Wednesday, December 10, 2008

2009 Presession Legislative Synopsis

Transportation Funding:
The ULCT has been working closely with legislative leadership for over a year to discuss an implementation strategy for additional transportation funding resources. It is anticipated that the legislature will contemplate increases in transportation funding. The ULCT will be working to ensure that any transportation funding increase is shared with local governments by way of the traditional B&C split of 70% for state projects and 30% for county and city projects. Currently the Governor has included an increase in the vehicle registration fee for his budget that was presented in early December. As drafted, the budget does not contemplate sharing any of the increase in revenue with local governments, but rather being used to exclusively address the state capacity projects that were delayed in Late November.

Telecommunications Taxes:
In light of recent distribution problems associated with the 1% local option tax on telecommunications, it is anticipated that legislation will be introduced to allow for a more methodical redistribution of funds in the event of any future misallocation. Both cities and counties have recognized that redistributions of misallocations can catch jurisdictions by surprise and attempts should be made to ensure that future repayments are made over a longer period of time to allow all jurisdictions to prepare for any unanticipated budget hit. The ULCT will be working to ensure that a full repayment is made to the appropriate jurisdictions, but the subcommittee charged with looking at this issue has determined that we should support legislation that smoothes out any transition so long as we all agree to full repayment.

Immigration Issues:
The ULCT will be working with the legislature to help clarify the intent of last year’s comprehensive immigration bill (SB81). We will be looking to address the following issues: (1) determining what constitutes a public benefit, whereby identity verification is required; (2) Responsibility for employment verification for private contractors who contract with a city or town; (3) coordination efforts between the Attorney General’s Office and local government and immigration enforcement (if any is required by an MOU); (4)How the Memorandum of Understanding between the jurisdictions and the AG's office will be handled; (5)Which ways can immigration status be verified and questions surrounding the effectiveness of the current verification system.

Transparency in Government Finance:
There is likely to be legislation to continue the effort toward complete governmental transparency of financial records. The intent is to make all governmental financial records available via the internet and searchable by account-type, vendor, date, etc. Currently the State of Utah is working toward this goal as a result of legislation that was passed last year. The anticipated legislation for this year will I include an effort to have the same transparency for cities, towns, counties, school districts and special districts by 2011. While most agree that the goal is laudable, there is some concern over the magnitude of information that may be required to be made available. We have been working closely with interested parties to help define the scope of the project to ensure that the effort will not come at a large expense to cities or towns. We have been assured that special consideration will be given to entities that are ill-equipped to handle the current requirements. We have also negotiated a position on the steering committee that is responsible for defining the scope of transparency for local government. We will be watching this issue closely and will be sure to provide updates as things progress.

As many cities have been experiencing problems associated with overwhelming records requests that are designed to harass rather than retrieve information, we are looking to amend the GRAMA laws to address harassment and ensure that those using such tactics pay the full cost of record retrieval. We are in the process of working the press and other interested parties to address this issue and will update you with language as soon as it is available. This request for legislation was made by the Salt Lake County Municipal Clerks and Recorders Association.

Open and Public Meetings Amendments:
It is anticipated that a standard procedure will be adopted for the “approval of meeting minutes”. The intent is to simply codify the standard practice of most jurisdictions, which simply requires the governing body to approve minutes by a formal vote. It is also anticipated that we will standardize the process for making meeting minutes available to the public. Such meeting minutes will be made available upon completion by the clerk and once they are ready for inspection by the governing body. Lastly it is anticipated that the recording of the meeting must be made available to the public within 72 hours of the meeting.

It is anticipated that the legislature will entertain removal of the sunset date for county created townships. Currently townships in SL County are set to expire in 2010. Several cities within SL County have expressed concern with the removal of the sunset date which would allow townships to exist in perpetuity. The major concerns include conflicts of interest that the county has when acting as both a regional government for all areas of the county and distributing regional funds, while also being a municipal service provider to some unincorporated areas of the county that are competing with municipalities for regional funds; in addition there is concern with the way municipal services are being provided in unincorporated areas, and the county’s perceived lack of responsiveness to the needs of the cities located within the county. As the township mode, whereby the county provides municipal services has begun to migrate to other counties, the concerns are becoming a larger statewide issue. Currently the ULCT is attempting to work with SL County for a mutually acceptable solution.

Taxation Authority of Special Districts:
There has been some concern expressed by the legislature regarding special district’s accountability when it comes to taxation issues. We will likely see efforts to limit special districts’ ability to impose a property tax. As many cities and towns operate dependent special districts for water, sewer, mosquito abatement, etc. this type of legislation will certainly have an impact. We will be working with the legislature to ensure vibrant and stable revenue options are available to special districts. It is anticipated that we will have to increase local government “accountability” when imposing such taxes and will be working to address that issue rather than simply limiting revenue options.

Wildland Fire Suppression:
A taskforce including city, county and state officials has been working on a proposal to address current funding problems associated with wildland fire suppression in the state. The current process requires municipalities to offer “first attack” efforts to state and federal properties located within their jurisdiction. In addition, any additional costs borne by the state for the fighting of fires on state or federal lands located within a municipal boundary are also the responsibility of the municipality. The intent of the legislation will be to identify a new funding source (anticipated natural growth in current insurance premium tax) that can be used to underwrite the costs of fighting wildfires in Utah regardless of the jurisdiction. The law will still require that cities provide first attack efforts and will be responsible for code enforcement and fire mitigation efforts, but all other cost would be covered by the newly created fund.

At the request of several cities, we will be looking to extend the window to allow for an enhanced public safety cost of living adjustment. Current law only allows jurisdictions to opt-in to the benefit until December 2009. Due to the economic downturn some cities who wish to offer the benefit will be unable to do so by the December ’09 deadline and are therefore looking for an extension to the deadline.

Disproportionate Service Fees:
The ULCT will be working to address an oversight in current state law which precludes any jurisdiction that does not currently have a disproportionate service fee from implementing such a fee. We intend to clarify that new jurisdictions can adopt the fee so long as the underlying criteria for doing so is met.

Alcohol Proximity Changes:
Proximity restrictions related to government and religious facilities that were included in last year’s alcohol amendments legislation have created some problems for many cities. We anticipate tweaking some of those restrictions to simply mirror the restrictions that were in place prior to last year’s legislation.

Agricultural Protection Areas:
We anticipate some legislative efforts to limit local government’s authority to regulate nuisance ordinances or impose new zoning designations on agricultural areas. The concern that has been expressed is that we (Cities) are allowing development in some of our most critical agricultural areas and then enforcing residential nuisance ordinances in traditional agricultural areas. It is perceived by some that we should be prohibited from allowing such development and precluded for enforcing nuisance ordinances for ordinary agricultural practices. The ULCT has opposed the bills in the past, as it encumbers local official’s ability to make land use decisions, and anticipate that we will be working against such measures again this year.

Charter School Amendments:
The ULCT will be pursuing legislation to standardized practices for site plan approvals for charter school placement.

