2017 Legislative Review: Agriculture, Air Quality, and Alcohol

Now that the governor is starting to sign bills into law, we felt it was a good time to recap some of the more talked about bills to come out of the 2017 legislative session. Over the coming days, we will be talking about major topics such as education, health care, elections, and transportation. Today we start our series with Agriculture, Air Quality, and Alcohol.

Other reviews:

Agriculture

  • HB 121 – Local Food Advisory Council from Representative Steve Handy (Republican – Layton)
    • HB 121 is designed to create a Local Food Advisory Council which will be made up of 13 members appointed by various members of government as well as being made of individuals representing the food production industry. This council is charged with studying and making recommendations related to finding ways to promote vibrant, locally owned farms, resilient ecosystems, strong communities and healthy eating, local food economies. Furthermore, it will look at the impact of population growth and urbanization has had on farmland as well as the rules and laws that make it more difficult to sell locally sourced food. Secondary responsibilities would include building the local food economy and stimulating the economy overall, creating jobs, make family-owned farms more viable, increasing food security, and, finally increasing access to fresh and nutritious food.
    • Effect on Budget: -$28,800 from General Fund, annually, starting in FY 2018.
    • Effective Date: Standard effective date – May 9, 2017, funding begins July 1, 2017.
    • Status: Passed – Final House vote: 41-28. Final Senate vote: 23-1.
  • HB 217 – Livestock Harassment from Representative from Representative Scott Chew (Republican – Jensen)
    • HB 217 would make it a class B misdemeanor to “intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly [chase] with the intent of causing distress” or harming another person’s livestock by using a motorized vehicle, dog, or drone unless that individual is working for the government or in event of an emergency situation. If this occurs more than once, the charge gets bumped up to a class A misdemeanor.
    • No cost.
    • Standard effective date: May 9, 2017
    • Status: Passed – Final House Vote: 74-0. Final Senate vote: 27-0
  • SB 56 – Animal Shelter Amendments from Senator Peter Knudson (Republican – Brigham City)
    • The original legislation would have only allowed for the use of sodium pentobarbital when euthanizing an animal when the animal was in a shelter setting and explicitly banning the use of gas chambers in such facilities. The provision that allowed for other methods to be used outside of the shelter was amended out, which doomed the bill.
    • Status: Failed – Final Senate vote: 19-7, Failed in House Government Operations Committee 4-4

Air Quality

  • HB 23 – Income Tax Credit Modifications from Representative Jeremy Peterson (Republican – Ogden)
    • Upon viewing the growth of the solar power generation industry in the residential market, Representative Peterson felt that it was time to eliminate the solar power tax credit homeowners were receiving for the installation of new systems – arguing that the state’s money could be better spent elsewhere. Though Peterson originally floated the idea of ending the tax credit outright, he eventually opted for a phased out approach that will step down the original credit of $2,000 by $400 a year over five years.
    • Effect on Budget: +$2 Million in 2019, increasing to $5.4 Million by 2020 when credit is fully phased out.
    • Effective Date: Standard effective date – May 9, 2017, last day of full credit – December 31, 2017.
    • Status: Passed – Final House vote: 60-14. Final Senate vote: 22-2.
  • HB 29 – Energy Efficient Vehicle Tax Credit Amendments from Representative Steve Handy (Republican – Layton)
    • Perhaps it is because electric vehicles make up less than one percent of the total types of cars on the road, but no one seemed to notice during the 2016 legislative session that the sunset for energy efficient tax credit on electric vehicles was set for December 31st of last year. The credit provided $1,500 to those who purchased a long-range (all electric or electric hybrid) vehicle or $1,000 for short-range (single person or short haul transport) vehicles. Feeling some political pressure to do away with the tax credit entirely, Representative Handy attempted to extend the tax credit and slowly phase it out by 2022. These tax credits were pulled from both the General Fund and the Education Fund and had a cap of $500,000 per year. The bill, however, was unsuccessful.
    • Status: Failed – Final House vote: 37-38
  • HB 65 – Air Conservation Act Amendments from Representative Mike Schultz (Republican – Hooper)
    • This legislation adds one line of code to law “The [Division of Air Quality] shall: allow burning…if the primary purpose of the burning is to cook food.” Though one might assume that this legislation targets the average backyard barbecuer, in real target of this legislation was to protect commercial and industrial grade cooking facilities from potentially being forced to have environmental controls on their operations. As of publication, the DAQ is actively asking Governor Herbert to veto the legislation, citing concerns that it is tieing the hands of the Division by preventing them from addressing a major form of localized air pollution.
    • Effect on Budget: none
    • Effective Date: Standard effective date – May 9, 2017
    • Final House vote: 50-20. Final Senate vote: 25-3
  • HB 134 – Emissions Testing Amendments from Representative Patrice Arent (Democrat – Salt Lake City)
    • Supported by the Clean Air Caucus, Arent’s legislation would require that all diesel engine vehicles that are registered in counties that already require emissions controls. Though diesel engines pollute more and create finer pollutants that are more harmful to the lungs, the legislation died after making it out of the Senate Business and Labor Committee, but not being heard on the Senate floor before time ran out on the session.
    • Status: Failed – Final House vote: 39-29
  • HB 392 – Air Quality Policy Advisory Board from Representative Timothy Hawkes (Republican – Centerville)
    • Though the Department of Environmental Quality has the ability to create policies through rule, it is only able to work with what the legislature gives it – and when the DEQ does something the legislature doesn’t like, they have been known to step in and pull back environmental regulations. The Air Quality Policy Advisory Board advocated for in Hawke’s bill would consist of 10 voting members (two from the House, three from the Senate, one representing business, one representing industry, one representing nongovernment organizations, one from academia, and the director of the DEQ) who are charged with suggesting legislation based on science and prioritising potential legislation designed to improve the air.
    • Effect on Budget: – $38,100 annually
    • Effective Date: Standard effective date – May 9, 2017
    • Status: Passed – Final House vote: 72-0, Final Senate vote: 21-5

