To: Senate Republicans,
Subject: June Letter Home Template
Date: Thu Jun 26 20:24:51 MDT 2014
Here is some content for this month’s letter home.
Use whatever parts work best for you.
Have a happy day.
Dear friends and neighbors,
Even though our meeting schedule is less intense than it is during a regular session, there is still much to do and many things to discuss, consider and decide. There were several meetings held in June in addition to the regular Interim meetings.
On June 3, the Commission on Federalism heard reviews of recent case law related to state sovereignty in public lands; the Affordable Care Act; the legal recognition of the definition of marriage; and an update on the possibility of states calling for an Article V Convention. If you would like to listen here is the link. http://utahlegislature.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=2&clip_id=17574&meta_id=234945 The next time they meet there will be a report on where the courts are on public prayer and how those opinions will affect state's jurisdiction.
The Health Reform Task Force also met early in June. The task force received a report on the state's small-employer health insurance exchange and discussed the possibility of expanding the program to cover companies with more employees. Here is a link to the information legislators were given about Avenue H. http://le.utah.gov/interim/2014/pdf/00003404.pdf There was also a very interesting discussion about the employee mandates and penalties required by the Affordable Care Act. Here is the material that went along with that discussion http://le.utah.gov/interim/2014/pdf/00003440.pdf and here is a link to the meeting if you would like to listen. http://utahlegislature.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=2&clip_id=17576&meta_id=23498
Part of the ongoing discussion of this task force will be how or if the state should expand Medicaid. That decision needs to be a long-term policy decision, not just a quick fix solution. There are still many unknowns about what the real costs of federal health care will be both to individuals and the states. The plan the Governor has proposed a good plan and several others plans have been presented as well, but we need to be absolutely certain that we are committing to the BEST possible plan for Utah. Here is a video describing the current options that have been proposed thus far: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Om4HY6defw&feature=youtu.be
While one of those options may be at least part of our best solution, there are many concerns, like those addressed in this article, that raise a great deal of apprehension about the rising costs that states will become responsible for as companies are incentivized to discontinue offering health care as a regular benefit to their employees. http://images.politico.com/global/2014/04/30/health_care_4-29_3.pdf
The Medicaid decision needs to be made with as much information and deliberation as possible and therefore is not likely to be taken up in a special session.
The Prison Relocation Commission also met and was given prospective criteria options for evaluating the land for the new prison location; the necessary selection process for the land; and an estimated timeline for accomplishing that evaluation and selection process. There was also a presentation from the Department of Corrections on the same issue. Here is the material they considered: http://le.utah.gov/interim/2014/pdf/00003545.pdf
The Education Task Force also met outside of interim day. In this meeting, legislators discussed accountability measures for principals and had a long discussion about various legislative options for increasing or redirecting revenue for public education. Here is a link to that meeting if you would like to hear the discussion: http://utahlegislature.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=2&clip_id=17622&meta_id=235191
During June's regular Interim meetings the Health and Human Service Committee discussed converting a pilot program that funds hearing aids for children who are under three years old to an ongoing appropriation. The committee's agenda also covered the prescription drug abuse program and how the new federal regulations would affect e-cigarette retailers in Utah.
Federal impacts were also discussed in the Natural Resources, Agriculture, and Environment Committee. The director of the State Bureau of Land Management, the Lieutenant Governor and several other supervisors and directors from various agencies relayed to the committee how federal land ownership and the actions of the federal agencies that regulate those lands affect Utah. One of the major problems is the conflicting data and information that is generated by federal vs. state and local sources. Kathleen Clarke, Director of the Public Lands Policy Coordination Office, updated the legislators on the compelling need for the testimonies and depositions that they are collecting on the existence of more than 400 unmapped but existing public roads. Here is a link to the discussion if you are interested: http://utahlegislature.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=2&clip_id=17606&meta_id=235045 The committee also discussed the progress of the master plan for the State Fair Park area. The goal, of course, is to determine the highest and best use of the land, but at the same time factor in public use verses market-value use.
The Education Committee listened to a panel of teachers who gave suggestions and their opinions as to what the Legislature could best do to help promote learning for students. http://utahlegislature.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=2&clip_id=17614&meta_id=235087
The Political Subdivisions Committee had a discussion regarding a public-private partnership called UTOPIA that would provide broadband services to parts of the state. The main discussion issue is whether all citizens should pay the monthly fee as part of their utility bill regardless of whether they use the service. It was an important and interesting discussion about the difference between taxes and fees. Here is a link to that meeting: http://utahlegislature.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=2&clip_id=17615&meta_id=235089
The Transportation Committee heard reports from UTA, the Driver License Division and UDOT on their emerging issues and their long-term plans to address those issues. http://utahlegislature.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=2&clip_id=17607&meta_id=235098
Here is a link to the budget information that was given to the Executive Appropriations Committee this month: http://le.utah.gov/lfa/LFADocs.jsp?month=6 The numbers show that we can expect a surplus of between $25 and $150 million for the end of the fiscal year. The committee also heard the reports from several successful pilot programs.
In my committee, ********** we discussed **********.
