January 14, 2014

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Article

2014 Legislative Preview

Legislators Gear Up for a Hectic 45-day Session

By LaVarr Webb

January 14, 2014

State budget.

Approving the fiscal year 2015 state budget will be one of the most important things the Legislature does. Lawmakers are expected to have $132 in new one-time revenue to spend, along with $206 million in ongoing revenue. Utah is enjoying a generally good economy and Gov. Herbert has asked state agencies to streamline operations to save 25 percent by 2016. The Rainy Day Fund will be increased to $400 million. State leaders are worried that the budget woes of the federal government will eventually reduce federal funding, and they want to be ready. Legislators are not expected to bond for buildings and transportation projects, wanting to reduce the state’s debt rather than take on more debt.

Get Involved

Hundreds of other issues will be addressed during the Legislature, many of them important to business people across the state. Although Utah is a conservative state and its lawmakers are generally pro-business—strong advocates of capitalism and the free enterprise system—business people should not assume the right things will always be done at the Capitol.

It’s important for business leaders to engage and let lawmakers hear their views. It’s easy to get involved. Utah’s legislators serve part-time, and are easily approachable. They will listen to citizens, especially their own constituents. You can quickly find your representative and senator, with contact information, at the Legislature’s website, le.utah.gov. You can also find committees that relate to issues of concern and contact information for chairpersons and members. Because the session itself is very intense and busy, it’s best to start discussions on issues before the session starts.  

One of the best ways to influence the Legislature is to get involved with a business association or trade group. Most industries have organizations that lobby the Legislature. Also, most chambers of commerce have legislative agendas and seek to influence lawmakers. These organizations always welcome business people who will roll up their sleeves and work.

Legislators are susceptible to political pressure. Interest groups on all sides of the political spectrum attempt to influence lawmakers through campaign contributions, personal visits, professional lobbying, communications campaigns and constituent pressure. Business people concerned about legislative issues must get in the game and fight for their objectives.

The legislative website, www.le.utah.gov, makes it easy to monitor what’s happening at the Capitol and follow legislation. Interested parties can sign up for e-mail notifications that will track bills and send alerts when action is taken. The calendar allows anyone with an internet connection to view committee agendas. It’s easy to watch and listen to floor debates and committee action in real time. For those who want to monitor legislative action, it’s important to spend some time on the legislative website, and learn to navigate the various features. Utah has one of the best, and most transparent, legislative sites in the country.  

Action is fast and furious at the Utah Legislature. With only 32 working days to pass hundreds of bills and scrutinize every item in the budget, lawmakers are incredibly busy. So those with legislative business need to buckle up and get ready for the ride.  

 

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