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. These Interim sessions help provide a preview of issues that may be addressed in a 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.

Items of note from the legislative interim committees:

Political Subdivisions

The newfound “sharing economy” has swept through industries in transportation, retail, and now lodging. Recently, the Utah League of Cities and Towns presented findings from their research on the local impacts of the “shared economy” with short-term rentals, such as bed and breakfasts and Airbnbs (an online peer-to-peer marketplace for short-term rentals).

The League reported that there is currently no consensus on the definition of short-term rentals, but overall, there has been minimal impact on localities. The League recommends continued research to identify solutions to address the collection of taxes on short term rentals, but those efforts will require additional discussion and will not be addressed at this time.

Economic Development and Workforce

Highlighting their successes and improvements over the last year, several of the state’s workforce and economic development entities presented their annual reports at the Economic Development and Workforce Services committee.

Presenters included: the Utah Science Technology and Research (USTAR) agency, Utah Department of Workforce Services (DWS), Utah Capital Investment Program, Department of Heritage and Arts, the Governor’s Office of Economic Development (GOED), and the STEM Action Center. The Chamber works to create and sustain partnerships with like-minded entities such as these to drive Utah’s economic development and champion statewide success.

Highlights from the presented annual reports:

  • USTAR – USTAR underwent significant statutory changes this year, allowing the organization to establish four new competitive grant programs, as well as a new metrics and reporting system. The grant programs vary in supporting existing industry, small businesses, and startups to accelerate the development of new technologies through industry and educational research partnerships. For more information on available grants and USTAR’s mission, visit their website here.
  • DWS – Executive Director John Pierpont emphasized the successes, challenges, and continuing goals from each division within the department. DWS has focused on employing veterans, coordinated discussions and action on intergenerational poverty throughout the state, and remain instrumental in the development of a state career pathways program–an innovative education partnership that will continue to expand in the coming fiscal year. The department’s unemployment insurance division also continues to receive high accolades from the U.S. Department of Labor for their quality and timeliness.
  • GOED – The Governor’s Office of Economic Development focuses on growing and supporting Utah businesses and engaging with industry to build strategies that will help Utah maintain its strong economy. To do this, GOED advanced partnerships with industry, education and workforce development stakeholders to create an innovative career pathways program for aerospace. The program has had great success and partners are now working to expand the program’s diesel tech and medical innovations pathways in the coming year.

    Learn more about the pathways programs:

GOED also focuses on rural outreach and development and supported 31 businesses in 11 counties through grants in fiscal year 2016. Emphasizing efforts to expand the Utah tourist experience, GOED reported on how Utah’s tourism, film, and branding have continued to help increase the visibility of Utah’s incredible natural environment. Tourists had $7.8 billion in spending last year, equaling $1.07 billion in state and local tax revenue.

Transportation

The committee examined new federal legislation which seeks to address current concerns with autonomous vehicles. Due to the nature of such vehicles,  state level changes to infrastructure are not needed at this time, but future needs will need to be studied and addressed.

The Department of Public Safety, in consultation with the Division of Motor Vehicles and the Department of Transportation, presented a report prepared in response to House Bill 280, passed during the 2015-16 General Session of the Utah Legislature, which requires that the Department of Public Safety  “study and prepare a report, regarding the best practices for regulation of autonomous vehicle technology on Utah highways.”

The State is continuing to study the issues surrounding autonomous vehicles as the landscape continues to rapidly evolve. See the aforementioned study here for additional details.