Utah Legislature

Brian Grimmett

Several legislators are now saying that they are considering legislation to address some of the regulatory issues facing the online HR company Zenefits.

Dan Bammes

  Democrats in Utah’s state House of Representatives are choosing new leaders at a meeting Wednesday evening.  The minority party lost three close races Tuesday when the final vote tallies were announced.

One of the Republicans who won a hard-fought race is former State Representative Fred Cox, who defeated Democrat Mike Lee in District 30 in West Valley City.  The margin was just 47 votes.  Cox said his opponent was gracious when the results were announced.

Garrett via Flickr

Utah lawmakers may be seeking a comprehensive solution to the state’s transportation funding issues during the next legislative session.

The Salt Lake Chamber’s, Utah Transportation Coalition has identified an $11 billion dollar hole in the state’s transportation funding for the next three decades.  Representative Johnny Anderson Chairs the Utah House Transportation Committee. He says house and senate leaders are considering a wide range of options, including raising the gas tax, and better aligning registration fees with vehicle fuel efficiency.

Brian Grimmett / KUER

The Legislative Process Committee is recommending that the legislature take a look at expanding the 45-day legislative session.

Utah House of Representatives

  State Representative Greg Hughes will be the new Speaker of the House when the legislature begins its work in January.

Hughes represents District 51 in Draper.  The 60 Republicans in the House met Thursday evening and picked Hughes over two other candidates, Representatives Brad Dee of Ogden and Mel Brown from Coalville.

Erik Crosman / University of Utah

Utah’s winter pollution season officially gets underway this weekend, and thanks to $1 million from the Legislature, new research is focusing on what causes the state’s air-quality problems and how to solve them.

A dozen studies will look hard at what makes sooty winter pollution so nasty in Utah and why ground level ozone gets so high. They also will zero in on air chemistry and the weather’s role.

Brian Grimmett

A group of people interested in seeing the Utah Transit Authority expand the hours its buses and trains operates recently challenged the UTA Board of Trustees and leadership to use only public transit for seven days. For the few who accepted the challenge the experience had quite an impact.

Brian Grimmett

Republican state Senator Todd Weiler is asking the Attorney General’s office to take a closer look at a development deal involving the Utah Transit Authority, after an audit indicated a possible lack of proper oversight.

Dan Bammes

  A member of the Utah legislature is trying again to change the law that keeps the state of Utah from imposing stricter environmental rules than the federal government. 

Republican Representative Becky Edwards of North Salt Lake had a similar bill in the last general session.  It passed the House, but it was defeated in the state Senate, in part because of opposition from industry.

Dan Bammes

  Utah’s current law prohibits state regulators from imposing any air quality regulations stricter than federal requirements. A bill that would change that will be up for discussion in a legislative committee this week.

On Wednesday, the legislature’s  Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environment committee will gather for an interim meeting. Lawmakers will look at a proposal that would allow the state of Utah to impose stricter air quality standards than the federal government.

Brian Grimmett

The Governor’s Office of Economic Development, or GOED, is collecting data about how Utahns feel about Daylight Saving Time.

More than 30 people gathered at the Clark Planetarium in downtown Salt Lake City to voice their opinion about Daylight Saving Time.  A majority of those attending said they’d prefer to move to standard time year round like Arizona. Many who made comments expressed similar ideas to those of Provo resident Ed Bernsen.

Brian Grimmett

Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City is on the verge of becoming one of a few sites in the country to study the effectiveness of cannabis based product intended to treat epilepsy in children.

Brian Grimmett

  Governor Gary Herbert says he doesn’t think Utah’s long delay in coming up with an alternative to expanding Medicaid has hurt the prospect of a successful program.

The legislative session ended without action by lawmakers on any proposal for reaching those who aren’t covered by either Medicaid  or the Affordable Care Act.  Governor Herbert has proposed a program funded by block grants from the federal government to buy private health insurance for those people.  He says the Obama administration has indicated it will be flexible in working out a solution.

Andrea Smardon

Clean air advocates released their grades for Utah lawmakers Tuesday. Compared to past legislative sessions, lawmakers showed improvement, but advocates say there is still a lot of work to be done. 

2014 Utah Legislature Comes to a Close

Mar 13, 2014
Brian Grimmett

As the 2014 session of the Utah Legislature comes to a close we're putting together an ongoing list of the best sights, sounds, stories, and tweets from the last day. Be sure to check back frequently to see the lastest.

Dan Bammes

  It’s the last day of Utah’s general legislative session.  State senators and representatives will be working ‘till midnight to get as many bills passed as they can. 

