Political news

With the last week of the Legislative session underway, lawmakers approved two bills in the Senate and House yesterday geared toward improving the region’s air quality.  

Antidiscrimination Bill Dies Without a Senate Debate

Mar 11, 2013
Brian Grimmett

Republican Senator Stephen Urquhart’s LGBT antidiscrimination bill did not receive a vote on the Senate floor Monday, effectively killing it for this year’s legislative session.

By passing out of committee SB262, which would prohibit employers and landlords statewide from discriminating against homosexuals, made it further than any other similar legislation ever has. Democratic Senator Jim Dabakis co-sponsored the bill and while he says that he’s disappointed that it didn’t receive a vote in the Senate, he acknowledges that they’re moving in the right direction.

A bill that would make Utah gun laws superior to federal law passed the state House on Friday. Republican Representative Brian Greene of Pleasant Grove is the bill’s sponsor. He says his legislation is not just about preserving gun rights but also the rights of states to stand against the federal government.

“I submit to you that this is proper, that it is prudent, and that we should adopt this legislation so that we are in the best position possible if and when the time comes that we need to defend the jurisdiction of this state and the liberties of our citizens,” said Greene.

Medicaid Battle Looming

Mar 8, 2013
Dan Bammes

  A battle could be shaping up in the Utah House of Representatives over a bill that would stop the state from expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. 

Utah lawmakers have given preliminary approval to state-wide housing and workplace protections for gays and lesbians. Last night, members of the Senate Economic Development and Workforce Services committee advanced the bill. It’s the first time a statewide non-discrimination measure has survived a committee hearing in Utah.

Republican Senator Steve Urquhart sponsored Senate Bill 262. He told the committee the basic principle behind the bill is straightforward.

A bill that would allow citizens to register to vote in Utah on election-day was approved by a House Committee today.  HB 91 would allow voters to register at the polls on and require county clerks to count those votes.  Democrat Rebecca Chavez Houck of Salt Lake County is the sponsor of the bill.  She hopes the legislation would increase voter turnout.

Matheson Says Both Parties to Blame for Sequestration

Mar 1, 2013

Democratic Utah Congressman Jim Matheson says sequestration or sweeping federal budget cuts that went into effect Friday are a collective failure of Congressional leadership in both parties. 

Representative Matheson says everyone in Congress agrees that 85 billion dollars of spending needs to be cut from the federal budget, but he says sequestration is not the way to do it. 

A bill that would allow anyone 21 years of age or older to carry a concealed weapon was amended and passed on the house floor today.

The Utah House passed a bill today that would provide tax credits to those who purchase clean fuel vehicles over the next five years. 

Republican Representative Jack Draxler’s bill, HB 96, would change the current tax incentive program by eliminating credits for gasoline and propane vehicles.  The Logan lawmaker hopes his legislation would motivate people to buy cars and trucks that produce minimal or zero emissions.

Utah House Considers 3 Gun Bills

Feb 26, 2013
Brian Grimmett

The Utah House of Representatives considered three gun bills Tuesday afternoon and managed a vote on only one of them.

Of the three gun-related bills that the Utah House had a chance to debate, only Republican Rep. Dixon Pitcher’s HB121 received a vote. It would allow an individual to turn over a gun in his or her household to the police for up to 60 days if they feel it presents a danger to themselves or others in the house. Rep. Pitcher says he believes this law will help save lives without causing too much inconvenience.

Terry Gildea

Utah Democrats in the state legislature called on Governor Gary Herbert today to move forward with increasing Medicaid coverage. States have the option to expand their programs under the Affordable Care Act.  

Utah Budget Projections Lower than Previously Expected

Feb 25, 2013

Utah’s latest revenue projections released today at the state legislature are slightly lower than previously expected.

Stephen Z CC

As the Utah Legislature considers several bills aimed at changing gun laws we decided to take a look at what the laws in Utah actually say right now and, as equally important, what they don’t.

Who Can Own a Gun?

Former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman announced his support  yesterday for the legalization of same-sex marriage in the latest edition of The American Conservative magazine.

In the Op-Ed, Huntsman called on all Republicans to support marriage equality saying [quote] “Building a winning coalition to tackle the looming fiscal and trust deficits will be impossible if we continue to alienate broad segments of the population.”

Herbert: Medicaid Decision Delayed

Feb 21, 2013
pool photo

  Utah Governor Gary Herbert says a decision on expanding Utah's Medicaid program may have to wait until this summer.  Herbert told his monthly news conference on KUED Thursday morning that Utah won't follow the lead of any other state on the issue.

State Lawmakers considered a handful of firearms bills in committees on Wednesday. About half of the measures reinforce the status quo or make guns more available to Utahns. One bill in particular was met with heated debate.

