2019 Tax Reform Town Hall Report

In the 2019 session, H.B. 441, the effort to overhaul Utah’s tax system by expanding sales taxes on services and removing certain exemptions, did not pass because of a failure to educate Utahns about our state’s financial situation and a lack of public input.

House Democrats wanted to explain why the legislature was talking about tax reform and listen to what Utahns wanted on this important issue. We hosted seven town halls in Salt Lake City, West Valley City, Ogden, Provo, Sandy, Holladay, and Heber City.  We talked about why tax reform should be considered with a slide presentation, presented a simple explanatory video, and invited members of the public to share their opinions through an interactive poster session and an online survey available for those who couldn’t attend in-person.

We presented 12 tax reform options:
- expand sales/consumption tax base (essentially H.B. 441);
- raise rates;
- a statewide property tax;
- eliminate restrictions on revenue use (earmarks);
- eliminate the education fund;
- eliminate tax credits/exemptions;
- a tourism tax;
- a carbon tax;
- a gross receipts tax;
- tax sports gambling;
- a statewide lottery;
- a transportation user fee.

We also posed three questions:
- Should tax reform be revenue neutral, revenue cutting, or revenue raising?
- Who should bear the greatest burden?
- How quickly should new plans be implemented?

Here is our report on the feedback we received from Utahns who participated in the process.

You can read all of the submitted comments from the town halls here.

Town Halls on Tax Reform

Utah House Democrats will hold a series of town halls to discuss tax reform during the month of May. A total of six town halls will be held in Salt Lake, Weber, and Utah Counties next month, with potentially more to be scheduled later.

After tax reform efforts stalled during the legislative session, and with future necessary reforms pending, Democrats want to make sure the public is heard. These public events will provide opportunities to discuss the state’s tax structural problem, and the many options the state has for reform.

Here are the dates and locations of our town halls in May:

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

State Capitol
350 North State Street
Salt Lake City, Utah 84114
Senate Building, Room 210
6:30 to 8:30 PM
https://utahstatecapitol.utah.gov/wp-content/uploads/capitolhillcomplex2014.pdf
https://www.facebook.com/events/348919299070209/

Thursday, May 16, 2019
West Valley City Hall
3600 S Constitution Boulevard
West Valley City, UT 84119
Multipurpose Room
6:30 to 8:30 PM
https://www.facebook.com/events/321875285191948/

Tuesday, May 21, 2019
Weber County Main Library
2464 Jefferson Ave, Ogden, UT, 84401
Auditorium A
6:30 to 8:30 PM
https://www.facebook.com/events/2268375956734616/

Wednesday, May 22, 2019
Provo City Library at Academy Square
550 North University Avenue,
Provo, Utah 84601
Bullock Room #309
6:30 to 8:30 PM
https://www.facebook.com/events/319564358726216/

Thursday, May 23, 2019
Sandy City Hall

10000 Centennial Pkwy,
Sandy, UT 84070
Multipurpose Room
6:30 to 8:30 PM
https://www.facebook.com/events/2246315958941981/

Tuesday, May 28th
Holladay City Hall

4580 S. 2300 E. 
Holladay UT, 84117
6:30 to 8:30 PM
https://www.facebook.com/events/1264718013694375/

Our 2019 Democratic Response to the Governor’s State of the State

Rep. Brian King, Minority Leader of the House of Representatives:

VOX Populi. The “Voice of the People.” That’s what’s written prominently in our House Chamber. It means we represent and listen to, the voice of the people. But sadly, many in the Utah legislature are not listening to the voices of the people.

My Democratic colleagues and I are listening to you. That’s because you elected us. The legislature should never be quick to overrule the will of Utah voters when ballot initiatives pass. In December the legislature moved quickly to change Proposition 2, the Medical Cannabis initiative that the majority of Utahns voted for. Democrats opposed this effort. But now, many of our colleagues on the other side of the aisle are trying to significantly change other ballot initiatives that most Utahns support, such as expanding Medicaid for low income Utahns, and creating an independent redistricting commission. There may be even more efforts to make it harder for Utah citizens to create ballot initiatives. It’s simply anti-democratic, not what Utahns want. It is wrong. And you can count on Democrats to continue to stand up for what is right, for your voice, and what you vote for. We will always defend the rights of all Utahns to have their voices heard when it comes to shaping our public policy.

Sen. Karen Mayne, Minority Leader of the Utah Senate:

I’m Senator Karen Mayne.

One of the most pressing issues we have to address this legislative session is how to ensure Utah’s hard-working families have access to good healthcare. This past election, the majority of Utahns voted to expand Medicaid for the most vulnerable in our communities. Attaching strings or limiting the expansion goes against the expressed will of Utah voters. This shows a lack of compassion and disrespect for the people of the state we are elected to serve.

