Another legislative session is in the books after 45 days filled with budget meetings to apportion public funds, committee meetings to consider new laws, caucus meetings to formulate public policy, floor debates to vote on bills, and individual meetings and communications with constituents and interested parties to guide our decisions in the public interest.
I am honored to represent Tooele and Millard counties and parts of Juab, Utah and Beaver counties. I appreciate the input and support of my constituents and local officials in this annual exercise of government of, by, and for the people. Here are some session highlights.
State Budget: One of our most important functions is the prudent expenditure of public funds. Utah enjoys one of the strongest economies in the nation, with sustained growth and low unemployment. We produced a balanced budget of $16 billion, with no general tax increase. We significantly increased funding for public and higher education, provided modest pay increases for public employees, funded needed college buildings and highways, and provided improved care for the homeless, elderly and disabled.
Education: About 60 percent of new revenue, $230 million, went to public education. That includes $70 million for enrollment growth and a 4-percent increase in the value of the weighted pupil unit for allocation by local school boards. That amounts to a 6.7-percent funding increase over last year. We also provided increased funding to reimburse teachers for supplies, materials and licensing fees, and to provide bonus incentives for teachers in poverty areas with high turnover. We also enacted more reliable student assessment measures. We value our school teachers and administrators who give so much and work so hard for our children.
Transportation: We passed a highway bonding bill that provides an average of $250 million per year over four years to accelerate construction of high priority projects identified by the Transportation Commission, including choke-points along Interstate 15 in Salt Lake, Davis and Utah counties and the Midvalley Highway in Tooele County. These projects will improve traffic flow, enhance safety, and facilitate economic development. The bonds will not increase our debt level, as we continue to retire prior bonds, and will not affect our AAA bond rating, which only nine states possess.
Economic Development: We passed the Rural Jobs Act, which provides tax incentives for investment in small businesses in rural counties, and provided better funding for the Outdoor Recreational Infrastructure Grant Program, both sponsored by Sen. Ralph Okerlund. We also adopted tax incentives for a hydrogen fuel plant, sponsored by Rep. Doug Sagers.
Federalism: I sponsored and passed HCR6, a resolution supporting a constitutional amendment that would give two-thirds of state Legislatures the authority to invalidate a federal executive order or administrative rule. We also passed a resolution calling on Congress and the President to restore reserved powers to the states. My resolution calling for an Article V Convention of states to limit the power of the federal government passed the House but fell three votes short in the Senate. I will continue to push this important cause forward.
• Protection of Children: I worked with Attorney General Sean Reyes to pass HB199, a bill to prevent the internet trafficking of high needs children in failed adoptions.
• Healthcare: Bills addressing suicide prevention, opioid addiction, telehealth, and additional Medicaid funding.
• Clean Air: Incentives for refineries to produce cleaner Tier 3 fuels, funding for alternative fuel UTA buses and school buses.
• Water and Irrigation: SB63 clarifies the rights of a shareholder in a water company.
• Alcohol: Increased prices to fund school lunch programs and underage drinking prevention efforts; clarified dispensing rules to prevent over-consumption and prevent sales to minors.
• Justice Reform: Increased funding for mental-health and addiction treatment; revised standards for confinement and treatment of juvenile offenders.
To discuss these or other matters considered by the Legislature, feel free to contact me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you for your continued support.
Rep. Nelson serves House District 68 and lives in Grantsville.