By NATALEE CAPPS and CAMERON FULLER
The 52nd Utah state legislative session came to a relatively early close this year — about 10:00 p.m.– about two hours a head of its traditionally frantic midnight close.
Even though they finished two hours early, thousands of hours were spent in the course of the session by concerned citizens, lobbyists, special interest groups and legislators to decide who is allocated money and which laws Utahns will live by for at least the next year.
But just what did everyone accomplish this session?
Of the 754 bills and resolutions introduced to the legislature, 463 passed.
Many of the legislators, including Speaker of the House Mel Brown, R-Salt Lake, praised the efficiency with which the session was handled.
“This speaks toward the work ethic and commitment of this delegation,” Brown said.
House Minority Leader David Jones, D-Salt Lake, said he was grateful that the Republicans did not use their majority influence to shut the small group of democrats out of the legislative process.
“This is the most efficient system I have been a part of, especially these last two years. This is due to the majority leadership, and the other members of leadership as well,” Jones said. “You’ve all gone out of your way this session to get information to us on a timely basis, ahead of time, so we had a chance to respond in thoughtful ways.”
Senate leaders echoed these sentiments.
“I think year by year as we keep up with this, it is a better system and we’re not going to make … rapid movements where nobody has any idea what they are voting on. And this year we did not do it. We never limited our debate one time,” said Craig Peterson, R-Utah and Senate Majority Leader.
One of the other possible reasons the session passed smoothly was that few controversial issues were debated during this election year.
“They chose to just not deal with almost everything controversial,” said Rep. Tammy Rowan, R-Utah. “We’ve dealt with the issues we needed to, and they chose not to deal with the others and it kind of just kept it peaceful.”
Legislators decided on the I-15 bond issue early in the week. “Transportation funding was bonded at a higher level than we really wanted this year primarily because of the lack of federal funds,” said Assistant Majority Whip John Valentine, R-Utah. “So it’s very frustrating that we are having to bear the whole burden here in Utah on Utah taxpayers.
Some of the other major legislation passed included House Bill (HB)137 — Children’s Health Insurance Program. This bill allows the state to match federal funds in order to provide health insurance to children whose parents don’t qualify for Medicaid, but who still fall under the poverty level.
Another important bill regarding children’s issues was Senate Bill (SB)26 — Utah Child Care Licensing Act Revisions. This bill loosens state regulations placed on home child care providers by requiring only a residential certificate for providers of five-to-eight children and a full license for those caring for more than eight children.
HB44 — Telemarketing Requirements — requires telemarketers to identify themselves and the purpose of the call immediately. The telemarketer is also required to discontinue the solicitation immediately if the consumer is not interested.
Utah drivers received attention at the legislature this year in the form of two new bills.
HB14 — Motor Vehicle Safety Inspection — will reduce the number of inspections to every other year for cars less than five years old.
SB50 — Property Taxes Uniform Fees and Certified Tax Rate — provides a cap of $150 on property tax charged to vehicles.
The governor must sign bills into law or veto them by March 24. Bills passed will go into effect May 4, unless otherwise specified in the legislation.