Sewer/Water Lateral Location Amendments: There has been some concern expressed with the ability of utility to companies to locate sewer and water laterals that hook into our sewer and water systems. Legislation will be introduced this year to address the issue by requiring entities that put in public improvements to make those utilities and “cleanouts” locatable. The legislation has been worked on by many of our public works officials had has received their endorsement

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Why Does Fuel Cost $4 a gallon?

Breakdown of Gas Prices

As motor fuel prices continue to increase, the blame for such increases are spreading far and wide. With reports of gas station vandalism, fuel tax revolts in Europe and legislative pleas to increase energy independence, I thought it would be interesting to evaluate what goes into the price of fuel. By using my trusty resource I found the following breakdown of fuel prices that I thought may be helpful.

When you pump gas into your tank, that money is broken up into little pieces that get distributed among several entities. Gas is just like any other consumer product: There's a supply chain and several groups who are responsible for setting the price of the product. The media can sometimes lead you to believe that the price of gas is based solely on the price of crude oil, but there are actually many factors that determine what you pay at the pump. No matter how expensive gas becomes, all of these entities have to get their slice of the pie. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, here's an approximation of where each dollar you spend on gas goes:

· Taxes: 11 cents
· Distribution and Marketing: 6 cents
· Refining: 10 cents
· Crude oil: 73 cents

This all equals $1 dollars worth of gas, so for a typical gallon of gas price at $4/gallon the approximate national average is:

Taxes: 44 cents/gallon
Distribution: 24 cents/gallon
Refining: 40 cents/gallon
Crude Oil: $2.92/gallon

This is what the average breakdown looked like in April 2008. Let's look at those components in more detail.

· Crude oil - The biggest portion of the cost of gas goes to the crude-oil suppliers. This is determined by the world's oil-exporting nations, particularly the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).The amount of crude oil these countries produce determines the price of a barrel of oil. Crude-oil prices averaged around $35 per barrel (1 barrel = 42 gallons or 158.99 L) in 2004. And, after Hurricane Katrina, some prices were almost double that. In April 2008, crude-oil prices averaged around $104.74 per barrel. During that month, the price of oil reached a record price of almost $120 a barrel [Source: U.S. DOE]. By May 16, prices had topped $117 per barrel [source: MarketWatch]. On May 22, markets in New York and London reported prices past $135 per barrel [source: Forbes]. Analysts speculated that everything from investment in oil futures to increasing demand from countries like India and China contributed to the spike in price.

Sometimes, gas prices go up even though there is plenty of crude oil on the market. It depends on what kind of oil it is. Oil can be classified as heavy or light, and as sweet or sour (no one actually tastes the oil, that's just what they call it). Light, sweet crude is easier and cheaper to refine, but supplies have been running low. There's plenty of heavy, sour crude available in the world, but refineries, particularly those in the U.S., have to undergo costly retooling to handle it.

· Refining costs - The cost of refining diesel fuel can be considerably higher than the price of refining regular gasoline.

· Distribution and marketing - Crude oil is transported to refineries, and gasoline is shipped from the refineries to distribution points and then to gas stations. The price of transportation is passed along to the consumer. Marketing the brand of the oil company is also added into the cost of the gasoline you buy.

· Taxes - Federal excise taxes are 18.4 cents per gallon, and state excise taxes average 18.2 cents per gallon. There may also be some additional taxes, such as applicable state sales taxes, gross receipts taxes, oil inspection fees, underground storage tank fees and other miscellaneous environmental fees. Add that to the state excise taxes, and it can average 27.4 cents (Utah is at 24.5 cents). It could be worse. In Europe, gas prices are far higher than in America because taxes on gas are much higher.

· Station markup - Of course some of the money you spend at the pump does go to the service station. While some consumers blame high prices on station markup, service stations typically add on a few cents per gallon. There's no set standard for how much gas stations add on to the price. Some may add just a couple of cents, while others may add as much as a dime or more.

Gas prices also vary from state to state for several reasons. Taxes are probably the biggest factor in the different pr­ices around the country. Additionally, competition among local gas stations can drive prices down. Distance from the oil refineries can also affect prices -- stations closer to the Gulf of Mexico, where many oil refineries are located, have lower gas prices due to lower transportation costs. There are also some regional factors that can affect prices.
World events, wars and weather can also raise prices. Anything that affects any part of the process, from the moment the oil is drilled, through refining and distribution to your car will result in a change in price. Military conflicts in parts of the world with lots of oil supplies can make it difficult for oil companies to drill and ship crude oil. Hurricanes have damaged offshore drilling platforms, coastal refineries and shipping ports that receive oil tankers. If a tanker itself is lost or damaged, or leaks its oil into the ocean, that will put a dent in the market as well.
The most recent surge in gas prices is due to several factors, including all of those listed above. However, a new reason emerged during the spring of 2007: legislation out of Washington to incorporate more ethanol into transportation fuels, enough to reduce daily oil imports by 1.5 million barrels by 2017. Between October 2007 and April 2008, ethanol-blended gas was between 4 and 12 percent more expensive than regular gas.

In addition to new legislation and the items listed above, another factor to consider is the strength of the US Dollar. Because oil prices are set in US Dollars, anytime the US Dollar is devalued against other currencies the price of gas in dollars must increase to reflect the “true value” as represented in the world economy, where other currencies are being used to by fuel. Recently the FED Chair Ben Bernanke announced potential efforts to reduce inflationary pressure that can largely be attributed to the cost of fuel by attempting to strengthen the dollar and therefore drive down the cost of staple goods where prices of such goods are dependent upon the cost of fuel for production and transportation.
As you can see there are many things that go in to the cost of fuel. There is no one culprit, but rather a very complex web on factors that set fuel prices. Any manipulation of one factor can have significant impacts not only on the price of fuel but many other issues as well, to include financial markets, lending rates, monetary policy, tax policy, road construction schedules, environmental issues, etc, etc,

If you want a far more in depth discussion on this issue and how OPEC works, why gas prices vary in different parts of the country or energy independence you can find out much more at


Friday, May 09, 2008

Irony Is Often Stark in Local Government Politics

In a single day of news, it is amazing to see the contradictions that are omnipresent in local government politics.

While the US Senate is getting set to seriously debate mandatory collective bargaining legislation HR980/S2123, which would compel states and cities and towns to enter into collective bargaining arrangements for local public safety employees, we are also seeing news out of Vallejo, California, where this city of 117,000 people is soon to become California's largest city to file for Chapter 9 bankruptcy.

So where is the irony? Well, one of the major contributing factors for the decision to file bankruptcy is a $16 Million shortfall in funds that is largely attributed to overly generous pay and benefits packages that have been foisted on the city through collective bargaining arrangements with various public safety employee groups. It was reported in the San Francisco Chronicle that nearly 75%-80% of Vallejo's general fund is spent on public safety (Police and Firefighter) compensation and benefits packages.

Article Excerpt:
Many officials and residents attribute Vallejo's fiscal troubles to overly generous pay and benefits to the city's police and firefighters. The salaries for police and firefighters currently take up 75 to 80 percent of the city's general fund.

