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The City Journals

Bills impacting local control

Apr 03, 2018 03:21PM ● By Cassie Goff

: The Utah League of Cities and Towns works during legislative sessions to protect local control in government. (Utah League of Cities and Towns)

By Cassie Goff | [email protected]

During the 2018 Legislative General Session, which took place between Jan. 22 and March 8, a record number of bills was proposed (over 1300). Many of these bills were concerning for local governments aiming to protect local control and the interests of their constituents.  

Cottonwood Heights City Manager John Park worked with State Lobbyist Brian Allen to closely track bills that could impact the city.

“The city has such a great reputation up there,” Allen said. “The new senator (District 8, Brian Zehnder) is really trying to get his head around issues. He wants to learn and understand. He is a big supporter of local control and makes notes about everything.”

Of major concern was H.B. 175 — Legislative Oversight Amendments, sponsored by Representative Keven Stratton. The bill would create what it describes as “the Joint Committee on Governmental Oversight and address the Legislature’s constitutional role of oversight.”

If the bill passed, local control would be irrelevant under the legislature-created oversight. The Utah League of Cities and Towns (ULCT) worked hard to oppose this bill, needing city support to create strong opposition.

Many entities were worried about the implications of such oversight and supported opposition of the bill. One such entity was the Canyons School District.

“I am afraid of the legislature thinking this type of oversight is their prerogative,” Park reported during a city council meeting on Feb. 27.  

H.B. 175 ended up failing under a 54-20 vote. Cottonwood Heights Representatives Steve Eliason and Marie Poulson voted in opposition.

Another bill of concern to the city was H.B. 271 — Government Enterprise Amendments, sponsored by Representative Justin Fawson. This bill would amend provisions related to city activities.

Some of the city’s popular events, like Butlerville Days, would be affected by this bill. Instead of planning for these events as done previously, the city would have to “conduct a market study, notify private entities which the competitive activity impacts and present the results of the study with a public hearing,” Allen said.

This bill also did not pass.

H.B. 361 — Billboard Amendments, sponsored by Representative Francis Gibson, would amend provision related to billboards in municipalities and counties. It would also allow a billboard to automatically restore or upgrade an existing billboard.

This bill had to be reworked and a substitute bill was proposed. The substitution was a result of realizing “the process to condemn a billboard by cities isn’t very clear,” Allen said.

As of publication, this bill has been passed and sent to the Office of Legislative Research and General Counsel (LRGC) for enrolling.

S.B. 120 – Local Government Fees and Taxes Amendments, sponsored by Senator Deidre Henderson, was also a concern for Cottonwood Heights since it would prohibit a municipality from imposing a transportation utility fee on a legal subdivision. This bill passed and an enrolled bill has been prepared.

Since Cottonwood Heights recently passed an ordinance within the city for wireless telecommunications facilities (City Code Section 19.83), a bill which would create a Small Wireless Facilities Deployment Act, S.B. 189, sponsored by Senator Curtis Bramble, was of particular interest.

“Controlling small wireless facilities should be a good thing for the city,” Park said. “The bill permits a wireless provider to deploy in any city and allows us and other utilities not put them on power poles if there is a decent reason not to. However, the provider can put up their own poles.”

Bramble worked with the Utah League of Cities and Towns and industry representatives on this bill to create a political compromise. The bill allows owners of poles to charge a fee and limit the height of new utility poles.

S.B. 189 passed and a draft of the enrolled bill has been prepared.

After Proposition 1 failed during the 2015 Municipal General Election, Senator Wayne Harper sponsored S.B. 136 — Transportation Governance Amendments during this legislative session. This bill modifies governance of certain public transit districts, amends provisions related to registration fees, modifies taxes related to transportation and modifies the governance of the Department of Transportation.

“It may make some major changes especially in percentages of sales tax going towards transportation funds,” Park said.

Planning around this bill involved the Utah Transit Authority (UTA) and the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT). They hope to “re-do the park and rides with bridges around the mouth of the canyon so busses don’t have to do turnarounds,” Park said.

The bill was substituted six times, with fiscal notes and comparisons available to the public. The sixth substitution bill was passed, signed, and has been sent to the LRGC for enrolling.  

Two competing bills to address homelessness within the state were addressed during this session. H.B. 462 — Homeless Services Amendments, sponsored by Representative Steve Eliason would amend provisions related to the Housing and Community Development Division. This bill had a senate sponsor and 24 co-sponsors. H.B. 235 — Homeless Shelter Funding Amendments, sponsored by Senator Gene Davis, would create the Homeless Shelter Cities Mitigation Restricted Account and authorize the use of restricted account’s funds.

H.B. 462 would raise $3.3 million for the Division of Workforce Services. The money would come from the local option sales tax prior to distribution to the cities. Cities would pay depending on the amount of affordable housing available. There would be a cap of $200,000 for larger cities. The impact to Cottonwood Heights City would be around $35,000 to $40,000.

S.B. 235 would raise $2.5 million this year, and $5 million next year, to offset law enforcement, fire and paramedic costs. The money would also come from the local option sales tax, with a cap on larger cities. This bill would also have an option for cities to impose an additional local option sales tax. The impact to Cottonwood Heights City would be closer to $50,000.

By March 6, both bills had passed in their own houses. As of publication, H.B. 462 passed and an enrolled bill had been prepared. S.B. 235 was also passed and sent to LRGC for enrolling.

Bills that were passed and sent to LRGC will be prepared as an enrolled bill, or a bill in final form. Those bills will be sent to the governor for his action (signing, vetoing or allowing law without his signature). After which, it will become law within 60 days unless otherwise specified.