In addition, we must continue to help those experiencing homelessness get the services they need and get back on their feet. When we care for the poorest among us, we empower them to succeed and one day give back to the community.

Housing affordability is primary to our caucus. We need to make sure that our children, and our grandchildren are going to have an affordable place to live. Now is the time to make sure we have the vision for growth. Now is the time to prepare for the future. Utah will have nearly twice our current population by 2065. Most of that growth is expected in the counties along the Wasatch front and in southwest Utah. We must do our part to lay the vision and groundwork for Utah communities. We also need to accommodate industries, the transportation system, the needed social programs and infrastructure to help Utah advance into the coming decades.

Democrats get results. Because we are elected to represent you, we are invested in solving problems you asked us to solve. You sent us here to get things done, and that’s what we intend to do.

Rep. Carol Spackman Moss, Minority Whip of the Utah House of Representatives:

Hi, I’m Representative Carol Spackman Moss. As a former teacher at Olympus High School, I want to talk briefly about the importance of investing in our children and in our schools and those who provide public safety.

At this moment Utah has a tremendous opportunity to shape our future. Our state is experiencing incredible economic growth, and we are potentially looking at a one-time $1.3 billion surplus. We should use this opportunity to improve conditions for our children, public educators and our first responders.

Some propose we just cut taxes. That is not good policy during a time of economic prosperity. Certainly, there are many things we can do to improve our state tax system, to make sure the burden doesn’t fall hardest on the middle class.

All have not benefited equally from the strong economy. Those who are not at the top currently pay a higher share of their paychecks than high income earners. We need to use this economic opportunity to better fund public education to have a healthier future for all Utahns.

This session we will also address school safety and gun violence prevention. We want our children to be safe when they’re at school. We also want them to have access to mental health counselors, social workers, and school nurses. And if we are serious about preventing suicides in our state, particularly among young people, then we must address the problem of easy access to firearms. Half of all suicides in Utah are firearms-related, and of those suicide attempts, the majority are fatal. Utahns overwhelmingly support policies to promote safe and responsible gun ownership. For the sake of our children, we lawmakers need to have the political courage to take action.

Sen. Luz Escamilla, Minority Whip of the Utah Senate:

Hi, I’m Senator Luz Escamilla, the Senate Minority Whip.

This session you can expect Democrats to continue to push hard for reforms to our criminal justice system. We have made significant progress, but there’s still much we must do to make sure survivors of sexual or domestic violence are not only heard, but also that violent offenders are held accountable.

We also need to make sure our prison practices are safe and humane. And we’ll be pushing to improve public safety and protect public health for all of our communities.

Let’s talk about one of the most important public health issues, and that’s our air quality. Utahns can all agree that it’s absolutely unacceptable that our air routinely becomes poisonous to breath. There is so much more we as legislators can do to so that parents don’t have to take their children or grandchildren to the emergency room because of asthma or other respiratory issues. Our air should not force people with vulnerable health conditions to stay indoors.

We will be addressing a number of a possible solutions to clean up our air, as well as protect Utah’s precious and limited water supply, and preserve our public lands.

Remember, last year Utah experienced its worst wildfire season in memory. We need to make sure our state is prepared to manage these increasingly intense wildfires, and that we are taking steps to mitigate and prepare for climate change in the coming years.

Rep. Brian King:

The last part of our message this evening has to do with the toxic and tribal politics that have been dividing our country. Utahns know that we are better than that.

We are committed to solving our common problems from the perspective not of Republicans or Democrats or any other identity group, but as Utahns who share common values. We are elected to represent our constituents and make policy for the entire state, not just our home city, town, or county. We all care about our families and our children’s future. We all want secure employment and decent wages. We all want equal opportunity, and equal rights regardless of our gender, race, religion, or social or economic status.

You elected us. And we are listening to you. We will continue to be your voice on capitol hill. And we will keep fighting for you so that your voices are heard.

Thank you.

Visit Our Hive Day - Saturday, Jan. 19th, 2019

Come to the Capitol to meet with your legislator
on Visit Our Hive Day!

House Democrats are dedicated to open and accessible government. We make a point of opening our doors to the public and listening to you. Join us for a bite to eat and constructive conversation.

Let us know what’s important to you.
What issues in your neighborhood are concerning to you?
Have a bill idea? We’re listening.

To schedule a one-on-one meeting with your Representative contact our Staff Director, Nick Frederick at nfrederick@le.utah.gov or (801) 326-1503 to reserve a time.

See our Facebook event page here.