Representatives from police, fire and electrical workers unions all argued against the Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection, saying that doing so would only make hiring already short-staffed public safety agencies even harder.

While California cities, and Vallejo in particular, are not all too similar to many Utah cities in regard to financing and available financing tools, it should be noted that Utah cities and towns are also seeing continuous increases in the cost of employee compensation and benefits.

So, is any Utah City on the verge of bankruptcy? Unequivocally -- NO, but we too need to be worried about the threats that such congressional action could impose on Utah's ability to pay for employees, while also taking care of the day-to-day needs of city residents (trash pickup, pot hole repair, water, sewer, etc.)

While we may not be dealing with widespread collective bargaining in Utah, there is one thing that we do have in common with California cities and that is dependence upon a strong economy to provide the required tax revenue to provide local government services. As has been witnessed in Vallejo, a weakening housing market and slowing retail sales have further exacerbated the budget problems in this suburb of San Francisco. As we start to see a "cooling economy", the last thing we need is to see Congress add additional costs for the general, day-t0-day operation of a city or town.

If you haven't contacted Senator Hatch or Bennett already, please do so today to ensure that they too see the irony of this legislation.

Until next time... Enjoy

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Preparing for 2009 -- What is on the horizon

I was recently at a breakfast with a city council member who asked me "so now that the legislative session is over, what do you do for the remainder of the year?" -- A great question to segway in to my first post session legislative update.

While many people often believe the Utah legislative season begins in January and ends in March, the true dynamic of the Utah legislature has made it a year-round "gig". We are now just on the heals of the 2008 legislative session and preparations are already being made for 2009.

Now obviously election season puts a damper on some discussions, but a vast majority of the topics to be discussed in '09 will be debated, tweaked, and refined in the coming months. It has been just over a month since the conclusion of the 2008 general session and committee meetings are well underway, study items are already being pursued, and bills are already being filed. As such, the job of the ULCT lobby team must also track and follow all of this activity throughout the year so that when crunch time (the legislative session) hits we are ready to hit the ground running.

So what is going on, and what are we working on?

Well in April, here is a truncated list of some of the municipal items that were already in process by the legislature.
  1. WiFi in Utah: Legal and Social Issues (Downtown Free Wireless Content Regulation)
  2. Condominium and Community Association
  3. Revenue Collection Update and Recent Trends in the Utah Economy

  4. Review of Property Tax Study

  5. Item #159, Local Regulation of State Land Development

  6. Item #161, New Entities and Boundary Changes

  7. Item #163, Riparian Overlay Zones

  8. Item #164, Zoning and Housing Development
... and that is just to name a few

So what do we anticipate for 2009, or better yet, what are we already working on for 2009?

Here is a brief list of items that are already in process:

1. Additional funding options for the Utah transportation system (local roads included).
Because local roads are in desperate need of additional resources (both capacity and maintenance), the ULCT is working closely with several other groups to pursue additional funding resources for local road projects. Ideas of gas tax, sales tax, vehicle fees and other related topics are being explored for possible introduction in the 2009 session.

2. Public Employee Retirement
As several legislators have expressed a sincere interest in looking at possible conversions from the defined benefit (pension) plan to a defined contribution (401K) plan for public employees, we have been working closely with the Utah Retirement System (URS), the chairs of the legislative committee overseeing retirement issues, and other interested groups to determine a strategy to tackle this tough issue. This discussion and deliberation has been in process for several years and is likely to see much more scrutiny before it is introduced for consideration.

3. Land Use
As usual the ULCT is going to be spending much of the summer discussing land-use issues to include: planning, affordable housing, inspections, impact fees, exactions, training and several other important issues.

4. Taxes
This is likely to be one of the biggest issues this year, and as such the ULCT is in the process of creating a local government finance book that will analyze the Utah Tax system completely and serve as a great resource guide to both state and local officials. In addition, we are going to be participating fully in several additionally authorized tax meetings to discuss changes in the Utah property tax system. And as you can imagine, any change can have huge impacts on Utah's cities and towns who rely on the property tax as one of the major municipal funding sources.

So, as you can see we are busily working in preparation for next year. And while the summer may allow for a few days of fishing, we unfortunately aren't on vacation until next year. It is amazing how a 45 day exercise in legislating has turned into a 320 day preparatory period as well.

Until next time ... ENJOY.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Final Day Update

So we are now sitting here on Day 45 of the 45 day session and things are looking pretty good.

Here is a quick recap of our priority issues:

  • HB51 Water Forfeiture Protection -- ULCT Supported (Our number one priority)

This bill passed earlier this week with flying colors. Like all water bills it was not without controversy, but it did ultimately pass and is now awaiting the Governors signature.

  • Land Use Legislation -- Various Positions

All of our high priority "Support" bills passed without any real controversy (SB196, HB153, HB177). We again demonstrated that working throughout the interim with the interested parties makes for a much easier session as we are all working from the same page. We also successfully avoided some detrimental legislation to include additional zoning restrictions for environmentally sensitive zones (SB226) and riparian areas (HB454). Lastly we successfully avoided legislation that would have significantly altered our ability to obtain water rights when annexing new property (SB279) -- It was a great year on land-use issues

  • Justice Courts -- Support the Substituted Bill

We were able to successfully substitute the justice court bill to ensure that we maintained local control of the justice court system while also implementing changes that promote public confidence in the court system and further demonstrate the independent nature of the justice courts. As this was a major issue for us this year, the compromise position on this bill addressed any concerns we had with the original proposal -- Again a great result.

  • Forms of Government -- ULCT High Priority Issue -- Passed Yesterday

While this bill was probably the most "fluid" of any our issues, we successfully passed the 3rd substitute of SB20 yesterday evening and held off all of the proposed amendments that would have fundamentally altered the governance of many cities in Utah. After 18 months of work, we have successfully clarified the law of governance while also striking the same power balance that exists today. In addition the bill clearly demonstrates that any change in form of government will require a vote of the people and the law clearly states what constitutes a change in form. A big thanks goes out to Senator Carlene Walker and Layton City Attorney Gary Crane who has shepherded this bill through the process.

  • Privatization -- Various Positions

As another major issue for local government, we successfully avoided several detrimental pieces of legislation that were geared at disrupting local government services that many of our citizens rely upon. The only bill to pass that has any impact on the cities is SB45 which was substantially altered to ensure that the state does an inventory of all activities that they perform to see if additional privatization efforts can be implemented to promote government efficiency. The bill then has a delayed effective date for first and second class cities to also provide the same inventory. The local government inventory requirement is not in place until 2010 for cities of the first class and 2011 for cities of the second class. In essence, the bill just requires an inventory of all services that are offered by the city. Not a bad result when considering the many detrimental proposal that were initially being contemplated.

Obviously there is a lot more to cover, and we will be doing so within the next few weeks with a complete recap of all legislative activities.... I know it just wets the appetite doesn't it.

