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.