House Democrats Urge Secretary Zinke to Stop All Work on National Monuments

Below is a letter the Utah House Democratic Caucus sent to Secretary of Interior Zinke urging him to cease all work on the Administration’s plans for the Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears National Mounuments until the courts have ruled.

October 8, 2018

The Honorable Ryan Zinke
Secretary, U.S. Department of Interior
1849 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20240


Dear Secretary Zinke:

We urge you to immediately cease any further work related to monument management plans for the Grand Staircase, Kaiparowits, and Escalante Canyons Units of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and the Kanab-Escalante Planning Area released on August 17, 2018.  We also request that you delay any further work on plans for the Indian Creek and Shash Jáa Units of Bears Ears National Monument, also released on August 17, 2018.

As you know, President Trump’s Proclamation 9681, which broke up Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments, is currently under litigation.  The courts have yet to issue a ruling on whether the President’s actions were lawful. Many legal scholars agree that the President does not have the authority to wipe out or shrink national monuments.  In spite of that, the Department of Interior appears to be rushing through Environmental Impact Studies and Monument Management Plans (MMPs) with minimal transparency and public input.

A growing body of evidence reveals the Interior Department’s Bears Ears management plan was unfairly and improperly influenced by extraction and development interests.  Despite your repeated denials, it is clear that significant portions of the Bears Ears Monument – which was reduced by more than 1.1 million acres, or 85 percent – was carved out for oil and gas, and uranium mining interests. Similarly, access to coal reserves in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument was apparently the key reason for cutting the size of that 1.9 million-acre monument in half.

This administration’s review process of both these national monuments was flawed and dictated by improper political considerations.  From the beginning, the administration has improperly prioritized mineral extraction and development within both these monuments over the protection of all other precious resources.  Most of the deliberations took place behind closed doors. The Interior Department not only ignored the pleas of five Native American tribal nations, but also proposals from some local public officials and local business owners, and millions of citizens who urged the administration to leave the monuments intact.

The Department's stubborn refusal to delay the Resource Management Plan  (RMP) process until a judicial ruling issues, is "part and parcel" of the unstated goal of satisfying the demands of extraction and development interests.  The process that resulted in the adoption of the original and current RMP (2000), was a three year collaborative effort involving stakeholders from across the political spectrum.  The RMP produced by the effort has strong support both in the gateway communities and in the land management agencies. Instead of adopting a similar process to for the creation of a new RMP, the DOI has adopted an "expedited" planning approach, one which limits public involvement, while granting maximum influence behind closed doors to industry representatives.

As Utah representatives, we are proud of our state’s lands and of our heritage.  The entirety of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments deserve protection.  Aside from the minerals below the ground, these monuments preserve the stunning geology, and numerous objects of historic and of scientific interest. These monuments sustain and celebrate lands that are culturally important to Native American tribes, and they provide opportunities for grazing and world class outdoor recreation alike.

We request that you immediately stop any development or implementation plans for these two National Monuments until the courts have reached a resolution.

Sincerely,              

Representative Patrice Arent                           

Representative Joel Briscoe
House Democratic Whip

Representative Rebecca Chavez-Houck            

Representative Sue Duckworth

Representative Lynn Hemingway                      

Representative Sandra Hollins
House Democratic Caucus Manager

Representative Brian King
House Democratic Leader                               

Representative Karen Kwan

Representative Carol Spackman Moss     

Representative Marie Poulson

Representative Angela Romero
House Democratic Assistant Whip  

Representative Elizabeth Weight

Representative Mark Wheatley


# # #

Raising Tribal Voices in Utah

House Democrats support empowering Native American voices in Utah state government. Two proposals we plan to study over the interim period include elevating the Division of Indian Affairs to a Cabinet level position and creating a Joint Standing Committee on Indian Affairs. There is a long, unfortunate history of systemic discrimination and oppression of Native American voices in Utah. Moreover, given the disrespectful treatment of Tribal interests this past year in regard to protecting the Bears Ears National Monument, now is the time to begin discussing how we heal. 

What do you think? We want to hear from you.    

Read coverage of our press conference on March 6, 2018

House Democrats Press Release: "Utah Tribal Leaders, House Democrats Present Proposals to Elevate Tribal Voices in State Government"

Salt Lake Tribune: "To ‘help forge our path of healing forward’ after Bears Ears, Utah tribal leaders are asking for a place on the governor’s cabinet" 

The Independent: "Native Americans call on the State of Utah to elevate tribes"

Associated Press: "Tribal Leaders Lobbying to Change Indian Affairs Division"

Enviro News Utah: "Utah Tribes Demand Cabinet Position, Lawmaker Breaks into Tears over Mistreatment of Natives"

Separation of Powers

Overreach by the Governor in Connection With the Prospective Vacancy for Congressional District 3

June 20, 2017

This summary is provided from the House Democratic leadership to the members of the Utah House of Representatives on June 20, 2017, regarding the issues the Legislature is grappling with in connection with the prospective vacancy for Congressional District 3, the U.S. House of Representative seat currently held by Representative Jason Chaffetz.

