On this Memorial Day, we are reminded of the great sacrifices made throughout the history of our nation that have allowed us to live in freedom. This blessing is granted through the sacrifices of those who have served with honor and devotion. Thank you to the brave men and women for their services defending our nation.
During the recent session, the Utah Legislature passed SB 136, Transportation Governance Amendments. The purpose of the bill was to reform the governance of Utah Transit Authority (UTA), provide tools for local governments to support the rising demand for multimodal transportation, improve checks and balances, and increase transparency. It also included a rebranding component. Though no money was appropriated to rebrand, due to confusion and misinformation, bill sponsors requested that the agency not proceed with that aspect of the bill.
UTA has been recognized across the country as one of the best models to emulate; however, issues of transparency and trust have overshadowed much of the good work that they’ve done. Last year, the Legislature formed the Transportation Governance and Funding Task Force to investigate potential changes to the governance and funding of UTA. Since May of 2017, the task force has met and during the 2018 legislative session, put forward well-researched solutions for the future of the agency.
The passage of SB 136 will allow UTA to operate with better structure and greater accountability and efficiency, which will benefit everyone. Putting the name change aside ensures that the focus remain on the other, more important aspects of the legislation.
UTA should now work just as hard on promoting the successes of their agency as they have on creating a false narrative related to the costs of the name change.
The Legislature will work with the new UTA board once it is in place in November to decide the best path forward.
Read highlights of SB 136 here.
Utah’s population is expected to double within the next 50 years and we will need to continue to plan and prepare for this future growth. Utah is recognized nationwide for its innovative transportation systems and collaboration. SB 136, Transportation Governance Amendments, restructures the governance of the Utah Transit Authority (UTA), enhances the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT), creates a new fund for transportation and transit and modifies some of the funding sources.
Highlights of SB 136, Transportation Governance Amendments
- Creates a three-member full-time board of trustees that will oversee the agency.
- Board members will be nominated by counties, appointed by the governor with consent from the Senate:
- Salt Lake County – 1
- Utah county with Tooele County – 1
- Davis County and Weber County with Box Elder County – 1
- Board members will serve three year, staggered terms that will be at-will, under the governor.
- Creates a nine-member advisory board.
- Must have approval from State Bonding Authority before issuance of any new bonds.
- Requires the State Attorney General’s Office to provide legal counsel.
- Restructures UDOT to accommodate an increased role in multimodal planning and capital development.
- Creates a Planning and Investment Division.
- Creates a structure to form future Transit Transportation Investment Funds (TTIF), which will require at least 40 percent non-state funding.
- Permits political subdivisions to create Transportation Reinvestment Zones to capture increases in property taxes around transportation infrastructure improvements.
- As more people have switched from traditional vehicles to electric and hybrid, the gas tax has lagged behind.
- SB 136 implements a three-year phase-in of fees for these vehicles. The purpose is to start working towards every driver paying a fair share for the use of the roads.
Provides Local Governments with Key Tools
- Expands and clarifies counties’ authority to implement a local sales tax option of .20% for public transit after July 1, 2019.
Restructures State Transportation Planning
- Directs UDOT to develop statewide strategic initiatives for planning and coordinating multimodal transportation.
During the 45-day general session, many items that do not make it through committee are put on a master study list. The committee chairs then prioritize what should be studied over the interim period based on this list and input from committee members.
The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Senate President and committee chairs meet to collectively determine the final list. The Legislative Management Committee then votes to adopt interim study items and the schedule for the year. Due to the limited number of meetings, committees focus on those issues that are a top priority to help ensure a proper vetting.
Interim committees then study the identified key issues facing the state. They listen to expert and public testimony to determine whether or not to recommend legislation, and they vote to prioritize particular bills for the upcoming general session and occasionally for future special sessions.
Unlike during the general session, when the Senate and House each have standing committees comprised of only their own members, interim committees are made up of both senators and representatives.
These meetings are held throughout the year, generally the third Wednesday of the month, and are open to the public, can be streamed live or listened to at a later date at le.utah.gov.
The Utah Legislature and the Utah Department of Heritage and Arts teamed up to give high school students an opportunity to see the Broadway hit Hamilton: An American Musical through the New Nation Letter Writing Competition
High school students from across the state wrote an essay about an issue of concern in their community, along with a proposed solution, for a chance to see the musical with their representative here in Salt Lake. The purpose was to encourage students to become engaged in the civic process, know who represents them and discover their own passion, using that to find a way to make a positive impact in their local community.
Watch the video about the project here.
The Utah State Treasurer’s Office recently announced that Utahns have more than $38 million in property waiting to be claimed. The Utah Unclaimed Property Division receives lost property from various sources, such as dormant bank accounts, uncollected insurance payouts and stock certificates. Visit mycash.utah.gov, the official government website that manages and returns unclaimed property, to see if you have any unclaimed money.
The Legislature voted to override Governor Gary Herbert’s veto of two vitally important pieces of legislation that passed during the 2018 General Session. HB 198, Attorney General Responsibility Amendments, and SB 171, Intervention Amendments, are key to protecting the constitutional role of the Legislature and ensuring proper separation of powers. These two bills provide clarity to issues that have caused recent confusion in regard to where the line of separation among the branches of government ought to be drawn.
