Utah Cap Haps Blog

Saturday, December 3, 2016

December Legislative Highlights

Capitol Pic of the Day

INTERIM HIGHLIGHTS

There will be no interim meetings in December. Only a few miscellaneous leadership meetings and an Executive Appropriations Committee meeting will held, in addition to a day long meeting with new legislative members. Click here for the calendar. 


OTHER RELATED CAP HAPS

To the Constituents of House District 31:

I would like to express my sincerest appreciation and gratitude for the opportunity to be your representative over the past two years. It has truly been a privilege and an honor. I hope you have enjoyed my monthly Utah Cap Haps updates, surveys and town halls. 

I enjoyed talking with many of you about the various issues that face our state. Understanding your priorities through our countless conversations, emails and correspondences helped guide me through the many votes and decisions that were made. 

Always remember that the world's decisions are made by those who show up. 

Thank you, 

Sophia


Saturday, November 12, 2016

November Legislative Updates


Capitol Pic of the Day

INTERIM HIGHLIGHTS

Click here to view the November issue of Fiscal Highlights. This month, issues including B&C roads funding, debt affordability and internal service funds are addressed. 

Government Operations Interim Committee - The committee evaluated a number of draft bills that will be first in queue for the upcoming general session. Click here to see the agenda. A robust discussion ensued regarding the elimination of political party requirements for the make-up of certain boards and commissions. Click here for the list of impacted boards and commissions. If you have concerns about eliminating this requirement for any of the boards or commissions on the list, reach out to the sponsor with your thoughts. 


Economic Development and Workforce Services Interim Committee - The committee meeting was mostly made up of upcoming legislation that will become committee bills. Additionally, the Legislative Fiscal Analyst’s office debuted a new tool, Utah Tax Exceptions and Inducements, to evaluate various incentive programs, including tax credits and tax deductions. This will be a great tool for everyone going forward as our tax revenue and associated limitations morph over time.  

Retirement and Independent Entities Interim Committee - The committee had a brief agenda in November. In addition to hearing an update of postretirement and reemployment after 60 days, as well as a presentation from PEHP, the committee heard a presentation related to employee compensation and outlined the various ways compensation is addressed.


SPECIAL SESSION HIGHLIGHTS

In the November special session, we addressed two bills. One was HB 4002, Class B and Class C Road Fund Amendments, which fixed a formula error that was erroneously enacted in the Transportation Funding bill that was passed in the 2015 General Session.

The other one was HB 4001, Solid Waste Amendments, which clarifies the definition of solid waste so that certain recycling activities aren’t treated as hazardous waste by the federal Environmental Protection Agency. 


OTHER RELATED CAP HAPS

West Valley City lost a young police officer, Cody Brotherson. The community came together and hosted a wonderful ceremony in celebration of his life and love of the city where he grew up. He followed his dreams of becoming a police officer for West Valley City and we are saddened for this heart breaking loss. We are grateful for his service and send our thoughts and prayers to his family.

 Utah Foundation hosted a panel that talked in depth about air quality and shared data related to public input and a subsequent report that was released to highlight the issue. It was well attended by legislators and stakeholders who care deeply about this issue. Click here for the report. 

Monday, October 17, 2016

October Legislative Updates


Capitol Pic of the Day


INTERIM HIGHLIGHTS

During our Republican House Caucus meeting we listened to an update regarding the formula error that was erroneously enacted in the Transportation Funding bill that was passed in the 2015 General Session. In an effort to fix it with the original sponsors and legislative body, we will meet in a brief special session during our interim day meetings to get it fixed. 

Government Operations Interim Committee - The committee had a full agenda and started off with a report on the Federal Funds Commission and the Commission on Federalism related to their recent deliverables. A tool was created to assess impacts of the loss of federal funds as a means to assess risk for the state. Click here to use the tool. 

Additionally, the committee learned about the new Center for Constitutional Studies established by Utah Valley University, where there will be seminars and future conferences on federalism. To listen to the audio and access the materials for this meeting, click on this link

Economic Development and Workforce Services Interim Committee - The committee meeting was mostly taken up with presentations on the various agencies' annual reports. Reports were heard from the Department of Workforce Services, the Governor's Office of Economic Development, USTAR, Department of Heritage and Arts, and the Utah Capital Investment Corporation. The committee also heard an update presentation from the STEM Action Center. Click here to access the presentations and materials. 


