Key Issues for the 2001 General Session

Prepared by the Office of Legislative Research and General Counsel


APPLIED TECHNOLOGY EDUCATION

  • Applied technology education may be a key issue for the 2001 session, but the scope of what will be recommended to the legislature is still undecided. The most significant issues include the governance and funding of applied technology education.


BUSINESS, LABOR, AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

  • Ice Cream and Milk Dispenser Requirements - The interim committee has approved as a committee bill "Ice Cream and Milk Dispenser Requirements."
  • Professional Boxing Regulation Act - The committee studied the current act and discussed the possibility of restructuring the regulation of boxing in Utah, which may include the creation of an independent athletic commission. Proposed legislation will be presented at the November interim meeting.
  • Residence Lien Recovery Fund - An informal legislative work group has been meeting this interim to receive industry input and discuss the need for statutory modifications to the fund. Proposed legislation will be presented at the November interim meeting.


CONSTITUTIONAL REVISION COMMISSION

  • Article XIII, Revenue and Taxation - As in the past, any rewrite of the Tax Article could draw considerable discussion. Although it seems unlikely that the commission will complete this work by the 2001 General Session, the commission is working toward this goal.


EDUCATION

  • Charter Schools - The Education Interim Committee is reviewing two proposed bills. One bill removes the "pilot" status of an existing charter school and establishes a process to renew its charter. The second bill proposes to increase the total number of charter schools that may be authorized, and to grant their full funding through local districts.
  • Consolidate Statutes - The Education Interim Committee and the Strategic Planning Committee for Public and Higher Education are reviewing legislation to consolidate existing professional development and induction statutes that promote teacher quality. The following subjects are considered in the proposed legislation:
    • Utah Career Ladder for induction and mentoring components
    • Recruitment through the Utah Teaching Scholarship
    • Performance standards to meet NCATE standards
    • Licensure to include professional practices required to retain a license; and
    • Educator evaluation
  • Funding of Public Education - The task force has focused on the needed resources for education, how efficiently those resources are used, and what programs are yielding the best results so as to further enhance the education of Utah's children.
  • Induction - The Education Interim Committee has been urged to strengthen teacher induction. The committee understands that a teacher's professional well-being is enhanced and the teacher's retention in the profession is strengthened through a process of tracking new teachers and providing for an orientation with on-site coaching and tutoring. Mentoring through veteran teachers and college staff to transform educational theory into practice is included in this process. Probationary faculty will be taught theory and subject content by existing faculty, and newly appointed principals will be coached by seasoned principals. Action on this induction process is still pending before the committee.
  • Learning Standards and Accountability in Public Education - The task force will recommend that the legislature consider certain changes to the Utah Performance Assessment System for Students (UPASS), including changes to school and school district reports.
  • Reading - The Education Interim Committee heard recommendations to strengthen reading practices with teacher preservice training and professional development programs, and possibly through a policy that would require school districts to use methods that have been identified as best practices in reading instruction. Recommendations to strengthen reading programs will be reviewed in November.
  • Recruitment - The Education Interim Committee has been given a comprehensive background in teacher recruitment and is considering the need to strengthen the recruitment component of professional development for teachers and administrators through assembling supply and demand data and maintaining an existing teacher education scholarship program. The committee believes the inservice training component is enhanced through stronger career ladder funding and is contemplating the adoption of a policy to recognize and reward teachers acquiring National Board Certification.

ELECTRICAL DEREGULATION AND CUSTOMER CHOICE

  • Electric Power Industry Issues - The legislature may consider proposals to allow certain electricity customers to have access to electric power on the wholesale market. Legislative options to facilitate the development of new electric power generation could also be considered.


GOVERNMENT OPERATIONS

  • Boards and Commissions - The interim committee is reviewing the issue of boards and commissions, examining the purposes, costs, and the possible elimination or consolidation of certain boards and commissions.
  • Election Law - The committee is reviewing the election code and may adopt committee legislation in this area.
  • Repeal of Obsolete Sections of the Utah Code - The committee is reviewing the possible repeal or recodification of certain obsolete or questionable sections of the Utah Code. The committee has approved multiple bills of this type for the 2001 General Session.

HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES

  • DCFS Budget - The Division of Child and Family Services (DCFS) recently took steps to avert a $10 million deficit for FY 2000. One of those steps included eliminating payments to some parents who have adopted abused and neglected children from the state in order to purchase specialized mental health services. At the governor's direction, DCFS reversed that action, with the understanding that those payments would be assured for only the first nine months of FY 2001. How to fund the balance of FY 2001 and what to do about these subsidies for specialized treatment in the long run will likely be subjects of discussion during the 2001 General Session.
  • Tobacco Settlement - Last session, the legislature designated how monies from the recent settlement with tobacco manufacturers are to be appropriated each year. Several issues may surface in the 2001 General Session, including how to spend any monies not specifically designated.

INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY

  • Electronic Government Services Amendments - This is a multi-year project, begun in 1999, to systematically (6-8 agencies a year) review the Utah Code for the purpose of eliminating statutory language that requires agencies to conduct their business using paper-based processes.
  • Privacy - Public Information Sales - The Information Technology Commission is reviewing the sale of all public information with the intent of understanding what is being sold, how much revenue is being generated, who is buying the information, and for what purposes.


