Interim Committee meetings were held a couple of weeks ago. (For a brief review of all the meetings, click here.)
If you are wondering what Interim Committees are, you are not alone. 🙂 (Click to see the list of Interim Committees.)
Interim Committees study key issues facing the state and recommend legislation for the upcoming session. These committees meet jointly on the 3rd Wednesday of every month between sessions from April through November. During these meetings, we listen to presentations and reports from various stakeholders and officials. In addition, interim meetings serve as an opportunity for the public to speak and give their input to the legislature concerning matters being considered. This is an excellent way to participate in the lawmaking process. You can find the schedule of meetings at le.utah.gov.
Legislators are usually appointed to one appropriations and two interim committees. I am on the Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee, the Natural Resources, Agriculture, and Environment Interim Committee, and the Public Utilities, Energy, and Technology Interim Committee. I enjoy participating in these committees and have learned a LOT. Here are a few highlights from the August meetings.
Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee–We heard about a very successful collaboration between Southern Utah University (SUU) and Southwest Tech (STECH). They have created a “best of both worlds” educational opportunity through a lot of coordination and cooperation, and by putting student needs first. Students can enroll in either school and their credits will count in both schools through a seamless process designed to give more choices for students. A student can choose which educational path, training, and outcome will be the best fit. It’s a pretty cool collaboration and program.
We also discussed the cost of different degrees at Utah colleges and universities. You can find a copy of the info we received here.
Public Utilities, Energy, and Technology–Various cities, including SLC and Park City, would like to become 100% renewable energy municipalities, which I feel is a great goal. However, it is a bit more complicated than it sounds for several reasons. Because Utah already produces more power than it uses, any additional renewable sources that are built would be superfluous unless Rocky Mountain Power, which provides power to much of Utah, shut down other sources that are still viable. Two of the big questions to answer are what would be the cost increase to consumers within these municipalities to go 100% renewable, and what about those for whom this cost increase would be a burden they can’t or don’t want to bear?
We also reviewed a fascinating audit on state energy incentives. It was a bit shocking to see that there were no performance standards, goals, or qualitative metrics set up to analyze the efficacy of energy incentives that cost the state almost $130 million dollars in state funds and almost $439 million in state regulated funds in the last five years. The committee is introducing a bill that will require objectives and performance measures to be established in the statute when the state incentive is created. I’m sure there will be some great discussions about this.
Natural Resources, Agriculture, and Environment–Several years ago, because of safety concerns, the legislature asked the Division of Water Rights to map Utah canals. They presented what they have completed and you can find the map here.
We also listened to a presentation from Marie Owens, who is the Director of the Division of Drinking Water, on the federal Safe Drinking Water Act. Utah has the option of complying with this law through Utah statute that meets the federal requirements, or giving the control to the federal government.The sunset date for the Utah code was next year, and so the Division was asking for a 10 year extension. Utah has amazing drinking water, especially here in our district, and the committee was willing to give an unlimited extension. However, we felt that hearing from the division about our drinking water supply was not only interesting, but also important for the legislature to stay informed. So we voted to recommend to the legislature that we reauthorize and set a sunset date for five years.
We don’t have interim meetings in September, but will again in October and November. If you have have any questions or issues you would like to discuss with me, please let me know! I love being your representative and want to listen to you.