Traditionally, the legislative process requires the "hurdling" of five (5) major barriers. First, if a bill is introduced in the Senate (as SB38 was), presentation and passage of a bill proposal in the Senate Standing Committee is required. In this case, SB38 was heard by the Senate Education Standing Committee. Following relatively detailed scrutiny by several members of the Senate (and its staff), a bill is voted up or down. SB38 passed from Senate Education Standing Committee with a 6-0-2 vote. (Six people voted for it, no people voted against it, and two people were absent for the vote.)
The second hurdle is a Senate Floor (or chamber) debate and passage. Yesterday, during the Senate's afternoon floor time, Senator Stephenson (the bill Sponsor) provided remarkable clarity and detailed reasoning for the substantive argument why this bill proposal is fair and equitable. The Senate comprises 29 members, each representing approximately 95,300 constituents. For a bill of this type to pass the Senate Chamber it must receive the approval of at least 15 of its members. There are two votes taken on each bill in the Senate (one on the Second Reading and one on the Third Reading...technical, I know, but very important). The first vote taken last Thursday (2/4/2016) passed by 18-11. The second vote taken yesterday during the afternoon floor time passed by 17-11-1. (One person was absent for the vote.)
There are a couple things to focus on here. First, it is important to note the votes of a couple "influential" members of the Senate. (All Senators are influential, though.) Although he voted against SB38 last Thursday, Senator Lyle Hillyard, the Chairman of Senate Executive Appropriations, voted for passage yesterday. Also important, is the support of President Neiderhauser, president of the Senate. The other thing to note is that even though there was significant resistance by some Senators during the second bill vote yesterday, members of this body will inevitably be "re-voting" this bill because of anticipated changes during the House committee and floor debates, many members have expressed their future support when promised changes are implemented.
The next hurdle will be introduction of SB38 into the House Education Standing Committee. The House committee will debate this bill just as the Senate did. We have worked closely with key members of the House throughout the Interim (April 2015 - January 2016) in anticipation of this bill's introduction and debate. The House has 14 members of its Education Standing Committee. If a full committee votes, eight (8) members will need to vote "aye" to move the bill to a House Floor (Chamber) debate.
We are anticipating, potentially, three (3) more amendments to SB38 in the House. The first amendment will address the creation of a new Property Tax Notification related to the local component specifically assigned to Districts collection of Property Tax passed on to charter schools. This proposal was originally included in Interim debate of the HB444 Charter School Funding Task Force; however, for whatever reason, didn't receive adequate votes from Task Force Members to make it into a Task Force recommended bill.
The second anticipated amendment would be the funding source of the Recreation Levy, anticipated to be an addition to the Local Replacement Funding (LRF) formula this session. Although its inclusion doesn't seem to be in question at this point, the funding source is still being discussed (state or local).
The last anticipated amendment will be which data set for determining the LRF is to be used. Charters have been funded in prior years based on a formula that includes "lagged" data. Data sets, by year, are an important factor in the determination of funding dollars related to the next three years of potential "phased" revenues.
(We will have more detailed information on these Amendments as they become available.)
Passage in the House will require 38 "aye" votes. (There are 75 members of the House of Representatives, each representing approximately 36,900 people. UCN's Board Member, and Policy/Legislative Affairs specialist, Craig Frank, was a member of the Utah State House of Representatives for nine years, and works closely with UCN's Executive Director on Capitol Hill providing strategy and liaison services during the 2016 General Session.) We are already working with key House leaders on both sides of the aisle for successful passage of this bill.
Contacting your legislators to show your support for SB38 Education Funding Amendments (Sen. H. Stephenson) is not only appropriate, but encouraged! You may find contact information for the Utah Senate by CLICKING HERE, and contact information for the Utah House of Representatives by CLICKING HERE.
When contacting your lawmakers about this bill remember to do the following:
Do NOT use regular mail (snail mail) it takes too long to get your point across when things tend to change on a moment's notice
Use your name and city or legislative district in the Subject line of the email
Do NOT use email blocks to contact large quantities of lawmakers (they often have their interns trash all the emails received when it's obvious they are bulk emailed)
Keep your thoughts specific and directed to the topic (the successful passage of SB38)
Do NOT write any more than two (2) paragraphs
Be pleasant and positive
Do NOT expect a response (lawmakers receive hundreds of emails every day while in session; they WILL read and consider your thoughts and positions)
Send only one or two emails on any one issue (be clear about your position)
Do NOT use template-style form letters
Once passed in the House, because of amendments not addressed by the Senate previously, the Senate will need to "approve" House changes (or Concur) before final passage from the Legislature.
The last hurdle, of course, is the signature of the Governor. I have a wonderful working relationship with the Governor's office. I currently sit on Governor Herbert's Education Excellence Commission, representing charter schools statewide, at his appointment. It is an honor to serve on this commission, and provides opportunities to discuss key charter school education proposals--like SB38--directly with the Governor's cabinet members and staff.
There have been a number of figures discussed and provided by the Utah State Office of Education, the Legislative Fiscal Analyst, the Taxpayers' Association, and other bright minds. UCN still feels comfortable providing a "range" of anticipated LRF revenue increases--between $553 and $580 per student. Anticipated.
We are also scheduling an opportunity to speak with the entire House Caucus about his bill (both Majority and Minority Caucuses). Heading into the House will require more time and attention to a greater number of lawmakers--remember, the number of House members is 75! Educating policymakers is a key part of what UCN does on Utah's Capitol Hill. We have our work cut out for us.
But, rest assured, we are on the Hill to achieve the best possible outcome for you, just as we have been for the past 15 years.
- Kim Frank
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