We Will Keep You Informed

We Will Keep You Informed

Legislative Updates

"As Legislative Chair of URSEA I try to follow mostly education related bills during the Utah Legislature’s session, and contact legislators with my assessment. I send the e-mails to a list of other people who want my comments, and I ask them to contact their legislators about the bills/issues, whether they agree with my assessment or not, letting their legislators know how they feel about the bills. I get most of my information at the legislature’s web site, le.utah.gov, which is pretty user friendly. One can get all of the information on a bill by simply putting the bill number at the top of the screen: name of bill, wording of bill, status of the bill. I also get some information from the UEA web site "Under the Dome".

Below are the messages I have sent during the 2018 Session."

-Fred Ash, Legislative Chair of the URSEA

 

 

 

July 25, 2018

Dear Legislators, 

I am one of those people who loves to camp in public lands, so I have not appreciated Rep. Mike Noel’s efforts to take public lands away from the public over the years, but I have to say I am glad he sponsored SB2004, which will provide funds for counties to maintain more existing roads in public lands. I hope that one of the roads on the list is the one we use in the edge of the Swell, north of Goblin Valley, which has much deteriorated in recent years.

 Sincerely,

 Fred Ash, URSEA Legislative Chair

May 10, 2018

Dear Senator Hatch and Representative Love, 

I read in the paper today that Senator Hatch is co-sponsoring the Emery County Public Land Management Act of 2018, which involves a lot of the San Rafael Swell.

My family and friends have camped in the San Rafael Reef public lands area for about 30 years, mostly in a wash a few miles north +of Goblin Valley, a Temple Mt. Wash. It is a popular spot for campers who like to camp in open areas.

I haven’t read the bill, and don’t know anything about it other than what was in the paper. My concern is the statement in the paper that said “The bill proposes moving 436,643 acres of wilderness study areas in Emery County into permanent wilderness areas and expanding them to 577,986 acres.”

This is my concern. When I was introduced to that area, we camped with a large group in a little bowl up the wash. 

There was and is a graded road up that wash, probably initially leading to a uranium mine at the top of the wash. Our camp site was on the east side of the road, in the bowl.

Several years later, when we arrived at our camp spot on the east side, where we and others had camped for many years, we found that it had been designated “wilderness study.” We also noticed that another area , a little wash just south of our bowl, where there was a less traveled road, had also been closed to motor vehicles and camping because it was now a “wilderness study” area. We wondered how that could happen when both areas had been used by campers for many years.

Fortunately, the west side of our little bowl hadn’t been closed off, so we were able to often camp there, which has been more difficult in recent years, as the campers have increased.

I wished then and do now, that there could be another kind of designation of public lands that would prevent them from being privatized and taken away from public use, as can presently be done with public lands; but would at the same time keep them public, not able to be made into a camp-for-fee area, not able to be made into wilderness designation, preventing motor vehicles or camping, not able to be made into a national or state park. Besides taking away camping opportunities for young families, wilderness designation takes away many scenic opportunities for disabled or older people.

So I hope that the bill doesn’t automatically make wilderness of all of the designated wilderness study areas, instead returning some of those study areas (especially our old camp spot) back to be regular public lands with normal guidelines for use, such as when ATV’s can be used, etc.

Thanks for your service. Please take my concern seriously.

Sincerely,

Fred Ash, Legislative Chair of the Utah Retired School Employees Association

February 7, 2018

I hope the year has started okay for you. Here is my first comment of the year, for what its worth.

H.B. 135 EXTRATERRITORIAL JURISDICTION AMENDMENTS

Chief Sponsor: Michael E. Noel

Basically, at present, state law gives a city the right to construct waterworks to provide drinking water for a city, and to exercise “Extraterritorial jurisdiction” to maintain the purity of the water source within 15 miles of the city and within 300 feet from the water source. This bill essentially takes that right away from the cities, and places the Extraterritorial jurisdiction in the hands of The Department of Environmental Quality and the local health department, and specifically removes the 15 mile, and 300 feet limits. 

