Thursday, February 14, 2013

Legislative Town Hall

I attended a Legislative Town Hall meeting last night at South Jordan City Hall.  Senator Osmond, Representatives Cunningham, Ivory, and McCay were in attendance.  Only about 40 contituents were there.  My notes may be a little jumbled, because the discussion changed direction based on questions from those in attendance.  There is another Legislative Town Hall being sponsored by PTA and Jordan District on Tuesday, February 19 from 7:00-8:30 at Elk Ridge Middle School.  The same legislators and others are expected to be in attendance.

Rep. Cunningham reviewed constituent survey results.  Raising sales tax on food to previous levels, 82% against.  How to spend $20 million surplus if state has it in order of preference:  public education, rainy day fund, higher education, general fund.  Affordable Care Act question, most people answered they did not have enough information; however 48% said to opt in and 52% said to stay out.  Federal lands issue dealing with the 67% of Utah lands controlled by federal government .  Again, most people did not have enough information.  Adding a master liquor license for restaurants.   71% said to change.  Utah is not the worst state as far as liquor laws go.  Most residents are satisfied with South Jordan.  A few concerns include not have enough bus routes to get people to TRAX and FrontRunner, synchronize traffic signals, clear sidewalks of snow on 2200 W. and 2700 W. On gun control, the majority want to defend second amendment rights, but want more done on mental health issues and background checks.

Senator Osmond said that he is concerned about RDAs and CDAs impact on local school district funding.

Representative Ivory said for public education, Utah is lowest per pupil funding, teachers are burdened with federal and state mandates, and there are societal issues impacting students.

Senator Osmond said they are looking at Olene Walker reading fund (K-3 Literacy money) to see if the money could be used more effectively.  Percent of state budget spent on public education is the 8th highest in the nation.  We need incremental funding of retirement and social security to be above the line.

Susan Pulsipher from the Jordan School Board shared information from the Utah Taxpayers Association.  Jordan District is 41 of 41 districts in per student amount in general fund. Total spending per student for Jordan is at 39 of 41 districts.

A Jordan teacher asked about stopping state retirement all together. 

One former University of Utah professor suggested looking at professor salaries at the U. He said 200 people making over $200,000 a year.

Representative Ivory talked about federal lands.  He said we can't tax land to educate kids, can't grow economy, feds are not keeping promise to release lands gradually, can't mine, can't access land, no harvesting timber.  New Mexico, Wyoming, Arizona are running similar bills.  Eastern states running resolutions to support this.  Arguments against taking over federal lands include a quick claim to federal government at statehood that when feds dispose of land, it must come to states for public education.  Some people believe the state can't manage the land as well.  Some people say the lands belong to everyone.  Still other say taking the federal lands under state control is unconstitutional.  He said Al Quida is plotting to use wildfire to attack, because we just let the trees grow in forested areas.  Group is called "Inspire".

40% of Utah government dollars spent are from federal government.  Printing money devalues the dollar.

Western Growth Coalition has started Financial Ready Utah website and Facebook. Assess risk of losing 40% of funding from Feds.  Fiscal sustainability plans at local level.  Government must fund sick people, poor people, education, transportation, and public safety.

One attendee said that as a federal taxpayer, she expects some of her federal taxes to come back to the state.  She cited studies about not being legal on federal lands challenge. She doesn't want to spend money for this to be fought in court.

Representative Cunningham is concerned about lack of participation by public.

Representative Ivory said the rules committee is holding all gun bills in right now.  Will send out all of them in one package. Question about why a citizen would want an assault rifle. He said that an assault rifle and a deer hunting rifle have the same power and use the same ammunition, but have a different exterior.  Percentage of gun owners in Utah is 48%. We are one of the highest in nation for number of gun owners.


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