Tuesday, February 22, 2011

2011 Session -- Week Four

Week 4 Update
2011 Utah Legislative Session

Week 4 proved to be a great week for the ULCT. Not only did we mark the midpoint of the session last week, but we were successful in four major areas of our priority list (immigration, energy tax, alcohol, and RDA reform). So, lets get to the quick update.

While the press and others are continuing to call HB70, Rep. Sandstrom’s immigration bill and “Arizona-style” bill, it has been amended to the point in which it is very different from what was contemplated in Arizona…especially as it pertains to local law enforcement responsibilities.

The bill was passed out of the House on Friday with a significant margin and was debated heavily prior to passage. During such discussions, the ULCT worked closely with Rep. Sandstrom and other members of the house to get the following changes.
- Significantly limited local law enforcements ability to be sued by a private party for the way in which we choose to enforce the bill
- Provided discretion for officers in determining the priority of the stop as it relates to other potential emergency calls
- Removed the requirement to check immigration status on Class B and C misdemeanors
- Allowed for small jurisdictions (with only one officer on duty at a time) to have greater discretion on how to enforce the provisions of the law
The only additional outstanding question is how to handle the “awarding of public benefits” which is prohibited by this bill until immigration status can be verified. The question is what constitutes a public benefit. We are currently examining that provision to ensure that simple public services, such as sanitary services, etc. are still allowed. As soon as we have answers on those issues we will let you know.

Due to the significant changes in the enforcement provisions, we estimate that the enforcement of this bill will have a nominal budgetary impact to local governments. All-in-all, a big win for us on the financial aspects of the bill.

Week for also ushered in the release of the alcohol reform bill (SB314). Please see the text of the bill here:http://le.utah.gov/~2011/htmdoc/sbillhtm/sb0314.htm

The bill will be heard Wednesday morning in committee and should move smoothly through the legislative process. We will keep you posted on its progress

RDA Reform:
Our RDA bill was also heard in committee late last week. While the bill will be getting some tweaks in the coming week, we will be making some significant steps forward to ensure that RDA administration and TEC approval processes for RDA’s are less onerous on the agency. The major point of contention on the bill, dealing with an easier approval process for new central business district projects (simple majority vote instead of super majority) may get pulled out of the bill, but it appears that there is no agency chomping at the bit to get one of these started. As a backstop, we do have commitments that key legislative players will be watching upcoming TEC approvals of these types of projects, and if there are any problems we have a commitment to address them in the next session. With that, we have some comfort in dropping this provision from the bill.

Energy Tax:
What proved to be one of the biggest steps forward in week four was a commitment from SL County to drop pursuit of the Energy Tax authority this year in exchange for us agreeing to work with them on some key legislative issues (extension of police fee authority for the county and consideration on the Double-Taxation issue).

In a late-Friday meeting key parties in the ongoing SL County/City discussions came to terms on the major legislative issues dealing with the dealings of SL County and the cities in SL County. Here is a quick run-down on the agreement:

- SL County will not pursue the energy tax, and in exchange the cities will assist in amending legislation that would prohibit the county from imposing the police fee. We will be working with the county to amend the bill to allow them to continue to impose the fee for a few more years.
- The cities will not pursue legislation dealing with Double-Taxation concerns centered on HAZMAT and bomb services that are provided by the county and also provided by cities. In exchange, SL County will work on an inter-local agreement with cities to provide a “contracting” agreement for such services, where the county will contract with cities to provide those services. In addition the county will delve deeper into the issue of double taxation on other services
- In addition, the cities will not pursue legislation that would affect how the county pays for emergency services in recreation areas. In exchange the county and the cities will look further into the issue to see if any changes in the current practice are needed.

So, as you can see, it was a pretty good week for local governments. Here is a quick list of things to come during week 5.

- Working on terms of a billboard bill that governs off-premise signs
- Putting sales tax back on food is in committee early this week
- Appropriations issues will start to take center-stage as final budget numbers come in
- This may be the final week for committees, as they will begin to focus on floor time for bill consideration.

I hope this update proved helpful and please let me know if you have any questions on these or any other issues we are following.

2011 Session -- Week Three

With Valentine’s Day upon us, it was only appropriate that Sen. Valentine visited extensively with ULCT Policy Makers in week 3 on alcohol reform measures. While we are all still waiting on the final draft of the bill, Sen. Valentine went over his bill in extensive detail, outlining the key components and dispelling many of the rumors regarding the “monetization” of the licensure process. The key components of the bill have been covered extensively and include the conversion of existing tavern licenses to full-service restaurant licenses; modification to the current DABC application process to statutorily codify many of the current practices of the DABC, and also codify, what he describe as, the current process of allowing an incoming restaurateur to acquire an existing business and the associated license (monetization). Sen. Valentine had a very different take on what monetization would look like and assured us that it is simply a codification of the current practice and not a new concept for the DABC or this area of the law. Because we still haven’t seen the actual draft there are still some anxious folks, but in the spirit of Valentine’s Day, Sen. Valentine “showed us the love” and committed to working with the ULCT to ensure that our concerns are addressed and also committed to delay the effective date of any DABC practices amendments to ensure that there are no unintended consequences.
In addition to alcohol reform, this week marked major changes in the immigration discussion as HB70 was significantly modified to remove the requirement to inquire on immigration status when police officers confront someone on routine traffic stops (Class B and C misdemeanors). It would only require and immigration inquiry on Class A’s and Felonies. With this change, there should be a significant reduction in the cost associated with the enforcement of this law. The bill included several other changes as well to include changes in the detention and booking requirements, as well as changes in who has standing to challenge the enforcement of the law. Because of the major changes, we have just included a link to the new bill for reference

Web Link: http://le.utah.gov/~2011/htmdoc/hbillhtm/hb0070.htm

City/County Issues:
On another note, this week was also a big week on the dealings between SL County and the cities in SL County, with the hallmark of this discussion being the request the county is making to be able to impose the energy tax. It appears that much of the energy is being let out of that request and questions on whether or not the legislature should continue to allow the county to impose the police fee are resurfacing. We will continue to negotiate with the county on how we accomplish our goal of wall-to-wall cities through effective utilization of the current tax structure and ensuring that county-wide services are paid for by county-wide taxes and unincorporated services are exclusively paid for with the county unincorporated “municipal” tax. This discussion will likely continue well into the week 4 and 5 of the session.