Until next time....Enjoy

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Justice Court Software -- Conformity Issues

Just a quick update on an important item that we have received a few phone calls on. SB72 1st Substitute Justice Court Amendments has passed out of the Senate and is now awaiting a hearing in the House. The bill has been discussed at length, but there seems to be a small issue of concern relative to the utilization of various software packages at the justice court level for case management purposes. The current language in the bill reads as follows:

(7) By July 1, 2011, all justice courts shall use a common case management system and disposition reporting system as specified by the Judicial Council.

The question that has been raised is if this language will require the use of CORIS by local justice courts. From the outset the Administrative Office of the Courts has expressed concern with the ability to transmit and receive compatible information between the various justice courts and district courts to ensure that crimes that are committed in one area of the state are reported and recognized in other parts of the state. The key concern that has been highlighted is if perpetual DUI offenders are slipping through the cracks because of recording issues. We had committed early on to a process that would ensure that compatibility issues would be solved to ensure accurate and timely reporting, which is the intent of this language. Because of the delayed effective date of this section, we do feel that enough time has been granted to ensure that we are only doing what is necessary to meet the objective. If it becomes apparent that a move to CORIS is going to be mandated we will have plenty of time to work through this issue and resolve it with the Administrative Office of the Courts as well as the legislature, to ensure that our concerns are addressed prior to 2011. We will track this closely as time progresses and provide periodic updates.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

HB51 Fifth Substitute Passes Senate

Just a quick update. Late Wednesday afternoon HB51 Water Right Forfeiture Protection passed the Senate and will now be sent back to the House for concurrence. Concurrence is expected today and the bill will then move to the Governor's desk for his signature.

Thanks to all who helped passes this landmark legislation for Utah's cities and towns.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Sifting Begins for the '08 session

As we enter the final full week of the 2008 legislative session, sifting has begun. Meaning that only priority bills will be placed on the reading calendar for consideration. If you still have a bill to get to committee or still have a bill in its house or origin it is now time to start worrying. If, however, you are trying to stop a bill and one of the previous still apply, then life is looking pretty good right now.

So far, the ULCT has faired pretty well with only a few lingering bills that cause some concern, and much of our work completed on the bills we are promoting. Today also marks the final Legislative Policy Meeting for the 2008 session. I will provide a detailed recap this evening, but here are a few bills we are following and there status.

Major Bills We Are Promoting:

  • HB51 Water Forfeiture – Through the House and Ready for Senate Consideration
  • HB153 Impact Fee Amendments – Through the House Ready for Senate Consideration
  • HB177 Geologic Hazards Zoning -- Through the House Ready for Senate Consideration
  • SB20 Municipal Forms of Government – Through the Senate, In House Committee
  • SB72 Justice Court Reform – Senate Third Reading Calendar

Major Bills of Concern:

  • HB166 Minutes of Open Meetings – Passed House, To Be Considered in the Senate
  • HB264 Citation Quotes – Held in the Senate – Will not pass
  • HB293 Certified Private Bldg. Inspectors – Passed House, our amendments ready to be placed in the Senate
  • HB454 Regulation of Riparian Zones – Still in the House, Going to Committee
  • SB127 Underground Utility Locations – Still in the Senate – Will not pass

Until Next Time, Enjoy

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

ULCT Priority Issues Update

Water Forfeiture – HB51

The water forfeiture protection bill is moving well. It has already passed the House with overwhelming support and early this week it passed out of the Senate Natural Resources Committee with a unanimous vote. The bill has been amended and substituted through the process, but still includes the forfeiture protections we have sought from the outset. While an additional amendment is likely to come on the Senate floor, it looks like this bill is largely resolved. We should be seeing it on the Senate floor some time next week.

Justice Court Modifications – SB72

While this bill started out fairly contentious, resolution between the ULCT and the Courts was reached early in the session. The bill is moving slowly but should not see any hiccups. The bill is currently awaiting a hearing on the Senate floor and should be moved to the House for consideration this week. The compromise position on the bill includes the following provisions:
  • We scrapped the idea that judges would become state paid officials (They will still be maintained and local appointed and accountable government officials)
  • We scrapped the mandatory pay structure which tied salaries directly to district court judge salaries, and instead provided a minimum and maximum salary range and required that pay negotiations mirror those of the average municipal employee, so if the average employee receives a 3% pay increase so does the judge, but if no pay increase is granted to the average employee then no pay increase can be granted to the judge,
  • We created a local nominations process that is governed by local officials and did away with the original concept of having a standing state nomination committee
  • We also created a retention election process for appointed justice court judges. The election will be conducted every six years and will be done on a county-wide basis.

    We feel very comfortable with this middle ground and are happy to report that the most contentious points of the original proposal (see item 1 and 2) were resolved to our satisfaction. Since a compromise has been reached the bill should move forward without much additional fan fare.

Forms of Government – SB20 Third Substitute:

This bill has probably been one of the most scrutinized and contentious bills on the session for Utah’s cities and towns, largely due to some early misunderstandings of the bills original intent and purpose. While the ULCT has been involved in the process from the outset, he have long held the belief that clarification of Title 10 in this area is warranted, but we were committed to ensuring that the structured power balance that exists today is not disrupted in the favor of either councils or mayors. We simply wanted to maintain the current power balance between the two. Due to early drafting problems, the bill appeared far more damaging to a mayor’s power than was ever intended. After substantial modifications, the bill now provides a great deal of protection to mayoral authority while also allowing the necessary flexibility in municipal governance to delegate administrative functions to department heads, city managers and other paid professionals.

While some would like you to believe that the bill allows for the mayors authority to be usurped by a rogue council majority, the bill actually provides additional protection, that does not exist in the current law, to the mayors authority from being delegated without his/her consent by stating that the mayor has the following default powers and if these powers are altered, the mayor either needs to consent or a unanimous vote of the council is needed:

(a) is the chief executive officer of the municipality to whom all employees of themunicipality report;
(b) shall:
(i) keep the peace and enforce the laws of the municipality;
(ii) ensure that all applicable statutes and municipal ordinances and resolutions arefaithfully executed and observed;
(iii) if the mayor remits a fine or forfeiture under Subsection (1)(c)(ii), report theremittance to the council at the council's next meeting after the remittance;
(iv) perform all duties prescribed by statute or municipal ordinance or resolution;
(v) report to the council the condition and needs of the municipality; and
(vi) report to the council any release granted under Subsection (1)(c)(iv); and

(c) may:
(i) recommend for council consideration any measure that the mayor considers to be inthe best interests of the municipality;
(ii) remit fines and forfeitures;
(iii) if necessary, call on residents of the municipality over the age of 21 years to assistin enforcing the laws of the state and ordinances of the municipality;
(iv) release a person imprisoned for a violation of a municipal ordinance;
(v) with the council's advice and consent:
(A) assign or appoint a member of the council to administer one or more departmentsof the municipality; and
(B) appoint a person to fill:
(I) a municipal office; or
(II) a vacancy on a commission or committee of the municipality; and
(vi) at any reasonable time, examine and inspect the official books, papers, records, ordocuments of:
(A) the municipality; or
(B) any officer, employee, or agency of the municipality.

