Yesterday, the Utah Legislature met for its monthly interim day meetings. During these meetings legislators discuss items that may lead to legislation in the annual general session that begins in January. This month, they also attended to several matters, most of which were of a “housekeeping” nature, in a special session called by Governor Gary Herbert.
Among topics considered in various committees that we considered to be interesting were the following:
- State school board elections: Three different proposals were presented, each of which would revise the current method by which candidates are selected to appear on the general election ballot. Rep. Carol Spackman Moss (D-Dist. 37, Holladay) presented a proposal calling for direct, nonpartisan elections, which would eliminate the governor’s board and the names of prospective candidates would be placed directly on primary and general election ballots. Sen. Howard Stephenson (R-Dist. 11, Draper) indicated that he would prefer to see state board candidates go through the same convention process required of lawmakers. Rep Jim Nielson (R-Dist. 19, Bountiful) recommended that nonpartisan state school board elections be conducted during odd-numbered years, when nonpartisan municipal elections are held. These alternatives and possibly others will be considered in more detail at future meetings of the Education Interim Committee. Writing in Sutherland’s August 19, 2010 newsletter, Dan Witte, director of the Institute’s Center for Educational Progress, suggested that “state school board members should be vetted by political parties in the state to raise the profile and improve the legitimacy of elections for Utah’s education policy-makers.”
- Boards and commissions survey: At the request of Rep. David Litvack (D-District 26, Salt Lake County) legislators are conducting a thorough review of the state’s boards and commissions to determine if any can be consolidated or eliminated. They are sending a rather comprehensive survey to each board that essentially requires the board to defend its reason for existence. This initiative corresponds directly with recommendations Sutherland made last November. You can find some details about the state’s boards and commissions here.
- Electronic signatures: Following a 2010 Utah Supreme Court ruling that electronic signatures are valid for the election process, the Lieutenant Governor’s Office is considering ways to incorporate e-signatures into the process while maintaining the integrity of the system. For now, Mark Thomas, elections director, said the office is considering having a one-stop website where citizens can register to vote, sign a petition (or remove their name from a petition) and complete other election-related tasks using their driver’s license number and a PIN.
- Licensure for exercise physiologists: A scheduled discussion about the possibility of requiring licensure for exercise physiologists turned into a general discussion about the process industry members must undergo to request and obtain licensing requirements. During the discussion, Sen. Pat Jones (D-Dist. 4, Salt Lake County) asked an important question: “Could there be rogue people that are just trying to exclude other, or certain, members, for competitive reasons?” Rep. Paul Ray (R-Dist. 13, Davis County) admitted that some industries request licensure for purposes of protecting themselves from competitors. Given the plethora of industries that now have state-sanctioned licensing requirements, legislators would do well to review this list and determine which, if any, are serving appropriate purposes.
Citizens interested in attending legislative committee meetings are welcome to do so. Committees, members, schedules, locations, agendas and documents related to topics to be discussed are all available online here. Those wishing to do so may also listen to committee meetings via a live webcast as committee meetings are conducted on the Hill. Additionally, citizens may listen thereafter to audio recordings of committee proceedings at their convenience here, by clicking the desired committee and specific meeting date link.
As there no are regular committee meetings scheduled in August, the next interim day will be conducted on Wednesday, Sept. 21.