HB 198 merely requires the attorney general respond in good faith to legislative requests for an opinion within 30 days and allows the Legislature to petition the Utah Supreme Court to obtain an opinion if the attorney general does not comply. It also adds additional clarity to the role of the attorney general.
SB 171 allows the Legislature to intervene in support of litigation challenging the constitutionality of state statute.
According to the Utah Supreme Court’s Rules of Civil Procedure, Rule 24, the Legislature is authorized to direct, by statute, that certain parties to a lawsuit be allowed to intervene. That is precisely what this law does by allowing the Legislature to intervene on its own behalf to defend the constitutionality of legislation it has passed, where necessary, to fully represent its interests and those of the people it represents.
HB 198 and SB 171 add additional guidance and clarity to the powers held by each branch when seeking opinions from the attorney general and defending statute from constitutional challenge.
During the 2017 fireworks season, questions were raised about the types of fireworks allowed, the number of days it is legal to use fireworks, fire prevention, and liability concerns. In order to address these issues in a balanced and appropriate manner, Rep. Jim Dunnigan and Sen. Jani Iwamoto worked together on legislation that balances these concerns with the desire many Utahns have to be able to celebrate our most patriotic holidays with traditional displays of fireworks. HB 38, Fireworks Restrictions, is the result of numerous meetings with law enforcement, firefighters, fireworks retailers and manufacturers, citizens, and local elected officials.
A balanced approach
This legislation takes a balanced, bipartisan, and reasonable approach to addressing the many viewpoints on how and when fireworks should be allowed.
40% reduction in dates fireworks are allowed to be discharged in July
- Fireworks will be allowed on July 2-5 (instead of July 1-7) and July 22-25 (instead of June 23- 27).
- Fireworks would still be allowed on New Year’s Eve and Chinese New Year’s Eve.
Sale of fireworks
- June 24-July 25 (from June 23-July 27).
- New Year’s Eve and Chinese New Year’s eve remain the same.
Stronger penalties for shooting fireworks outside of permitted dates and times
- A penalty for discharging fireworks when not permitted would be up to a $1,000 fine.
New penalty for igniting fireworks in restricted areas
- Up to a $1,000 penalty and an infraction for discharging fireworks in an area where fireworks have been prohibited due to hazardous environmental conditions.
More local control
- Provides clarity and increased flexibility to local governments and the state forester to prohibit the discharge of fireworks due to historic or current hazardous environmental conditions.
Easier to understand restrictions and penalties
- Requires local governments and the state forester to create and provide maps showing where fireworks are prohibited due to hazardous environmental conditions.
- Requires retailers to display maps that counties provide showing these restricted areas and display signs that indicate legal dates and times as well as criminal penalties and fines for violations.
Increased liability for causing a fire with fireworks
- Civil liability for negligently, recklessly, or intentionally causing a fire with fireworks potentially includes any damages caused by the fire and any costs of suppressing the fire.
Utah State University Extension Utah 4-H youth recently gathered at the Utah State Capitol to hold a mock legislature. The future leaders had the opportunity to experience the role of a legislator and learn first-hand about the lawmaking process.
During the mock legislative session, 4-H members presented and debated bills from the 2018 session on the House floor. The students also held committee meetings where they presented their sponsored legislation. Representative Paul Ray and members of the Office of Legislative Research sponsored the event and observed the proceedings.
Today, Governor Herbert is ceremonially signing a resolution that passed the Utah Legislature proposing Utah send a statue of Dr. Martha Hughes Cannon to Washington, D.C.
On February 14, 1870, the first American woman to cast a vote in a state-wide election, Seraph Young, did so right here in Utah. Fast forward 148 years to February 14, 2018, when a concurrent resolution to have Dr. Martha Hughes Cannon represent Utah in the nation’s Capital passed the House.
Dr. Cannon was a leader in the women’s suffrage movement. She obtained two medical degrees, from the University of Michigan and the University of Pennsylvania, and a bachelor’s degree in public speaking from the National School of Elocution and Oratory in Philadelphia.
In 1870, women were granted the right to vote in Utah—50 years before the 19th Amendment granted that right nationwide—but
Congress removed it in the Edmunds-Tucker Act of 1887. Martha was a key player in ensuring that the right of women to vote and hold public office were included in the Utah Constitution in 1895.
Shortly afterward, Dr. Cannon ran for Utah State Senate and won against a number of candidates, including none other than her own husband. She became the first-ever female state senator in the United States in 1896, more than 20 years before most women in the country were even able to cast a vote.
Each state is represented by two historical figures in theNational Statuary Hall in Washington D.C., with ours being Brigham Young and Philo T. Farnsworth. SCR1 recommends replacing Farnsworth’s statue, which has been there for 32 years, with one of Dr. Martha Hughes Cannon.
“Martha Hughes Cannon embodies the grit, talents, and vision of citizens of Utah, both as we look back at her era and as we look forward to our future,” said the House bill sponsor Rep. Becky Edwards on Twitter. “Let’s use her example as inspiration to do something good today!”
2020 will mark the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment and the 55th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, which made voting possible for all women. As our nation commemorates women’s suffrage in 2020, Utah will be standing up to celebrate its own historic and groundbreaking role in this effort.