Elected Officials and Criminal Justice Appropriations Subcommittee - The committee met at the Salt Lake County Sheriffs Office and heard an update on the implementation of the Justice Reinvestment Initiative (JRI). We had a robust discussion on how to interpret measures and the importance of tracking ancillary crime data at the city level so that we are able to best evaluate the progress and impact of JRI. The discussion was engaging and as a result, the last few agenda items were pushed to the next meeting. Click here to access the audio and materials for this meeting. 

OTHER RELATED CAP HAPS

This month we celebrated the Capitol building's 100 year anniversary. It was a week long event filled with various activities and celebrations, including opening up a time capsule from 100 years ago. It was an honor to be part of this historical moment and I hope future generations will have as much fun looking back through time as we did that week. 

This month was the Annual Molina Healthcare of Utah Community Champions event. The Utah Health Policy Project, among others, were recognized for their outstanding work in the community and they were awarded with a check to donate to their charity of choice. There are a lot of great things happening out of the good deeds of others and it was great to celebrate their meaningful work. 

Governor Gary R. Herbert visited a group of our West Valley City scouts to help them with their requirement to interview an elected official. It was great to have him in our city and wonderful to have him for this fun community event. His message for our scouts was: 1. Get a good education; 2. Be a friend; and 3. Learn something new every day.
Earlier this month, I participated on a panel, hosted by the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce, to speak about the 2016 elections to a group of young and upcoming millennials. It was interesting to compare and contrast the politics that exist in Utah and in Washington D.C.

I am proud to be part of a state that balances its budget and plans for its future in a responsible way. 

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

September Legislative Updates


Capitol Pic of the Day


INTERIM HIGHLIGHTS

Over the last couple of months, I've had the opportunity to participate on the Strategic Workforce Investment grant selection committee. This committee is being led by Senator Milner, who sponsored SB 103, Strategic Workforce Investments, a piece of legislation that aims to improve workforce alignment between education and employers, using stackable credentials. We went through several rounds of proposal reviews and next month, there will be a presentation to the Higher Education committee highlighting the details. 


Government Operations Interim Committee - The committee heard an update from the Utah Communications Authority on improving internal controls after a discovery of fraud. Since the incident happened, the entity has been through several audits and has hired a new executive director. Most of the findings and recommendations in the audits have been addressed, however, there are some left that require legislative action. I opened a bill file about a month ago to address some of the audit recommendations and I look forward to helping this important service of government improve. This entity is where 911 calls are taken and where emergency dispatch and responders are coordinated. 

Also during this meeting, was a robust discussion about Vote by Mail and the challenges related to the timing of the delivery of ballots. The committee opened up a bill file to explore streamlining drop box availability across the state. Click here for committee materials and audio. 

Economic Development and Workforce Services Interim Committee - The committee heard a presentation on the role of earned income tax credits (EITC) in reducing poverty. The EITC program is a tax credit designed to incentivize people to participate in the labor force and to increase income. Most families are in the program for an average of three years, and phase out due to moving up in income. To learn more about what was presented on EITC, as well as other topics discussed, visit this page. 


Retirement and Independent Entities Interim Committee - The committee listened to an overview of a series of audits performed by the State Auditor. We then heard several presentations by the Utah Retirement System and rate changes and upcoming legislation. To listen to the meeting and to obtain all of the materials and handouts, visit this link


OTHER RELATED CAP HAPS

September started off great with the 15th annual Labor Day Picnic at the Magna Park. It was great to see so many families enjoying the festivities at this event.

On September 15th, I had the opportunity to participate on the KSL News Radio show, A Woman's View. We talked about Utah politics, national politics and local issues like homelessness, substance abuse challenges and education. It was great to meet Chris Hall, author of Conversations with a Moonflower, who also participated in the interview.



Also this month, I participated on a bi-partisan panel for the Women's Leadership Institute where a cohort of women are learning about running for public office. Each of us shared our personal experiences and had a great discussion with the group. 

PBS NewsHour was also there to film some of the event. They are doing a story about Utah women in politics and selected a couple of us to follow around and film in action. They followed me on the campaign trail and to my legislative interim meetings and ended with an in depth interview. The show is scheduled to air on PBS on October 8th. 

Also this month was a series of community events for National Night Out. I enjoyed spending time with community members at one of the neighborhood parties and was so impressed with the level of community engagement in the area. Each home on the street participated by hosting an activity, such as a band, a movie shown on the garage door, or a game for the neighborhood children. It was a fantastic event. 

Last but not least, I was happy to participate in the first annual Pacific Islander town hall, held at the downtown library. It was a great forum where candidates on both sides of the aisle were invited to share their vision for public office. 

