By Rep. John Westwood (R-Cedar City)
During the recent session, the Utah Legislature passed SB 136, Transportation Governance Amendments. The purpose of the bill was to reform the governance of Utah Transit Authority (UTA), provide tools for local governments to support the rising demand for multimodal transportation, improve checks and balances, and increase transparency. It also included a rebranding component. Though no money was appropriated to rebrand, due to confusion and misinformation, bill sponsors requested that the agency not proceed with that aspect of the bill.
UTA has been recognized across the country as one of the best models to emulate; however, issues of transparency and trust have overshadowed much of the good work that they’ve done. Last year, the Legislature formed the Transportation Governance and Funding Task Force to investigate potential changes to the governance and funding of UTA. Since May of 2017, the task force has met and during the 2018 legislative session, put forward well-researched solutions for the future of the agency.
The passage of SB 136 will allow UTA to operate with better structure and greater accountability and efficiency, which will benefit everyone. Putting the name change aside ensures that the focus remain on the other, more important aspects of the legislation.
UTA should now work just as hard on promoting the successes of their agency as they have on creating a false narrative related to the costs of the name change.
The Legislature will work with the new UTA board once it is in place in November to decide the best path forward.
What is an interim?
During the 45-day general session, many items that do not make it through committee are put on a master study list. The committee chairs then prioritize what should be studied over the interim period based on this list and input from committee members.
The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Senate President and committee chairs meet to collectively determine the final list. The Legislative Management Committee then votes to adopt interim study items and the schedule for the year. Due to the limited number of meetings, committees focus on those issues that are a top priority to help ensure a proper vetting.
Interim committees then study the identified key issues facing the state. They listen to expert and public testimony to determine whether or not to recommend legislation, and they vote to prioritize particular bills for the upcoming general session and occasionally for future special sessions.
Unlike during the general session, when the Senate and House each have standing committees comprised of only their own members, interim committees are made up of both senators and representatives.
These meetings are held throughout the year, generally the third Wednesday of the month, and are open to the public, can be streamed live or listened to at a later date at le.utah.gov.
Veto Override Recap
The Legislature voted to override Governor Gary Herbert’s veto of two vitally important pieces of legislation that passed during the 2018 General Session. HB 198, Attorney General Responsibility Amendments, and SB 171, Intervention Amendments, are key to protecting the constitutional role of the Legislature and ensuring proper separation of powers. These two bills provide clarity to issues that have caused recent confusion in regard to where the line of separation among the branches of government ought to be drawn.
HB 198 merely requires the attorney general respond in good faith to legislative requests for an opinion within 30 days and allows the Legislature to petition the Utah Supreme Court to obtain an opinion if the attorney general does not comply. It also adds additional clarity to the role of the attorney general.
SB 171 allows the Legislature to intervene in support of litigation challenging the constitutionality of state statute.
According to the Utah Supreme Court’s Rules of Civil Procedure, Rule 24, the Legislature is authorized to direct, by statute, that certain parties to a lawsuit be allowed to intervene. That is precisely what this law does by allowing the Legislature to intervene on its own behalf to defend the constitutionality of legislation it has passed, where necessary, to fully represent its interests and those of the people it represents.
HB 198 and SB 171 add additional guidance and clarity to the powers held by each branch when seeking opinions from the attorney general and defending statute from constitutional challenge.
The Utah Legislature and the Utah Department of Heritage and Arts teamed up to give high school students an opportunity to see the Broadway hit Hamilton: An American Musical through the New Nation Letter Writing Competition.
High school students from across the state wrote an essay about an issue of concern in their community, along with a proposed solution, for a chance to see the musical with their representative here in Salt Lake. The purpose was to encourage students to become engaged in the civic process, know who represents them and discover their own passion, using that to find a way to make a positive impact in their local community.
On May 4, more than 2,000 high-school students, teachers and volunteers filled the Eccles Theater to participate in the Hamilton Education Program (EduHam), where students had the unique opportunity of performing Hamilton-inspired music or spoken number on center stage.
Every student who attended created a performance, and the top 15 were selected to present at the theater. Additionally, the cast of Hamilton answered student’s questions and the day concluded with a special matinee performance of the Tony-Award winning musical.
Bills that pass the Utah Legislature go into effect 60 days following adjournment of the general session, unless another date is specified in the legislation.
Utah State University Extension Utah 4-H youth recently gathered at the Utah State Capitol to hold a mock legislature. The future leaders had the opportunity to experience the role of a legislator and learn first-hand about the lawmaking process.
During the mock legislative session, 4-H members presented and debated bills from the 2018 session on the House floor. The students also held committee meetings where they presented their sponsored legislation. Representative Paul Ray and members of the Office of Legislative Research sponsored the event and observed the proceedings.
The Utah State Treasurer’s Office recently announced that Utahns have more than $38 million in property waiting to be claimed. The Utah Unclaimed Property Division receives lost property from various sources, such as dormant bank accounts, uncollected insurance payouts and stock certificates. Visit mycash.utah.gov, the official government website that manages and returns unclaimed property, to see if you have any unclaimed money.
The Utah House of Representatives offers access to live and previous coverage of House floor proceedings and committee hearings from the legislative website. You can search the archive of past sessions, track bills, read proposed legislation and more at le.utah.gov.
Follow the Utah Reps on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to stay connected to what is happening, get a behind-the-scenes look and receive updates. You can also contact your representative at house.utah.gov.