Issues Highlighted on the Hill

After each General Session, the Legislature meets and discusses relevant items of significance. The Salt Lake Chamber’s public policy team actively tracks this process and helps navigate study items on behalf of members and the broader business community. The Interim sessions help provide a preview of issues that may addressed in future General Legislative session.

Every month the Salt Lake Chamber policy team will give an update on relevant business issues that the Legislature’s bicameral study committees discuss. While there are dozens of items looked at each month, below are a few highlighted topics.

Public-Private Partnerships and Performance-Based Infrastructure

Last session, the Salt Lake Chamber worked with Sen. Ralph Okerlund to introduce S.B. 257 – Public-Private Partnership Amendments to begin a dialogue with the Legislature on broad enabling legislation to accelerate projects through partnerships with private-capital and expertise.  The late timing of the bill led to a determination by Legislative leadership to have the Government Operations Interim Committee study the item during interim. The committee discussed the topic in very broad terms during the June Interim focusing on best-practices, tangible examples of possible projects and how best to protect the taxpayer.

A key category of these partnerships includes performance-based infrastructure, which is when infrastructure remains in public ownership and the private sector assumes the risks associated with its design, construction, financing and long-term maintenance. While many forms of public-private partnership can provide additional public benefits, performance-based infrastructure is the most likely to maximize the value of private sector participation in public infrastructure projects.

The Chamber’s formal position on the issue is:

Technological Innovation – We embrace technological advances and design innovations that enhance the efficiency and safety of our infrastructure, expand their scope, improve user satisfaction, protect Utah’s environment and modernize revenue models, including the utilization of performance-based infrastructure financing models.

In the months ahead the Salt Lake Chamber will be working with Sen. Ralph Okerlund to further educate the committee and the Legislature more broadly on the potential for Public-Private Partnerships broadly and performance-based infrastructure. If you are interested in this topic please contact Michael Parker.
Grand Boulevards in Salt Lake City

Stakeholders across the community are seeking to address the city’s first impressions of a “Grand Boulevard” at the entrance to Salt Lake City at 500 and 600 South. The Legislature’s Business and Labor Interim Committee is studying the item as a convener of many stakeholders and the fact the state owns both roads.

This month focused on the economic development component of this project as well as the potential of a strategic effort to address the Grand Boulevards. The discussion included presentations from the Downtown Alliance, Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski and the University of Utah.

Key highlights:

  • The Grand Boulevards is the last remaining signature project of the original Downtown Rising initiative.
  • Many stakeholders are involved; all working under the goal of a better corridor.
  • Salt Lake City is working to develop neighborhoods north and south of the corridor and hopes to align those efforts with the Grand Boulevards.
  • There is not definitive ask at this point for the Legislature. But as a key stakeholder, it is important they are at the table.
  • The University of Utah is currently undertaking a long-term master plan of its real estate holdings and space in Research Park. The Grand Boulevards and nearby neighborhoods may present an ideal future location for some of these facilities.

The Chamber’s formal position on the issue is:

Grand Boulevards – We support improvements to revitalize the main arteries in and out of Utah’s capital city that enhance safety and improve the perception of our state. We also support the thoughtful redesign of downtown way- finding.

Next month the committee will be looking at the transportation component of this project, including testimony from UDOT and Salt Lake City transportation. If you are interested in this topic please contact Abby Albrecht.

Occupational Licensing

There is movement within the State of Utah to review and reform occupational licensing. This has received significant attention in recent years from economists, policy makers and the media. A recent blog by the Wall Street Journal further characterizes this nationwide issue. The Business and Labor committee heard a report from the Legislature’s Occupational and Professional Licensure Review Committee.

In Utah the state licenses a wide variety of occupations and professions through several executive branch agencies, the State Board of Education, and the Utah Supreme Court. Together, these organizations, as of 2013, licensed nearly 487,000 persons or approximately 38 percent of Utah’s total labor force of 1.2 million.

These licenses have oversight by the Legislature’s Occupational and Professional Licensure Review Committee, which has two major responsibilities with these licenses:  (1) a “sunrise” review of an application for a new occupational or professional license under Utah Code Title 58, Occupations and Professions; (2) a “sunset” review for all statutes that are scheduled for termination under Utah Code Section 63I-1-258.

In some cases, licensing helps to ensure high-quality services safeguard against serious harms, and offer workers clear guidelines around professional development and training. Licensing may also help practitioners to professionalize, encouraging individuals to invest in occupational skills and creating career paths for licensed workers.

That being said, advocates for reform are concerned about the impacts of making it harder to enter a profession. This includes the impacts that licensing can have on reduced employment opportunities and lower wages for excluded workers, discouraged entrepreneurs and increased costs for consumers.

The Salt Lake Chamber does not have a formal position on this topic. However, there is likely room to advance best practices in licensing to safeguard the well-being of consumers, while maintaining a modernized regulatory system that meets the needs of workers and businesses.

As this is expected to be an area of focus during the 2017 Legislative Session, and as many industries utilize these licenses, it is important that you are engaged with the Legislature’s Occupational and Professional Licensure Review Committee and its members. More information can be found at the committee’s website.

Economic Development Incentives

The Economic Development and Workforce Services Interim Committee received a number of presentations on the myriad of economic development incentives the state offers.
Specifically, the Office of Legislative Research and General Counsel highlighted the overall landscape of economic development incentives – including sales tax exemptions – and issued a brief report to help members understand the various incentive programs.

These incentives are used to select companies that create new, high-paying jobs that help improve the standard of living, diversify the state economy, increase the tax base, attract and retain top-level management, and encourage graduates of in-state universities to remain in Utah.

The Governor’s Office of Economic Development has a great summary sheet and video for those who are interested in these programs – both for their business and as a taxpayer.

The Chamber’s formal position on the issue is:

Strategic Industry Incentives – We support strategic tax incentives that enhance and grow Utah’s economy in strategic industries, such as life sciences, advanced manufacturing, software and IT development, aerospace and defense, logistics and distribution centers, energy development and financial services.

Also, in 2014 Lane Beattie, president and CEO of the Salt Lake Chamber published an op-ed further articulating our support that is still relevant today.

The Salt Lake Chamber will continue to be an active proponent of the fiscally responsible use of economic development incentives at the state, county and local level to promote economic growth. If you are interested in this topic please contact Michael Parker.