Tuesday, November 03, 2009

The Final Part -- Part V: Water and Land-Use

Here it is -- the final post in our five-part series. I hope you have enjoyed it as much as we have enjoyed writing it. Without further adieu, here it is:

Part V: Water and Land-Use

Land-Use Issues:

The Land Use Task Force has reached closure for the 2009 interim and has unanimously recommended two bills this year: and impact fee bill and a subdivisions bill.

The subdivisions bill simply takes away the state mandate for a public hearing on certain minor subdivision amendments such as lot line adjustments, internal lot revisions, etc. The bill won’t alter your local ordinance requirements, but it removes the state requirement for the public hearing. To take full advantage of the legislation once it becomes law, each jurisdiction will then need remove the public hearing requirement from its ordinances for these types of minor subdivision amendments. Senator Stuart Adams has agreed to run this bill.

The impact fees bill is slightly more complicated. The big news is we have achieved consensus that the cumbersome notice requirements to plan for and amend impact fees enactments will be reduced to electronic notice on the state public notice website! (Yes, that’s right: no more sending notice of the beginning, middle and end of the process to the Utah Homebuilders, Utah Association of Realtors, Utah Association of General Contractors, Daughters of the American Revolution, etc.) An entire forest has breathed a sigh of relief in anticipation of the bill passing! The bill also defines the word “encumber”, declares that any refund belongs to the person in title to the land on the date an impact fee was paid, and extends appellate relief to those who pay impact fees during the gap between an adverse opinion of the Office of Property Rights Ombudsman and a similarly adverse decision from the court system. Senator Wayne Niederhauser will run this bill on behalf of the Land Use Task Force.

Water Issues:
There are many water bills that will grace the legislature this year. Many are technical bills that remove arcane requirements from the antiquated state water laws. The bill that we were most interested in last year: the domestic water preference bill sponsored by Kerry Gibson, has been reworked, and approved by the Water Coalition and the Executive Water Task Force. The bill allows a preference for drinking water, fire flow and sanitation purposes in time of a temporary water emergency that is declared by the Governor. The preference can last as long as two years. Just compensation is required to be paid to the water rights holder that sacrificed his water for the emergency needs of the public system.

As other water bills get drafted, we will provide updates on what they entail.

We hope these updates have been helpful and again please let us know how we can be of any assistance.

Your ULCT Legislative Team!

Monday, November 02, 2009

Part IV: Ambulance Service

And now with our fourth installment -- Emergency medical services.

Part IV: Ambulatory Service Issues:

As cities and counties are uniquely positioned, and asked, to provide for the general health, safety, and welfare of their communities, the ability to regulate emergency transportation within their jurisdictions is a key cornerstone to the provision of public safety and health. Local governments throughout the state have worked closely with private providers to assist in this effort, and in many circumstances, rely heavily on the private sector to help with these services.

The current licensing and regulation framework, where the state applies universal licensing provisions for private and public providers, but allows for local regulation of some practices has positioned Utah as one of the best managed states in the nation in its provision of emergency transportation.

For the past several years, a private provider has complained that the current process of state licensure is anticompetitive and has asked for law changes that would allow for direct negotiations between emergency transportation operators and hospitals with little or no city or county oversight. Cities and counties have continued to express concern with these proposals due to the potential that such negotiations could undermine the ability of single providers to remain profitable within a given geographic area. With current licensure requirements that require ubiquitous service within a given geographic area, it is imperative to ensure that the license holder is self-sustaining. In addition, cities and counties have increasingly begun to assist in providing such services as the public provider. Those public provider contracts are obtained either through direct negotiations with the current private provider or through the awarding of a contract to the public provider by way of an RFP process.

While we currently do not anticipate legislation this year, we do wish to continue to educate the legislature on this matter to ensure a complete understanding of our position, which includes the following key components:

  1. Cities and Counties are charged with the maintenance of general health and safety, and emergency transportation is a key component to the provision of public safety and health.

  2. Ensuring the viability of a single provider, within a geographic area, is imperative to ensure adequate public safety service and response.

  3. Cities and counties should be able to regulate certain aspects of the operation of emergency transportation within their communities to maintain general health and safety.

  4. Cities and counties should be able to provide emergency transportation services if a private provider is not capable or willing to provide adequate service.

  5. Competition should not occur at the hospital level, but should occur at the licensure level, where geographic service areas are considered in their entirety and universal service and coverage are contemplated as a part of a larger service component.

  6. Allow Cities and counties to designate a single dispatch system such as VECC for all ambulance service requests. Such a system eliminates confusion for the public, provides a single medical protocol and consistent dispatching of ambulance service to meet the correct medical and transport needs of the public.

We look forward to working with the legislature in the coming years on this important public safety issue, and appreciate the support we have received to maintain our high standard of public safety response and service.