My guess is that many years ago, it became evident that specific rules needed to be put in place to protect cities’ watersheds as the population grew, so the law was enacted. And my guess is that some of the land within that 15 miles is now owned, with private dwellings, and those land owners don’t like having to abide by the rules established to protect the purity of the watershed, even though when they purchased the land, or tried to develop it, they were instructed as to what the rules are. So the sponsor of this bill would override the right and power of the city with the power of the state so that the landowners could better have their wants met.


The bill does give The Department of Environmental Quality and the local health department authority to establish standards and administer controls to maintain water quality in watersheds to protect human health, etc, but I question how much influence the local health departments will have in the decisions, and whether the state DEQ will empathize with the individual cities. Another micro-management of a local rights/responsibilities by our State Legislature.


I hope the bill doesn’t pass as is.

February 10, 2018

Dear Legislators,
I have studied HB136 by Rep. Noel, and HB255 by Rep. Colman. I admit I don’t fully understand all of the small print.

HB 136 doesn’t seem to actually totally remove local control of municipal property, mostly forcing potential sales/transfers of state property to Federal lands to be first reviewed by Rep Noel’s Legislative Management Committee for review of the agreement or proposal. And that the Legislative Management Committee may recommend that the governmental entity execute the agreement or proposal, recommend that the governmental entity reject the agreement or proposal; or recommend to the governor that the governor call a special session of the Legislature to review and approve or reject the agreement or proposal.

It doesn’t totally take away the rights/responsibilities of the local entity. But it definitely omits any kind of required action should the local entity be considering a shift from federal control to state control. I have openly stated that I do not trust the motives of some legislators when they fight so hard to get federal lands put into the hands of the state. I have been back east where there are no public lands, and I didn’t like what it felt like, and I know why when new states were approved, public lands were part of the agreements. So I suspect the motives of this bill.

HB255 was a bit longer and harder to understand. But if what I have been told, that this bill prohibits the use of watershed or open space dollars outside of a city’s municipal boundaries, I don’t like this bill. I think that there are times when municipalities need to be able to get together to accomplish things that they can’t do individually, like the way they did to protect Bonanza Flat a couple years ago. I don’t want all of our canyons developed, locked out of the use of the public. Also, this is another instance of a bill that would take away the rights/responsibilities of local entities. So I don’t think we need this bill as written.

February 15, 1018

Re: H.B. 299 STATE INCOME AND SALES TAX REDUCTION --Chief Sponsor: Mike Schultz

Dear Legislators, 
This bill would take effect on March 1, 2019, if, between the date of this bill's passage and March 1, 2019 the state's individual income tax rate increases by .45% or more, and the state's sales and use tax rate increases by .45% or more.

Rep Schultz’s Home Builders responsibilities must have been pretty slow for him to take the time it must have taken to draft this bill. Clearly the bill is intended to use the additional revenue – if the initiative passes – to add funding for transportation and water infrastructure, both of which do indeed need more funding, instead of using the additional revenue to increase funding for public schools, which if the initiative passes is the will of the people of the state.

I hope he is just playing with us, and is actually just being sarcastic. If he is not being sarcastic, instead of again robbing the public education fund, as was done when higher ed was allowed to share the Public Education Fund, and when the single rate tax was approved.; instead of doing that again, he should be spending his time finding ways to fund the increased needs of transportation and water infrastructure.
I hope no one takes this bill seriously, and it is thrown under the rug forever.

Sincerely,
Fred Ash, URSEA Legislative Chair

February 22, 2018

Dear Legislators,

 
The end of the session is coming soon, and I know how much more things heat up now, so I hope you are able to handle the added stress. In addition to my URSEA duties, I am a member of the WSLC, and in the last couple of weeks we have had presentations pro and con on several interesting issues. This is my opinion after having those discussions and studying the bills/initiative.
Fred Ash, Legislative Chair of the URSEA
 
H.B. 196 BREASTFEEDING PROTECTION ACT, Chief Sponsor: Justin L. Fawson, Senate Sponsor: Deidre M. Henderson.
 This bill basically prohibits discrimination based on pregnancy in places of public accommodation, and permits a woman to breast feed in any place of public accommodation.
I think this bill is far overdue. Please support this bill.

THE “OUR SCHOOLS NOW” INITIATIVE would basically restore about $700 million to the Education Fund, not quite as much as has been removed each year for the last 20+ years, since higher ed was allowed to share funds from the Education Fund in 1996, and since the single rate tax was approved in 2008, and other tax changes.