Another committee in which I participate is The Future We Choose: Partnership for a Greater Salt Lake. This county-led group was formed to collaborate on a coordinated regional plan to help shape the future of Salt Lake County. It is important that we remain proactive in shaping our future so that our planning efforts aren't quickly outpaced by growth. We will have one or two more meetings, after which I anticipate providing details on the work of the committee. 



Sunday, August 28, 2016

August Legislative Updates



Capitol Pic of the Day

August was a quiet month since there were no interim committee meetings held. We kicked off our re-election campaign and it has been great to go door-to-door and visit with constituents. When I ran for office, I ran with the commitment of supporting policies that advance our state in the areas of education, economic development, quality growth and good governance. 

In my first term, I'm proud to say that I've delivered on my commitment and have advanced six pieces of legislation that move the needle in these four areas. Here is a summary of other deliverables in less than two years of work:

25 speaking engagements
16 town hall meetings
37 blog updates
15 school visits

Business Champion Award: Business Coalition
Business Champion Award: Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce (2 years in a row)
Friend of the Taxpayer: 100% score
Legislator of the Year: Women's Republican Club of Salt Lake City
Fewest Votes Missed - 2015


I look forward to earning your support to continue my work on Utah's Capitol Hill. 


Sunday, July 31, 2016

July Legislative Updates


Capitol Pic of the Day



The Summer Series Town Halls continued through July with a meeting on economic development. I invited a panel made up of experts from the state, county and city to highlight projects and activities relevant to each respective area. 

Participants included the Deputy Director of the Governor's Office of Economic Development, the Director of the Salt Lake County Economic Development Office, and the Director of the West Valley City Economic Development Office. We had an engaging discussion with the panel where attendees had the opportunity ask questions and learn about the latest developments. 



INTERIM HIGHLIGHTS

The Air Quality Caucus heard from a variety of speakers involved in moving in this policy area. There were about ten presenters in all, and each shared their insight on what the legislature can do to make improvements in the right direction. No action was taken, but I anticipate a few bills coming forward from the activity of this caucus. 

Government Operations Interim Committee - The committee heard an update on redistricting standards and approved Joint Rules Resolution on Redistricting Standards, which enacts principles and procedures to guide the Legislature during the redistricting process. The committee also approved Amendments to Election Law, which makes logistical changes to the Election Code as suggested by the committee and Lt. Governor's Office. These bills were discussed in a previous meeting and were revisited in the month of July. 

Economic Development and Workforce Services Interim Committee - The committee heard updates on programs including the Motion Picture Incentive Fund program, the STEM Action Center, Tourism and Employment Security Act. To view the presentations and listen to the audio, visit this page

Executive Offices and Criminal Justice Appropriations Subcommittee - The committee met off site at the Valley Emergency Communications Center where emergency responders take 911 calls throughout Salt Lake County. This center coordinates responders for all cities but Salt Lake and Sandy. Click here to see the agenda of items discussed.



SPECIAL SESSION HIGHLIGHTS

In our caucus meetings, we discussed nine bills that were voted on during the special session in July. Here is the list of the nine bills. Click on each hyperlink to see the details. Most of these bills had a time sensitive element that warranted action in a special session and ultimately, all but one passed (HB 3005). 

H.B. 3001 -- Tax Credit Review Amendments (Rep. Peterson, J.)
Last Update: Fri, Jul 22, 2016 2:20 PM
H.B. 3002 -- State Fair Park Amendments (Rep. Hollins, S.)
Last Update: Fri, Jul 22, 2016 2:20 PM
H.B. 3003 -- Unmanned Aircraft Amendments (Rep. Ipson, D.)
Last Update: Fri, Jul 22, 2016 2:20 PM
H.B. 3004 -- Criminal Justice Reinvestment Amendments (Rep. Hutchings, E.)
Last Update: Fri, Jul 22, 2016 2:23 PM
H.B. 3005 -- Grandparent Rights Amendments (Rep. Christensen, L.)
Last Update: Wed, Jul 13, 2016 5:09 PM

S.B. 3001 -- Controlled Substance Database Modifications (Sen. Weiler, T.)
Last Update: Fri, Jul 22, 2016 2:15 PM
S.B. 3002 -- Economic Development Revisions (Sen. Bramble, C.)
Last Update: Fri, Jul 22, 2016 2:15 PM
S.B. 3003 -- Judicial Nominating Commissions - Amendments (Sen. Knudson, P.)
Last Update: Fri, Jul 22, 2016 2:16 PM
S.B. 3004 -- Continuing Care Retirement Community Amendments (Sen. Henderson, D.)
Last Update: Mon, Jul 18, 2016 3:50 PM


OTHER RELATED CAP HAPS

July was a busy month, beginning with the Magna July 4th parade. It was fun to walk in the parade with family, friends and supporters and celebrate the holiday with the community. 