Since current state law allows for these powers to be removed from the mayor by ordinance by a simply majority vote, you can see that the new law provides far more protection to mayoral authority than the existing law. With that in mind, it has been hard to understand why some would believe that this is hurtful to mayors. As you can imagine, the ULCT is quite concerned with maintaining the authority of municipal mayors and we believe this bill does just that. Once this issue was clarified to members of the Senate it passed out of the Senate in overwhelming margins. It is now in the House for consideration and will be heard in committee this Thursday. We are hopeful that the clarifications address any concerns that existed and the bill will move forward smoothly.

We will let you know how things go as time progresses.


To our satisfaction, most of the “privatization” efforts have been scrapped during this year’s session, but we did finally agree on some language for one bill that will have nominal impact of some cities and towns. SB45 requires first and second class cities to conduct an inventory of all government activities and determine if the activities “compete” with the private sector. In addition the bill asks that the city elaborate on any efforts that have been made to privatize aspects of the services they provide. While the bill originally had the potential of creating an unhealthy and indefinable distinction between “core government” and “non-core government” that language has been scrapped at the ULCT’s request and the bill now simply requires an inventory to be done every two years. Do to the limited administrative burden that will be caused by creating the inventory, the ULCT policy committee has decided to support the bill now that the contentions “core government” language has been removed. The bill has now passed the Senate and is now on the House floor for consideration. This will likely be the only “privatization” bill to pass this year that has a municipal impact

Land Use:

Land Use issues are moving along smoothly. It has helped that most of the contentious “stuff” was resolved prior to the session beginning, and it appears that the bills we have had a hand in drafting are moving well. SB196 is on the verge of passing out of the Senate without much fan fare. HB153 and HB177 have already passed out of the House and are awaiting consideration in the Senate. The only bill that is having any issues is HB177. This bill addresses the concerns that have been raised relative to zoning in sensitive lands areas. It was drafted by ULCT staff and as it currently stands, it is a very helpful bill in explaining how sensitive lands zoning should be conducted. There have, however, been some rumblings that the bill may be hijacked in the Senate where language may be added that would largely prohibit sensitive lands zoning. So, in short we are playing some defense to make sure those amendments are not made. We should have a good idea as to the validity of those threats within the next few days and will let you know the outcome as soon as we can. Other than that little lingering issue, all is well on the land-use front.

Well that about does it for the big priorities. We will be sure to keep you up to speed as we head into the home stretch.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Eminent Domain -- Revisited

H.B. 323 1st SUBSTITUTE - Eminent Domain Amendments


· Two years ago, the power of eminent domain for obtaining trails, paths, or other ways for walking, hiking, bicycling, or equestrian use was precluded by a statutory change.

· H.B. 323 seeks to further clarify those things that constitute a trail by indicating that a park that operates as a trail is still considered a trail for the purpose of contemplating the use of eminent domain.

· Line 47 of the current bill, however, goes much further than necessary in protecting trails from the improper use of eminent domain by precluding its use for paths, lanes, or other ways for emergency access.

· A true "emergency access" is the very type of use that may and should be subject to this power. Much like utility easements, these easements are used to get emergency vehicles and personnel to a location in the fastest way possible.


· The first substitute language would confirm that paths, lanes, and other ways for emergency access could not be used as a pretext for public paths, equestrian trails, bicycle paths, or walkways.

· Planning and zoning provides a means for preserving emergency access once a property owner seeks to develop their property. Also, while the local governments may have the right to access property in the case of an emergency, they do not have the right to require that an easement remain clear for the use in an emergency where the property is neither being developed and where no emergency is currently occurring.

· There is a gap caused by this bill without this amendment. Trees, sheds, agricultural buildings, walls, and other obstructions may prevent emergency vehicles and personnel from reaching a victim in as short a time as possible, none of which can be avoided by way of proper planning..

· To generally deny government the ability to take and preserve an easement for emergency access would be comparable to failing to preserve an access for the accommodation of utilities or other essential services.

· Where government is required to give these essential services, they should not be unduly limited in their ability to reasonably acquire access and in the rare case, use eminent domain for this purpose.

Bill Text:

Monday, February 11, 2008

Municipal Form of Government -- Trying to Strike the Balance

Many of you may have been hearing about potential concerns with the Senate Bill 20 (Changes in Municipal Form of Government). In attempt to help clarify the situation and clearly show what the initially proposed bill actually did, we have included a set of explanations for what the proposed bill contained.

In addition, we will also discuss the changes that were made by way of an amendment today (Monday, February 11) on the Senate floor which completely undermines both mayors and councils universally. Obviously with the amendments, the ULCT and all cities and towns should have concerns with the legislation, as it completely upsets the current operation of just about every city and town in Utah.

While it is true that some of the early drafts were prepared a little hastily and had some unintended consequences, the second substitute to the bill adequately struck the same balance of power that exists today in all of your cities and towns.

The ULCT has worked long and hard to ensure no form of government or individual government was detrimentally affected and believes the initial proposed bill strikes that balance. While some would like to remove the option of allowing a professional manager to assume some of the day to day responsibilities of governance, we have to be cognizant of the 80+ cities that currently employ city managers that do just that. The intent behind the bill was to simply clarify existing law to avoid future problems with the confusion that exists in the current statute relative to the existing forms of government, and to not upset any existing form of government with monumental shifts in power that would be ushered in by statute.

The ULCT would not be supporting a bill that stripped councils or mayors of their authority, and believes this bill simply clarifies the current options.In short, the original bill (without the floor substitutes) did the following:

· Clarifies the intent of existing forms without changing any balance of power between councils and mayors.
· Provides a default delineation of powers which statutorily makes the mayor the CEO.
· Requires that any change in form of government requires a vote of the people.
· Allows for flexibility by municipal ordinance to delegate authorities to mayors, councils or administrative staff for specific administrative duties.
· Specifies that there are specific duties that are inherently vested in the mayor and does not allow those powers to be delegated.
· Specifies that there are specific duties that are inherently vested in the council and does not allow those powers to be delegated.
· Cleans up the existing statute through a comprehensive recodification.

So, what did the floor amendments do to the bill?

Well, through amendment, the bill now says that any changes in the powers of the mayor require the affirmative vote of the people. As mentioned earlier, this legislative change is equally punitive to both mayors and councils by prescribing that any change in function, whether it be an enhancement or reduction of powers will require a vote.

So what kind of powers are we talking about?

As currently drafted it would include any change in power. So if the mayor decided that the city administrator should conduct performance evaluations for employees instead of the mayor, it would require a vote of the people, or vice versa. If the Mayor wanted to delegate the authority to review all checks and receipts to a financial adviser or manager, it would require a vote of the people. If, in a small community, the mayor wanted to delegate some of his authority over departments to individual council members (spread the administrative burden) it would require a vote of the people. Please remember that the countervailing point is also true, if the council and mayor wanted to grant all, or some, of that responsibility in a mayor that may not have that responsibility today, it would require a vote as well.

So the question then becomes -- do any of these changes constitute a "true change in form" or is it simply divvying up responsibilities? If changes of this nature are not considered fundamental change, then why should it require a vote?

