The late Harper Lee wrote, “You just hold your head high and keep those fists down. No matter what anybody says to you, don’t you let ’em get your goat. Try fightin’ with your head for a change”
Wise words for public interest lobbyists at the legislature, because sometimes facts just don’t prevail. While we saw a few good bills move forward this week, one really bad one took a giant step forward. Let’s get that maddening part out of the way first.
HB316 “Building Code Review and Adoption Amendments,” from Rep. Brad Wilson (R-Kaysville) was substituted in committee for an even worse version of the bill that we’d already opposed. And, unfortunately, it passed the House Business and Labor Committee. This bad clean air bill now delays our how often Utah considers building code updates to a 9-year cycle (Currently, we consider new codes every 3 years.) It also further weakens energy-saving provisions in the proposed 2015 building code – robbing Utah of a rare opportunity to improve our air and save homeowners money in lower utility bills for decades to come. This bill will now move to a full House vote, likely mid-next week. Please click here to urge your Rep. to vote NO on this bill, which we see as potentially the most damaging air quality bill this session.
Now onto some positive highlights:
- We had some movement on Rep. Frances Gibson’s (R-Mapleton) HB244 – Power Purchase Agreement bill, which unanimously passed committee. This would allow more folks to be able to access solar power, through expanded and more affordable leasing options. Though it is currently circled, we’re hearing that this bill will be heard on the House floor, the afternoon of Monday, Feb 22nd. You can click here to urge your Rep to support the bill.
- Hitting a high note for clean air, SB49 from Sen. Luz Escamilla (D-Salt Lake City) passed the Senate with an overwhelming majority in favor. Next week Monday, at 4:10 pm, in Room 250 of the House building, this bill will be heard by the House Judiciary Committee – who will hopefully also support increasing the amount of time, by one year, that our state regulators have to prosecute companies that knowingly pollute beyond their permit limits.
- Another great clean air bill, which passed committee this week, is HB237 — Income Tax Contribution for Clean Air, brought by Rep. Patrice Arent (D- Salt Lake City). This bill, which allows for citizens to voluntarily contribute to an air quality fund on their tax forms, was amended in committee to redirect the funds generated from UCAIR to the Division of Air Quality, but we’re okay with that change. It now moves to a full House vote.
Here’s a few other bills we support which we hope to see action on this week:
- HB250 – which implements the Air Quality Board’s ultra-low NOx water heater rule, will be (finally) heard in the House Natural Resources, Ag, and Environment committee next week. This excellent bill from Rep. Ed Redd (R-Logan) has the potential to reduce nitrous oxide emissions by 2,700 tons per year, when implemented. This is an enormous opportunity and we need your help to make sure it passes – please consider attending the hearing tomorrow, Monday, Feb 22nd, at 4:10 pm, Room 445 State Capitol, and click here to ask your Rep to support HB250!
- Rumor has it that HB356 – a great bill by Rep. Knotwell (R-Herriman), which would provide sales and property tax exemptions for rooftop solar arrays, is also going to hit a committee in the House next week. Expect to hear more from us on this bill soon.
- We’re still waiting for HB121 from Rep. Becky Edwards (R-North Salt Lake) to get out of the House Rules Committee, but this excellent clean air bill certainly deserves to be heard. This bill would update our building code to reflect the recommendations of the Uniform Building Code Commission (unlike HB316, the bill we talked about above, which implements a severely watered down version of those recommendations.) It would result in huge energy efficiency savings for homeowners and reduce the amount that homes contribute to air pollution – a serious win-win. We are working to get this to a vote!
So, that’s a quick rundown of what happened this week. But, if you’d like even closer keep tabs on what we’re working on, check out HEAL’s bill tracker here – with our top 25 bills, their current status, and HEAL’s current position on them.
We’re more than halfway done, and about to head full steam into the final weeks of the session, where legislation moves at rapid fire and rationality seems to wane. Brace yourselves.
Ash | Senior Policy Associate and Eternal Optimist