For, like every other year, they are going to study their guts out over the next eight months.
Officially, the separate joint interim study committees can only examine what the Legislative Management Committee says they can.
The LMC, made up of equal numbers of Republican and Democratic leadership, both houses, will meet next month to assign study items found in the Master Study resolution, HJR20.
In reality, if a committee’s chairs – one from the House, one from the Senate – really, really want to study something, they can usually convince the LMC to let them do it.
In addition, UtahPolicy is told, GOP leaders have agreed to re-energize the Legislative Process Committee, which doesn’t always meet during the interim, and assign it a number of issues associated with the Legislature itself.
A new group of legislators, some freshmen, some with only a year or two under their belts, don’t like how the Legislature operations in some areas – too much power resting in a few individuals, games played to avoid a public hearing on your bill in the opposing house, and so on.
Thus, to re-examine how they operate, and perhaps to let off a little steam, the process committee – which will be run by veteran lawmakers – will take a look at some of the concerns.
While they are at that, however, the other interim committees and a few task forces, will be doing some heavy study lifting.
Of course, the committees won’t have the time – they meet just once a month, usually on the third Wednesday, April through November – to study all 206 items on the Master Study resolution, HJR20.
But the Office of Legislative Research and General Counsel will combine a number of the study items that have some connects.
And leaders on the LMC will just ignore some of the pesky or silly study ideas in assigning out the long list.
It appears the Tax Review Commission will actually have something to do this summer, should leaders agree to call it into session.
One study item says the commission will study the qualifications, if any, that someone must have to be appointed to the Tax Commission.
However, for the second year in a row there doesn’t appear to be any work for the Constitutional Revision Commission.
The CRC and the TRC used to meet, basically on their own, and provide any number of interesting discussions and/or recommendations to the Legislature and the governor.
But the CRC ran afoul of GOP lawmakers when members started to study, on their own, issues that some conservative lawmakers didn’t like – specifically some anti discrimination issues, which could have led to CRC recommendations on gay and lesbian rights via the state Constitution.
So, GOP lawmakers decided to strip the CRC and TRC of the power to meet on their own. They are to be called upon only if the leaders want them to meet on a specific topic.
Even though there were two constitutional amendments on the 2012 general election ballot, the CRC was never called into session – and so Utah voters went to the polls on those amendments without the insight of CRC members.
There are no study issues assigned in HJR20 to the CRC this year. And, of course, it is not a general election year, so there is no proposed constitutional amendment on November’s ballot.
If a bill is to be voted down in a House or Senate standing committee, it is often a sop to the sponsor to officially take a vote to send the bill/issue to interim study.
But that doesn’t mean it will be studied. As mentioned above, only the LMC can tell a committee to study something, even if it is one the Master Study resolution.
Here are some of the more interesting study items:
-- Economic gardening, although the term “economic gardening” is not defined.
-- Whether to folks who perform art therapy should be licensed by the state.
-- Whether the Utah attorney general should be elected or appointed, and if appointed, by whom. Embattled AG John Swallow may want to watch this one.
-- Whether lobbyists should be required to disclose any political consulting they do for candidates facing election, re-election or an appointment in government. Seems some lobbyists are providing this service for free, with hopes of. . .well, hopes of what in return?
-- Whether to legally require a presidential elector to cast his ballot for president based on who won the popular vote in the state, and if there should be a fine if the elector doesn’t do that.
-- Examine whether fines imposed by a government should go to that government, or should such fines go into a permanent trust fund and only the interest on those funds be available to the fining government.
Seems some local government are relying too much on fine money to operate, thus more pressure to fine as much as possible.
-- Study the possibility of recall elections; Utah has no recall elections now. Again, AG John Swallow may want to keep an eye on this one.
-- Study the impacts of obesity and how to encourage a healthy lifestyle. These will not be luncheon study meetings.
-- Look at how to protect children during visitation with a parent who is also under investigation of a felony. The poor, poor, Powell boys could have certainly used this one.
-- Mandatory helmet laws for children under 18 while bicycle riding. Also look at registering all bicycles used on roadways.
-- Look at the use of drones against U.S. citizens.
-- Requiring the labeling of foods that are genetically engineered.
-- How domesticated horses can be humanely slaughtered.
-- Examine the use of silver and gold coins as legal tender.
-- Look at whether local governments should be banned from making local traffic laws.
As you can see, there is much variation and long-term implications in these study items.
And the Utah Legislature will be back at it next month.