Category: Newsletter

Special Session Recap – July 2018

The governor issued a call for a special session to be held in conjunction with July interim day in order to make some technical fixes to existing bills and provided tax relief for Utah families. Highlights of the bills are below.

Dependent Tax Exemption for Utah Working Families

Now that the impacts of federal tax reform are better understood,  the Utah Legislature was able to find a way to lessen the tax burden for some Utahns with dependents. The Legislature passed HB 2003, Income Tax Code Amendments, which designates that $30 million in new money be used to fund a state dependent tax exemption for working families with children, as this population was most impacted by the loss of the personal exemption at the federal level.

It also conforms provisions of the Utah tax code dealing with loss carry backs and carry forwards to federal tax law. These amendments give companies a longer time period to carry forward net operating losses.

Tax Amendments

Federal tax reform included a new, reduced tax on repatriated foreign earnings, payable over eight years. This new lower rate only applies for tax years beginning prior to January 1, 2018. In order for Utah state law to conform to the new federal law, it became necessary to clarify some issues, including that the same date provisions apply for state tax purposes.

Online Sales Tax

When online sellers do not collect sales tax, the responsibility falls on the consumer to pay the use tax when filing. However, the process can be confusing and time consuming, and only approximately 1.3 percent of returns filed in Utah include a use tax return.

In June, the U.S. Supreme Court, handed down an opinion in South Dakota v Wayfair, permitting states to require the collection of sales tax on remote purchases by sellers engaged in over 200 transactions or $100,000 worth of business within a state.

The Legislature passed SB 2001, Online Sales Tax Amendments to conform and align state statutes with the SCOTUS decision and to implement start date of January 1, 2019.

This new law eliminates the tedious process of calculating the amount of sales tax owed when filing Utah state income taxes.

Additionally, the Wayfair decision is projected to lead to a $60 million annual increase in state sales tax.  That new money will be used to fund the manufacturer 3-year life, which enables all manufacturers to depreciate new equipment over a three-year period.


Inland Port

HB 2001, Utah Inland Port Authority Amendment, is a result of weeks of open and candid dialogue with stakeholders, including the Salt Lake City Council, to strengthen and improve provisions enacted by SB 234, Utah Inland Port Authority, which passed during the 2018 session.

HB 2001 clarifies the strategies, policies and objectives of the Inland Port Authority, establishes clearer procedures and increases transparency.

Highlights of the bill:

Overview

  • Ensures that municipalities within the authority will provide services and be allocated a tax increment
  • Places a 2 percent cap on property tax to be used for the authority’s operating expenses
  • Encourages the Inland Port board to work with neighboring communities to develop plans to mitigate potential environmental impacts
  • Respects existing land use and other agreements/arrangements between property owners and government authorities

Appeals

  • Will first be considered by the municipality
  • Require a public hearing
  • Specifies that the Inland Port Authority board is an appeals board of last resort

Boundary Adjustments

  • Reduces the overall size of the jurisdictional land
  • Removes wetlands
  • Removes developed areas in the south east
  • Removes farmland in the northeast corner
  • Removes the airport, including all land they currently own

Environmental Concerns

  • Ensures that environmental sustainability policies and best practices meet or exceed applicable state and federal standards
  • Requires monitoring and emissions reporting, and strategies to utilize the best available technology systems to mitigate environmental impact
  • Requires the port authority annual report to include a sustainability plan on regulated emissions and efforts made by the authority to achieve compliance with applicable regulations

Governance

  • Permits the authority to appoint non-voting members and advisory councils from various organizations and entities
  • Sets in statute the inclusion of the SLC council member whose district includes the Salt Lake International Airport
  • Clarifies conflict language for employees or board members
  • Exempts statutorily required board members from conflict issues beyond their control, while still requiring transparency and public disclosure of circumstances that would have otherwise precluded them from serving

The bill also includes a provision that designates 10 percent of the property tax increment to be dedicated to affordable housing.

The amendments were supported by Governor Gary Herbert, the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, Salt Lake City Council, West Valley City, Salt Lake County Mayor’s Office, Utah League of Cities and Towns, World Trade Center Utah and the Salt Lake Chamber, , in addition to receiving unanimous support from the Salt Lake City Council. The bill passed the House on a vote of 62-5 and Senate, 22-2.


