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Van Tassell's Letter Home: Week 6 3/2/2012

Only one more week is left to finalize all the business of the state for the year and there are many decisions yet to be made, most importantly, finalizing the budget.

The final budget is being crafted. The executive appropriations committee is meeting to sift through the recommended lists submitted by the sub-appropriations committees. This is very difficult. It is tough because every program that has been prioritized by the sub-committees is a good well deserving program.

However, reality must be faced. The money is limited and the only way to get more for additional programs is to raise taxes or eliminate funds from one part of the budget and move those same funds to another part of the budget. It is difficult when considering worthy petitions to draw the line.

But what must be remembered is that funding every deserving program or good project is how government is grown. It is our job as legislators to hold the line and not spend money that the state does not have. That is the discussion and process that the budget is going through right now—drawing decisive lines about how to prudently allocate your tax funds in the name of bettering our society. Frequently the House has a different set of priorities than the Senate does. This adds to the discussion and the negotiating but also helps with the refining process.

We were very busy in the committee meetings on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday as we tried to get as many bills heard as we possibly could. We met on the floor twice each day this week. Next week we are scheduled to meet together on the floor three times each day until Thursday, when we will meet until midnight. The Utah Constitution dictates the length of our session. We can meet no more than 45 consecutive calendar days and must end by midnight on the 45th day.

We discussed some interesting bills on the floor this week. Here are a few of them:

HB74 would ensure road access to oil well fields.

HB 395 deals with several changes in gun ownership laws.

HB 129 protects a property owner in defending home and family against criminal activity.

HB254 adds more chemicals to the list of those currently banned under state law that are used to make synthetic illegal drugs, commonly known as “spice”.

Two bills SB64 and SB67 deal with performance pay and teacher evaluation.

HB307 states that a judge must look at new and previously un-presented evidence when re-examining if someone is factually innocent.

SJR13 and SB287 both deal with the Governor’s concern that the state retain control over the curriculum that is taught in Utah classrooms.

SCR10 supports the building of a gondola that would connect The Canyons and Solitude ski resorts.

HB284 would make changes to the number of concurrent enrollment classes that high school students could take.

HJR6 would add to the state Constitution a requirement that a portion of the state’s severance tax be saved in a trust fund.

HB108 addresses online gambling.

This week my bill SB 83, which establishes the Uintah Basin as an energy zone passed the House and is now being prepared to receive the signature of the governor. This bill will help Utah to responsibly meet its potential with almost every kind of energy production. In addition, my bill SCR 12 received a favorable recommendation in Senate Committee. This resolution urges Congress to clearly delegate responsibility for regulating hydraulic fracturing to the state of Utah. Utah has done this for many years and has proven that it can efficiently and effectively perform this responsibility and this helps keep it that way.

I had an interesting experience this past week. I had a constituent come to me with a concern about one of the bills that was being passed in the legislature. He is a one of two tire recyclers in the state of Utah, and he was worried that simply changing the definition of a waste tire could put him out of business. After a little more research, sure enough he was right. I had to get in touch with the other sponsors of the bill, members from the Department of Environmental Quality, as well as the owner of this business to make the necessary changes so that it would not affect him and his business that employs 10 full-time workers that are supporting families. I am grateful for constituents who are taking an active role in knowing what is going on in politics and for bringing to my attention these important issues. I would urge everyone to do the same and to please contact me when action needs to be taken. I will do all in my power to correct the situation and help the people of my district.

We have had many groups visit the capitol this week. It is always a great feeling to see the school children that visit and are recognized by their senator. I was very pleased when the Wasatch High School Student Government came to see me. On Friday, we had a group from Paradigm High Charter School in South Jordan do a dramatized recitation of the Declaration of Independence. It was a poignant reminder of the sacrifices made to establish this great country. It brought tears to the eyes of many. If you have not read that great and inspired document lately, I would highly recommend it. Also congratulations this week to Senator Valentine who was awarded Legislator of the Year from the Hotel and Lodging Association for work on alcohol legislation. And congratulations to the city of Roy for their 75th anniversary and to St. George on the celebration of their sesquicentennial.

I appreciate so much the dialog generated from the questions and concerns that you have and are willing to communicate with me.

As always, you can contact me by phone at (435) 790-0675 or by email at 


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