JUDICIARY

  • Divorce - coparenting plan - A parenting plan rather than a visitation schedule may be considered by the committee.
  • Domestic Violence - Protective Orders and Stalking - Bills on these issues are currently under consideration by the committee.


LAW ENFORCEMENT AND CRIMINAL JUSTICE

  • Interstate Compact for Adult Offender Supervision - Draft legislation was unanimously adopted by the committee which will allow for the effective management of offenders, thus increasing public safety and offender accountability. Thirty-five states must pass this same legislation in order for the compact to go into effect. The existing Parole and Probation Interstate Compact, which provides for the controlled movement of adult parolees and probationers across state lines, was created in 1937 when only a few thousand offenders were being supervised in states other than where they were sentenced. Today that number exceeds a quarter of a million parolees and probationers. The existing compact authority and structure are seriously outdated.
  • Prohibition of Intimacy With Person in Custody - Draft legislation was unanimously adopted by the committee which creates criminal penalties for correctional officers, law enforcement officers, and probation and parole officers who engage in sexual conduct with an inmate, a person under arrest, or a probationer or parolee.
  • Sex Offender Registration Amendments - Draft legislation was unanimously adopted by the committee which will require a previously registered sex offender who commits a subsequent serious sex offense to be registered for the offender's lifetime.


LEGISLATIVE PROCESS

  • Constitutional Notes - The committee adopted legislation to discontinue the practice of printing constitutional notes on bills. The issue is being forwarded to the Legislative Management Committee for their consideration.
  • Guidelines for Media - The committee is considering a media guide for clarification of expectations and legislative rules.
  • In-depth Budget Reviews - The committee has prepared a bill to repeal the committee's responsibility to conduct an annual in-depth budget review. This type of review would then be conducted by the appropriate interim appropriations subcommittee.
  • Legislation Long Title Changes - The committee recommended to the Legislative Management Committee, which adopted the proposal, to make some modifications in the long title of bills, including the use of complete sentences and normal capitalization.


NATURAL RESOURCES, AGRICULTURE, AND ENVIRONMENT

  • Disposal of Low-level Radioactive Waste - Envirocare of Utah submitted a request to the Department of Environmental Quality for a license amendment to dispose of Class B and C radioactive waste. The disposal of Class B and C radioactive waste also requires the approval of the governor and the legislature. The Department of Environmental Quality and Envirocare are currently engaged in the licensing process. If the Department of Environmental Quality is ready to make a recommendation to the governor and legislature by the 2001 General Session, the governor and the legislature may be asked to approve of the disposal operation. Other issues relating to the approval of a Class B and C radioactive waste disposal facility include:
    • what additional regulatory powers and resources are required by the Department of Environmental Quality to protect public health and the environment; and
    • what fees and taxes should be imposed on Class B and C radioactive waste and for what purposes the revenue should be dedicated.
  • Onsite Wastewater Systems - Currently there is no state law requiring installers of onsite wastewater systems, such as septic systems, to have any special expertise or knowledge on how to properly install the systems. The Natural Resources, Agriculture, and Environment Interim Committee will be considering legislation requiring certification of installers of onsite wastewater systems. The committee will also consider whether to impose a fee on each newly installed system to help pay for training of installers.
  • Partial Forfeiture of Water Rights - Under Utah law, if a water right holder does not put the water right to a beneficial use, the water right may be forfeited. The question is, if only a portion of the water right is put to beneficial use, can the unused portion be forfeited. There is a case currently in a Utah court which may deal with this issue. Some people have indicated that they would prefer the legislature rather than the courts delineate a partial forfeiture policy.

OLYMPICS

  • Olympic Winter Games of 2002 - The legislature may consider several issues in preparation for the Olympic Winter Games of 2002 including: the cost and scope of state and local government agency public safety services and other services associated with the Olympics; economic development benefits and opportunities accompanying the Olympics; the assurance of payments due to the state from the Salt Lake Olympic Organizing Committee; the structure and role of certain entities associated with the Olympics; the investment and use of Olympic legacy funds; and reporting requirements of the State Olympic Officer.


POLITICAL SUBDIVISIONS

  • Classification of Municipalities - There have been discussions on how best to make the classification of municipalities a meaningful tool for planning, budgeting, reporting, and administration. Proposed changes include: creating additional classes so municipalities are better grouped with other municipalities with similar needs; modifying forms of government; and modifying duties and requirements for each classification.
  • County Statutes Recodification (Title 17) - Phase I of the recodification passed in the 2000 General Session (H.B. 130). The Utah Association of Counties is discussing again this year proposed changes (phase II).
  • Recodification of Redevelopment Agency Statutes - Legislation modifying and recodifying statutes regarding redevelopment agencies will be introduced in the 2001 General Session.
  • Special District Recodification - This is a continuation of an effort to recodify and make more uniform the statutes for independent special districts. This year, the Special Districts Subcommittee has focused on standardizing provisions relating to annexation, withdrawal, and dissolution.
  • 911 Emergency System - In December 1999, an audit was released on the 911 emergency system. Legislation implementing some or all of the audit recommendations will be introduced in the 2001 General Session.

