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Van Tassell's Letter Home: Week 7 3/9/2012

Adjournment Sine Die.

We have reached the end of the General Session of the 59th Legislature.

It was an intense week with many hours spent on the floor and many important issues were vetted and discussed. Even though the debating is over, the process is not quite complete. Within five days after adjournment, the presiding officer of each house must sign each bill that was passed. After that the bills are sent to the Governor. He has 20 days to either sign or reject each bill. If he does neither, the bill becomes law automatically.

Here is a link to a list of all the bills that have been sent to the Governor.

http://le.utah.gov/asp/passedbills/passedbills.asp

My bills that are on that list are:
• SB 25S01 Driver License and Identification Card Amendments
• SB 29 State Highway System Modifications
• SB 77 Surface Owner Protection Act
• SB 83 Uintah Basin Energy Zones
• SB 244S01 Reporting Options for Auto Insurance
• SB 267 Tribal Health Information
• SCR 1 Concurrent Resolution Supporting Establishment of a Fund for Assistance to Families of Fallen Officers
• SCR 8S02 Concurrent Resolution Supporting New Technologies and Facilities That Enhance the Production and Value of Uintah Black Wax
• SCR 12 Concurrent Resolution Urging Congress to Clearly Delegate Responsibility for Regulating Hydraulic Fracturing to the States

My personal goal as a legislator is to create sound public policy. As I assess the merit of each bill and expenditure, I consider first, how it will affect our district. Then I consider the question of long-term effects verses short-term fixes.

The most important task of any legislative session is the budget. This week we made the final decisions on how we will distribute the state’s $13 billion budget –without increasing taxes or reducing current funding. There was some new funding, but I am pleased to say that no existing budgets were cut. We paid down the state’s debt to help protect our bond rating and ensure our long-term fiscal health. We allocated $42 million to cover compensation issues including increased retirement and health care costs of state employees and educators. In addition, we funded at least a 1% compensation increase to all public employees. School districts also received over $36 million that fully covers growth and compensation. It is always crucial for the legislature to remember that the government—any level of government—has nothing to spend that it has not first collected from individual citizens.

The final budget is put into a bill and voted on just like every other proposed bill. The bill number this year is HB9. You can see the final version that will be sent to the Governor here. http://le.utah.gov/~2012/bills/hbillint/HB0009.htm

There were some things that I truly wish had been funded, but I believe we did the best that could be done. As our Senate Budget Chair Lyle Hillyard said, “We spent all the money that was available. No matter where the line is drawn, there will never be enough to satisfy everyone.” I am pleased to say that after meeting the needs of the state, 10 million dollars was placed in the Rainy Day Fund to prepare for the next economic downturn or crisis.

Next week, I would like to encourage you to attend your caucus meetings.

Our unique political system uses the caucus/convention system as the process for nominating political candidates. In the caucus meetings neighbors elect each other to serve as delegates at the State and County party conventions. The delegates at the conventions select the political candidates who will be on the general ballot. Caucus meetings are the grassroots tool of a representative government. By attending your caucus meeting and voicing your opinions you can become a more effective and influential voice in the political process. The best way for the caucus system to work is if many people participate.

Participating in the political process is important. Voting is important. Utah has been recognized as having one of the most accessible and easy voter registration programs of any in the nation. You can register here with a few clicks of the mouse. https://secure.utah.gov/voterreg/index.html

It has been an amazing session. A great deal was accomplished. One highlight for me was helping meet the growing educational needs in the state and even finding some additional funds for education including bus transportation and necessary small schools. Every effort was made to try and get funding for the Heber Valley Railroad but unfortunately we were unsuccessful due to funding restraints. However, I am excited to report that $500,000 has been appropriated to improve and redo the campground at Wasatch Mountain State Park.

I appreciate the hard work of other legislators, our staff and my intern. And I appreciate the support from you and from my family. I look forward to spending more time at home with them and with you during the interim.

As always, you can contact me by phone at (435) 790-0675 or by email at kvantassell@le.utah.gov.

BY SENATOR KEVIN VAN TASSELL   03/09/2012



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