By Representative John R. Westwood
The fifth week of the session was short this week because of Presidents Day, so we’ve had to get plenty of work done in the remaining days. Presidents Day, or Washington’s and Lincoln’s Birthday, were originally created to celebrate our two most influential and beloved presidents, and the date was later expanded to celebrate all of our commanders and chiefs. We owe a lot to the service of the men who have served us in this capacity, such as the Purple Heart created by President George Washington, or the Emancipation Proclamation from President Abraham Lincoln.
On February 16, the House of Representatives had the privilege of honoring Utah’s fallen soldiers on the House floor as Rep. Justin Fawson, who served in the National Guard for almost 10 years, paid tribute to them and their families. Those who lost loved ones varied in age and background: a newlywed, a widow with two young boys and mothers holding pictures of their sons. The entire House body stood and observed a moment of silence to commemorate the soldiers and the sacrifice they and their families have made for our country.
Highlights from the Week
My bill, HB 141, aims to help counties make early voting more efficient. Early voting helps to keep the polls from being too crowded on election days. In some counties early voting is not being utilized to its full potential. In several counties with vote by mail as their primary form of collecting ballots, including
Iron County, keeping polling places open for two weeks costs a great deal more than the number of votes received during that time. If HB 141 passes, counties will be able to reduce the number of days early voting is offered based off of need, saving money
while still providing this service.
It is important that there are multiple avenues to placing ballots made to fit with the wide variety of citizens in our state. It is also important to spend tax dollar efficiently, and I believe that this bill can do both. HB 141 passed the house and is now waiting to be considered by the Senate.
Payment in Lieu of Taxes
HB 357 is call for the federal government to give Utahns funds that we are owed. The Federal Government implemented a program called payment in-lieu of taxes for western states. Payment in lieu of taxes means that since the state governments cannot collect taxes on the federal lands in their states, the federal government will pay a fair price for the property taxes lost. Unfortunately, the federal government has not paid an equal price for the taxes that are being forgone from the federally controlled lands. Representative Ivory hopes his bill will work to determine the amount of property tax money that Utah loses every year based on the non-taxable federal lands in our state and get the funds that are owed. If the bill accomplishes its aim, the funds received could be used to fund education and help our children.
Dogs are man’s best friend. Police dogs are not only their handler’s best friend, but a most valuable tool and partner. K-9 units sniff out drugs and explosives, apprehended criminals and much more. These dogs are thoroughly trained, and specially bred to fulfill their duty. When a police dog his hurt or killed it
is a huge blow to the department and to their handler. SB 57 was presented to the house this week calling for the punishment for killing a K-9 officer to be increased to a second degree felony. After several stories of the value of these police dogs, as well as other practical concerns being addressed, the bill passed the House, and will be signed into law.
Senator Orrin Hatch
The Legislature passed a concurrent resolution honoring Senator Orrin Hatch for his service and designated February 21, 2018, as “Orrin G. Hatch Day.” Senator Hatch was recently named the most effective Senator by a nonpartisan research organization – the Center for Effective Lawmaking. He has been an advocate of religious liberty, authoring the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and has helped improve access, mobility and quality of life for millions of Americans with his sponsorship of the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act. Hatch holds the distinction of being the longest-serving
Senator in Utah’s history and he has done immeasurable good for our state and nation.
Fresh Locally Produced Homemade Food
The Legislature is considering a bill that would make it legal for children to sell lemonade. That’s right, under current law, that practice is illegal. In order to sell homemade food and drinks, products must be prepared in an industrial kitchen subject to inspection, and the recipe must be submitted for approval.
HB 181, Home Consumption and Homemade Food Act, would simplify the process by allowing for the preparation and sale of homemade food or drink to an informed final customer, which means the product cannot be resold to other individuals or used in a restaurant. The producer must label the ingredients and inform the buyer of any common allergy hazards. The intent of this bill is to allow the direct sale of locally grown and produced food items. Red meat and raw dairy products
are not included in this legislation. The law does not prohibit giving away such unregulated foods; it only bans their sale. HB 181 would reduce the burden on small, home-based producers that sell directly to the consumer.
Thank you all for your support.