The state of Utah has no process to hold special elections or make a temporary appointment for a vacancy that occurs in the U.S. House of Representatives. A vacancy such as the one that may occur for Representative Jason Chaffetz has not happened in Utah since 1930.

The language of the United States Constitution matters a great deal here. According to the Constitution, the Governor is required to call a special election when a vacancy happens in the U.S. House of Representatives. The Constitution also gives to state legislatures the power to determine the “times, places, and manner of holding elections.” The Constitution does not restrict this power to just regular elections. Utah has no law addressing the time, place, or manner of carrying out an election to fill a vacancy for the U.S. House of Representatives. It is proper for the Legislature to be called into a Special Session to address that lack of process in our statutes. However, the Governor is the only individual who can call the Legislature into Special Session. Despite the Legislature’s request that he do so, the Governor has refused to call the Legislature into Special Session to address this issue.

The Governor has assured the public and leaders in the state that he is within his legal authority to not simply issue the writ of election. He has gone further and claimed the authority to determine the specifics of the process and timing of that election. Legislative leaders believe this encroaches on the Legislature’s authority.

There is a second way in which legislative leaders believe the Governor has overreached. When the Legislature requested a legal opinion from the Attorney General’s office (something the legislature is entitled to receive) about the scope of the Governor’s and the Legislature’s power to establish the details of the process and timing of the election, the Governor stepped in and told the Attorney General that the Governor believed providing the opinion the Legislature asked for was a violation of the attorney-client privilege between the Governor and the Attorney General. The Governor has gone so far as to threaten to file a complaint with the Utah State Bar against the Attorney General or any member of his office who provides a legal opinion on these issues to the Legislature. The OLRGC believes that, assuming any conflict exists at all, the Attorney General can put in place protections to ensure that privileged attorney-client communications between the Attorney General’s and the Governor’s office are not disclosed to the Legislature. Nevertheless, the Attorney General has bowed to the Governor’s threats and is not willing to provide any legal opinion on these matters to the Legislature.

Given the resistance of the Attorney General to providing a legal opinion to the Legislature, the Speaker and President requested a legal analysis to be completed by the Office of Legislative Research and General Counsel. The opinions of our OLRGC are below.

OLRGC Opinions Summarized

  1. A vacancy occurs when the elected official leaves office or tenders an irrevocably worded letter of resignation with a definitive effective date. Rep. Chaffetz’ May 18th letter identified an “intent” to resign on June 30th. It did not irrevocably express as of that date his resignation effective June 30th. In other words, he could change his mind between now and June 30th. There is no vacancy of his seat until he either irrevocably resigns effective June 30th or that day comes and he steps down.

  2. Because Rep. Chaffetz’ seat is still occupied and he can withdraw his resignation before or on June 30th, the writ of election is premature.

  3. The Governor’s power is limited to the calling of the election. Establishing the time, place, and manner of the election is a Legislative, not Executive, function.

  4. Likewise, because the Lieutenant Governor operates under the Executive, not the Legislative, branch of government, the time, place, and manner outlined by the Lieutenant Governor for the election are beyond the scope of his authority to provide.

  5. According to the U.S. Constitution, the legislature is the only body with the authority to define the election process for a midterm Congressional vacancy.

The differences of opinion between the Legislature and the Governor have been aggravated by the Governor’s efforts to keep the Attorney General from providing his legal opinion to the Legislature about the powers allocated to the Governor and the Legislature to establish the time, place, and manner of the election to fill the prospective vacancy in the U.S. House.  When the Governor inserted his office between the Legislature and the Attorney General’s office, he again overstepped his executive authority. Both the Utah Constitution and Utah Code clearly describe the role of the Attorney General as the “legal adviser of the state officers” to provide the Attorney General’s “opinion in writing and without fee to the Legislature...upon any question of law relating to their respective offices.” Utah Code Ann. §67-5-1(7).

The OLRGC and legislative leaders believe the Governor has overstepped his authority both in establishing the time, place, and manner of the election to fill a prospective vacancy in the U.S. House of Representatives and in interfering with the right and ability of the Legislature to obtain the legal opinion of the Attorney General on the proper balance of power between the Governor and the Legislature.

 

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