Things at the legislative session have officially hit breakneck speed, making this the perfect time for a political sleight of hand – and that is unfortunately exactly what this week brought. This plot line is so shady, it would make the cast of House of Cards blush. Here’s what went down.
A bill from Sen. Stuart Adams (R-Layton) was sprung with only 8 days remaining in the session. SB246 proposes to loan $53 million dollars of taxpayer money to fund the highly contentious, privately owned Oakland Coal Export Terminal. This money would be funneled from sales and tax revenue to the project and then is repaid by money from the Mineral Lease Account. That money was intended to help communities cope with the boom and bust cycles of fossil fuel dependent economies, not further tie them to a coal laden past.
Check out this LA Times article here, for some additional background. This passed the Senate Government Operations and Political Subdivisions committee in a 5-1 vote. It now moves to a full Senate vote. Click here to weigh in and tell your Senator to oppose it!
Ugly emergence of SB246 aside, the rest of the week was a mixed bag. Here’s what you may have missed.
- Rep. Francis Gibson’s (R-Mapleton) bill, HB244, which would allow for expanded solar leasing options in Utah passed both houses this week. It now just needs to be signed by the Governor. This represents a huge win for solar in Utah!
- Next up, is SB115, also by Sen. Stuart Adams, which unfortunately passed the full Senate this week. This complicated bill includes regulatory provisions intended to save Rocky Mountain Power millions, but the newest version of the bill has actually gotten worse for rooftop solar. The legislation now only allows for a rate case to look at solar net metering – which means none of the benefits that net metering has on the full grid will be quantified. Basically this bill has gone from bad to worse. It will likely hit the House Public Utilities Committee early next week– Tell your Rep. to vote NO!
- Another complicated bill, HB316 by Rep. Brad Wilson (R-Kaysville), passed a Senate committee this week. This bill has gone through 6 revisions over the course of the session and now includes some key energy saving provisions for homes. It also includes the ultra-low NOx water heater rule, which would offer Utah significant air quality benefits. On the negative side, the bill forbids future action from the Division of Air Quality effecting building codes and also delays our building code cycle from the current 3-year cycle to 6-years. So, this is the quintessential mixed bag. It will go before the full Senate early next week and then back to the House for concurrence.
- Rep. John Knotwell’s (R-Herriman) HB356, which creates a solar sales tax and use exemption passed the House Rev. and Tax Committee this week and now moves to a full House floor vote. This is an excellent bill which helps to further financially incentivize solar.
- Rep. Patrice Arent’s (D-Salt Lake City) HB237, passed the Senate Rev. and Tax committee this week and now moves to a final vote in the full Senate. This excellent clean air initiative creates a dedicated source of air quality funding through a voluntary tax check off.
Just four days left in the session! Bills must be passed by both houses before midnight on Thursday, March 10th, or the clock simply runs out. The phrase “Adjournment sine die” is applied. Which means literally “without day” for another meeting. Hopefully, the clock will simply run out for some of these bad bills — but of course it also my run out on good bills too.
Here is a hearing on one good bill:
- Next Monday – Rep. Ed Redd’s (R-Logan) bill, HB250, which implements the Division of Air Quality’s ultra low NOx water heater rule, hits the Senate Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environment Committee at 7:30am, in Room 415 State Capitol. If you can make it, please join us to support this important clean air bill! Don’t forget to click here to urge your Senator to vote YES!
Finally, many important funding requests from the Division of Air Quality are still lacking funding. We’ve only got 4 more days to send a strong signal to the members of the Executive Appropriations committee to prioritize these critical funding requests — Click here to do just that!
Ash | Senior Policy Associate & Legislative Incendiary