It is hard to believe that the legislative session ends a week from Thursday. We have passed 150 bills and have a lot more work to do! If you have missed my past updates, you can find them in the right column of this newsletter.
I appreciate your willingness to share your thoughts on pending legislation. Just a reminder – please include your home address when you send me a message. Also, I personally read every email I receive, but have very little time to respond to messages this late in the session. If you absolutely need a response, please let me know.
Air Quality Legislation
Much of our air pollution is caused by “area sources,” i.e. buildings. One of the most polluting items are water heaters, which make up approximately 45% of a building’s emissions. The nitrogen oxide (NOx) produced by water heaters is a significant contributor to air pollution. There are a few bills that require a transition from low NOx water heaters to the ultra-low NOx water heaters. One I would like to highlight is HB 250 – Air Quality Amendments, which I am cosponsoring this session. I have worked on this legislation for many months with Rep. Redd, the Chief Sponsor of the bill.
Updating a current water heater to an ultra-low NOx water heater reduces NOx emissions by 70-75% at very little additional cost. Under HB 250, the more polluting water heaters will be phased out and replaced with the ultra-low NOx heaters. No one will be forced to remove a water heater. Beginning in July of 2018, only ultra-low NOx water heaters will be sold in Utah. New homes will also need to be equipped with these new water heaters.
Over the next few years this legislation can make a difference in improving our air quality. The Division of Air Quality reported that if all buildings on the Wasatch Front used an ultra-low NOx water heater, it would reduce more pollutants than removing all of the refineries from our air shed. It is also the equivalent of taking 120,000 vehicles off our roads.
Update on My Legislation
HB 158 – Campaign Funds Restrictions for County and Local School Board Officesunanimously passed both the House and the Senate and now goes to the Governor for his action. This bill restricts the personal use of campaign funds for county and local school board candidates and officials. There are no current restrictions in the Utah Code.
HB 267 - Charitable Solicitation Act Amendments unanimously passed both the House and Senate and now goes to the Governor for his action. This bill reduces over-regulation of certain organizations, such as the PTA, that already have adequate state oversight. It also eliminates some red tape for small grant recipients. In addition, HB 267 clarifies other aspects of the state consumer protection law.
HB 52 – Office of Outdoor Recreation Amendments unanimously passed the House of Representatives and the Senate Natural Resources, Agriculture & Environment Committee. It will be debated by the full Senate this week. HB 52 provides requirements and funding for matching grants that will be available for communities and nonprofit associations to develop a variety of recreation-related projects such as trails, boat ramps, beaches, restrooms and playgrounds. New and updated outdoor recreational assets build healthier and more connected communities. They help attract and retain employees and new businesses and can foster economic growth by attracting tourism.
HB 130 – Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Amendments passed the House and will be heard this week in the Senate Transportation and Public Utilities and Technology Committee. This bill facilitates better air quality through C-PACE financing for electric vehicle charging stations. One of the barriers to driving electric vehicles is having a sufficient number of charging stations in convenient locations. For the past few sessions I have worked on legislation to improve the electric vehicle charging station infrastructure.
HB 237 – Income Tax Contribution for Clean Air passed the House and has been sent to the Senate where I hope it will get a hearing in the Revenue and Taxation Committee this week. This bill provides a voluntary option for taxpayers to donate to the Clean Air Fund on their tax returns.
Hot Topics on the Hill – Marijuana
The debate about the legalization of marijuana is ongoing as SB 89 and SB 73 passed the Senate and will next be heard by a House committee. The threat of a ballot initiative made a big difference in getting the votes needed to pass SB 73.
Another much less controversial resolution, SCR 11, also passed the Senate. This resolution encourages the federal government to change marijuana from a Schedule I to a Schedule II drug, which would make it easier for extensive research on the drug to be done legally.