In addition to our regular Interim meetings we honored some important foreign visitors and some important Utahns that day. You can read about them here: http://www.senatesite.com/home/may-2014/
Our next Interim day will be July 16. Committee schedules and agendas will be available soon on the website under the calendar tab http://le.utah.gov/. If you can't be here, you can listen live to the meetings on-line by following the links.
Here is a clip of Senator Henderson discussing the importance of transparency in government and the cautious attitude we should take with our acceptance of federal funds. http://www.frequency.com/video/gopac-emerging-leader-utah-state-senator/171690488/-/5-1745
Lake Powell is arguably one of the favorite summer destinations in the state. There is however trouble at our iconic reservoir. The troublemaker is the tiny, but very destructive quagga mussel. These mussels cause a great deal of damage to fisheries, beaches, pipes, canals and dams. The goal is to contain and maintain their destructive potential. Without a preemptive move, the state could end up spending more than $15 million a year to manage the problem. Last session we passed and the Governor signed SB 212 that will create inspection stations where boats and water vehicles going in and out of the lake will be checked for quagga mussels. Here is more information and pictures about the problems the mussels create and the possible costs to the state if we cannot contain them. http://le.utah.gov/lfa/LFADocs.jsp?month=5&pubid=5844&year=2014
Wildfires have always been a devastating and unpredictable part of our summers in the west. They are a natural process and part of a necessary natural cycle. However, over the last thirty years they have become more intense and more expensive. There are many theories as to why they have increased--drought, (every county in the state has now been dubbed a disaster area because of the ongoing drought), population growth in forested areas, wind conditions, grazing management and even some measures meant to suppress wildfires have been blamed because when vegetation builds up, it makes those areas more susceptible to large fires. But regardless of why more fires are happening, they are expensive. The upfront cost of managing fires is affecting many western state budgets. In 2012, Utah wildfires put a great strain on the state's forest service resources. Here is an overview of what happened that year. http://le.utah.gov/~2013/bills/hbillenr/hcr004.pdf
Wildfires also inflict a great deal of indirect economic damage that is very difficult to calculate. Things like lost revenue, decreased property value and damage from flooding that occurs after fires. Earlier this month, Governor Herbert participated in a video-teleconference with the governors from seven other western states and President Obama to discuss these long-term trends and find ways to partnership with each other to combat the fires and their negative effects.
Being aware of current conditions and restrictions is one way you can help. This link has real-time restrictions and fire information that you can reference as you travel throughout the state this summer. http://www.utahfireinfo.gov/
Utah continues to excel as a leader in business, especially for entrepreneurs. Recently, business owners in each state were asked how their state and local government regulations helped or hurt their entrepreneurial ability. In this study Utah was ranked as the friendliest state for small businesses. http://www.thumbtack.com/survey#/2014/1/states
Utah business owners have rated their state in the top five every year this survey has run. Also this month, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation again ranked Utah as one of the best performing states, finishing third overall. http://www.deseretnews.com/article/print/865605098/Utah-economy-and-business-policy-get-high-marks.html
This article shows that Utah is among the "least corrupt states" in the nation. http://www.govtech.com/budget-finance/What-Corrupt-States-Spend-Their-Money-On.html Just as the article points out, our contributing factors, such as high proportions of state funds allocated to education and social services and our continuous and consistent internal auditing process gives us this spot. Along the same lines, a new Gallup poll found that Utah was one of only 6 states where more than 70% of residents placed a "great deal/fair amount" of trust in their state's elected officials. http://www.gallup.com/poll/168251/illinois-residents-least-trusting-state-government.aspx I think a lot of this trust is due to transparency, accessibility and the fact that we are a part-time legislature.
Ten years ago, as one of the final parts of the renovation of the Capitol, 60,000 square feet of tile was installed. The new tile matched the period style of the original building. However the mortar bed below the tile is failing. As a preemptive move before there are any injuries or further damage, the tile throughout the building is being replaced. http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865602745/Construction-problem-forces-crews-to-replace-all-the-tiles-at-state-Capitol.html?pg=all
Unfortunately, if you do come to visit the Capitol as a tourist this summer there will be no access to certain parts of the building. Sorry for the inconvenience.
These students have done some great things with the Jordan River cleanup project. http://blog.epa.gov/ej/2014/06/jordan-river/
Here are some thoughts from Senator Dayton on the court ruling on Utah's immigration laws. http://www.senatesite.com/home/dayton-immigration/#more-10786
I hope you are enjoying your summer. My family and I are *************
This summer I am reading **********
Here are some additional summer reading suggestions from Senator Henderson: http://utahpoliticohub.com/the-utah-politicians-summer-reading-list-senator-deidre-henderson/
I would love to hear about your interests and ideas. I am available at ******** or ********. I will hold a town hall meeting on *********.
Here are some tips from Senator Todd Weiler on how to get involved in the legislative process. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ezrRJjypaWM&feature=youtu.be As he points out, involvement begins now. Frequently, when constituents come to me with problems during general session time, there is simply not enough time to adequately address their concern.
Hope you are enjoying your summer.
My best to you and your family,