Utah Cap Haps Blog

Saturday, November 21, 2015

November Legislative Updates

Capitol Pic of the Day


Government Operations Interim Committee - The committee listened to five  proposed bills related to election law. One that garnered a lot of attention is a bill that would require the county clerks to release counted votes on a daily basis, after election day, in races where the numbers are too close to determine the highest vote getter. Currently, if a race is too close to determine a winner on election night, the clerks take two weeks to complete a canvass and count all of the absentee and provisional ballots. 

Economic Development and Workforce Services Interim Committee - One of the initiatives this committee is tracking is the Intergenerational Poverty Initiative. This is an impactful initiative that seeks to understand and address poverty at the family level, in an effort to break the cycle of poverty that carries on from generation to generation. Click on this link to see a summary of the key findings and recommendations out of the most recent report

Retirement and Independent Entities Interim Committee - The committee met on November 10th and heard a multitude of proposed legislation related to the current retirement system. The Retirement Working Group presented four bills that resulted from their work. The interim committee (parent committee) passed three of the four bills and stopped short of reversing the mass changes that established the Tier II system.


Former budget colleagues now in other policy roles
On November 19th, the Legislature had its second biennial legislative policy summit. Utah has legislated some reputable best practices related to budgeting. For example, if we have revenue above the trend, we require ourselves to treat it as one-time money, rather than ongoing money. The idea is that we should not budget for ongoing needs with volatile revenue that may correct itself in the following year. We also pay down our debt with cash in good times, so that our bond rating can remain high. This allows for us to bond with great rates during the economic down turns, when our cash is on high demand for other critical needs. 

We also learned about why our General Fund dollars are shrinking over time. Our consumption behavior has shifted dramatically, from buying in a tangible market, to a non-tangible, service-based market. Additionally, over time, more of our sales tax(General Fund)revenue has been set aside for various earmarks. 

As local governments take up a larger share of the total state and local tax collections, it will be more difficult for the state to raise rates in the future. 

We also reviewed our demographic changes and trends. While we remain the youngest in the nation, we are gradually getting older. With our aging population, we are going to experience different challenges, including increased issues with housing affordability. 

Going forward, we are seeing that the housing demands by the millennial and the aging population will be for multi-unit, affordable housing. Currently, there isn't enough supply to meet future demand. 

Also, the minority share of the population is growing quickly. In fact, the minority is now the majority in Salt Lake City among current kindergartners. This will certainly change the way we innovate, educate and accommodate this new market. 

We are trending ahead of the nation in terms of wage growth, which will be a positive economic force for the state. We are consistently adding new jobs on an annual basis and have already exceeded the amount of jobs we had prior to the great recession.

Speaking of recession, the next one is predicted to occur in mid-2017... With our enrollment growth continuing to grow each year,it is important that we set expectations so that we don't end up like we did after the last great recession and unintentionally create volatile funding shifts in education. 


It was a busy but fun month. I had the opportunity to participate in several panels and speaking engagements for groups including Real Women Run, the Asian and Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies (APAICS), the Utah Association of Government Accountants(AGA), and the Women's Republican Club of Salt Lake

It's great to be able to share stories with others and be inspired by so many who want to contribute to the greater good.