Additionally, I had the opportunity to participate in neighborhood meetings and share updates on various issues of interest. It was rewarding to see the turnout and level of community involvement that is happening in West Valley City. 
Additionally, West Valley City hosted the mini replica of the Veteran Memorial Wall That Heals. It was touching to hear the bell ring after each Utah name was read aloud. 

Follow my Facebook page to stay updated on the most recent events and community activities. 

Sunday, June 26, 2016

June Legislative Updates

Capitol Pic of the Day


NOTICE: UPCOMING TOWN HALL MEETINGS

The town hall meetings have been fantastic. In May, we had representatives from UTA, the Utah House sponsor of the transportation fuel bill, and the Utah Transportation Coalition. 

On June 11, we heard from representatives from U.S. Senator Mike Lee's office, the Utah House sponsor of the Criminal Justice Reinvestment bill and Adult Probation and the Parole office of the Utah Department of Corrections. 

Don't miss the upcoming July town hall meeting where we will hear from representatives from the state, county, and West Valley City economic development offices. Economic development experts will highlight key projects and initiatives at the state, county and city. 

These forums have been a great way to learn about the issues you care about most and to meet the people involved in each respective policy area. 

Join me in welcoming these professionals to our community and come prepared to learn and engage in the discussion. 


INTERIM HIGHLIGHTS

In our caucus meetings, we discussed the need for a potential special session in July to take action on a proposed deal on the State Fair Park. The Governor ultimately decides on the agenda and we anticipate learning more soon.

Government Operations Interim Committee - The committee heard an update on unmanned aerial use by the state. After discussion, the committee learned that the collection of information from the state has not had the outcome intended by the original bill that created the collection. Changes to the original legislation are anticipated.  

The state ombudsman provided an overview on her annual report. Evidently, most of the records requests that come through the Government Records Access Management Act process are corrections-related, making up approximately 25 percent of requests. Interestingly, this is mostly due to people who are either charged with a crime or currently serving a sentence in jail or prison, who are collecting facts related to their charged crime. 

Additionally, the committee heard introductions on several upcoming bills related to election law. Click on the audio links through this site. No action was taken on any of these bills.

Economic Development and Workforce Services Interim Committee - The committee heard an overview of the various tax incentives and grant programs available through the Department of Workforce Service and the Governor's Office of Economic Development. For general highlights on each program that was presented, click here. For details, click on this link and go to the meeting materials section of the June 15th meeting. 

Retirement and Independent Entities Interim Committee - The committee reviewed the bills that passed in the last legislative session and spent most of the meeting reviewing the URS CAFR. We also heard an update on the Tier II retirement systems and a few proposals to balance the needs of retirees, while ensuring that the liability is funded appropriately over time. Click here for the agenda


OTHER RELATED CAP HAPS 


It was an honor to be recognized by the Utah Business Coalition among 44 other legislators for the 2016 Legislative Champion Award for Outstanding Legislative Service to the Utah Business Community. The Utah Business Coalition is made up of 40 Utah businesses and associations across a broad spectrum of industries in the State of Utah.

Each legislative election cycle, the Coalition recognizes "Legislative Business Champions" that have not only supported business friendly legislation through their voting record, but have demonstrated a proactive desire to enhance the business climate in Utah.  







Wednesday, May 25, 2016

May Legislative Updates - Special Session

Capitol Pic of the Day

NOTICE: UPCOMING TOWN HALL MEETINGS

I am excited to introduce the first Summer Series town halls. This has never been done in the district and it is a great way to connect community leaders to the people of our district.

For the month of May, we had a great discussion about transportation with special guests Rep. Jonny Anderson, chair of the legislative transportation committee, Abby Albrecht, Director of the Utah Transportation Coalition, and Matt Sibul, Chief Planning Officer for the Utah Transit Authority.

We had a great turn out and look forward to hosting the next one in June. Criminal Justice Reform will be discussed and special guests include Rep. Eric Hutchings, chair of the Criminal Justice Appropriations Subcommittee and Derek Brown, Deputy Chief of Staff to U.S. Senator Mike Lee.


