Friday, June 22, 2007

June Utah Legislative Interim Update

It was another busy interim day for Utah’s 242 cities and towns, with several legislative concepts being discussed in the various committees. Let’s first begin with the Political Subdivisions committee.

While the original agenda for the Political Subdivisions committee appeared more daunting than it actually proved to be, the committee did still spend a good portion of their time discussing the difficult issue of eminent domain. The issue at hand was whether or not governing entities should have to pay above the appraised value of property to offset the potential emotional and non-pecuniary tie to a condemned parcel of property. As was pointed out by both the Utah DOT and representatives from the Utah League of Cities, the major issue is and will always be what constitutes “fair and just” compensation. In essence saying the “appraised” value that is assigned to a given parcel of property will always be in questions during condemnation proceedings, and by adding an additional amount above appraised value, we will do nothing to address disagreements that are inevitably associated with underlying appraisal. By the end of the long discussion, the committee appeared to understand the issue well and took no further action on the issue. Even though this concept may be well understood we still expect additional scrutiny of its use in the coming months because of the inherent emotion that surrounds the use of condemnation authority.

In addition to the eminent domain issue, the legislature also spent time discussing local government transportation funding. The Transportation Committee requested a review of the local government B&C road funding allocation, and invited the Utah League of Cities and Towns and Association of Counties to address any concerns that may exist with the current formula. There was general consensus that the current formula lacks any scientific basis, but both the Counties and Cities agreed that there is not much appetite to change the current formula because of the possibility of creating categories of “winners” and “losers” with any proposed modification.

Both groups agreed that additional funding will be an imperative component of any change and encourage the legislature to reexamine the state/local split of funds to ensure that we are not creating a separate and distinct state system apart from the local system.

The committee expressed interest in continuing the dialog and looking at both the state and local transportation funding paradigms.

Lastly, Lieutenant Governor Herbert and representatives from the ULCT and Counties visited the caucus lunches to explain the election procedures that have been discussed in previous BLOG posts. All of the legislative caucus felt comfortable with the election administration model, and encouraged the counties and cities to work closely together to ensure a successful November election. In addition, all caucuses expressed a willingness to cover a large portion of the election costs ($2.3 million), which was being requested by the Lt. Governor, ULCT and Association of Counties.

That about did it for this interim. As things continue to progress we will be sure to provide additional updates.

Until next time …. Enjoy