Help! Two Key Bills Need a Hand

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I write during a moderately polluted week in Salt Lake City, which distressingly feels like a small victory. Woo hoo! Only a few more asthma attacks!

(Warning: I’m feeling a bit grumpy, so this email will be laced with a bit more vinegar than usual. Buckle up, Bob and Betty!)

We are just over halfway through the State Legislative session. And, well, so far, if you’re concerned about public health and the environment, things aren’t going so well. A few good bills are moving forward, but so are some bad ones. And some other good bills are going nowhere fast. (For more info check out our Bill Tracker and our Legislative Updates (#1, #2 and #3.)

But, that can change. Change for the good, if we can rally enough support for the good bills whose fate hangs in the balance. (It’s worth noting, Betty, things can also change for the bad. Last year, for example, at this point no one knew about the Oakland coal terminal bill. And suddenly a few weeks later the legislature overwhelmingly voted to spend $53 million on a dirty fossil fuel project that will never get built. That was fun.)

Let me quickly tell you about two bills that could use your help today. (If you’re in a hurry, Bob, you can click here and here to weigh in.) The first is HB11, a bill that feels designed to deepen the already distressing stranglehold that the Republican Party has upon Utah institutions. Most folks aren’t aware of the key role that Commissions and Boards play in government. They are typically volunteer bodies, appointed by the governor, but they can have a powerful influence, particularly on environmental issues and utility issues. So, for HEAL’s world, they include the Air Quality Board, the Water Quality Board and the Public Service Commission, which regulates Rocky Mountain Power.

Dozens of those boards and commissions have had a requirement in state law that not all their members can come from a single political party. It doesn’t necessarily mean that half need to be Democrats, they could easily be independents or from a third party, but it at least requires the Governor’s office to look around for some diversity when they make appointments.

Well, that mild effort for political diversity was apparently too much to some Republican legislators. HEAL and our allies fought successfully to get an earlier version of HB11 amended, so that at least the key enviro boards named above were pulled out. That felt like at least a partial victory.

Enter our (not) favorite legislator, Senator Margaret Dayton of Provo. Her amendment to re-insert the enviro and utility boards back into HB11 passed earlier this week, and now the bill heads to a complex process called concurrence, while the two chambers fight over whose version wins. And, so, if you agree that a step toward one-party rule seems like a dreadful idea, please click here to send a message to your legislators. (A quick note, Betty. Please, if you have a few extra minutes, take the time to change the subject line and the text of the email that goes to the legislators. That really helps it stand out.)

Second, a bill to expand emissions testing to include diesel vehicles in at least one Utah county needs a little constituent love. HB134 is an excellent bill which HEAL helped craft from Representative Patrice Arent. While it has received positive votes in the House so far, we are hearing it may soon meet resistance.

Distressingly, what we’re hearing is that a few loudmouth diesel vehicle owners in Utah County have lobbied their legislators and argued that paying $30 once every two years to make sure they’re not poisoning our children is apparently too much to ask. Even though every other car and truck owner along the Wasatch Front does.

Testing diesel vehicles is more important than you might think. A few quick facts. One, diesels are more likely to fail emissions tests, which is no surprise if you’ve been following this Volkswagen debacle. Second, when diesels do fail, they pollute a heck of a lot more than a regular car does when it’s out of compliance. So, getting polluting diesel vehicles off the road, or at least fixed and in compliance, can take a fair bit of pollution out of the air.

And we can’t imagine any reason why the clear majority of Wasatch Front residents who own cars and trucks should have to pay for emissions testing, but diesel vehicles in Utah County should not. (And, Bob, I think we can agree that “being a personal buddy of a powerful legislator who will listen to my petty, selfless complaints” isn’t a strong reason.)

If you want to stand up for clean air and everyone’s right to breathe more freely, let’s make sure our Senators and Representatives know that this bill matters – and that we won’t stand for a few well-connected diesel owners derailing a good clean air measure. Click here to rally support for HB134 now.

Lastly, just wanted to make sure that everyone is aware of the new way that HEAL is communicating with you all! We offer the new “HEAL Utah Capitol Report,” weekly briefings on our legislative work, both via Facebook Live and via a conference call. You can listen in TODAY at 1:30 p.m. as Michael and Ashley give a quick but informative update on the legislative session. They’ll take questions too.

  • What? The HEAL Utah Capitol Report
  • When? Friday Feb. 17 (TODAY) at 1:30 pm
  • How? Go to HEAL’s Facebook page or call (805) 309-2350 and enter the code 112-3337#

Lastly, have you forgotten about the HEAL Utah Podcast? (You haven’t Betty, have you?) Our weekly radio program which can be delivered right to your phone or other device is back after a brief winter break. And we’ve had some great guests lately. You can listen to my interview with professional skier and storyteller Brody Leven, who describes his environmental activism work. And you can listen to Salt Lake Tribune columnist Robert Gehrke, giving us the skinny on what really goes on at the Capitol. And many many more episodes.Click here for a list of all 67 – that’s a lot, Bob! – and information on how to subscribe.

Get with the podcasting! It’s what all the cool kids do. NPR is so 20th century. (That’s a joke, NPR. Settle down.)

In grumpy solidarity,