Bob Nelson

Utah Senator Orrin Hatch visited state representatives in the House Wednesday to deliver what he called unhappy news. He says the Sequester, the automatic across-the-board spending cuts, will happen and it will be a difficult thing, especially for civilian employees at Hill Air Force Base.

”and it’s certainly going to hit a lot of small contractors and it’s also going to hit our workforce up there, is about two thirds civilian. So if you can imagine we’ve got to be prepared for whatever comes,”says Hatch. 

Utah lawmakers are reportedly working with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and social rights groups to help pass a statewide law protecting gays and lesbians from housing and employment discrimination.  Utah Governor Gary Herbert told reporters Tuesday he’s not involved in the discussions but will consider the bill.

GOP Leaders Decide Not to Discuss Swallow Scandal

Feb 18, 2013

Utah Republican Party leaders decided to table a discussion about a scandal affecting Attorney General John Swallow over the weekend.  Swallow is being investigated by the US Attorney’s Office for allegedly helping business man Jeremy Johnson bribe US Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Members of the GOP State Central Committee voted against holding a formal discussion on the issue, though some say it’s one of the most important issues facing the party. 

A bill extending protection to victims of dating violence advanced in the Utah house today. HB 50, sponsored by Minority Leader Jennifer Seelig was met with heated opposition on the house floor. 

Brian Grimmett

Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker joined Ogden Mayor Mike Caldwell at the State capitol today in announcing their ideas on how government on both the local and state level can help improve air quality.

Accountants are urging the state to prepare for an economic crisis brought on by national debt. Conservative Utah lawmakers responded Tuesday by announcing legislation to assess the risks and develop contingency plans if federal funds disappear. 

House Democrats Propose Six New Air Quality Bills

Feb 11, 2013
Brian Grimmett

 A group of Democratic legislators are introducing six new bills in an effort to help tackle Utah’s poor air quality.

The content of the proposed bills ranges from offering free passes for UTA Buses and TRAX trains to allowing the state to put in place stricter restrictions than the Environmental Protection Agency already requires. Representative Joel Briscoe is sponsoring the bill that would fund giving away free UTA passes. He says even with a tight budget this is something that should be attainable.

Chaffetz Warns of Imminent Cyber-Attack

Feb 8, 2013
Brian Grimmett

 Utah congressman Jason Chaffetz told members of the Utah Legislature to be prepared for an imminent cyber-attack during remarks made in both the House and Senate chambers Friday.

Republican Representative Jason Chaffetz says the future of economic development in Utah depends on the growth of high tech companies but with that comes the increased threat of cyber-attacks. He also stressed the importance of being prepared for such an attack telling legislators it’s not a matter if, but when.

Ban on Smoking in Your Car with Children Moves Forward

Feb 5, 2013

A bill making it illegal to smoke in a car with children is one step closer to becoming law after getting a favorable recommendation from the House Health and Human Services Committee.

Democratic Representative Patrice Arent says her bill is aimed at helping the thousands of children without a voice who are being harmed by second hand smoke in cars. Several doctors spoke in favor of the bill, including Dr. Kevin Nelson, a pediatrician at the University of Utah.

Water Tax Bill Gets Stuck in Committee

Feb 4, 2013
Brian Grimmett

The Senate Revenue and Taxation committee chose not to move on a bill that would have allowed the state to tax water usage.

Courtesy of Utah State Legislature.

Members of the Utah House passed a bill today that would give businesses a tax break if they hire people who are homeless.  

Salt Lake County Democrat Brian King crafted the bill that would give businesses a tax credit of between five hundred and two thousand dollars for hiring an individual who is homeless. King said the legislation is designed to help some live more stable lives.

"What this is doing is giving individuals and a group of individuals who are struggling to be contributing citizens an opportunity to join our ranks as contributors," said King.

Brian Grimmett

Democratic Congressman Jim Matheson made a visit to the legislature Thursday where he shared a list of things that he believes will help economic development.

He says the first task in encouraging economic development is eliminating uncertainty.

“You can’t eliminate all uncertainty of course but, when public policy multiplies the amount of uncertainty that’s out there, for the private sector, for the public sector, that’s a burden,” he says.

Courtesy of Governor Herbert's Office.

Governor Gary R. Herbert delivered his State of the State address last night at the Capitol.  He showcased Utah’s strong economic growth and pledged to increase support for education. 

Governor Herbert focused on education during the first part of his speech calling for sixty-six percent of Utahns to have completed some form of higher education by 2020.  He pledged to invest up to 40 million dollars in the science, technology, engineering and math education or STEM program and Herbert promised to improve public education.

Brian Grimmett / KUER

 A poll released by the BYU Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy gives new insight into how Utah voters feel about the alleged scandal involving Utah Attorney General John Swallow.