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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Gage Froerer Guest Post

March 16, 2009
Dear Friends and Neighbors,

The 2009 Utah Legislature came to a close late this past Thursday night and I am sending you this email with the significant legislation that was passed during the session. I would like to express my “THANKS” to the many people from District 8 that have helped me in my work to make Utah a better place to live and work for us all. The issues involved were not always easy to resolve, but with your help and input, I was able to make better informed decisions on your behalf.

As I have stated many times, this is not a one-person job and this year certainly proved that point.

I have several issues yet to be resolved and I will need your help and support as we prepare for next year’s session and deal with issues left unresolved with the close of the 2009 session.

Thanks again and, as always, feel free to contact me anytime with your suggestions or concerns.


Ethics reform:

Ethics reform in the legislature has been a priority this session and several ethics reform bills became law this year.
H.B. 345, Elected Officials-Restrictions of Lobbying, places a one-year cooling off period before any legislator leaving office could register as a lobbyist.

S.B. 156, Gifts and Meal Provisions for Public Officials places new, lower limits on the disclosure of gifts and meals to public officials. Gifts greater than $10 and meals greater than $25 must be disclosed in quarterly reports. An exception provides for meals or events where an entire committee, task force, caucus, or other official body is invited.

S.B. 162, Use of Campaign Fund Amendments prevents any former public official from transferring any money remaining in their campaign account to an account for personal use.

H.J.R. 14 Joint Rules Resolution - Ethics Training Course Provisions enacts a provision for the development and completion of an ethics training course for legislators and lobbyists .

Illegal Immigration:

H.B. 64 authorizes the Office of the Attorney General to administer and coordinate the operation of a multi-agency strike force to combat violent and other major felony crimes within the state associated with illegal immigration and human trafficking. Passed both the House and the Senate.

SCR 1, Concurrent Resolution Requesting a Federal Waiver to Establish an Employer-sponsored Work Program urges the United States Congress to grant the state of Utah waivers to establish an employer-sponsored work program and other strategies to address illegal immigration in the state.

Budget: Despite having a budget deficit of $1 Billion this year, legislators have done very well to back-fill, use federal stimulus monies, and consider some revenue enhancements and bonding where possible to avoid budget cuts. Stimulus money has been specifically set aside for the rest of this fiscal year, specifically for areas such as Medicaid, food stamps programs, unemployment, law enforcement, and special education, among others.

Public Education: Lawmakers approved a $2.4 billion school budget for 2010 that will result in a net cut of about 5.2 percent to education, down from the original 17 percent. Public education is the first priority when it comes to State funding and every effort was made to backfill with stimulus money. The budget cuts shouldn't result in the loss of teachers in the classroom for next year. The State's rainy day fund is being held in reserve primarily to fund education needs in 2011.

Energy Development: H.J.R. 12 (substitute), Joint Resolution Supporting Hydrogen Power from Advanced Coal and Carbon Capture and Sequestration Technology passed both the House and Senate.

This joint resolution of the Legislature supports producing hydrogen from coal with carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) technology.

Economic Development: One economic stimulus bill that passed the Legislature was S.B. 14, Financial Incentives for Motion Picture Productions. The bill enacts economic incentives to attract motion picture productions which bring millions of dollars to Utah's economy.

Health Care: Some large proactive steps toward comprehensive health system reform in Utah took place this session. Three bills were born out of last year's Health System Reform Task Force: H.B. 188, Health System Reform-Insurance Market, H.B. 165, Health Reform- Administrative Simplification, and H.B. 331, Health Reform- Health Insurance Coverage in State Contracts. These bills have been signed into law by Governor Huntsman. Utah is on the forefront of health system reform in our nation and we will continue to be pioneers in this area in the coming years.

Alcohol Law Reform:

H.B. 347, Alcoholic Beverage Control Act Modifications passed the Legislature this year. The bills provides for electronic verification of proof of age by restaurants and clubs; addresses the bar structures in restaurants, including limiting access by minors; and creates a new social on-premise liquor license, which allows for an establishment to function without private club memberships.

Other bills also passed to toughen penalties on drunken drivers and underage drinkers and increase the liability for bars that serve intoxicated patrons.

Here is an update on the status of each bill sponsored by Representative Gage Froerer:

HB 67, Public Hearings on Property Tax Increases: This bill simplifies the process for governments to post “Truth in Taxation” meeting notices and enables the public to more easily identify hearing dates and times. Prior to this week it had passed the House nearly unanimously. This past week it made it through the Senate with ease and is to be signed into law by Governor Huntsman.

