In her first legislative update of the year, State Director Candace Daly reports on the three major speeches at the opening of session and what small business likes to hear.
The 2014 general session of the 60th Utah Legislature convened January 27, and in her opening remarks House Speaker Rebecca Lockhart didn’t mince words.
“With Washington in chaos and uncertainty in so many corners of our country, Utahns should be proud of what we have and what we have built,” she said. “What we stand for and who we stand up to. What we believe in and what we dream of.
“Our today is intact, but what about tomorrow? We face no current crisis, but we are nonetheless at risk: The risk of not being ready for tomorrow. Our economy is growing, but not as robustly as it should.
“Our schools are educating, but not as effectively as they must. Our traffic is moving, but not as efficiently as we would like. Our state is breathtakingly beautiful, but blanketed by dirty air and severe pollution that is here today and gone tomorrow, only to return again.
“Make no mistake: Utah is our home. This is still the place. But we should do far better than rest on our laurels, much better than pat ourselves on the back.”
Setting The Bar High
When the speaker talked about air quality and transportation, she asked some tough questions and issued some direct challenges:
“And while we talk about getting from point A to point B, the reality of living in valleys means we must consider our air quality and do something about it,” she said. For those who demand that government impose stringent controls on where our citizens can go and what days they can go there, I ask this question: Is that the Utah way?
“And I would issue a challenge: Let’s get more creative.
- Voluntary measures with concrete impact.
- Work with and not against our business community.
- Allow employees to work from home and telecommute.
- Support transit passes and encourage flex-time shifts.
- Encourage travel in off-peak hours to reduce emissions during red air days.”
Finding The Money
Taking Speaker Lockhart up on her challenge, lawmakers spent the first week reviewing all appropriation base budgets to see where money had or had not been spent.
If there was money still sitting in accounts, they found it and will either move it to the General Fund or reallocate it to other programs that are in need of funding. The programs were reviewed to determine the effectiveness of each program and whether the money should be left or returned to the General Fund. For the first time ever, everything was very transparent.
All appropriation committees worked with electronic documents, which made viewing these documents much easier for the public. Your legislators were very thorough in determining if the funds appropriated from your hard earned tax dollars were spent or not spent in the best way possible.
Cleaning The Closet
In one of his comments in his opening remarks, Senate President Wayne Neiderhauser said, “This year during the session and interim, let’s make a conscious effort to find ways to simplify and repeal outdated and unenforceable statute. ‘Clean out the closet’ so to speak. I believe that if we focus on this challenge, the code will be smaller after the 2015 Session and we will have done a great thing.”
Preparing The State
Gov. Gary Herbert, in his State of the State address, outlined his priorities for Utah, which included:
- Grow the Economy–Utah will lead the nation with growth in the economy. Utah’s unemployment rate dropped again over December, now measuring 4.1 percent, far below the national average of 6.7 percent. The Utah economy added 22,500 jobs over the last year, and is on track for continued steady growth through 2014.
- Prepare for Growth–We need to make sure we are prepared for the growth, in education and infrastructure – In a few years we will double, from 3 million to over 5 million. We need to be prepared for that kind of growth. Science, technology, engineering and math are essential to prepare our students for high-tech, high-quality, and high-paying jobs.
- Energy–The governor is working with U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop to identify and make available new energy sources in the state.
- Air Quality–The air in Utah is cleaner today than it was in the past but we need to continue to work on our air quality.
- Education–Education makes society better and the goal the governor has of 66/2020 means that he would like to see 66 percent of the adult population with some kind of higher education by the year 2020.