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KEEPING HOUSE 5/23/2011

The Utah Legislature met two different times during the month of May. The first meeting was a special veto override session held on May 6.

When the governor vetoes a bill, it is the legislature's prerogative to convene to reconsider the bill for a possible veto override. A veto override on any bill requires a two-thirds vote of both the House and the Senate.

A governor's veto is uncommon in Utah, and a veto override session is especially rare. No override session had previously been held since 2004, and only three had been convened in the past 15 years. Out of 504 bills that were passed by the legislature this year, Governor Gary Herbert vetoed five bills. Only two of the five vetoed bills were considered at the May 6 special session.

One bill restricted a portion of state sales tax collections in future years to be used only for road construction projects. Some legislators argued that this earmark is needed for road repairs and improvements that are critical to Utah's economy.

The governor contended that it is important to maintain flexibility in budgeting, so that tax revenue can be spent wherever it is most needed in any given year.

I voted against this bill during the general legislative session in March, primarily because it was presented very late on the last night of the session with little discussion and no House committee hearing.

I also believe that the legislature should not artificially tie our own hands now on future budget issues, but instead should make the difficult spending decisions required every year based on the circumstances at that time.

I again voted against this bill in the veto override session. Fifty votes were required in the House to override the governor's veto, and exactly fifty votes were achieved (I voted no). The Senate easily passed the override, so the bill has now become law.

The other bill considered in the override session was the repeal of the four-day work week for Utah state employees. I voted for this bill during the general session because I have heard frequent complaints from citizens about state offices being closed on Fridays. Governor Jon Huntsman implemented the four-day work week in 2008 in an attempt to save tax dollars. Studies have shown that the savings to the state from the program are not as large as had been predicted. I had some concerns that, with this bill, the legislature was unconstitutionally intruding on the governor's constitutional powers. Upon further study, however, I was satisfied that this is an area over which the Utah Constitution gives the legislature regulatory authority.

This veto override also passed the House with the bare minimum of 50 votes (I voted yes). The vote was a nail-biter in the Senate as well. Some senators had to return to Utah from out of state to cast the deciding votes.

With the passage of this override, state offices will return to a five-day work week in September.

The legislature then met May 18 for interim meetings, which are held once a month throughout the year when we are not in general session. As chairman of the House Government Operations Committee, I presented a bill at the May interim meetings that is designed to clean up outdated voter registration information.

Utah's voter turnout percentage is among the lowest in the nation. I believe that one of the reasons for this statistic is inaccurate information on our voter rolls.

If names remain on a precinct voting list even after a person has died or moved out of the area, voter turnout will appear artificially low.

My proposed bill will allow county clerks to remove a voter's name from the registration list if the voter has not voted for several consecutive elections and then fails to respond to a letter seeking a status update.

As always, please feel free to contact me to express your thoughts pertaining to any legislative matters. My email address is kraigpowell@utah.gov and my phone number is 435-657-0185.


BY REPRESENTATIVE KRAIG POWELL   06/02/2011



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