Dear Friends and Neighbors,
We are in our final week on the Hill, and it will be full of meaningful floor debate and final budget negotiations. Now that final committee meetings have been held, most of our work will be done on the chamber floor. Most of the bills this session make technical changes, and some fix problems or update existing law.
Of the bills that don’t make it to the floor, some are abandoned; others fail to make it out of committees and the rest fail on the floor of the House or Senate.
The state constitution requires that the general legislative session only last 45 consecutive days. The 45 days includes weekends, which means that the legislature has even less time to do the work of the state. This limited time frame, and the sheer volume of bills introduced, requires long days and judicious decisions from legislators. The legislative session will end this Thursday night at midnight. I am worn and ready to take a few days off.
I have recently met with Steve Money. I had the chance to recognize him on the House floor with a citation. Steve was chosen as the John Justin Committee Person of the Year and was recognized at the National Finals Rodeo this year in Las Vegas. Steve has been a giant in our community and it was honor to recognize him the Utah House of Representative and Utah State Senate.
This week, I have been working on HB 485, Election Modifications. This bill provides guidance to the State Election Office and clarifies that a political party must follow state law once an election begins.
Each election cycle, political parties voluntarily certify their status with the Lieutenant Governor’s Office. This voluntary certification is an acknowledgement that the party agrees to follow state law. This bill restricts a political party from interfering with the orderly process of an election if a candidate follows state law.
House and Senate members, Republicans and Democrats alike, are all on the same page when it comes to calling on the federal government to honor the promises made to Utahns.
The Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA) of 1976 allows the federal government to hold our public lands under federal control in perpetuity. This was a major policy shift. With nearly 70 percent of our land owned and controlled by the federal government, many communities, especially in rural areas, are deprived of tax revenue to fund schools and other essential government services. Recognizing the substantial burden placed on local governments and communities without the ability to levy property taxes, Congress established the Payment In Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program as a substitute for that lost revenue.
“In lieu” is defined as a substitute of equal value; however, by any objective measure, federal PILT payments to Utah for federal lands are nowhere near the tax revenue the state and local communities would otherwise generate. PILT is often referred to as pennies in lieu of taxes. Two months of state property tax on less than 30 percent of our land is the equivalent of about twenty years of PILT payments on 67 percent of our land.
This tax break to the federal government is directly felt by Utah’s children and communities to the tune of billions of dollars each year. It’s time for the federal government to honor its promise.
HCR 19, Regarding the Impact of Federal Lands on the State Education System, urges Congress to pass legislation requiring “PILT payments to be a fair and steady source of revenue.”
HB 357, Evaluating Tax Revenue Foregone from Federally Controlled Lands, authorizes the Commission on Federalism to determine what the reasonable property tax would be but for federal control of our lands. The Commission would then coordinate with the state’s federal delegation to secure the full payment in lieu of taxes. The purpose of this bill is merely to make Utah’s counties, municipalities and school districts whole from lost tax revenue, as the federal government promised to do when it decided in 1976 to retain in perpetuity more than 66 percent of Utah’s lands.
HCR 19, which is sponsored by Rep. Ken Ivory and Sen. Jim Dabakis, and HB 357, sponsored by Ivory and Sen. David Hinkins, unanimously passed the House and Senate on February 22, 2018. Both are now awaiting the signature of the Governor.
The Utah Legislature is considering a bill, H.B. 399, Opioid Abuse Prevention and Treatment Amendments, that would require a warning label and informational pamphlet to be distributed when an opiate is prescribed.
The bill sponsor told a story of his son who had his wisdom teeth taken out and was prescribed opioids for pain. On the bottle, there was an upset stomach warning but nothing about the risks of dependence or addiction. In this case, the representative had his son take Tylenol, but patients may not always be aware of how dangerous opioids are, which can lead to tragedy. According to the Utah Department of Health, 80 percent of people who are addicted to heroin nationwide first became hooked on a prescription drug.
H.B 399 requires pharmacies to better educate the public on opioids. It would require warning labels to be affixed by the pharmacy that contain the following, “Caution: Opioid. Risk of overdose and addiction,” as well as additional language approved by the Department of Health. This bill would also require a brochure to be displayed that educates patients on the risk of dependency and addiction, methods of storage and disposal, alternative options for pain management, the benefits of and how to obtain naloxone and resources for the patient or family if they believe the patient has a substance abuse disorder.
At the committee hearing, Dave Davis, the president and chief legal officer for the Utah Retail Merchants Association, expressed support for the bill. “We want to be part of the solution as pharmacies,” he said.
HB 399 unanimously passed the House Health and Human Services Standing Committee on February 26.
Voice of the People
HJR 18, Special Sessions of the Legislature, is an amendment to the Utah Constitution that would allow the legislative body to call itself into special session under specific, very limited circumstances. These amendments would not take power away from the executive branch, nor remove the governor’s ability to call a special session.
The resolution would give the legislative branch the ability to convene a session if two-thirds of all members of the House and Senate determine that it is necessary due to a persistent fiscal crisis, war, natural disaster or emergency in the affairs of the state. The special session could not exceed 10 days and would not permit lawmakers to appropriate more than 1 percent of total expenditures of the completed fiscal year.
Currently, 35 state legislatures are able to call themselves into a special session to do the work of the people. The House Rules Committee unanimously passed the joint resolution on February 26. If it passes the Legislature, a constitutional amendment would be on the ballot in November.
For years, pharmaceutical manufacturers systematically engaged in deceptive marketing practices to advance the sale of prescription opioids, downplaying the negative and addictive effects of their use. This behavior occurred as the North American prescription opioid market grew to a value of $12.4 billion at the cost, according to the Centers for Disease Control, of 91 American lives each day. Sixteen states have already filed suit against opioid manufacturers, seeking damages for the public cost of the crisis, and Cache, Davis, Salt Lake, Utah, Washington and Weber counties plan to do so as well. A joint resolution, HJR 12, which calls upon the Attorney General to immediately and publicly do the same, passed the House 72-0.
As technology advances, especially the internet and mobile devices, the way the majority of consumers buy and sell goods changes. This is even more true with second-hand sales. The House Business and Labor Standing Committee heard HB 457, Consumer Ticket Protection Amendments, which addresses secondary sales and, more specifically, the reselling of tickets to events, concerts and shows. This bill would require venues and ticket issuers to provide an option to consumers to buy a ticket that is freely transferable and it restricts them from penalizing consumers who elect to transfer tickets on websites or through other methods. It does not prevent venues and ticket issuers from enforcing ticket restrictions such as age requirements, conduct and behavior standards, or purchase limits. HB 457 passed unanimously out of House committee.
Congresswoman Mia Love
On February 22, Congresswoman Mia Love visited the House to speak to legislators about what is happening in Washington D.C. She spoke of the success of the Trump administration’s tax reform and the positive impact it is having on businesses, individuals and America. She also encouraged Utah lawmakers to follow suit with the state revenue surplus this year by offering Utahns much-needed tax relief.
Thank you for the privilege of representing House District 66. I look forward to hearing from you. If you have any questions during the legislative session, please feel free to contact me any time. I can be reached on my cell phone at (801) 210-1495. If for any reason you are unable to contact me during the legislative session, my intern Seth Gillespie can be reached at (385) 441-0587 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Utah House of Representatives
State House District 66