What The Utah Legislature Hasn’t Been Talking About

House

Believe it or not, there are just nine more working days of the 2013 General Legislative Session. During this time, lawmakers have discussed everything from guns to local control of the fire code. As of today, nearly 750 bills and resolutions have been proposed and, despite the crunch, it is quite possible that this years legislature could produce nearly a thousand potential new laws.

Despite this, some issues have received little attention in The People’s House. Many vital topics haven’t seen a bill introduced at all, while others have died in Rules Committee or failed to make it out of their standing committees for a floor debate. Here are some of the issues that have received little attention this session:

Air Pollution and Environmental Policy: At the start of the legislative session, the annual inversion set in across the Wasatch Front. With the pollution being particularly heavy and persistent, House Democrats did propose a series of six bills designed to help address the issues surrounding air quality, but all but one have failed to make it to on a committee’s agenda.

LGBT Issues: Rumors have been swirling for weeks that powerful Republicans in both the House and the Senate would be introducing legislation that was friendlier to the LGBT community. It was announced this week that Republican Senator Steve Urquhart would carry a statewide nondiscrimination law, but while it’s possible the Senator may have the pull to get the debate onto the Senate Floor, it’s doubtful that the popular idea (over 70% support among the general public) will see much movement past the debate this session.

Election Reform and Ethics: With the shadow of the investigation into Attorney General John Swallow looming over the legislature, lawmakers have nonetheless been hesitant to produce long term ethics reform – opting instead to address some of the issues on the fringes. Many issues surrounding campaign finance reporting have come close to making it through both chambers, but Republicans have held these items up, on the grounds that a campaign contribution is a First Amendment right that should not be infringed upon.

Education Funding: This year appears to be the year that the Utah State Legislature decided to declare all out war against federal dollars (though they are still happy to accept these funds). A consequence of this rhetoric has been that, once again, Utah’s school children continue to languish in packed classrooms as their test scores drop dramatically. Some bright spots have appeared this session in regards to funding (see here and here), but most of these have focused around forming public/private partnerships to receive funding. This may be the new norm as budgets continue to get squeezed.

There are still two weeks in the session, and many things can happen between now and then. However, unless legislation has been in the works for weeks and months, most bills introduced this late in the game have very low odds of seeing the light of day, let alone the desk of the governor.

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