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The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

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Legislature 2005: Key Issues

Any Willing Provider

Most current health-care plans require that individuals in need of health care acquire such care through a health care provider or physician that is contracted with their insurance provider or HMO.

“Any willing provider” laws allow for individuals to obtain reimbursable medical services from any qualified provider, regardless of whether or not that provider has contracted with the individual’s insurance provider or HMO.

“Any willing provider” or “freedom of choice” legislation may be introduced this legislative session, and if so will likely be met with significant controversy.

Motion Picture Incentive Fund

The Motion Picture Task Force is recommending legislation that would establish the Motion Picture Incentive Fund. The fund would be appropriated $3 million annually (subject to budget constraints), and would be applied in two ways.

Two-thirds of the fund would be dedicated to providing incentives for the production of within-the-state television series’ and made-for-television movies. The remaining one-third of the fund would be dedicated to providing incentives for within-the-state productions of motion pictures.

Tourism Funding

To promote tourism in Utah, legislation may be introduced to establish a self-sustaining fund for statewide advertising, marketing and branding campaign.

The Tourism Marketing Performance Fund begin with an initial $10 million appropriation in 2005, and would receive $1 million less each year over the next ten years. The fund would then be required to become self-sustaining through interest earned and a portion of state sales and use tax revenues.

Guns on Campus

While the legislature is not likely to pass legislation concerning the guns on campus issue, the Utah State Supreme Court is likely to issue a decision in 2005.

The State Legislature filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the lawsuit filed by the University of Utah. In the brief the Legislature contends that the University of Utah is not an autonomous entity free from legislative control. The Legislature contends that Article X, Section 4 of the Utah State Constitution does not establish the U as a separate entity, but rather it renders the U a public corporation while solidifying the Legislature’s complete authority over higher education.

Additionally, the Legislature contends that Article I, Section 6 of the Utah State Constitution gives the Legislature the sole right to define “lawful use of arms.”

Carson Smith Special Needs

In the 2004 General Session, the Legislature passed a bill that gave money to students with disabilities to attend private schools. The bill was vetoed by Governor Olene Walker; however, a similar bill is likely to be introduced this session.

The Carson Smith and/or similar legislation is considered by many to be a major step toward alternative legislation that would provide tuition tax credits for all students within the State of Utah. It should be noted that many legislators have indicated that while they may be willing to vote for special needs tuition scholarships, they are not willing to vote for tuition tax credits generally.

Regardless of specific legislators positions concerning specific legislation, Carson Smith highlights the question of using public monies to fund private schooling.

B and C Waste

Current law requires that the both the Legislature and the governor approve any disposal of B and C waste in Utah. Legislation will be introduced that will require the review of long term funding needs for disposing radioactive and hazardous wastes. Legislation may also be introduced that would prohibit the storage of B and C waste in the state of Utah entirely.

While there has always been much debate over hazardous waste storage in the state of Utah, the dynamic for the debate may be different this legislative session.

Envirocare, a Utah company, which has traditionally been a powerful lobbying force in support of hazardous waste storage in Utah, was recently sold. It remains to be seen whether the new owners will be as aggressive in their lobbying efforts.

Transportation

Funding

Total highway needs for the State of Utah through 2030 are expected to exceed $22.6 billion. These needs eclipse current funding resources.

The Centennial Highway Fund Program is in the hole about $517 million in interest and bonding costs.

This shortfall jeopardizes other projects that require state funding. To bridge this gap, the Legislature may consider funding options that have traditionally been more controversial.

Specifically, local governments are rarely required or expected to help front the cost of highway projects. While these communities, which are traditionally found in rural Utah do profit from increased sales tax and revenue.

Another option may be an increase in the fuel taxes. Utahns are paying less fuel taxes today than they have in 17 of the last 18 years.

Inmate Drug

Treatment

Providing substance abuse treatment for offenders in prison and the community is an ongoing challenge. The number of inmates incarcerated suffering from substance abuse of some sort is increasing.

Utah’s drug court system has recently received accolades from law enforcement officials as an effective means of preventing the incarceration of citizens suffering from substance abuse.

Support for expanding this system seems to be increasing. Specifically, legislators may look at implementing an intermediate sentencing option where jail time is delayed as a condition of probation while an offender receives treatment.

Streamlined Sales and Use Tax

The Streamlined Sales and use Tax initiative was a collaborative effort of about 30 states to bring uniformity to state laws and administrative practices governing sales and use tax. The legislature enacted the legislation during the 2003 and 2004 General Sessions that would bring Utah State Law into conformity with the initiative.

Following the 2004 General Session many legislators realized that some of the provisions might increase taxes for some citizens as well as increase compliance costs for some businesses.

As a result, the Legislature was called into special session to delay the enforcement of the provisions in question. The Legislature will likely address the provisions in question during this General Session.

Bonding

The Legislature is expected to consider legislation that would modify the provisions that govern the issuance of Bonds.

Each legislative session the Legislature will typically issue a bond to address capital projects, highway projects and other statewide public purposes.

The issue of bonding is particularly important this year as it is expected to affect, to some degree, whether or not the U receives money for the construction and remodel of the library. In many ways, the issuance of bonds by the Legislature may be seen as a zero-sum game in the way that projects must compete for the limited amount for which the Legislature is willing to bond.

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