue so there is a growing need to more delicately balance energy extraction opportunities with tourism. We saw examples of how careful consideration is made with respect to where oil and gas wells are placed so that it doesn't detract from the surrounding beauty that attracts so many people from around the world.

Tourists and travelers spent $7.4B in the Utah economy last year which generated over $1B in new state and local taxes. Additionally, over the years, Utah has gained market share over the surrounding states. Consistency in messaging makes a difference and our effective campaigns have proven to be successful.

Sanpete County

On the drive to Sanpete County, we learned about the Narrows Project, a promised dam and reservoir that has a complicated story between Carbon and Sanpete counties going back many generations ago.

We ended with the local Sanpete County elected officials and learned about the challenges and priorities for their county.

We also heard about the positive impacts the current rural programs are having for their areas.

Sanpete County Officials
In all, it was great to learn about these issues at the locations where they are occurring. We were able to understand and take in more than we would from a typical 15-20 minute committee hearing presentation.


I had the opportunity to attend an exciting announcement that is a perfect example of a successful public-private partnership. The aerospace and advanced composites industry has partnered with higher education to establish a new pilot program called, "Utah Aerospace Pathways." 

High school students in Granite and Davis school districts may earn an Aerospace Manufacturing Certificate through Davis Applied Technology College or Salt Lake Community College and upon graduation, be able to work for one of the great aerospace companies participating in the program, including, Boeing, Janicki, Hexcel, Harris, Hill Air Force Base and Orbital ATK

You can learn more about the program by clicking on one of these links: (uapathways.comFox13News, KUER).