HB 83, Property Tax Relief Programs: This bill would have amended the Property Tax Act to adjust the household income qualifying limits for both the homeowner’s credit and the renter’s credit. This bill was designed to help our citizens that have not previously qualified for property tax relief the ability to do so. It would have raised the income threshold to over $33,000 per year. It passed the House Revenue and Taxation Committee and went on to receive a unanimous vote in the House. It also received a favorable recommendation unanimously from the Senate Revenue and Taxation Committee but unfortunately may not be funded this year due to budget constraints.

HB 86, Division of Real Estate Related Amendments: This bill is designed to increase the hours of education necessary to obtain a Realtor license. Such training would help to assure that people involved with mortgages and property transactions have received adequate training. This bill would also impose greater penalties for violations of real estate law and for loan fraud. This bill will increase the professionalism in the industry and better protect the public. It has passed both the House and Senate and has been signed by the Senate President and the Speaker of the House and has been forwarded to the Governor for his approval.

HB 201, Municipal Disincorporation Amendments: This bill sought to modify a provision relating to the disincorporation of a municipality. This bill was designed to make it so that a district court would not have jurisdiction to consider a petition seeking disincorporation of a municipality if the petition is filed within two years of the incorporation of the municipality. This bill would have had major impact for the citizens of Ogden Valley and the State that are impacted by the bill passed last year that allows town incorporations. Thanks to Darla VanZeban for her efforts on this bill. It passed the House and was transferred to the Senate. However, the Senate failed to pass this bill prior to their adjournment sine die. We will be working on a new version of this bill to bring back and pass in 2010.

HB 243, Rental Restriction on Condominiums and Common Interest Communities: The purpose of this bill is to create reasonable restrictions on the number and terms of rental units in condominium associations or common interest communities and provides for procedures to track these units. It would require HOA’s to recognize our military and other groups that are unable to sell their existing units and give them time to complete a sell while maintaining some rental income. Members of the House Business and Labor Committee approved this bill and then passed the House unanimously. It has since made it through the Senate Business and Labor Committee and the Senate floor unanimously and will be prepared for enrolling and signature by the Governor.

HB 246, Property Tax—Residential Exemption: This bill amends provisions of the Property Tax Act relating to the residential property tax exemption by amending the size of residential property that may qualify for this exception. A very important bill for the Ogden Valley for those with lots that do not qualify for green belt that currently do not receive the residential exemption on their primary residence. This bill passed the House after an intense debate on the floor. However, after consideration in the Senate Revenue and Taxation Committee, it narrowly died with a 4-2 vote. The design of the bill was to substantially reduce the property taxes for those that own homes situated on lots over an acre but those that do not qualify for green belt. Rep Froerer will be working with the Senate over interim to address this subject and come to a consensus for the session next year. He will be heading up a task force on this issue as we bring all parties come together to resolve this long-standing problem.

HB 266, Wrongful Lien Amendments: This bill simply amends the wrongful lien definitions and makes technical corrections. The House Business and Labor Committee saw this bill favorably and unanimously recommended it and it passed with a unanimous vote in the House. This bill passed the Senate unanimously and will now be transferred to the governor.

HB 299, Unlawful Detainer Amendments: This bill requires the court to hold an evidentiary hearing, upon the request of either party, within ten days for an action involving unlawful detainer. The bill clarifies for the court what authority they have in other than a tenant/landlord relationship. It came out of the House Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Committee with a favorable recommendation and passed the House unanimously. It was transferred to the Senate and passed on the last day of the session. It will now be prepared for enrolling for the approval of the Governor.

HB 342, Disproportionate Rental Fee Amendments: This bill modifies the Utah Municipal Code regarding disproportionate rental fees imposed by municipalities. It would require that municipalities imposing such disproportionate fees for the first time to establish a good landlord program. This would allow for the landlord to qualify for a reduction in the disproportionate rental fee. It received a favorable recommendation from the House Business and Labor Committee and was unanimously passed by the House. This bill passed the Senate on the second to last day of the session and will be presented to the Governor for his signature of approval.

HB 418, Delinquent Property Tax Amendments: The intent of this bill was to provide that the penalty for delinquent property taxes is only 2.5% if paid within 45 days. It also provides that the interest rate that attaches to delinquent taxes and the penalty be no more than 12%. It passed the House unanimously but did not make it through the Senate prior to their adjournment sine die. This will be a priority bill for the 2010 session and will be a much needed piece of legislation for the entire State of Utah.



Representative Gage Froerer

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