25% of the increase could be used to raise teacher salaries, and the rest to reduce class size, improve counseling conditions, support staff, early childhood education, any other purpose reasonably designed to improve student performance that is approved by the local school board. I listened to both sides of the issue at a WSLC meeting. As usual those opposed to the initiative exaggerated the cost to the majority of tax payers. The State Auditor would increase teacher salaries for teachers of math and science and special ed without increasing tax revenue, which would in effect take money away from teachers of other needed subjects, and he assured everyone that none of the Education Fund revenue can be used for other state purposes, such as roads, which is totally false, as the legislature just allows higher ed to use more of the Education Fund, so more money is left in the General Fund for roads and other state needs, and less money is left for public education. And this morning while I was present in a short meeting with the Lieutenant Governor, he expressed optimism about increased revenue for additional funding for Schools, but then he expressed concern that the legislature would move some of the available Education Funds around as I have just described it.


While the $700 million would restore some of the funding that has been lost, it wouldn’t be enough to completely solve the problems we are now experiencing in public education. The whole initiative process wouldn’t be necessary if the legislature would take steps to restore funding for public education in a secure process, but that doesn’t appear to be in the books. So if the Initiative becomes necessary, I hope it passes.
 
H.B. 41 MENTAL HEALTH CRISIS LINE AMENDMENTS. Chief Sponsor: Steve Eliason, Senate Sponsor: Daniel W. Thatcher


This bill addresses the operation of the statewide mental health crisis line and local mental health crisis lines. This bill basically directs the Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health (division) to enter into or modify contracts to provide the statewide mental health crisis line, requires the division to ensure that the statewide mental health crisis line meets certain staffing and operational standards, in cooperation with counties. There is no fiscal note, which I wonder about, as to accomplish what the bill wants there will obviously be expenses for the state as well as counties. But with the number of teen suicides in our state, it is clear that we need to be doing more to make sure there are sufficient counseling and treatment options readily available for teens with major problems. So I hope our legislature supports this bill.

 

February 26, 2018

Dear Legislators, 

Again, I appreciate your efforts. Here are some comments you may or may not need or want. You have had so many bills to work through this year, maybe it is time to look at a way to limit the number of bills you have to deal with in a session. Enjoy your last two weeks that look like might extend into a special session.

Sincerely, Fred Ash, URSEA Legislative Chair
 
H.B. 225, INITIATIVES, REFERENDA, AND OTHER POLITICAL ACTIVITIES, 3rd Sub.

Chief Sponsor: Brad M. Daw

This bill amends provisions of the Election Code relating to initiatives, referenda, and political activities of public entities.

It is a long and very detailed bill. It looks to me like Rep Daw doesn’t like or trust initiatives or referendums at the local level or at the state level. His bill basically makes sure that arguments for and against such political actions are required to be published in a timely manner with very specific detailed guidelines, etc.
At the state level, I would think it would be good to require general guidelines for local entities to follow, but I think the specifics should be left up to the local entities.


While the intent might be good, I think this goes too far, makes sponsoring an initiative or referendum much more difficult than necessary. So I hope you don’t support this.


S.B. 171 INTERVENTION Ŝ→ [AS A MATTER OF RIGHT] ←Ŝ AMENDMENTS, Chief Sponsor: J. Stuart Adams, House Sponsor: John Knotwell

This bill basically provides that the Legislature has an unconditional right to intervene in a state court action [when] if a party to that court action challenges the constitutionality of a state statute; the validity of legislation; or any action of the Legislature; and requires the attorney general to provide notice to the legislative general counsel in writing within three business days after the day on which the attorney general is officially notified of a claim filed in state or federal court, that challenges the constitutionality of a state statute.


I am not a lawyer, but it appears that the legislature has its own lawyers (legislative general counsel), and the attorney general is the governor’s lawyer. I think there is a legal process in most court actions, and I don’t think it is a good idea for our legislature to be trying to pass laws that mandate how a judge runs his court.

Our state constitution in most respects follows the pattern of our national constitution, with its separation of powers. This bill seems to be an attempt to give the legislature more power in the process than was intended.

Of course I could be really off base on this. But I don’t feel good about this bill.