Hopefully you can see how this could easily get out of control, with minor changes in day to day operations now being considered fundamental changes in governance and requiring a vote. This has never been the spirit or letter of the law or constitution. While the law recognizes the need for voter approval on changes in form, it is contemplated only under the notion of fundamental change in governance. I am still trying to figure out how ANY change in function, regardless of scale, of an individual can be universally categorized as a fundamental shift in governance -- which is how the bill now stands.

We obviously need to strongly oppose the bill as drafted to protect mayors, council members and other administrators from the overstepping aspects of the amendments.

We will be working with the interested parties to make sure that they understand the litany of unintended consequences of the proposed amendments to the bill, and would encourage you to do the same.

For more detailed reading of the bill, please review the link to the bill text below.

Municipal Government Amendments - SB20 -- Second Substitute

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Transparency in Government -- Cost/Benefit Analysis is Needed

The ULCT has had some concern regarding the administrative burden that would accompany the passage of SB38 Transparency in Government Finance in its original form. While Utah’s cities and towns are extremely interested in making budgetary information readily available to the public, they have requested that the legislature move methodically through the process of identifying which budgetary documents will create the awareness that is being sought while also recognizing the burdens that will accompany the process of keeping this information current and useable for the general public. In short, we would encourage a cost/benefit assessment to be conducted to ensure that we are focusing on the information that is being requested without overwhelming the system with information that will be largely unused and administratively difficult to convert and make readily available on a centralized website. System compatibility, redacting costs, conversion costs, administrative time and other factors should all be evaluated to ensure that the value received is compatible with the costs associated.

With that in mind, the ULCT has recommend the following steps toward additional transparency in government finances:

1. Centralize currently available information in one location for public access; require that this information be made available.
a. Current documents include municipal budgets, audits and surveys of finance (most available on State Auditor’s Website).
b. Could also centralize much of the budgetary information that is available on the tax commission website.

2. Create a study group to evaluate information that should be made available. Conduct evaluation in preparation for the 2009 session.
a. Survey state and local governments to determine which budget documents are being frequently requested to ensure that we are focusing on information the public is requesting.
b. Evaluate system sophistication to see how compatibility and document conversion will occur.

3. Run Legislation in 2009 to make information that has been identified by the study group available on the website.

4. Run legislation this year with a delayed effective date of 2010 to allow for the study to occur over 2008 with the information requirement passed in 2009 and final implementation due in 2010.

5. Stagger the implementation of the legislation. In year one (2010) focus on a state agency to “test” the use-ability of the system. In year two (2011), work out any “kinks in the system and move to implement more broadly to state agencies and local governments. (Keep in mind that the budget, audit and survey of finance will be available with the passage of this year’s legislation, and the staggered/delayed effective date will only apply to the additional information that is deemed appropriate by the study committee.

With these steps in place, we feel confident that greater transparency can be accomplished with minimal impact of the governments charged with making this information available.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Municipal Issues Moving Slowly

As we move through the third week of the 2008 legislative session, it appears that many things are going to be different. Not only have we moved back to the "big house", but it appears that municipal issues are receiving far more dileberation than they have in year's past -- AND THAT IS NOT A BAD THING.

Lets just look at some of the key priorities for the ULCT this year.

SB-72 Justice Court Reform:
This much anticipated bill, which has been covered extensively in the press and has had many local officials anxious over potential changes in governance has yet to have its first committee hearing. Now thats not to say that work has not been done on this issue, as we have been meeting on a daily basis with the interested parties and the bill sponsor to work out a solution to this problem, but it is certainly a departure from the norm to work in this fashion and avoid the committee process in an attempt to work things out prior to the big committee/floor fight. It is likely that this bill will go to committee late this week, but we are confident that many of the large concerns for municipalities will be worked out prior to that committee hearing -- Certainly a refreshing approach.

Privatization Issues:
As with Justice Courts, it has taken nearly three full weeks to get the kinks worked out of the privatization issues. Two bills SB45 and HB75 have been substantially revamped to address concerns that were raised by the ULCT and local governments. These bills just went to committee this week and were largely hammered out prior to the committee hearing process. Since these bills were subcommittee approved, it has been odd to have them delayed this long, but certainly a refreshing approach to address our concerns prior to committee to avoid the protracted battles that have occured in years past.

Taxation and Government Finance:
Again with both SB29 and SB38, which largely deal with property tax issues (SB29) and transparency in government finance (SB38), we have had significant opportunity to provide constructive feedback on both bills to avoid large committee fights. We successfully addressed the concerns we had with the original version of SB29, and are now unaffected by the current legislation (all of this was done prior to the committee hearing). In addition, we have provided significant feedback on SB38 and believe the sponsor is receptive to our concerns and proposed approach. While SB38 is now on the Senate floor for considereation, we have had a great opportunity to voice our concerns in the Senate and are hopeful that amendments will be offered to address our concerns with the legislation. -- Again a refreshing approach to the legislative process.

Hopefully the trend will continue and the writing of this entry will not "jinx" our efforts.

Thanks again for all of those that help with the municipal government effort. Lets hope the following weeks follow suit.

Until next time... Enjoy.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Policy Meeting (Monday, February 4th)

Just a quick reminder for the upcoming ULCT Legislative Policy Meeting:

The meeting will be held at noon in room W135 of the Utah State Capitol Complex

Hope to see you there.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Talkin' Trash -- Waste Flow Control Examined by the Legislature

Senate Bill #46
Anti Flow Control Amendments

Anti-Flow Control Amendments, as proposed in Senate Bill 46, would prohibit a public entity from requiring solid waste generated within its jurisdiction be delivered to a government owned facility.

Flow Control, currently authorized by the Utah Solid Waste Management Act, can be used by public entities to assist in providing required solid waste related services by;
Assuring adequate revenue to support requested services.
Providing a financing mechanism for construction of solid waste related facilities.

According to a national survey of tipping fees completed by the Solid Waste Digest in 2007, Utah has the lowest median tipping fee in the nation at an average $22 per ton. The ability to enact flow control does not appear to have a pricing effect.

In 2006, based upon reports filed with the Utah Division of Solid and Hazardous Waste, the largest landfill in Utah is privately owned (Allied Waste at 684,811 tons/year) and is nearly twice as large as the largest municipally owned landfill (Trans-Jordan at 402,877 tons/year). The second largest privately owned landfill (Metro Waste) accepted 293,258 tons is the fourth largest landfill in the state. Privately owned landfills are clearly not at a competitive disadvantage in the state. Both of these landfills are less than 4 years old.

Wasatch Integrated Waste Management District is the only entity in Utah which has enacted a flow control ordinance. The ordinance was enacted in 1986 to support financing the waste to energy facility. The newly constructed privately owned landfills entered the market knowing that Davis and Morgan County waste was committed to the District.

Utah’s publicly owned landfills have recognized that flow control should not be a first step in ensuring a reliable waste stream for their facilities, but feel that having flow control as a last result measure to ensure a competitive hauling and transfer market is a legitimate purpose.

