We have reached the last few days of the 2018 Legislative Session. Our state constitution mandates that the Legislature meets for 45 consecutive days each year. On midnight on March 8, we will finish the official business and then hear a number of speeches, from Governor Herbert and from our retiring members. I hope to be home by 2:30 am.
Between now and when we adjourn, I will be working from 5:00 am to very late at night debating bills, attending committee meetings, reading email, and reviewing legislation. As always, I will personally review all your email messages but probably will not have time to respond. If it is critical that you receive a response, please let me know. The best ways to reach me are described at the end of this message.
During the last few days of the session, there are often dramatic changes to bills that legislators do not have time to carefully analyze in a House committee hearing. Unless I am comfortable with legislation, I will often vote "no" even if it sounds like it might be good. More mistakes are made in the last few days of the legislative session than in the rest of the session combined.
Below are a few of the bills and topics many of you have written me about during the last week.
3rd Sub HB 135 - Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Amendments
On Thursday Rep. Noel's bill 3rd Sub HB 135 - Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Amendments passed the full House with a vote of 42 - 26. I oppose this legislation and am working to try to defeat this bill in the Senate. Since some of you have asked, Senator Iwamoto also opposes this legislation.
This legislation strips Salt Lake City's ability to protect the watershed that our region, not just SLC, depends on. For a century, SLC has protected our drinking water by having the ability stop to projects anywhere in the watershed that would negatively impact water quality. 3rd Sub HB 135 limits Salt Lake City's jurisdiction to within 300 feet of streams, which is not a large enough distance to protect our water.
3rd Sub HB 135 does not take long-term impacts into consideration and puts the desires of a few above the needs of cities along the Wasatch Front, putting water quality at risk. Protection of our drinking water is extremely important to our health and well-being.
HB 471 - Initiative Amendments
HB 471, sponsored by Rep. Brad Daw, delays the effective date of ballot initiatives that have been approved by a vote of the public in November. As many of you know, there are six initiatives that could potentially end up on the ballot this year. HB 471 changes the rules midstream.
During the debate in the House Government Operations Committee, Rep. Travis Segmiller expressed concern about giving citizens too much power to derail the Legislature's deliberative decision-making. He stated, "I'm nervous about the concept of empowering the citizenry to intervene so swiftly and rapidly as to even derail the deliberative and systematic processes of the Legislature".
I have a very different perspective and responded during the debate that "I am not nervous about empowering the citizenry. I trust the public. The process to get an initiative on the ballot is already very difficult and needs to be respected."
The bill passed the committee with an 8-2 vote. I voted against the bill. So did Rep. Chavez-Houck, the other Democrat serving on the committee. Senator Iwamoto also opposes this legislation.
HB 479 - Zero Emission Vehicle Program
Many of you have written me about your difficulty finding an electric vehicle to purchase in Utah. Some of you have even driven to other states to buy them. HB 479, which I am cosponsoring, allows Utah to enter an interstate agreement, which will result in more electric vehicles being available for purchase in our state. HB 479 passed the House Public Utilities, Energy and Technology Committee unanimously and should be debated by the full House on Monday, March 5th.
HB 345 - Driving Under the Influence Amendments
This bill would delay the controversial .05 DUI limit until December 30, 2022 to provide extra time to study the best ways to implement, and hopefully amend, the new .05 law, which I opposed last year. There are many problems caused by changing the DUI limit. I would prefer to go back to the original .08 law, but there are not the votes to do that. I support HB 345. Unfortunately, it failed in committee after a contentious debate.
HB 481 - Donald J. Trump Utah National Parks Highway Designation
Rep. Mike Noel just released a bill that would rename the Utah National Parks Highway to the Donald J. Trump Utah National Parks Highway. I do not support this legislation for many reasons. We should not name a highway after one of the most controversial individuals to ever hold our highest office.
Under President Trump, Bears Ears National Monument has been reduced to 16 percent, and Grand Staircase-Escalante to a little over half of its original size. During Trump's tenure, he has proposed massive budget cuts for the National Park System. He has very little interest in protecting public lands, water, or air.
The proposed highway slices through some of Utah's most scenic and beautiful lands in our state. And as someone who works in the tourist industry in that area, I am sure that many tourists will not want to drive on a highway with this new name.
HB 481 will be debated in the House Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environment Committee on Monday at 10:10 a.m. On Friday, the House Democratic Caucus unanimously voted to not support this bill. Senator Iwamoto also opposes this legislation.
The Utah Schools Safety Commission
On Thursday, Speaker Hughes announced the creation of a new Utah Schools Safety Commission. Many experts (not legislators) will be working together to discuss ways to ensure safer schools. The commission will make recommendations to the legislature. The goal is to pass legislation in a Special Session, well before the beginning of next school year.
This is a start and more action than I have seen in years from my colleagues on the other side of the aisle. However, I would prefer more immediate progress. In addition to safe schools, we also need to discuss broader issues involving firearms.
Representative Arent in the News
Visiting the Capitol
I have enjoyed hearing from you and encourage you to stay in touch. It is important to me to hear how I can best represent the residents of House District 36. The best way to reach me is through my email: firstname.lastname@example.org. I personally read every email I receive, but during the session I often receive hundreds of emails a day, so I have included some tips for contacting me below.
- I always prioritize emails from my constituents in HD36. To ensure that your email gets priority reading please include your home address and bill number or name of the appropriations request in the subject line.
- Due to the amount of emails I receive in a day, I often don't have time to respond until my "free time" around 1:00 am. If your message is for informational purposes only and does not need a reply, please include that in your message.
- During the last week of the session, I will read your email, but may not have time to respond at all. If it is critical that you receive a response, please let me know.
- Texting is best used to bring an immediate concern to my attention (i.e., a bill about which you have concerns and is about to be debated in a committee or by the full House). You can send a text to: 801-889-7849. Please include your name, home address, and brief concern.
- Calling should be used as a last resort. If you prefer to call, my cell number is 801-889-7849. Please understand that I am often not able to answer the phone, and by the time I am free it is often too late to call you back. If you can leave a voicemail message be sure to include your name, number, home address, and reason you called.
- If you come to the Capitol, I will try my best to come out to talk to you. It is my job to represent HD36 in debates and I take that position seriously. It can be difficult to leave the House Chambers or a committee meeting if we are debating an important bill. Be sure to put your email address and phone number on your "green slip" request so I can follow up with you if I can't make my way out to the House lobby. Sometimes it takes 15 minutes for those notes to get to me.
It is an honor to serve as a member of the Utah State Legislature.