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Bill to cover tuition gap for veterans dies in state senate
by KRISTEN DANIEL
Mar 01, 2012 | 120 views | 0 0 comments | 1 1 recommendations | email to a friend | print
CEDAR CITY – The tuition gap coverage for veterans was killed in the State Senate on Friday, a tax credit for hiring the homeless passed the House, the parental permission for tanning bill advanced, and other issues continue in week 5 of the Utah Legislative session.

SB44, GI Tuition Bill Gap Coverage, sponsored by Sen. Luz Robles (D-Salt Lake), a bill that would have extended tuition benefits to military veterans, was defeated in the State Senate Friday. The bill allowed the state to fund a gap between federal funds available for veterans to obtain a bachelor’s degree at the university level, and the actual cost to complete the degree.

The measure had sailed through previous votes, leaving Robles shocked and bewildered following the vote.

The bill passed its committee unanimously and easily passed its second reading, where the bills are often debated, by 26-1.

It had a fiscal note of $250,000, with money coming out of the general fund.

Michael Waddoups, R-Taylorsville, Senate president, and majority leader, said he voted against the measure because he believed the funds could be better used elsewhere.

After the Senate killed the bill, retired Army Maj. Gen. Peter Cooke, Democratic candidate for governor, issued a statement critical of the Republican-controlled legislature.

“This sends a message to the Department of Defense that Utah may no longer be a military-friendly state,” Cooke said. “This attack on our proudly serving Utah servicemen and women is dangerous, ill-timed and very unfortunate. It must stop.”

Legislation passed the Utah House on Wednesday that may give companies that hire homeless people up to a $1,000 tax credit for each person hired.

Brian King (D-Salt Lake City) the sponsor of HB101 said the homeless are a stigmatized population and the benefit of the bill is it gives those people a chance to get back on their feet.

The bill offers a $500 credit for each part-time worker hired and $1,000 for hired employees who work full time for at least six months. The amounts of the tax credit may increase if they work a full year.

The measure passed the House 42-28 and is on its way to the Senate.

Budget analysts project it would cost the state an estimated $431,000 to implement the tax credit and that about 287 individuals could be hired as a result of the program. Although the bill provides much-needed jobs to a downtrodden segment of the population and a tax cut to businesses for providing new jobs, it could be a tough sell in a climate where the trend is to tighten every belt in the budget.

The bill is backed and supported by low-income advocates and the National Federation of Independent Business.

A bill that requires parental permission for all minors to use a tanning bed advanced out of committee on Friday.

SB41, sponsored by Sen. Pat Jones (D-Holladay) was discussed by the House Health and Human Services committee for more than an hour, as numerous supporters testified as to dangers and health risks of teenage tanning.

Sancy A. Leachman, director of the Huntsman Cancer Institute’s Melanoma Cutaneous Oncology Program, said because tanning is addictive and a carcinogen, it is therefore is a public health issue.

“One of the greatest strengths in the leadership roles for the state of Utah has always been wise, proactive stands on healthy choices, healthy lifestyles and specific avoidance of toxic substances,” she said. “And that’s what this bill is.”

Jones said she is optimistic the bill will pass in the House once representatives hear the statistics about how tanning can affect the health of teenagers.

Adults older than 19 may no longer be required to take driver’s education classes to receive their driver’s license, if Gov. Gary Herbert signs HB266 into law after it passed the House 67-1 on Friday.

Rep. Brad Daw, R-Orem, said 40 states do not require driver education for adults older than 19. The bill, which passed after accepting amendments from the senate, requires that such people obtain a learning permit for three months and drive at least 40 hours prior to receiving a license.

Some state driving test examiners opposed the bill, saying some drivers, particularly those who have driven in foreign countries, could benefit from instructors who would help correct bad or dangerous habits.

Daw said his motivation to push the bill came from a constituent who complained that his wife would need to spend between $300 and $500 for a driving class when she already knew how to drive.

The discussion for entering into a court battle with the federal government to seize control over federal land continues.

The Health Education Amendment, sponsored by Rep. Bill Wright (R-Holden), passed the House and is on its way to the Senate where it is expected to pass. The bill allows schools to opt-out of sex education all together, and those that choose to continue teaching it would be forbidden from ever mentioning premarital sex, contraception or homosexuality.

Several Democratic House members spoke strongly against the bill, pointing out the debate was not about whether kids should be having sex, but rather, whether educators should teach the state’s youth why they should choose to be abstinent, and whether the students should be given simple, biological information that may protect them from tragic consequences.

On Feb. 5 a measure was defeated that would have taken more money that comes from severance tax money from oil and gas revenues out of the general fund, and lock it into a reserve account for future use. This would have put an approximated additional $20 million a year into the reserve account, but Evan Vickers (R-Cedar City) said it could also cause budget shortfalls and further cuts.

HJR6, Joint Resolution On Severance Tax, sponsored by Rep. Jim Nielson (R-Bountiful) now reemerged as a constitutional amendment.

Severance taxes are what the state collects any time a non-renewable resource (like coal) is sold in Utah. Currently, a big chunk of the money collected is already placed into the Permanent State Trust Fund to save for future generations, and the other part is place in the general fund.

After a five-year phase-in period, the amendment would require putting into trust funds 25 percent of the first $50 million of annual severance tax; 50 percent of the next $50 million; and 75 percent of all revenue beyond that.

Rep. Joel Briscoe (D-Salt Lake City) expressed worries it would take away flexibility of state leaders to deal with yearly budgets or unforeseen problems in the future.

Nielson said, “Are our needs today more important than future generations?”

House Minority Leader David Litvack (D-Salt Lake City) urged a study on the issue, saying too many questions are unanswered questions on how much flexibility would have to deal with important future issues.

“In my family we save for our children’s future,” he said. “But we don’t starve them tonight in order to do it.”

HJR6 passed the House and is on its way to the Senate. If it passes the issue will go to voters to accommodate a constitutional amendment.

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