Water

HB 2005, Drinking Water Source Sizing Requirements, corrects a clerical error. HB 303, Drinking Water Source Sizing Requirements, unanimously passed the House and Senate during the 2018 session, but the signed bill did not include an amendment that passed both chambers.

HB 2005 amends definitions and the authorities of the Drinking Water Board, requires specific public water systems to provide data for water use and the director of the Division of Drinking Water to establish water source requirements for certain public water systems.

Damages

An ambiguity in statute when calculating settlement payments against government entities was recently identified, and SB 2005, Calculating New Damages Limits For Personal Injury Cases, clarifies the formula and aligns it to the consumer price index.

Beer Licenses

A business that sells beer for off-premise consumption, like grocery and convenience stores, must receive a city business license before applying for a license to sell beer. An inadvertent oversight occurred when the legislature passed comprehensive alcohol legislation during the 2018 session that could have businesses waiting six or more weeks after opening before obtaining a license to sell beer for consumption off-premises.

SB 2003, Off-premise Beer Retailer Licensing Amendments, corrects this oversight by permitting Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control to issue conditional licenses for off-premise beer retailers. The bill provides clarification of the intent of the original law.

Procurement Code

Utah Communications Authority (UCA) is currently subject to the procurement code, though they are not included on the list of procurement units. UCA recently noticed this error and requested that the Legislature add them in order to avoid confusion. HB 2004, Utah Communications Authority – Procurement, simply amends the procurement code to include UCA.

Roads

SB 2004, Class B and Class C Road Fund Amendments, makes adjustments to the road funding formula to not disadvantage smaller counties, where minor population fluctuations could greatly impact funding. A similar bill, HB 314, Class B and Class C Road Funds Amendments, passed the Utah Senate during the 2018 General Session but did not make it back to the House in time for concurrence before the session ended.

SB 136, Transportation Governance Amendments

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.

 

 

Veto Override Recap

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.

New Transportation Governance Model

The Transportation Governance and Funding Task Force met to review and discuss a potential new governance model for the state’s transportation system. This task force, the result of SB 174, Public Transit and Transportation (2017), was charged with making recommendations on transportation in the state.

They have been looking at statewide governance and organizational strategies to coordinate management and oversight of all types of transportation, and to evaluate and implement best practices.

A proposal was presented—the culmination of months of study and analysis—to replace the UTA board and president/CEO with a three-member panel and a nine-member advisory board. There would be some state control and oversight that would allow the agency to receive state Transportation Investment Fund dollars but because it would not be a complete takeover, the state would be protected from assuming UTA’s $2 billion debt.

The task force will hold at least one more meeting between now and the start of the Legislative session on January 22, 2018, where it is expected that a bill incorporating the new governance model, with additional details, will be reviewed. You can listen to the recent meeting here.

The Other Side Academy

It’s nice to know that amidst all the depressing news on the opioid crisis, homelessness and poverty, there are beacons of hope springing up across this country. One of those beacons can be found in downtown Salt Lake City, and it’s called The Other Side Academy.

The Other Side Academy is modeled after Delancey Street Foundation in San Francisco, and opened its doors in Salt Lake City in 2015. These organizations provide the tools and structure for those who’ve lived lives marred by abuse, drugs and dysfunction. According to The Other Side Academy, these individuals “don’t need rehabilitation, they need habilitation.” They likely haven’t been exposed to orderly, well-functioning ways of life. “When they want to change they don’t need more motivation in the form of threats, fines and penalties, they need more ability – mentoring, training and full-contact coaching.”

In 2015, the Utah Legislature passed the Justice Reinvestment Initiative, HB 348. This reform made changes to the way we treat criminals by assessing those charged with crimes and providing them with treatment where applicable, to allow for a more successful eventual transition back into the community. The last thing we want is for our prisons to simply provide a revolving door for those who could live successfully out in the community if they only had appropriate treatment and/or skills to be able to do so.

Treatment is one component of this reform, but providing opportunities for certain highly-motivated individuals to turn their lives around seems to fit perfectly into this idea that prison alone is not the only answer to every societal problem.

The Academy helps residents learn to work together, to be responsible and to follow through on commitments. It is self-sustaining through businesses run by participants, and they quickly learn that to eat requires work. There are no free rides. To be accepted into the program, all that is asked is for a participant to exhibit a sincere desire to change and a willingness to do the hard things that will allow that change to occur.

