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The City Journals

Which state legislative bills could impact Cottonwood Heights

Feb 26, 2019 10:54AM ● By Cassie Goff

The bill receiving much public attention consists of the ability to run red lights when there’s no other cars or pedestrians around.

By Cassie Goff | [email protected]

Since the 2019 General Legislative Session runs from Jan. 28 to March 14, there’s probably a debate among legislatures brewing as you’re reading this. During general sessions, the Cottonwood Heights City Council is usually highly active in watching and staying up-to-date with the daily actions. It begins with a legislative breakfast held toward the beginning of the session, where council members and additional city staff can discuss specific bills with various legislatures. As the session continues, the council members are in frequent communication with their lobbyist Brian Allen as well as the Utah League of Cities and Towns. 

On Feb. 4, Allen reported some of the most important movements of bills pertaining to air quality, sales tax, homeless population funding, local government structure, public safety retirement, tow truck companies and driving laws. 

There are currently three bills in the session regarding the valley’s poor air quality. H.B. 139 Motor Vehicle Emission Amendments, sponsored by Rep. Angela Romero, addresses emission standards for cars and changes some of the provisions related to violating those standards. H.B. 107 Sustainable Transportation and Energy Plan Act Amendments, sponsored by Rep. Stephen Handy, addressed natural gas and would allow for a large-scale natural gas utility to be expanded. Finally, H.B. 148 Vehicle Idling Revisions, sponsored by Rep. Patrice Arent and Sen. Curtis Bramble makes changes to state restrictions which would allow more local control among anti-idling ordinances. “It’s an easy bill for legislatures to vote for because it gives local control,” said Allen. 

After many Salt Lake Valley residents experienced many increases on various taxes last year, a bill to reduce sales tax was introduced. S.B. 99 Sales Tax Amendments, sponsored by Sen. Wayne Harper, would lower the rate of state sales tax on items on than groceries and gas. “We’ve heard a lot of discussion,” Allen reported, “and I think there’s a 90 percent chance it’s going to pass.” 

To help address the homeless population, the state deducts some funding from cities automatically. S.B. 49 Homeless Shelter Funding Amendments, sponsored by Sen. Gene Davis and Rep. Steve Eliason, would re-allocate some of that money, potentially forcing some cities to pay more into the collective fund. It would also remove the $200,000 cap from cities. “Some cities would have a huge jump. They (the state) take that money right out of sales tax, you (cities) don’t even get to touch it,” Allen said. “We created enough noise on that that they pulled that.”

For the Cottonwood Heights City Council, one of the most concerning bills is H.B. 164 Local Boards and Councils Structures, sponsored by Rep. Jeffrey Stenquist, a former Draper city councilman. This bill would change the structure of local government at large. “We will continue to guard for city control and make sure that cities are allowed to do with cities do,” Allen said. 

With the ongoing challenges regarding first-respondent professions, changes to retirement funding for public safety personnel is crucial. “There are challenges public safety has in recruiting people. When the economy is good, people are looking for other opportunities. No one wants to work for the government. There are a lot of retirees that would love to come back, but there are restrictions that won’t allow them to,” Allen described the issue. S.B. 129 Public Safety and Firefighter Tier II, sponsored by Sen. Harper, attempts to address some of these challenges.  

Towing companies are facing a challenge with local zoning laws. H.B. 228 Towing Revisions, sponsored by Rep. Cory Maloy, would address issues related to local laws and abandoning a vehicle. This bill could potentially impact local law enforcement. “To be on our rotation list, we require background checks on the drivers, insurance and availability during certain hours. We put restrictions on towing companies. It’s important to us to maintain those standards. This bill would take away that benefit,” Police Chief Robby Russo said.  

One of the bills receiving much public attention is H.B. 151 Traffic Flow Amendments, sponsored by Rep. Ken Ivory. This bill would allow drivers to run red lights when no other vehicle, pedestrian or other safety concern is at or near the intersection. 

The general session will continue to run until mid-March, so stay tuned for a recap article detailing the most impactful bills that were passed.