House and Senate Democrats unveiled their plans for the 2014 legislative session today. Chief among them is a proposal to increase the minimum wage and another to create an independent elections commission in response to investigations into former Utah Attorney General John Swallow.
Representative Lynn Hemingway would like to raise the minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $10.25—what he calls a living wage. Hemingway says the bill would only impact workers over the age of 17.
“People are losing food stamps, they’re losing all kinds of assistance that they have and they need to be paid,” Hemingway says. “We’re not talking about kids in high school. We’re talking people who are actually out there trying to make a living and raise a family.”
Representative Joel Briscoe of Salt Lake City is proposing a bill that would require the state to regularly comb through existing tax incentives to determine if any can be thrown out. Briscoe says there is potential for cost savings.
“We simply want to be able to do what a number of other states are doing, which is doing a regular review every several years of all the tax incentives and having a good honest look at whether it’s doing the job it was intended to do,” Briscoe says.
Representative Rebecca Chavez-Houck would like to focus on transparency and education surrounding elections by establishing an independent election commission. It would be made up of three retired judges who will address campaign finance complaints.
“I think what we saw last year with the challenges that we had in the AG situation, where we had to pass legislation at the very last minute to allow the lieutenant governor’s office to hire special council,” Houck says. “If we had had something like this in place, board of elections would have been the ones that were taking a look at it.”
Houck says the commission would also provide guidance to candidates who are unsure about the legality of their own campaign finances.
Some Democrats are working with Republicans on a series of air-quality bills. They plan to announce those details later this week.