Alcohol

  • HB 97 – Alcohol Beverage Control Operations Amendments from Representative Steve Eliason (Republican – Sandy)
    • Coming from a retail background, Representative Eliason, who freely admits that he has never actually stepped into a state liquor store, sought to create a “secret shopper” program in order to improve morale and encourage a culture of greater customer service, product availability, compliance, cleanliness, and customer satisfaction at state liquor stores among concerns that these. Eliason reasoned that, if the state is going to be in the alcohol business, it should invest in its employees. Opponents were concerned that the language went much further than Eliason’s intentions by allowing “got-ya” operations, and that if the state really wants to make an improvement, it should give the department a greater amount of respect.
    • Status: Failed – Final House vote 53-20, Failed in Senate Business and Labor Committee 2-4
  • HB 155 – Driving Under the Influence and Public Safety Revisions from Representative Norm Thurston (Republican – Provo)
    • One of the more controversial bills to come out of the 2017 legislative session, Representative Thruston’s legislation reduces the legal blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit from the current 0.08 (four drinks for a 200-pound man or three drinks for a  160-pound woman) to 0.05 (two and a half drinks for a 200-pound man or just under two drinks for a 160-pound woman). Thurston argued that many nations around the world have their legal BAC driving limit set to 0.05 and that it could eliminate over 60+ deaths a year due to drinking and driving (this number came from 2013 data, which was an anomalous year, with nearly double the average number of deaths caused by drunk driving –  in 2016, 33 deaths were due to drunk driving). Opponents say that the new level will turn average people into criminals without improving public safety (less than 1 percent of all drunk driving fatalities occur at or below 0.05 BAC, the majority occur above 0.08, and see a marked increase at 0.12), and that it will harm our perception among tourists.
    • Effect on Budget: – $270,000
    • Effective Date: December 30, 2018
    • Status: Passed – Final House vote: 48-26. Final Senate vote: 17-12
  • HB 442 – Alcohol Amendments from Representative Brad Wilson (Republican – Layton)
    • The grand alcohol bill that removes the Zion Curtain, kind of (but we will get to that in a moment). The legislation has several provisions in it, including: increasing the price of all alcohol by 2 percent, requiring electronic age verification at restaurants, requires that stores only sell alcohol in certain locations and that malt beverages sold must have labeling that clearly announces that it is alcohol, that the legislative general counsel review the Division of Alcohol Beverage Control’s policies every three years, that businesses selling alcohol create training programs when they are found to sell to a minor, extends the hours that alcohol can be sold at a restaurant on weekends and holidays, changes licencing classifications, and requires the creation of an underage drinking prevention program targeted towards 8th and 10th graders. And, yes, the legislation does get rid of the “Zion Curtain” the so-called barrier that separates a drink mixing and dispensing area from children’s ever-curious eyes…sort of – in order to get rid of a Zion Curtain, restaurants would have to create a “Zion Moat” around dispensing areas of 10 feet, where children could not be seated in a restaurant.
    • Effect on Budget: + $3,902,000 annually
    • Effective Date(s): Standard Effective Date for most provisions – May 9, 2017, Alcohol price increase – July 1, 2017
    • Status: Passed – Final House vote: 53-17. Final Senate vote: 20-9
  • SB 155 – Alcohol Beverage Control Budget Amendments from Senator Karen Mayne (Democrat – West Valley City)
    • Seeing that requests for pay raises and improved systems were going unmet, Senator Mayne pushed for legislation that would increase the DABC’s budget by $1 million annually to help fund both improvements to inventory systems and to increase pay for DABC workers, who rarely get paid more than $10 an hour for their work.
    • Effect on Budget: – $1,000,000 annually
    • Effective Date: July 1, 2017
    • Status: Passed – Final Senate vote: 26-0. Final House vote: 68-0

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