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There’s no way to sugarcoat it — Last week was troubling. We saw two major bills get worse and but had a few sparks of hope. As usual, we will start with the good news and then dish out the bad.
HB29 – Energy Efficient Vehicle Tax Credit Amendments from Rep. Stephen Handy (R-Layton) finally passed the House Rev and Tax Committee early last week. Apparently, the fourth time was the charm! Utah’s tax credit for electric vehicles had expired in December of 2016 – this bill retroactively renews that credit. This will help to get more people in electric vehicles, which is a major boon for our airshed. Although the version which passed restricts those who are eligible to receive the credit to only those in the non-attainment area, providing this incentive will help boost the adoption of EVs and improve our air quality. Now this bill awaits a full House vote.
HB23 – Income Tax Credit Modifications from Rep. Jeremy Peterson (R-Ogden) – i.e. the Solar Phase-out Bill, passed the Senate Tax and Revenue committee on Friday. This compromise bill extends the solar tax credit, but gradually steps down the amount of the credit until 2021. While HEAL would like to see the full credit extended longer, this bill gives assurance to Utah’s burgeoning solar market. The last stop for this bill will be the full Senate.
SB154 – Solar Access Amendments from Sen. Lincoln Filmore (R-South Jordan), a bill to make it easier for residents of Homeowners Associations to get rooftop solar, was certainly this week’s highlight, despite some big concessions made in the bill. While it still gives HOAs the power to ban solar, this bill offers more leverage residents. This bill unanimously passed the Senate Transportation, Public Utilities, Energy, and Technology Committee (No thanks to the shade thrown by HOAs) and now moves to a full Senate vote before it will be kicked over to the House!
Now onto the bad news:
HB65 – Air Conservation Act Amendments from Rep. Mike Schultz (R-Hooper) passed the Senate. This bill allows for wood burning on red air days, if the purpose is for cooking. The language of the bill is written so broadly that we clean air advocates fear it will embolden more people to burn, more often, in our already troubled airshed. It also takes away the Division of Air Quality’s authority to regulate culinary burning in the future. The version passed by the Senate even went so far as to broaden the language to allow for both commercial and residential burning. This bill will return to the House for a concurrence vote, but we are not optimistic about the potential for stopping it there. The last chance to kill this bad bill will be on the Governor’s desk with a veto!
HB11 – State Boards and Commissions Amendments brought by Rep. Norman Thurston (R-Provo) also passed both Senate votes. This bill removes the partisan requirement from 28 state boards and commissions – meaning that one political party can completely dominate each board. As we predicted, the Air Quality Board, the Water Quality board, Drinking Water Board and the Public Service Commission were all added back into the version that passed the Senate. Adding the PSC is particularly troubling because basically the only rule governing the make up of this board was the requirement for bi-partisanship! Please urge your Rep to vote NO on HB11 when it comes back to the House for concurrence by clicking here!
On deck next week:
HB134 – Emissions Testing Amendments, from Rep. Arent (D – Salt Lake City) will likely be heard for a full House on Tuesday! This bill expands current emissions testing programs to require testing of passenger diesel vehicles. Clean air advocates experienced some pushback last week from a small minority of diesel drivers in Utah County who simply don’t want their vehicles tested — click here to tell your Representative/Senator to support this important bill now!
SJR09 – Joint Resolution on Climate Change by Senator Jim Dabakis (D- Salt Lake City) likely won’t be heard in the Senate Natural Resources Committee anytime soon (Thanks Sen. Margaret Dayton) but, there will be a press conference to urge a hearing for this important bill on Thursday, February 23, at 5:45 PM in Room 445 State Capitol. If you can make it, we’d love to see you there!
Get involved up on the Hill by helping us to lobby or attend a committee meeting! Just email our Grassroots Organizer, Noah Miterko, at firstname.lastname@example.org. Floor time is getting longer this week and that means even more opportunities to get involved!
Don’t forget to also tune in to HEAL’s Capitol Report, every Friday at 1:30pm. We give you the low-down on all the latest at the Capitol and with a hint of sarcasm. See you there!
Ashley Soltysiak | HEAL Policy Director