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  • Writer's pictureTom Moyer

Legislative Session Round-Up

Hello all: Here's an update on the legislative session that just ended, and a reminder about the meetings scheduled for the next two Wednesdays.

Legislative session round-up

First, thanks to LWV member Jesse Cox for transcribing everyone's testimony from the HB304 hearing. You can now find that testimony on the blog post about the hearing, or here's a full transcript of the hearing. Thank you Jesse! (And thanks to Carole Straughn for sending us the transcript, and note that in the email blast version of this update we credited Carole instead of Jesse for the transcription. Sorry!) Please send us any edits you have, more pictures, etc., and here's a round-up of legislative developments:

Details on all the bills we were watching are updated on the Climate Utah bill tracker.

On HB304:The House Revenue & Taxation Committee will hopefully discuss the bill during Interim and/or (less likely) during the special session on tax reform that may happen in August

On air pollution:The legislature appropriated $28 million in one-time funding.This is short of the governor's request for $100m, but still one of the largest amounts Utah has ever devoted to air quality in a single year. Highlights are $9 million for wood stove conversions and $4 million for vehicle replacement for the state fleet.

On ballot measures: The legislature passed allof the ballot measure changes they were considering. For a measure targeting the Nov 2020 ballot, HB145requires signatures to be turned in by Feb 15, 2020, meaning that the optimal approach would be to file on April 3, 2019; it also creates a rolling window, with signatures turned in within a month of signing, names of signers posted online within 21-30 days of those signatures being turned in, and a 45-90 day window after names are posted online for opponents to get signers to remove their names. HB195slightly increases the number of signatures needed, from 10% of Presidential voters to 8% of active voters (i.e., from about 113,000 to about 115,000, according to the Tribune). HB133delays for a year the effective date of tax increases, and SB151makes some tweaks to the Fiscal Impact Statements that accompany ballot measures.

On other climate-related legislation: HCR005- Concurrent Resolution Urging Policies that Reduce Damage from Wildfires (Ray Ward) Passed - after amending to remove all mention of climate change. As originally written, this resolution also called on the government to minimize additional climate change by pursuing policies that would lead to a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions.

SCR006- Concurrent Resolution Supporting Nuclear Reactor Technology  (Curt Bramble) Passed. Not everyone was a fan of this resolution. It encourages the state to support small modular nuclear reactor technology, but importantly - it also calls for more zero-carbon electricity generation and acknowledges climate change!

HCR002- Concurrent Resolution Supporting Rural Development of Wind, Solar, Hydrogen, Hydroelectric, and Geothermal Energy (Patrice Arent) Passed unanimously! This resolution promotes the continued and increased development of renewable energy in rural areas of Utah.

HB411- Community Renewable Energy Act (Steve Handy) Passed! This is probably the biggest climate step that passed this session. It allows Salt Lake City, Summit County, Park City, Moab, and other municipalities who want to contract with Rocky Mountain Power to purchase 100% renewable energy.

HB218- Construction Code Modifications (Mike Schultz) Passed. This updates the building code to improve the energy efficiency of buildings.

Other good bills HB413, SB146, SB111, and HB295 didn't make it all the way through the process in time. You can find more details about them on the bill tracker.

One very bad bill also passed:

SB248- Throughput Infrastructure Amendments (Ralph Okerlund and Mike McKell) This diverts $53 million from the Community Impact Board to a Throughput Infrastructure Fund in order to build a bulk commodities ocean terminal, which will likely include a coal port in Mexico. This bill was introduced on the last day allowed for new bills and it was rushed through the process with barely any debate or public input. That was all likely planned in advance to avoid public outcry.

Next meetings on W March 20 downtown and W March 27 at Capitol

We will be meeting on W March 20 9am downtown at the Impact Hub(150 State St, this time in the 1st floor meeting room(thanks to Katie from Alliance for a Better Utah for getting us a room!) and the following week Rep Briscoe will be back in action and we will be meeting on W March 27 9am at our usual location at the Capitol (Room 400, top floor, north side). All are welcome!

At the March 27 meeting with Rep Briscoe we can talk more about the political path forward so for the March 20 meeting I propose that we focus on the policy itself and what changes we might want to make to it. Some of the potential changes are technical (e.g., details of how to tax electricity) but some of the potential changes are about very common-sense issues (e.g., should the Earned Income Tax Credit match be 15% or 20% instead of 10%? Should the Retirement Tax Credit be extended for 20 years rather than indefinitely? Should the $45m for air quality and/or the $5m for rural economic development be increased?). Comments, questions, and suggestions are welcome via email or at the meeting!

Other next steps and announcements

There's a talk on Climate Change, The Reality, The Solutions with Dr. Brenda Ekwurzel (Union of Concerned Scientists) on Thursday, March 21, 2019, 3:15-5:00 pm, Nancy Tessman Auditorium, Salt Lake City Downtown Public Library.


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