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Utah Legislative Session 2017: Schools, marijuana, guns and hate crimes

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The Utah Legislature proposed a record number of bills this year.

Though Monday marked the first day of the 2017 Utah Legislature, the action is just beginning at the Capitol. Bills still are being processed and numbered (the deadline is Feb. 2), budgets are being negotiated, and committees are only starting the hard work of 45-day session.

Like every year, there are many bills that will affect Utah County residents, including education funding, medical marijuana, concealed weapons and hate crimes.

School money

There’s always the base budget bill for public education that put a value on the state’s weighted pupil unit and sets the amounts appropriated from state funds for K-12 education. Then there are the bills that aim to add money to education.

Senate Bill 80, School Funding Amendments
Sponsor: Sen. Lincoln Fillmore, R-South Jordan
This bill:
• directs the state Legislature to appropriate, every year, “an amount equal to one-third of the funds allocated for an increase in the weighted pupil unit value to increase the number of guaranteed local levy increments.”
• “directs the state Board of Education to use the appropriation to increase the number of guaranteed local levy increments, giving first priority to guarantee board local levy increments and second priority to guarantee voted local levy increments; and the guaranteed amount for each local levy increment per weighted pupil unit after increasing the number of guaranteed local levy increments.”
• “directs a local school board to use funds received from the state local levy guarantee for a public education purpose.”
• The bill also enacts language about a voted local levy, use of the guaranteed local levy increments and board levy.

The board and local levies are programs that help equalize property tax revenue among school districts. First a school district has to levy a property tax, and if the tax generates less money per weighted pupil unit than an amount guaranteed by the state, the district gets money from the state to make up the difference. So if a district has the same tax rate as another district, but gets less revenue because of the value of property within that district, it will get additional funding from the state.

Education funding bills in process:

• Funding for Public Education Amendments, sponsored by Sen. Howard Stephenson, R-Draper
• Tax Return Check-off for Education, sponsored by Sen. Daniel Thatcher, R-West Valley City

Education-impact bill

House Bill 23, Income Tax Credit Modifications
Sponsor: Rep. Jeremy A. Peterson, R-Ogden
This bill would phase out the tax credit for active or passive solar (power) systems. The credit would be $2,000 for a system installed before the effective date of the bill, down to $250 for a system installed by Dec. 31, 2021.

The credit is an income tax credit. Income tax funds education in Utah, so any credit takes money from schools.

Non-legislative initiative

There’s also a school-funding initiative circulating in the state, called Our Schools Now. It calls for a 7/8 percent income tax increase, which would result in $750 million more for schools. According to the initiative, 84 percent of that would go to K-12 schools, 15 percent to higher education and 1 percent to applied technology colleges.

Cannabis

House Bill 130, Cannabinoid Medicine Research
Sponsor: Rep. Brad Daw, R-Orem
This bill would allow a person who’s involved in an institutional review board-approved study to import, possess and distribute cannabis, cannabinoid medicine and expanded cannabinoid medicine.

Other bills in process:
• Cannabinoid Medicine Act
• Cannabis-based Medicine Amendments
• Cannabis-based Medicine Regulatory Amendments
• Regulatory Framework for Medical Marijuana

Guns

House Bill 112, Firearms Amendments (aka constitutional carry bill)
Sponsor: Rep. Lee Perry, R-Perry
This bill would allow a person who’s 21 years or older, who can legally possess a firearm, to carry a concealed weapon without a permit. It is currently a class B misdemeanor to carry a concealed weapon without a permit.

Hate crimes

Senate Bill 72, Victim Selection Penalty Enhancements
Sponsor: Sen. Daniel Thatcher, R-West Valley City
This bill aims to make Utah’s existing hate crimes law enforceable. It would provide a penalty enhancement for crimes committed against a person because of the offender’s perception of the person’s ancestry, ethnicity, disability, gender, gender identity, race, religion, national origin or sexual orientation. It would apply to crimes against people and property. This bill would not affect constitutional rights.

If you want to keep track of these and other bills during this year’s session, go to le.utah.gov.

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