RDA Issues:
Finally, our large RDA rewrite is now published and out for review, so please take a look and let us know if you have any questions regarding this bill. It is fairly technical in nature so please have your redevelopment experts review the bill as well.

Web Link: http://le.utah.gov/~2011/htmdoc/sbillhtm/sb0070.htm

We hope this update finds you well and look forward to seeing many of you on the hill during week 4.

2011 Session -- Week Two

Well, it proved to be a fairly slow week in committee and on the floor during week 2, but big things were happening behind the scenes. Most notably, this week marked the final week to number and title all bills – that means we now know all the bills that are out there and will be actively looking at each piece of legislation to determine the impact on local government.

In addition, the week also included the unveiling of the much anticipated HB70 Immigration Reform Bill by Rep. Sandstrom. While the bill has changed significantly from the original concept, it still has a large enforcement component that will impact local governments. The ULCT was asked to assign a fiscal impact assessment to the bill, which we did. Conservatively, we anticipate the impact to be approximately $11.5 million on cities and towns in Utah. The number was analyzed by the fiscal analysts office and was determined to be prudent.

So, what do we expect for this week; there are a few things already taking shape. One, the committee process should start speeding up as time become more and more of a factor in the session. In addition, the simmering issue of townships/double taxation/and county services is also on tap for this week with a large meeting of all the cities in SL County and the County governing body getting together today to discuss all of the surrounding issues.

We will begin doing midweek reports this week as well since things will likely start speeding up.

As usual, if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to call or write.

2011 Session -- Week One

ULCT Week One Legislative Highlights and Recap (2011)

It was a very successful first week of the 2011 session for the ULCT. In addition to a great Local Officials’ Day Event, where over 750 local officials and youth city council members visited the capitol and met with their legislators, we were largely successful on all major issues that were being debated in standing committees and on the floor. Here is a quick recap of this week’s highlights.


· This week two of the major election modification bills (SB14 and SB18) passed out of the Senate and are on their way to the house. Both bills deal with the technical aspects of administering an election. The first bill allows for the cancellation of an election if the election is uncontested. There are still some minor “tweaks” that need to be made to SB14 to address timing concerns expressed by clerks and recorders, but the ULCT has been in contact with the sponsor and the Lt. Governors office and coordinated those changes to be made in the House. The second bill deals with contracting for election services and specifies that contracts for election administration must be cost based. This bill doesn’t appear to be of any major concern and should run smoothly.

Due to the departure of Rep. Frank, the bill dealing with moving the election dates for certain elections has been transferred to Sen. Hillyard for sponsorship. The ULCT will be working with Sen. Hillyard to ensure any change in election dates does not affect municipal elections.


· HB197 -- Regulation of Temporary Signs – The ULCT worked all week with the interested parties on this bill and it appears that it will likely be addressed during the interim where greater consideration to the nuances of regulation of speech/signage can be addressed. The bill was scheduled for a committee hearing during the first week, but was pulled from the agenda while we continue to work with the sponsor on the bill.

· HB78 -- Development Fees – This bill likely needs to be discussed with everyone. It appears there is some confusion over what the anticipated practical effect of this bill would be. The ULCT will be working with the sponsor to address the concerns that have been expressed about the potential negative impact to the current development fee structure.


· HR1 – 2/3rd vote on a tax or fee increase. This bill was successfully defeated in committee this week on a 7-7 vote. Because of the close nature of the vote, there may be some chance that the bill would come back for consideration. We will be keeping a close eye on this one to make sure it “stays in the grave”

· Energy Tax for Counties – It appears that SL County has found a sponsor for their energy tax authorization bill. This bill was strongly opposed by the policy committee and we will be working to ensure its defeat. We have already met with the sponsor, Sen. Jerry Stevenson and will be working with him to ensure our position is understood and addressed. In addition, this bill is being run while two other bills are being run to limit the county’s ability to impose the police fee. We will also be watching those bills to ensure that they don’t get amended to provide the energy tax as the alternative funding source for the police fee.


· HB70 -- Rep. Sandstrom’s bill is now public and available for review. It has not yet received the fiscal note, but will soon be given one and then sent to the committee for consideration. The bill has been amended a good deal since the original concept was aired, but it appears the agreement on an immigration policy is far from done. We will be watching this one closely as it is prepared for committee consideration.


· While some alcohol bills have been heard in committee (HB42), the major alcohol bill, Sen. Valentine’s bill, is still being prepared for committee consideration. We have been working diligently behind the scenes to aid in the creation and promotion of this bill. The one component of the bill that is still fairly controversial is the concept of allowing for the monetization and private sell of one’s license. This provision is still being debated heavily. We likely need to discuss our strategy on how to deal with this aspect of the bill.

Spice Ban

· HB23 --The spice ban bill was also debated in committee this week and passed out with a favorable recommendation. It appears that this bill is well on its way to passage.

Well that sums up some of the major topics for week one. As more unfolds, we will provide additional updates.

We hope this finds you well, and hope you have successfully survived the first week of the 2011 session.