The Academy assisted with Phase Three of Operation Rio Grande, which focuses on the dignity of work. The plan establishes work activities, workshops, devotionals and other employment preparation activities to the daily routine of individuals residing in the Rio Grande area.

Read the story that started it all here.

 

 

 

 

 

Operation Rio Grande Update

In an unprecedented manner, state, local and federal leaders; law enforcement agencies; and public, private and non-profit organizations came together to address the lawlessness occurring in the Rio Grande district in Salt Lake City.

The 3-phase Operation Rio Grande plan is a result multi-jurisdictional collaboration to improve public safety and restore order in anticipation of the Road Home closing and new resource centers beginning operations in July of 2019. The purpose of this operation is to address the lawlessness in the Rio Grande area, bring criminal activity to a halt, get individuals treatment they might need and connect them with employment and housing opportunities.

The 3-phases consist of:

  • Phase 1 – Public Safety and Restoring Order: Focus is on law enforcement, identifying and arresting dangerous criminals who are preying on the most vulnerable.
  • Phase 2 – Assessment and Treatment: Provide assessment and treatment for addiction and behavioral disorders to those in the Rio Grande District.
  • Phase 3 – Dignity of Work: Public and private organizations are working together to increase employment opportunities and training to this population.

Operation Rio Grande started on August 14. The goal is to lock up dangerous criminals who have preyed on our most vulnerable citizens. Since then, 852 arrests have been made, of which 72 were felony arrest, 82 were felony arrest with warrants, 155 were misdemeanors and 543 were misdemeanor arrests with warrants.

The Rio Grande area has already seen improvements since the operation began two and a half weeks ago. Law and order is being restored, resulting in greater safety and access to homeless services for individuals in need. Additionally, those in need are being directed to available services.

The state is committed to maintaining and enhancing the law enforcement presence in and around the Rio Grande area for the next two years. This process will restore the civil liberties and personal security of those who live and work around Pioneer Park and those experiencing homelessness. It will also connect those in need with social services available in the area.

The next vital step is to create a secure area for those experiencing homelessness to be protected from the criminal element. Developing a safe space is critical to the immediate and long-term goals of the operation to increase public safety and reduce criminal activity that plagues the area. It will also help service providers identify and understand each individual seeking services in the area, in order to tailor and enhance services for each individual. Examples of enhanced services include outreach and engagement, housing connection resources, directing individuals to employment opportunities outside of the area, and enabling individuals to exit homelessness on a pathway to self-sufficiency.

In anticipation of this safe space, a minimal section of Rio Grande Street, between two existing facilities, is recommended for closure. This closure will not prevent access to any business or organization in the area. In fact, those currently receiving services are required to cross the street daily – with beds on one side of the street and meals, employment and ID services on the other.

This safe space has always been a part of the Operation Rio Grande strategy in an effort to reduce homelessness and improve public safety in the area. Diverse stakeholders – the State of Utah, Salt Lake County, service providers in the area and the Pioneer Park Coalition – agree that closing the street is critical to achieving both the immediate, medium and long-term goals of the operation.

Shelters are not long-term solutions for the homeless. Plans are being implemented to increase housing, residential rehabilitation, healthcare and behavioral healthcare. This will reduce and prevent the length of homelessness, as well as keep individuals exiting homelessness on a path of self-sufficiency.

Components of the operation include law enforcement (28%), jail beds (22%) treatment beds (28%) and housing and services (22%). The initial estimated cost of Operation Rio Grande is $67 million over two years. The three primary jurisdictions—State of Utah, Salt Lake County and Salt Lake City—are working to secure funding for the areas that make up the operation.

Nearly one-third of the total cost, $20 million, will be absorbed within existing budgets. Partners have identified offsets and sources to cover more than another third, $27 million. We are working with the private sector and other government entities to identify the funding and resources available for the remaining one-third needed, approximately $21 million.

Citizens have expressed concerns about the scattering of the Rio Grande population into surrounding neighborhoods. Dispersal was anticipated and has always been part of the operational budget and law enforcement strategy. Law enforcement officials will pursue and arrest criminals as they move throughout the state.

If you are aware of illegal activity, please report it to your local police department. If it is an emergency, call 911.

Visit OperationRioGrande.utah.gov for additional information including FAQs, details of the operation, previous press conferences, articles and more. Updated information is continually added.