The second week of the Legislative Session was filled with many interesting issues as a number important bills were debated by the full House and Senate. The pace is definitely picking up.
I have enjoyed hearing from you this session 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. When you contact me about an issue, it is helpful if you include the bill number or a description of the appropriations request that you are writing about. It is also important to include your home address, because I respond first to those living in House District 36. And if you do not need a response, please let me know. I personally read every message I receive, but often don't have time to respond until after midnight.
I have heard from many of you about the need to improve our air quality. Last week, as our skies remained grey and some of our cities had the worst air in the nation, legislators from both sides of the political aisle gathered for the bipartisan Clean Air Caucus press conference to outline plans to help combat air pollution. Even with many conflicting meetings, one third of the legislature attended the press conference. Here is one of the news stories about the press conference.
Many proposals were presented. I will mention a few here. Others will be highlighted in future newsletters. Representative Handy discussed his bill to fund incentives for alternative fuel vehicles. Representative Eliason talked about his legislation to provide grants to low income individuals if their car fails an emissions test and the owner cannot afford to repair the vehicle. Senator Escamilla is proposing a bill to require carefully monitoring and controlling pollution from the construction of the new prison. Senator Fillmore presented legislation that restricts community associations from placing unreasonable restrictions on solar panels. A number of appropriations requests were highlighted, including my request for funding for air quality monitors and staff, Rep. Redd's request for additional resources for air quality research and the request from Rep. Schultz to help fund the Depot District Clean Fuels Tech Center for UTA, which will make it easier to expand the CNG (compressed natural gas) bus fleet and utilize battery electric buses.
These were only a few of the great ideas mentioned at the press conference and there are many more we will hear this session. While our air quality has improved over recent years, we still have a long way to go! There is no silver bullet - no one piece of legislation that will fix our air pollution problem.
More Clean Air Legislation: HB 134 - Emissions Testing Amendments
Friday afternoon I presented HB 134 to the House Transportation Committee. This bill requires counties, that already test gasoline vehicles, to perform emissions testing on diesel vehicles. It only seems fair to require emissions testing on diesel models when similar models of the same vehicles are currently tested. The total PM2.5 emissions from failing diesel vehicles are quadruple the PM2.5 pollution of compliant diesel vehicles and 7-8 times that of an average gasoline vehicle.
One county currently doing diesel emissions testing found that light duty diesels were approximately 8-9 times more likely to fail emissions testing than comparable gas vehicles. Also, in another large county, nearly six percent of new diesel vehicles (2011-2016 model years) failed to meet emissions standards.
I expected some pushback to this legislation, but what happened in committee surprised me. During the public comment section of the hearing, supporters of the bill filled many of the seats in the committee room. I did not know that so many of the people were there to support this important legislation. In the end, not one person spoke against the bill. This kind of vocal support truly matters and it surely played a significant role in the committee's ultimate unanimous support of HB 134. A good article about the debate in the House committee can be found here.
The bill will next be debated by the full House. All House Co-Chairs of the bipartisan Clean Air Caucus are cosponsors of this legislation. Senator Curt Bramble is the Senate Floor Sponsor. Ashley Soltysiak of HEAL Utah helped me develop and present the bill.
HB 11 - State Boards and Commissions Amendments
In last week's newsletter I mentioned HB 11, a bill that removes the partisan requirements from 29 boards and commissions. This bill was debated by the full House on Wednesday. I spoke against this bill, emphasizing that the people of Utah want political diversity on many of their state boards. I noted that when a similar issue was presented to the public in the 2014 election, by a very wide margin the public voted to retain the political diversity requirement for the Utah Tax Commission. This vote was required because unlike other boards, the Tax Commission's political diversity requirement is in the Utah Constitution. I also argued that if we are going to take out one board requirement, we should look at how that requirement fits into others such as geographic diversity, representation from certain groups, etc. In other words, we should do a more careful analysis of each board on the list before changing the status quo.
HB 11 was amended so that five of the 29 boards and will retain political diversity. But there are still many boards left in the bill that benefit from the requirement that all appointments cannot come from the same political party. HB 11 passed the House by a vote of 51 to 23 - with all Democrats and some Republicans voting against the bill. To become law, HB 11 still must pass a Senate committee and two votes of the full Senate before finally being signed by the Governor. So there is still a chance to defeat or amend this bill.
I would encourage you to contact your state senators and the Governor's Office (whose staff testified for this bill) and let them know of any concerns you have regarding this legislation. You can find the contact information for your state senator at: www.le.utah.gov and can reach the Governor's Office here.
Town Meeting - Thursday, February 9th
I will be holding a Town Hall Meeting this week on February 9 at Holladay City Hall from 7:00 - 8:30 p.m. with Rep. Moss, Rep. Poulson, Sen. Iwamoto and Sen. Shiozawa. I know each of us would love to see you there as we always appreciate hearing your thoughts and opinions. Holladay City Hall is located at 4580 S. 2300 E. in Holladay. For those who cannot attend, you can always email me with your suggestions and concerns.
Visitors at the Capitol
One of the most exciting parts of the Legislative Session is when I get to meet with the various groups who come to the State Capitol. Below are some of the many people who recently came to visit.
Thank you so much for staying in touch with me as I do my best to fight for the issues that are important to you. I look forward to hearing from you and seeing you at our Town Meeting.