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.