We have agreed that flow control should only be utilized if certain market conditions exist that would dramatcially increase the cost of residential waste service or provide an exculsive monopoly or oligopoly for a few well postioned companies that have established complete vertical integration in the hualing, transfering and disposal of Municipal Solid Waste.


Locally owned waste haulers may not be able to compete with large vertically integrated companies which own landfills and also provide hauling services. There is a real possibility that only one or two private companies will end up controlling both the landfill and hauling market in Utah.

Municipalities provide the following services to residents as part of their comprehensive waste management responsibility: private customer drop off (self haul) service, recycling, waste-to-energy, household hazardous waste disposal (HHW), electronic waste recycling, etc. Private landfills do not provide these same services.

There is deep concern that only have one or two private disposal facilities in Utah may allow a select group to price control all aspects of waste disposal and dramatically effect residential waste prices as well as the price of the additional waste services that are offered in most jurisdicitons.


Ø Fees charged for waste disposal by Wasatch Integrated are not higher than fees charged in surrounding communities that do not have flow control ordinances.
§ Wasatch charges $26 per ton of waste (all haulers pay the same price).
§ Salt Lake County charges $22 per ton.
§ Weber County (currently being served by Allied Waste) charges $30 per ton.
§ Previously high rates at Wasatch were attributed to a bond repayement schedule and were not the result of flow control as has been witnessed as rates dropped immediately upon paying the bonds.

Flow Control is Not Anti-Competitive

Davis and Morgan Counties have a healthy and highly competitive market for waste related services. There are currently 15 to 20 companies providing waste pickup, hauling, recycling, etc. within Wasatch Integrated’s service area. Because all haulers pay the same rate for disposal, small businesses have the ability to compete, which keeps prices low and service high.

Removing flow control will provide a competitive advantage only to companies which own landfill capacity.

Municipally operated landfills ensure competition by charging all haulers of waste the same rate for disposal. Several municipally operated landfills on the Wasatch Front will close within the next 10 to 20 years as they reach capacity. Without the ability to ensure revenue bonds through flow control, it is unlikely that new municipally owned landfills will be constructed.

The Utah Solid Waste Management Act provides public entities both powers and duties in regard to solid waste management including:
· supervise and regulate the collection, transportation, and disposition of all solid waste generated within its jurisdiction;
· provide solid waste management facilities to handle adequately solid waste generated or existing within or without its jurisdiction;
· levy and collect taxes, fees, and charges and require licenses as may be appropriate to discharge its responsibility for the acquisition, construction, operation , maintenance, and improvement of solid waste management facilities or any portion of them, including licensing private collectors operating within its jurisdiction, and;
· require that all solid waste generated within its jurisdiction be delivered to a solid waste management facility;

The Utah Solid Waste Management Act further requires a public entity to assure a supply of solid waste be available to repay bonded indebtedness through long term contracts or “flow control.”

The Supreme Court of the United States

On April 30, 2007, the Supreme Court of the United States decided, in a 6 to 3 opinion written by Chief Justice Roberts, that local government “flow control” ordinances were not unconstitutional stating in part:

” Disposing of trash has been a traditional government activity for years, and laws that favor the government in such areas-but treat every private business, whether in-state or out-of-state, exactly the same-do not discriminate against interstate commerce.”

“…we uphold these ordinances because any incidental burden they may have…does not outweigh the benefits they confer on the citizens…”

Monday, January 28, 2008

Privatization Efforts Hit Road Block in Committee

The big news today was that the privatization efforts hit a road block in the House Government Operations committee, with several questions and concerns raised relative to the approach that has been taken(HB75 and HB76) to review and evaluate privatization efforts for both the state and local governments.

The committee appropriately questioned how one could define "core" governmental service that could then be applied to local jurisdictions that range from Salt Lake City to Vernal, or from Tremonton to St. George. In addition, the ULCT's concerns on these bills were also being echoed by the counties, publicly operated nursing homes, rural hospitals, and several other groups where the notion of a "core" or inherently governmental service becomes problematic.

In response to the concerns that had been expressed, it appears that a major effort to amend the bill is underway. It is likely that the substitute bill will not be required in the local jurisdictions and that they will simply focuses on reconstituting the state privatization policy board to give it more say in the evaluation of privatization efforts at the state level.

Not a bad outcome for local governments. We will see if our hunch is correct in the next few days and let you know as things change.

The next big issue coming down the pipe is the Waste Flow Control Issue and just on its heels is the Justice Court Restructuring Issue. Stay tuned for detailed updates on both.

Until next time... Enjoy.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

The "Water Dogs" still tweaking HB51 Water Forfeiture Bill

Friday was a wild one for HB 51 Water Forfeiture Protection. as the "water dogs" aka. the water attorneys/engineers looked at proposed tweaks to the original HB51.

This bill is one of the League's highest priorities in the 2008 session. It is the product of relentless effort during the interim to accommodate water users throughout the state and to fix a gaping whole in the state water policy to allow public water suppliers to plan and hold water rights for its future demand. The Water Coalition typically met every other week during the summer, and its drafting contingent met in the alternating weeks. Its membership was open to virtually any interested party and included representatives of large and small cities, water districts, the CUP, the Provo River Water Users' Association, private water companies, the State Engineer's Office, the LDS church, legislators, the Farm Bureau, the Utah Homebuilder's Association and virtually every water lawyer in the state.

HB 51 is a Natural Resources Committee bill, having survived several hearings during the interim. However, as one sage politician once told me: "Nothing sharpens the mind like a Standing Committee Hearing."

We have known for quite some time now that the State Engineer's Office is not on board with HB 51, and particularly the exemption from forfeiture for holding water for the reasonable future demands of the public. As it turns out, late last week, a very large ecclesiastical "player" in our state expressed concern that HB 51 did not address some of its "concerns" with the current non-use application process. That entity's "concerns" were alleviated in a substitute bill that was drafted for Friday's committee hearing.

Sparks started to fly on Thursday, and reached a crescendo on Friday, just before the scheduled committee meeting. Representative Painter, who has been our champion in every respect, concluded that discretion is the better part of valor and that we should evaluate the substitute, incorporate good ideas contained in the substitute and reassemble next week with an even more inclusive bill. This strategy seemed to satisfy everyone but the State Engineer's Office.

A small drafting contingent met into the evening on Friday and will resume again on Monday morning. Stay tuned as a substitute bill is in the works. If you would like more information on the water issue, also plan on attending ULCT's policy meeting on Monday, Jan. 28, where Rep. Painter and ULCT's Jodi Hoffman will provide the most recent update on the status of the substitute that is being undertaken.

Until next time... Enjoy.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Monday, Jan. 28th is Policy Meeting (Noon -- Room W135)

Hey Everyone,

Don't forget our Monday Policy Meeting will be held Monday, January 28, 2008 in room W135 of the Capitol Complex West Building. The meeting will begin at Noon (MST).

Here is the agenda if you would like to review.

