During Utah’s most recent legislative session which adjourned in March, Representative Curt Oda (Republican – Clearfield) had successfully advanced HB 258 – Solid Waste Amendments with unanimous approval by his colleagues. The bill, however, was vetoed by Governor Gary Herbert (Republican) due to incompatibility with federal EPA regulations and authority. At the time of the bill’s unanimous passing in March, the executive branch staff determined that if the Governor signed it, it might have disrupted the state’s authority to oversee waste management and potentially jeopardize some grant funding originating with the federal agency. The currently revised bill had no opposition, or presentation summary, sailing through the Utah House of Representatives on unanimous votes in both chambers.
Even though the bill had no real legislative opposition, various watchdog groups actively monitoring the state for unforeseen consequences and opportunities were scrutinizing the new language. Previous concerns in municipal contracts for companies like Novartis, whose Sandy operation oversees the incineration of biohazardous wastes in densely populated, metropolitan areas have made many Utahns wary of waste management and its bi-products close to bedroom communities.
In other business, Representative Johnny Anderson (Republican – Taylorsville) had to answer to the Utah Association of Counties and the Utah League of Cities and Towns over disproportionate funding applications for road maintenance and construction. A problem surfaced when Anderson’s previous attempt at raising taxes through a use formula applied at the pump, an effort causing critics to quip that it was how Republicans raise taxes without losing their jobs.
Anderson had sponsored a measure passed during the regular session but the funding was deemed inequitable by those who would require the infrastructure support. When taxes collected at the pump (and elsewhere) were allocated to the counties and locales where they were used in transportation applications, some sparsely populated places of Utah were left with fewer maintenance dollars. “These [mostly] rural counties require additional consideration because they have an awful lot of ‘lane miles,’ they take care of roads that provide access for the entire state to things that we want to have access to — and they have been struggling to come up with the money to keep those roads maintained.” The solution was addressed and unanimously approved with a different distribution formula and some one-time funding augmentation (to account for monies previously distributed under the previous formula) from the state’s general and transportation funds. Anderson’s bill and its fiscal note can be accessed here.