Whether it’s the chime that tells members of the House it’s time to vote, or state Senate clerk Paula Tew calling the roll, the final day of the legislative session is filled with vote after vote after vote.  Inevitably, there are many bills that won’t pass.  And there are issues that won’t be addressed in this session.

Wikimedia Commons

  House Bill 286 passed a final vote in the Utah House of Representatives 71-0 on Wednesday, after an amendment in the Senate required it to come back one last time.

The normal place to find Utah political chatter on Twitter is #utpol, but on Tuesday morning the hashtag InternPickUpLines exploded with humor and wit perfect for the last few days of the Utah legislature. Here is a selection of the very best.

Brian Grimmett

The Utah Senate has approved a plan to partially expand Utah’s Medicaid program, but not before amending it to make it more compatible with Governor Gary Herbert’s expansion proposal.

Dan Bammes

Leaders of the Count My Vote ballot initiative appeared with legislative leaders at a rare Sunday news conference to announce a compromise on the effort to replace Utah’s caucus-convention system for nominating political candidates.

The deal preserves the caucus system, but it also allows candidates to get on a primary election ballot by gathering voter signatures on a petition – from one thousand for a legislative seat to 28-thousand for a statewide office such as governor.

Brian Grimmett

  Final revenue projections for the legislative session show the state will have a little more money in the coming year.  For some legislators, though, the numbers were a disappointment.

Budget co-chair Lyle Hillyard announced the new revenue estimates on the floor of the state Senate Friday morning.  One-time revenue – only available in this budget year – was up by 11-million dollars over earlier projections.  Ongoing revenue is expected to rise by 47-million dollars.  That will give the state a surplus just under 200-million dollars out of a total budget of about 13-billion.

Congressman Rob Bishop

  Utah’s 1st District Congressman is hoping he can claim a key committee chairmanship that would give Utah a significant advantage in Congress.  That was one of the messages Republican Rob Bishop brought to the Utah legislature today. 

Utah Education Network

  Utah’s governor says the legislature should be cautious about interfering with a citizen initiative on how candidates for public office are nominated.  

Andrea Smardon

  A Utah Senate committee voted down a bill Friday that would have kept medical incinerators at least five miles away from homes. 

Senate Bill 64 would have increased fines for air quality violations by medical waste incinerators, increased the length of time allowed for investigating violations and  imposed a five-mile buffer between homes and any medical waste incinerator in the state.

  Electric cars, hybrid cars and vehicles powered by natural gas would pay dramatically higher registration fees under a bill in the Utah State Senate.  Republican Senator Wayne Harper of West Jordan says vehicles that don’t use gasoline or diesel fuel need to pay their fair share to maintain Utah’s roads.

  A report done for the Utah legislature shows the social problems associated with alcohol are decreasing.  But the legislator behind the report says it would be hard to justify changes in Utah’s liquor laws based just on the report’s findings.

Utah Clean Cities

  A bill that requires the state to use high-efficiency, low-polluting vehicles in its own fleet got strong support in the Utah State Senate this morning.

Senate Bill 99 originally required the state to use compressed natural gas vehicles for half its fleet by 2018.  But Republican Senator Scott Jenkins changed it to allow vehicles that use low-sulfur Tier 3 gasoline.  Jenkins says the people who run the state motor pool say it would accomplish the same goal for a lot less money.

Judy Fahys

A group of concerned school kids made their way to the Utah State Capitol Tuesday to ask lawmakers to change one of the state’s symbols. 

Fourth-grade lobbyists say Utah needs a new state tree.  Members of Mrs. Blomquist’s class from Monroe Elementary in Sevier County pressed their case at the Capitol. Nine of the students told senators why the Colorado blue spruce should make way for the quaking aspen.

“The quaking aspen is self-pruning,” said Neomi Avery, “They take care of themselves just like Utah citizens.”

Andrea Smardon

The Utah House of Representatives opened this year’s legislative session with some bold remarks from Republican Speaker Rebecca Lockhart, challenging Governor Gary Herbert.

Just like speeches from years’ past, Speaker Lockhart railed against the over-reach of the federal government, and insisted that Utah resist. But this time, she targeted Governor Herbert who has recently said that he favors some limited expansion of Medicaid in the state.

Lawmakers Unveil Air Quality Bills

Jan 22, 2014
Judy Fahys

A bipartisan caucus of Utah House members has unveiled a package of air-pollution bills. They say the proposals will Utah’s air easier to breathe. The measures include incentives for consumers to buy cleaner snow-blowers and weed whackers. There is one bill that would ban medical waste incinerators in the state. Another proposal would allow the state to authorize environmental regulations that are more rigorous than federal laws.

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