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City looks at impact of new bills passed by legislature

Apr 03, 2022 07:21PM ● By Bill Hardesty

The Utah State Legislature’s bills impact SSL in various ways. (From Unsplash)

By Bill Hardesty | [email protected]

Each year the Utah State Legislature meets in General Session for 45 days. This year there were 853 bills introduced and 513 passed. There were 209 Senate bills passed and 304 in the House.

Since what happens on “the hill” impacts what happens in SSL, Mayor Cherie Wood suggested an ad hoc committee to work with the city’s lobbyists during the session. Randy Sant, economic development consultant, and various department heads formed the committee.

“We had a conference with our lobbyist every Thursday where we reviewed bills. We had 32 bills that were on our list that we kind of considered to be some of the more priority bills for us,” Sant said.

In addition, Natalie Pinkney, councilmember at-large, worked with other cities’ officials through the Utah League of Cities and Towns during the legislative session.

Key bills

The committee took a neutral position on 11 of the bills.

“We didn’t know if it would be good or bad, but it wasn’t as bad as others, so we just took a neutral position,” Sant said.

Of the 11 neutral, three failed and eight passed. The committee had 15 of the 32 bills they opposed. Of those, eight failed and seven passed. The committee had six they supported. Two of them failed and four passed.

Sant describes their work as “OK” while outlining four key legislations impacting SSL.

HB 462 second substitution – Utah Housing Affordability Amendments

A quick explanation about the legislature substitution rule. According to House rules, any member of the House may make a substitution bill upon recognition by the presiding officer. If adopted, the substitution replaces the original bill. For example, Rep. A presents a clean water bill on the House floor. By recognition of the presiding officer, Rep. B can offer a substitution to the original clean water bill. If adopted, Rep. A’s bill is replaced by the new one. If it is not adopted, the original clean water bill as presented by Rep. A stands. This provides a more robust and quicker way to alter legislation than amending it on the floor.

So, in this case, two substitutions were adopted after the original Utah Housing Affordability Amendments were initially offered.  

“But the sad thing about this bill is it’s coming and saying this is what you need to do cities but doesn’t say anything with what the state should be doing, and that’s kind of disappointing on my part,” Sant said.

The bill requires SSL to adopt an implementation plan for moderate-income housing as part of their general plan. SSL has five years to adopt a plan. The bill requires cities to adopt three of 24 strategies listed in the legislation. In addition, the bill requires a station plan for fixed public transit gateways such as the Central Pointe TRAX station. A station plan “establishes a vision, and the actions needed to implement that vision, for the development of land within a station area.”

Sean Lewis, deputy director of community development, announced at the March 17 Planning Commission that SSL had received a grant from the Wasatch Front Regional Council to create a plan for the Central Pointe Station area.

HB 440 third substitution – Homeless Services Amendments

This bill makes several modifications to the homeless services supervised by the Utah Homelessness Council. Two critical aspects of the bill are the amount SSL is given to mitigate homeless issues and the Men’s Resource Center flex plan. The bill outlines a formula to disburse funds from the Homelessness Shelter Cities Mitigation Restricted Account. Sant projects SSL will get about $2.6 million. In addition, another $1.5 million is available if the MRC flexes. This is a vital part of the legislation. A council of mayors in Salt Lake County needs to create an overflow plan and submit it by Sept. 1 each year. The bill specifies that a shelter can flex to one individual for every 40 net square feet. However, a center cannot exceed 25% of its capacity, which means an additional 75 MRC residents during hot days or cold nights.

HB 151 second substitution – Retail Facility Incentive Payments Amendments

This bill “prohibits a public entity from making, or entering into an agreement to make, certain incentive payments related to retail facilities after a specified date, with specified exceptions,” and “requires a public entity that makes certain payments related to retail facilities during a fiscal year to submit a report or notification to the Governor’s Office of Economic Opportunity (office).” These incentives are “a payment of public funds to a person by a public entity for the development, construction, renovation, or operation of a retail facility within an area of the state.” These payments can take many forms such as a payment, a rebate, a refund or a subsidy. There are also exceptions to the requirements.

Sant feels that this legislation will affect RDA efforts positively.

SB 140 third substitution – Housing and Transit Reinvestment Zone

This bill allows cities to create “housing and transit reinvestment zones around light rail and bus rapid transit facilities.” It also “amends provisions related to the size limitations and number of allowed housing and transit reinvestment zones.” According to the legislation, a zone should promote “higher utilization of public transit, increasing availability of housing, including affordable housing, conservation of water resources through efficient land use, improving air quality by reducing fuel consumption and motor vehicle trips, encouraging transformative mixed-use development and investment in transportation and public transit infrastructure in strategic areas, strategic land use and municipal planning in major transit investment corridors, and increasing access to employment and educational opportunities.” In addition, at least 10% of the proposed housing must be affordable housing.

Juneteenth National Freedom Day

One other piece of legislation affects SSL. HB 238 makes the Juneteenth National Freedom Day a state holiday. Juneteenth National Freedom Day is June 19. According to the bill, if June 19 falls on a Monday, it will be observed on that day. If June 19 follows on any other work weekday, it will be observed on the immediately preceding Monday. If June 19 is on the weekend, it will be observed on the immediately following Monday. SSL will also observe the holiday.

“We, as the city, are also going to lockstep with the state, and it will be celebrated in the future,” Wood announced. “June 19 happens to be on a Sunday this year. So, it’ll be recognized on the 20th of June this year.”