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Westwood, Vickers continue to support southern Utah at Capitol
by Holly Coombs
Mar 04, 2017 | 1261 views | 0 0 comments | 36 36 recommendations | email to a friend | print
SALT LAKE CITY--Sen. Evan Vickers (R-Utah) and Rep. John Westwood (R-Utah) continue to work through a legislative session in Salt Lake City this last week.

Westwood said there are 756 pieces of legislation that is numbered and working through the committees. He thanked those who took time coming to the Capitol to testify before the committees and working with many caucus groups. This time is well spent and Westwood said he appreciates the efforts.

“Committee work is so important in weeding out bills that are not good for the State,” he said. “I have been working on introducing a State Earned Income Tax Credit. This is something new and is tailored to the citizens experiencing intergenerational poverty.”

Westwood said that with support from constituents in our area, he has also introduced a bill that would seek to eliminate State of Utah income tax on Social Security benefits. He said he is also running a resolution supporting ranchers that graze sheep and cattle on public lands and asking agencies to look at their policies.

“Twenty-five of our 29 counties depend greatly on agriculture,” Westwood said. “Another of the big bills this week has been lowering the blood alcohol levels from .08 to .05 reducing automobile accidents, possibility fatalities, by 11(percent). Our Policemen and Firemen of our area have been up to visit along with realtors from our area.”

A Homeless Proposal was also considered.

“The Speaker of the House, state leadership and the mayors of Salt Lake County and City announced the next steps to address the crisis in Utah,” Westwood said. “The plan includes a new direction, in breaking up the “one-size-fits-all” shelter model into three resource centers— two in Salt Lake City and one located outside the city but remaining in Salt Lake County.”

At the request of the state, through a process facilitated by Salt Lake County, stakeholders will identify possible sites for a resource center located in an area outside Salt Lake City for consideration and approval by the State Homeless Coordinating Committee by March 30. The target date for the closure of the downtown emergency shelter is June 30, 2019, Westwood said.

A bill was recently introduced in the Utah State Legislature which would put in place a new process for the sale or exchange of public lands in the state, emphasizing exchanges over sales. H.B. 407, “Utah Public Land Management Act Amendments,” declares that the state should retain lands in state ownership “for the enjoyment and betterment of the public and state,” and that if any lands are to be sold, a super-majority support of two-thirds of the Legislature would be required.

Any sales must be for fair market value, and the proceeds must be used to improve existing public land, acquire additional public land or increase utilization of the land by the public.Under this bill, if Utah were to gain the ability to oversee and control at least 250,000 acres of public lands currently managed by the federal government, they would be placed under the purview of a new Department of Land Management, Westwood said.

“The director of that department would be elected by county commissions and councils, putting much more control in the hands of local governments, closer to the people,” he said.

Bill H.B. 198, “Concealed Carry Amendments,” passed by the House. The bill will lower the minimum age to obtain a concealed carry permit to 18 if all other eligibility requirements are met. Currently, Utah law already allows those 18-20 to carry openly.

“With increased concern about sexual assault on college campuses, it only makes sense that those most at risk be permitted options giving them the ability to protect themselves,” Westwood said.

A total of 16 states, in some way or another, allow those 18 and older to carry a concealed firearm.

All of the Appropriations Committee meetings have been completed and Standing Committee time and Floor Time now increases, he said.

There were over 1,200 bills opened but I do not see how we can consider all of those bills and do the bills justice,” Westwood said. “Our area has again been well represented up on the Hill this week as many people from our Tourism and Arts areas have visited and presented.”

The Shakespeare Festival was prioritized number one out of the sub-appropriations committee, he said.

“SUU students have spent time with us up on the Hill and it is always good to see and visit with them,” Westwood said. “Representatives of the Canyon Creek Womens Crisis Center have been visiting us as well and they have been effective in requesting funding for the Center.”

Vickers said in light of the Legislative session hitting the half-way point, one main focus coming out of the Higher Education committee this year is working on continued effort to create stackable credentials.

“While this is a confusing idea, the simple explanation is that we are working to create a path where a student can get certificates from an ATC like Dixie Applied Technology or Southwest Applied Technology, which would give them training that could give them a job in the workplace,” he said. “The student could then use this certificate as credit towards a Bachelor's degree from a university like Southern Utah University or Dixie State University. This is a very critical piece to helping students get through our system, receive a degree or degrees and find a meaningful job in the workforce. “

There are some bills in the house that we have not yet seen in the senate which have received some headlines and accompanying controversy, he said.

“For example, HB 155 from Rep. Thurston (R-Provo) would change the blood alcohol limit for driving under the influence from .08 percent to .05 percent. All other states are at .08 percent, so Utah would be the first state to adopt this if passed,” Vickers said. An interesting fact is that Utah was the first state to go to .08 percent a number of years ago.”

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