Today's is the last day of the 2013 Session of the Utah Legislature, watch this page for updates as bills move quickly to their passage or death.
The House started the day off with a unanimous passage of S.B. 86 Independent Executive Branch Ethics Commission. The Independent Executive Branch Ethics Commission will only take up Executive Office Complaints (Governor, Lt. Governor, Auditor, Treasurer and Attorney General). This bill was a reaction to the recent controversy surrounding the Attorney General, though will not be able to address ethics concerns retroactively (meaning it will not hear the complaints against John Swallow). According to a Salt Lake Tribune Article, Legislators are at how they would like to address the complaints against Swallow, and there may be more resolution to that concern today. To read the Tribune article, read here: http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/politics/56001887-90/complaint-swallow-general-attorney.html.csp
After a long debate about whether a law was needed, S.B. 52 the bill making Cock-fighting a felony, went down in the House with a vote of 28-39. Of note, Rep. BIRD called the question on the bill ending the debate, maybe he was feeling pecked on. (groan, I know, it is the last day.....)
S.B. 271 School Grading Amendments spent the day yesterday hanging out on the top of the calendar in the House. This blog highlighted the bill and the process on the bill here and here. Early yesterday morning Rep. Powell put out publicly a substitute bill that would have put the Utah Comprehensive Accountability System (UCAS) into code, instead of the creation of a new grading system. There was a lot of politicking going on yesterday, and Rep. Hughes left the bill circled on the calendar. Late last night Rep. Hughes put out a substitute of his own. The substitute, according to Rep. Hughes, gained the support of Superintendent Martell Menlove and the School Board Association's Patti Harrington. This morning's debate centered a lot on the value of grading schools in general, and not on the bill specifically. There is still a lot of confusion out there on whether this substitute will result in two systems. This bill is a perfect example of when the the Legislative process is infuriating. Hughes, Niederhauser and Adams all argued that this HAD to happen this year, because the Legislature only granted the State Office two years to come up with their own grading system for schools. If they all knew this had to happen this year, then why did this bill come out so late in the session? Why was it timed to only have one public hearing? And what are we even left with? Due to the substitution of the bill, the Senate will now have to hear the bill one more time.
This afternoon the Senate heard the substitute bill of S.B. 271 School Grading Amendments. Sen. Adams simply stood up, said he supported the House's substitute and moved the bill for final passage. Sen. Jones said it looked as though many of the education community's concerns had been worked out, and then voted against the bill. Sen. Jones was the only other Senator to speak, and it passed the Senate 18-8. This bill now heads to the Governor for his action - either a veto, a signature or he can allow the bill to become law without his signature (a symbolic move).
H.B. 393 Competency based Education Amendments barely squeaked through the House Education Committee with a 6-5-5 vote, then had a vigorous discussion on the House floor leading to a 43-26-6. Today the bill was heard on the Senate floor. Sen. Urquhart stood up and said this bill lets the School Board do what they already know how to do. No one questioned him, and everyone voted for it. It passed unanimously. After it's passage Sen. Hillyard stood up and let everyone know that this program had not been funded, though the fiscal note was not too large, it does make this is an unfunded mandate.
All afternoon the Legislature spent their time working out the differences between the Senate and the House on alcohol legislation and the discussion about moving the Draper prison.
This evening the Senate heard H.B 91 the bill on Same Day Voter Registration, which Sue originally explained here. There was a lot of conversation and concern about the process for clerks and voter fraud. Due to those concerns the sponsor of the bill put off the implementation date for two years. Sen. Madsen proposed that the bill also be amended to only last for two years. This would have allowed same day voter registration for the 2016 Presidential Election. Even with all of these considerations the bill failed on a 10-18 vote. The discussion at times was a little disconcerting, as the argument was both made and implied that any voter that would register the day of the election had no business voting.
One of the final bills heard in the Senate was H.B 363, a bill providing grants for schools to bring their students up to the Capitol. The Legislature set aside $9,800 for this, so the opportunity for this will be very limited.