View From the Gallery - Sine Die (Week 7)
The legislature ended at midnight last night, and less than 6 hours later I’m on the road to get out of the state as quickly as possible. Coincidence? I’ll let you decide.
To recap the session, here’s a quick list of what the legislature did…and didn’t do.
What the Legislature Did
Despite more than $700 million dollars in new revenue to spend this year, the legislature passed TWO tax increases. One will help Utah schools in poorer areas get more money, the other will help build and maintain roads in the state. Although exactly how the change in the gas tax works, is still mostly a mystery to me as it will function more like a sales tax in the future.
The legislature also managed to pass two historic pieces of legislation that give LGBT people protections against discrimination in housing and employment. The bills also carve out exemptions for religious institutions and county clerks who don’t want to perform same-sex marriages. Most everybody was happy with the final solution, but there are parties on both sides that wanted more.
Everybody Gets Money
There was other good news to be had at the capitol this year too. Because of the large budget surplus lots of people got money. One of the largest single payments went to help build a new prison. It got $80 million dollars.
Education also came out with one of the largest increases to their budget in more than a decade. Teachers unions had been asking for more, but the 4% increase they got is twice as much as they got last year.
What the Legislature Didn’t Do
While they managed to accomplish quite a bit this session, there were a couple of large issues that didn’t get to.
The biggest of which was their inability to make a decision on Medicaid Expansion. Leadership in the House and Senate spent much of the session posturing, and even though the Governor’s Healthy Utah plan has been discussed for more than a year, and has popular support among the people in the state, the two sides couldn’t come to any kind of agreement. They did decide to keep looking at it and to hopefully have an agreement before the end of July.
Bills that Died
Beyond Medicaid expansion, the legislature voted not to allow the use of Medical Marijuana in the state, and to stop attempts to delay the implementation of the Count My Vote Compromise.
And finally, the two bodies also couldn’t come to a conclusion on how people should elect their school board representative. The House wants the elections to be non-partisan, while the Senate kept insisting that they be partisan. Now, no one gets their way, at least not yet.
And that’s the View From the Gallery, Sine Die, edition. Thanks for watching.