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.