Tooele Transcript Bulletin – News in Tooele, Utah

March 26, 2019
Rep. Nelson gives report on 2019 Utah Legislature

Following each legislative session, I provide a report to my constituents in Tooele and Millard counties, and portions of Juab, Utah and Beaver counties. I feel privileged to serve you in the Utah House of Representatives and work hard to stay abreast of the many issues, respond to your concerns, and protect your interests. Here are some of the highlights from the action-packed session and hundreds of bills passed.

Article V Convention of States: After several years of education and effort, I was able to pass a joint resolution, authorized by Article V of the U.S. Constitution, calling for a convention of states to consider amendments to the Constitution to limit the uncontrolled spending and power of the federal government, restore equal state sovereignty, and protect the rights of the people. 

A convention of states, which our Founders prescribed as the alternative to a reluctant or ineffective Congress, would not threaten the Constitution and provides the only means to restore the needed checks and balances on the federal government. Utah becomes the 14th state of the required 34 to call for an amendments convention. Any proposed amendment would still have to be ratified by 38 states. 

Veteran political commentator Bob Bernick called this resolution “the most important piece of legislation passed by the 2019 Legislature” because of its long-term potential to restore our Republic. (“Utah Policy,” March 7, 2019). (For more information see conventionofstates.com.)

State Budget and Tax Reform: Our state is well managed and in sound financial condition. We balanced our state budget at $18.5 billion, which includes $95 million in new rainy-day funds, a 2.5 percent compensation increase for state employees, and increased funding for Medicaid expansion, clean-air initiatives, school safety, and competitive retirement benefits for law enforcers and first responders. 

The Legislature backed off the proposed sales tax on services and formed a task force to address the structural imbalance caused by dwindling sales tax revenues on goods and the constitutional limitation on use of income tax revenues for education.

Education: The Legislature provided an additional $280 million for public education, which includes a 4 percent increase in per-student funding, $40 million for student enrollment growth, and $26 million for student health and counseling services. Other bills improve student safety, limit school fees, and provide a compromise remedy for state school board elections.

Economic Development: The Legislature approved $1 million for grants to expand manufacturing and other jobs in rural areas of the state, and another $2 million to expand state jobs into rural areas through teleworking. We also provided additional funding for the Inland Port Authority in northwest Salt Lake County to expand port hubs into adjacent and rural counties, with funds for transportation planning assistance for local governments.

Healthcare and Environment: The Legislature provided $75 million for Medicaid expansion and additional funds for medical cannabis implementation, both of which were approved by citizen initiatives. We increased the legal age for smoking to 21, restricted access of minors to vaping products, and provided for coverage of autism under some health insurance plans. A new law prohibits abortions after 18 weeks gestation. We approved $26 million worth of programs to improve air quality, including installation of electric vehicle charging stations and voluntary replacement of wood stoves and fireplaces with gas appliances. 

Miscellaneous actions: 

  • Families: I received a “Friend of the Family Award” from the Family Policy Resource organization for sponsoring the bill to prevent change of “sex” designation on birth certificates. I withdrew a proposed compromise bill to allow further study of the issue.
  • Suicide: Expanded school suicide prevention programs.
  • Crimes: Victim-targeting law allows increased sentence for offenders who intentionally harm persons or property based on race, sex, religion, or other personal characteristics. Another bill streamlines expungement of certain criminal records.
  • Alcohol: Compromise bill allows increased alcohol content in beer from 3.2 to 4 percent. Increased funding for Alcoholic Beverage Control package agencies.
  • Heritage and Arts: Appropriated $2 million for grant program.
  • Natural Resources: Appropriated $5 million for Bonneville Salt Flats restoration.
  • Redistricting: Appropriated $1.6 million to implement Prop. 4 Redistricting Commission and conduct redistricting following 2020 Census.
  • Legal Notices: I opposed the bill to exempt publication of certain legal notices in local newspapers.
  • Gravel Pits: I opposed the bill to expand zoning protections for existing gravel pits at the expense of other private property rights and local control.

To discuss these or other matters considered by the Legislature, feel free to contact me by email at mnelson@le.utah.gov. 

Rep. Merrill Nelson, R-Grantsville, represents House District 68, which includes Tooele and Millard counties, and portions of Juab, Utah and Beaver counties.

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