After each General Session, the Legislature meets and discusses relevant items of significance during Interim Sessions. 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.

This month a number of key items we discussed:

Transportation Governance and Funding Task Force

Key statistic: Utah is among only five states that DO NOT provide state funding for public transit.

What business leaders need to know: Careful planning and tenacious problem-solving keeps Utah ahead of other states facing similar challenges. The task force is currently exploring ways to incentivize smarter land use, improve transportation governance planning and prioritization, and review funding strategies to make it all happen in order to accommodate Utah’s future growth.

The Salt Lake Chamber was well represented at the meeting as Lane Beattie, our president and CEO, sits on the task force and Dave Smith, of Penna Powers and a member of the Chamber’s Utah Transportation Coalition, spoke to recommendations on what the committee should study and why transportation benefits Utah’s economy.

Three task force subcommittees were formed to focus on key elements of the overall task force. They include: Funding, Governance, and Economic Development, Land Use and Rural Issues. These subcommittees will meet on a regular basis and the Chamber will be involved throughout the entire process.  

The takeaway: We will be actively working with this committee to address a number of significant but related issues in advance of the 2018 Legislative Session. Business leaders need to let their elected officials know just how important our transportation system is to their companies.

Modernizing Utah’s Tax Code

Key statistic: Utah offers more than 170 exceptions to tax code and inducements to behavior change.

What business leaders need to know: This past session, tax reform became the leading issue for the legislature. As was detailed in Lane Beattie’s op-ed during the session, the Salt Lake Chamber supports efforts to modernize our tax code to be fairer, meet today’s needs and enhance Utah’s competitiveness. Recently, Scott Anderson, CEO and president of Zions Bank, also shared his support of overhauling Utah’s tax code.

The Interim Revenue and Taxation Committee carried this forward by reviewing guiding principles for tax reform, a study of sales tax exemptions and understanding approaches to improving Utah’s apportionment of business income to improve our state’s competitiveness.

The takeaway: The Salt Lake Chamber is actively working with our members, the Legislature, Governor, and other key stakeholders to advance this process during the interim and pass a comprehensive tax reform package in the 2018 General Legislative Session.

Economic Development in Rural Utah

Key statistic: Since 2008, 11 Utah counties have had declining job growth, leaving 18 with positive job growth, and 8 with double-digit increases.

What business leaders need to know: In his 2017 State of the State address, Gov. Gary R. Herbert challenged Utah businesses to build 25,000 high skilled, high paying jobs in the 25 Counties off the Wasatch Front in the next four years. The Utah Legislature followed his lead with a joint resolution to encourage business expansion and development in rural Utah. The legislature will continue to focus on this issue during the interim reviewing state policy, economic development incentives or workforce programs that can strengthen rural Utah.

The takeaway: A number of key partners including the Salt Lake Chamber began a 25k in 25 County tour on May 31, in Morgan County. The tour continues through all of the 25 counties off the Wasatch Front over the next few months. Learn more at www.25kjobs.com or follow along on social media with the hashtag #25kjobs and #25tourchamber.

Impact of Utah’s DUI Law on Tourism

Key statistic: There were 36 fatalities related to drunk driving in 2016 (12.8%).

What business leaders need to know: HB 155 was passed during the 2017 General Session and was subsequently signed into law by the governor. The bill changes the legal blood alcohol level limit for a per se DUI violation from 0.08% to 0.05% in Utah. However, the new law does not go into effect until December 30, 2018. The Transportation Interim Committee has been asked to perform a comprehensive review of Utah’s DUI laws, including any unintended consequences resulting from HB 155, and recommend any potential legislative changes.

During the June meeting, the committee heard from individuals and groups associated with the tourism, hospitality, restaurant, economic development, and insurance industries.

The takeaway: Utah needs a more holistic evidence-based approach to alcohol policy than just reforming one or two statutes.The Salt Lake Chamber will be actively working with stakeholders to review recent legislation, including the new DUI bill, and existing policy to strike a better balance between satisfying public demand, ensuring public safety, discouraging underage drinking, and cultivating a welcoming and hospitable climate for tourism and business recruitment efforts.

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38-15-1 is the Salt Lake Chamber’s Public Policy Update on how the Chamber is working to promote a pro-growth, business-focused agenda from Congress and the Governor’s office to legislative committee rooms and city halls across the state.

Every month the Salt Lake Chamber policy team will give an update on relevant business issues that the Legislature’s bicameral study committees discuss. All of the meeting dates are regularly updated and can be found here.