PUBLIC UTILITIES AND TECHNOLOGY

  • Utility Regulation H.B. 320, "Public Utility Amendments" - Committee study has focused on the role and independence of the Committee of Consumer Services, merging the Division of Public Utilities with the Public Service Commission, a telecommunication industry exemption, just and reasonable legal standards, and balancing factors. To date, no final decisions regarding the actual language for these issues has been made.

QUASI-GOVERNMENTAL ENTITIES

  • Dissolution of Quasi-governmental Entities - The committee is in the process of reviewing the stated public purpose of each quasi-governmental entity to determine whether that purpose can be served by the private sector without state government involvement.
  • Recodification of Quasi-governmental Entities - The committee is in the preliminary stages of recodification of quasi-governmental entities to bring more uniformity where appropriate and insure that future quasi-governmental entities, if they are to be created, will be created with some consistency in accountability and purpose.
  • State Services Provided to Quasi-governmental Entities - The committee is auditing the appropriateness of the state services received by the quasi-governmental entities.
  • Statutory Exemptions from Oversight Statutes - The committee is working to determine whether Utah's quasi-governmental entities should be exempted from the oversight statutes listed in their enabling legislation.


REVENUE AND TAXATION

  • Indexing for Inflation of the Individual Income Tax Brackets - Utah's individual income tax brackets have not been changed since they were first established in 1973. Consequently, nearly 60% of all income tax filers are in the top tax bracket. The legislature will consider whether to make annual future adjustments in these brackets to compensate for inflation.
  • Reauthorization of Steam Coal Tax Credit - Utah firms that sell steam coal above a base amount to an overseas purchaser are allowed a $1 per ton credit against their corporate income tax liability. The legislature will consider whether to extend this credit for another five years.
  • Sales and Use Tax Exemption for Purchases of Equipment Used in the Mining Industry - The legislature will consider granting a sales and use tax exemption for purchases or leases of certain equipment and machinery used in the mining industry.
  • Tax Simplification - The Tax Review Commission has been studying ways to simplify the sales and use tax to allow for easier compliance and collection of the tax.


TRANSPORTATION

  • Decriminalization of Traffic Offenses - A task force on this issue has recommended legislation to change all class C misdemeanor penalties in the traffic code to infractions, which would eliminate the possibility of jail time for those offenses. The task force also recommended that no additional action should be taken on decriminalization at this time to allow Salt Lake City and West Valley City more time to use civil penalties and administrative proceedings. The task force further recommended that a group of legislators be assigned to revisit the issue during the 2001 interim.
  • Eminent Domain and Public Rights-of-Way - The acquisition of private property by a government entity for a public purpose involves sensitive communications and negotiations. The committee may address improving the processes involved.
  • Highway Funding - During the 1997 General Session, the legislature began a ten-year finance plan for the I-15 reconstruction project and for other Centennial Highway Fund projects. The legislature has continuing oversight on new projects added to the centennial highway project list, costs for projects, and funding issues.
  • Preservation of Mass Transit Corridors - Population growth both increases the demand for an improved transportation infrastructure and limits available undeveloped land for future transportation facility expansion. The legislature requested the Utah Transit Authority (UTA) to develop a regional commuter rail project proposal with cost estimates, begin preliminary negotiations on the acquisition of the Union Pacific right-of-way, pursue federal funding, and report to the legislature and governor. In addition, legislation may be introduced to grant eminent domain powers to UTA.
  • Vehicle Impound and Release Issues - Issues related to vehicle owners being able to find and retrieve their vehicles after they are towed, the conditions under which a vehicle may be towed without the knowledge of the owner, and the fairness by which the public is treated by tow truck businesses have been raised for several years. The Transportation Interim Committee recommended a bill to begin to address these issues by providing certification of various tow truck operations and by coordinating the collection and distribution of information about towed vehicles.

WORKFORCE SERVICES

  • Child Care - A 1999 internal audit conducted by the Department of Workforce Services confirmed instances of fraud in the use of cash assistance for child care. Item #34 of H.B. 1, "Supplemental Appropriations Act," 2000 General Session, expressed the intent of the legislature that the department evaluate and implement a better method to administer the funds and "evaluate imposing more stringent health and safety standards on child care providers of services for which assistance is provided under the Child Care Development Fund." During the 2000 Interim the department proposed modifications to the child care "cash out" program and expressed its intention to address the health and safety standards. Legislation may be proposed if the legislature's concerns are not resolved through agency action in response to the intent language or the results of a nearly completed legislative audit of the Office of Child Care.
  • Employment Support Act Amendments - Draft legislation presented by the Department of Workforce Services proposes: modifications to the duties of the Office of Child Care and its director; the elimination of the Child Care Expendable Trust Fund; the elimination of the Workforce Reentry Program; and the expansion of options for public assistance clients to utilize individual development accounts. The Workforce Services Interim Committee made numerous changes to the draft and requested that the department present the amended version in the November interim meeting.