1. Welcome and Introductions – Council Member Jill Love, ULCT 1st Vice-President

2. Economic Report – Neil Abercrombie, Doug McDonald – 5 Minutes
a. Please see handout

3. HB51 Water Forfeiture Protection – Rep. Patrick Painter – 10 Minutes

4. HB104 Urban Trails Appropriation – Rep. Kory Holdaway – 5 Minutes

5. ULCT Priority Issues – 25 Minutes
a. Taxes – Roger Tew
b. Water Forfeiture – Jodi Hoffman
c. Justice Courts – Lincoln Shurtz
d. Land Use Subcommittee Bills – Jodi Hoffman
f. Privatization – Roger Tew

6. Status Sheet Review – Lincoln Shurtz -- 15 Minutes
a. Review ULCT Suggested Positions
b. Answer any questions you may have on specific bills

7. Other Issues

8. Adjourn

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Day 4 -- Things are starting to move

Day 4 is now behind us. It was a fairly slow day on Capitol Hill for Utah’s cities with nothing in committee in either the Senate or the House. However, it looks like SB20 is going back to a Senate Standing Committee on Tuesday, January 29 for some additional hearing time. While the bill went immediately to the floor for consideration, there were still some issues that needed to be addressed prior to Senate passage. The ULCT has been charged with finding consensus on this legislation prior to Tuesday’s scheduled hearing. If you are interested in the discussion I would encourage your attendance at Monday’s Policy Meeting. A working group will be meeting soon after to hammer out the final details.

In addition to SB20 we have several other key items up for consideration in the next few days to include SB46 Anti-Flow Control Amendments which will be in committee next Tuesday, January 29th, as well as Rep. Painters HB51 Water Forfeiture Amendments which is scheduled for committee on Friday, January 25th . If you have an opportunity to attend this meeting tomorrow on Water Forfeiture, your showing of support would be greatly appreciated. In addition, we will be smattered with a few privatization bills HB75 and HB76 both sponsored by Craig Frank on Monday as well as SB45 which is in Senate Government Operations Committee tomorrow afternoon. The ULCT has opposed all three of these bills.

So what do these bills do?

SB46 Anti Flow Control: Would restrict a city, county or district from directing the flow of residential and commercial solid waste to a public facility. The bill, in its current form, does not address municipal concerns with monopolistic propensities in the private Utah waste disposal industry, nor does it address concerns with the potential for rate increases associated with residential waste disposal if a significant portion of the commercial waste stream is diverted from public facilities. The ULCT is in discussions with the legislative advocates behind this bill and is working to address their concerns while also maintaining the option of flow control if the city, county or district can demonstrate certain factors associated with the creation of monopolies and price concerns. The ULCT’s current position is to oppose the bill as drafted

HB51 Water Forfeiture Amendments: This bill would allow cities and towns to retain municipal water rights for the reasonable future demands of the public and waive current forfeiture provisions if water is being retained for that purpose. The reasonable future demands of the public concept allows cities and towns to do appropriate long range planning (20 and 30 year plans) without the threat of forfeiting water that is purchased today for a demand that may not be realized for 20-30 years. This is a very high priority bill for the League and we would encourage you to contact your representative to express your support.

HB75, HB76 and SB45: These bills came out of the legislative study committee on privatization and attempt to address perceived local government and state activities that compete with the private sector. Each bill has a different methodology, but all fail to address the true concerns of privatization. The bills attempt to address a “core governmental service” but the current definition fails to recognize anything that is not a regulatory or legislative activity as a “core” service. In short; police, fire, parks, recreation, water, sewer, public works would all be considered non-core services and should therefore be handled by the private sector. In addition to “core service” these bills attempt to create oversight boards that can overturn city council decisions if a decision is deemed to have private competition implications. Since this concept clearly tramples the constitutionally held concept that a legislative decision cannot be overturned by a non-elected board – The RIPPER CLAUSE, we have some concerns here as well. Due to the overarching aspect of each bill, the ULCT stands opposed to all three.

SB20 Form of Government Amendments: In the most simplistic sense, this bill addresses the roles and responsibilities of councils and mayors under the various forms of municipal government. It also stipulates how a city can change from one form to another. This bill still has some work to be done to ensure that the power balance is not shifted in the changes that were made and still allows all cities and towns to operate as they do today. As mentioned above, we will have a final product ready to go on Monday, January 28 and will provide more detail at that time.

As you can see things are already picking up. We will be sure to keep you up to speed.

Until next time …. Enjoy

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Day 44 -- Now the Fun Begins

It was a fairy slow day in committee on Tuesday as most of the bills affecting local governments were pulled from the agenda to allow for futher discussion.

Rep. Shurtliff's annexation bill (HB124) that extends some of Salt Lake County's requirements to counties of the second class was pulled so that the Counties and Cities could see if there were some alternatives to her original language. It is safe to say that no one is looking at SL County's annexation laws as the poster child for how things should be. We will keep you posted as this continues to be discussed

Rep. Frank pulled his privatization policy board bill HB75 to allow the League an opportunity to provide some alternatives to the constitutional hang-ups with his legislation, which essentially allows an appointed board to override a city council in determining the proper role of government. We provided those alternatives late afternoon, and we was going to "sleep on them" to see where he wants to go with his legislation

Sen. Greiner also pulled his bill (SB127) that would require local government to locate all private and public underground sewer facilities. Since this would cost about $300-$500 per home, everyone is trying to figure out some alternatives to locating sewer laterals that are not owned by government, but rather the home owner.

So while bills before committee were largely held for further discussion, the Senate was moving quickly on bills already on the floor, and have passed two big retirement bills to the third reading calendar for final discussion. Those bills SB18 and SB19 provide greater benefits to police officers by offering a death benefit to surviving spouses (SB18) and allowing for greater Cost of Living Adjustments for retired peace officers (SB19). While the League has endorsed SB19 since it is optional for local government, our position is still pending on SB18. We will be solidifying our position at our next policy meeting.

Well that about does it for Tuesday.

Until next time ... Enjoy!

Monday, January 21, 2008

45 Days and Counting

The clock has officially begun for the 57th Utah State Legislature. In what was consider largely a ceremonial day, both the House and Senate began this year's legislative session by paying respect to Martin Luther King Jr. As many of you may know, this will likely be the last session of the Utah Legislature to begin on the third Monday in January, which is also the same day as Martin Luther King Jr. day. Due to a bill passed last year, the voting public will have an opportunity in the upcoming November election to move the constitutionally held opening day of the session in an effort to properly honor Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

So while to day is largely ceremonial, we will be in full swing tomorrow with several bills in committee. To include an annexation bill that is being run by Rep. Shurtliff and an underground utility bill being run by Sen. Greiner. The annexation bill would increase the ability of individuals and township planning committees to protest annexations in second class counties; while the underground utility bill will require local governments to identify and map many underground utilities regardless of ownership. The utility bill is estimated to cost local governments tens of millions in mapping and locating costs, and obviously has the ULCT and several other local government representatives anxious.

So as you can see, we are starting off with a bang. Please check this website daily for continued progress reports and updates for the 2008 General Legislative Session.

Until tomorrow -- enjoy....