INTERIM HIGHLIGHTS

After the legislative session, the Legislature meets for two days every month in meetings we call, "interim" or "in between sessions." These meetings allow us to dive deeper in the areas for which we have oversight. Each interim committee adopts a list of items that will be studied from May through November. Here is the list of study items that were approved by each committee. 

Government Operations Interim Committee - The committee heard about the need to update the voting equipment around the state. This is an issue that was also evaluated in the previous year. Election day voting was a also heard. The committee also heard a report from the Commission on Federalism. A partnership with UVU was established to initiate courses on federalism. No action was taken for any of the items presented. 

Economic Development and Workforce Services Interim Committee - The committee listened to presentations on long-term planning initiatives from the Governor's Office of Economic DevelopmentUtah Capital Investment Corporation, Department of Heritage and Arts, Department of Workforce Services, and USTAR. Each agency also presented their top three priorities. Click here to view each of the priorities, as well as an interim summary for every legislative interim committee. 


SPECIAL SESSION HIGHLIGHTS

The legislature discussed two bills for the special session:

HCR201, Concurrent Resolution on Opposing Unilateral Use of the Antiquities Act. This concurrent resolution of the Legislature and the Governor expresses strong opposition on to the designation of a new national monument in Utah without local input and state legislative approval. The House passed it with 61 yeas 10 no's and 1 absent. 

SB2001, Public Education Appropriations Restorations. This bill restored a budget line item vetoed by the Governor. The House passed with 67 yeas and 6 no's with 2 absent. 

After details were evaluating for both bills, they passed overwhelmingly with a majority in both the House and Senate.


OTHER RELATED CAP HAPS 

I was honored to be recognized by the Salt Lake Chamber as a 2016 Business Champion. Supporting the business community translates to supporting the jobs that take care of our families. 

Monday, May 9, 2016

Summer Series Town Halls with Sophia


Over the summer, I will be hosting four "Summer Series Town Halls." The month of May will be dedicated to Transportation issues. I have invited the chair of the Legislative Transportation Interim Committee, a representative from the Utah Transit Authority and a representative from Salt Lake County. Each guest will provide a transportation update, followed by a deep dive discussion.

In future meetings, we will discuss topics like education, taxes, criminal justice reform and more. Please save the following dates on your calendars:

May 21
June 11
July 9
August 6

Go to www.sophiadicaro.com and click on "Upcoming Town Hall Meetings" for details.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

To Override or Not Override

Capitol Pic of the Day

In the State of Utah, the Governor has veto authority over any legislation. When this happens, it takes two-thirds of the legislature in both chambers to nullify or override the veto. Click here to see what is reflected in our Utah Constitution. As for budget bills, the Governor has line item veto authority. This means, there is the ability to veto one line item out of the budget bill, without vetoing the whole bill.

We recently received news that the Governor has decided to veto a few things. Below is a list of what was vetoed. Click here to view the letters explaining each veto. 


Vetoed Bills: 


Budget Bills with Line Item Vetoes:


Six line item vetoes out of two budget bills were for technical reasons where the money was appropriated but the associated bills did not pass. One of the line item vetoes were for other reasons, explained below.

Here is a visual of the first page of a budget bill. The word, "Enrolled" in the upper left, means that it is the final version that passed by the Legislature. Every bill has a general description, highlighted provisions, and a section that shows you if there is money appropriated in the bill.

The State of Utah budgets on an incremental basis. This means that there is a base budget that tends to carry over each year and then there are the incremental changes to the base. It is the incremental changes that are requested, presented, publicly scrutinized, and ultimately end up dying or being appropriated into a bill like the one you see below. 


So what is meant by a line item? Here is another page of the same bill (SB2). In line 205, you can see that there is an "Item 6" that lists out various appropriations. Basically, the Governor has the ability to wipe out certain lines of a budget bill, which holds the rest of the bill harmless. The downside is that there are multiple items being funded in the line item and when you veto the line item, you veto every item in that given section.


Below is an overview of the non-technical items that were vetoed, and so you don't have to scroll back up for the letter, here is the link. In a nutshell, the Governor's Office highlighted three areas of concern: 1) Upstart Early Childhood Education, $1,500,000; 2) ProStart Culinary Arts Program, $275,000; and 3) Early Intervention, $3,000,000.

It is important to keep in mind that that these items currently have ongoing budget within the base and that the appropriations reflected in the bill are incremental additions to the base. Here is a closer visual of the line item in SB2 that was vetoed. 



So now that you have the information, send me your thoughts and provide your input. I will be responding with my decision to support or oppose an override session in about one week.