More tax reform, education funding, air quality and transportation will be major topics during the 2020 Utah general legislative session, according to the two House members who represent Tooele County.
“I expect we will spend time on tax reform,” said Rep. Doug Sagers, R-Tooele. “It’s something we will always be updating.”
Rep. Merrill Nelson, R-Grantsville, agrees with Sagers.
“I expect we will carry on with tax reform,” he said.
Nelson said the Legislature may consider proposing a constitutional amendment to remove the restriction that limits income tax revenue to education spending.
“That hasn’t been decided yet,” he said.
The tax reform was needed because while income tax revenue was increasing, sales tax revenue was decreasing.
Sales tax is what pays for things like law enforcement, transportation, and social services, Nelson said.
Tax reform may be the cause of the next expected big topic for 2020 — education funding.
“Education funding is going to be very important,” Nelson said. “We need to reassure educators even though we cut the income tax rate, we will fully fund education.”
Sagers said education funding in Utah is misunderstood.
“It is our first priority,” he said. “We are the fourth highest state in terms of the percentage of our budget that we spend on education.”
Sagers is working on legislation to promote air quality through the use of cleaner fuels.
He wants to provide incentives for large trucks to convert to hydrogen fuel.
With 15 million large trucks traveling through Utah to get to other places each year, they leave a lot of pollution as well as wear and tear on our roads, according to Sagers.
He has a plan to initiate a mileage-based tax for commercial trucks with the revenue going to road maintenance and clean air initiatives.
Sagers also has a scheme to introduce cleaner burning fuel at the Intermountain Power Plant in Delta, Utah.
“There are large salt caverns near IPP,” Sagers said. “There’s a company that wants to use water to remove the salt. The caverns can be filled with a safe source of hydrogen which could then be pumped out as needed for IPP. They could burn a mix of 70% natural gas and 30% hydrogen.”
Along with cleaner air, Sagers also has a proposal to limit the mark up on the cost of prescription drugs charged by middle-men between manufacturers and retailers.
“Other states have done this,” he said. “And we can do it, too. It will bring drug prices down.”
Nelson said he is working on transportation issues.
“I’m already in constant contact with Carlos Braceras, director of the Utah Department of Transportation,” he said. “We talk about the needs of the county and strategies to help Tooele County.”
Nelson is also working on a few tweaks to redistricting legislation.
“The initiative passed and we will have an independent commission that will make recommendations to us on redistricting,” he said. “I like the idea of the independent commission, but the law has a constitutional problem with separation of powers with how it involves the chief justice of the State Supreme Court.”
Along with correcting the constitutional problems with redistricting, Nelson is also proposing some guidelines for redistricting.
“We can have a 10% difference in the size of our districts,” he said. “I would like to use that 10% to create smaller rural districts to improve the representation of rural areas of the state.”
Nelson’s own 68th District includes five different counties.
Another piece of legislation in Nelson’s 2020 portfolio is one that will define the procedure for appointments and elections to replace U.S. senators and representatives if their office becomes vacant before the end of their term.
“When Jason Chaffetz resigned, there were no procedures in place so the governor determined the procedure to follow,” Nelson said. “The Legislature would like to define those procedures and have them in place so if we have another vacancy, the law and procedure will be already written.”
Tooele County is represented by two senators and two representatives.
Nelson represents House District 68, which includes Lake Point, part of Stansbury Park, West Erda, Grantsville, Wendover, Dugway, Rush Valley, Vernon, Ophir, Juab and Millard counties, and part of Utah County. His email address is email@example.com.
House District 21 includes Tooele City, Pine Canyon, and part of Stansbury Park. It is represented by Doug Sagers, R-Tooele. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sen. Daniel Thatcher, R-West Valley, represents state Senate District 12, which includes Tooele City, east Erda, part of Stansbury Park and part of Salt Lake County. His email address is email@example.com.
Sen. Scott Sandall, R-Tremonton, represents state Senate District 17, which includes the parts of Tooele County not included in Senate District 12 and parts of Box Elder and Cache counties. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
The 2020 general legislative session will start Jan. 27 and end March 12.