March 9, 2017

Dear Constituent,

As the 2017 General Session comes to a close, I want to thank you again for honoring me with your confidence and support.  Thanks also to those of you who have provided helpful input during the last 45 days.

I appreciate the passion of your advocacy and while I may not have been able to respond to all of your emails or calls, know that I was listening and trying to take your concerns into consideration. Remember, for every point of view on one side of an issue I was receiving, I was also likely hearing from constituents in the district who had an alternative point of view. Decisions were not always easy for me to make. But that’s why I’m here.  

Most of the bills I ran this session were heavy lifts and as such were not successfully passed. I hope to continue to advocate on the use of service animals, end-of-life issues, voter access and dynamic change in the way we cast our ballots, among other issues.

I was successful in passing
1st Substitute HB278 Expenses of Minor Children. This bill addresses circumstances where two parents are jointly responsible for a minor child’s expense pursuant to court order, but one parent fails to pay or otherwise comply with that order. It allows for the parents to be billed separately for their respective portion, according to the calculations provided in the parties’ divorce decree. This bill applies only to medical/dental bills and school fees. I want to thank area family law attorneys, the Utah Women’s Coalition, and the Utah Medical Association, for their help. I also want to thank U of U student Lesley Garaycochea (who was also an intern for Rep. Becky Edwards [R-North Salt Lake]), who brought the idea to me for sponsorship.

I had a good amount of luck with my bill proposal to adopt
Ranked Choice Voting as a method by which voters can cast their ballot. It raced through the House on a 59 to 12 vote, but failed in the Senate Government Operations and Political Subdivisions Standing Committee (it failed on a 3 to 3 tie). I had support from voters and advocates from across the political spectrum who support the idea. I want to thank them for the late night and weekend online conversations on how we were going to move this forward, and also thank my chief co-sponsor Rep. Marc Roberts (R-Salem). He and I believe that RCV is the wave of the future of voting, and given the challenges in the last election related to lack of voter confidence, both of us believe we need to rethink the way we vote in our state. I am a relative novice to this and the learning curve was huge for me. Many thanks also go to FairVote and the Ranked Choice Voting Center for their technical assistance and great national and international promotion (including this great article in the Huffington Post below).

Ranked Choice Voting Legislation Draws Bipartisan Support

Here is another great article on the House win that was published in Utah Policy Daily:

Utah House approves ranked choice voting for primary elections

My inability to make Election Day Voter Registration permanent (due to opposition from House Republican Leadership), was my biggest disappointment.  I am going to have to regroup with the advocates who have been helping me with this issue over the last seven years to figure out the best way to move this forward in the next year. The pilot program we implemented over the last three elections showed, without a doubt, that this is a successful way to assure new voters access to the ballot and didn’t impede other balloting processes.

Equally disappointing was the third-year defeat of my End of Life Options Act bill. Nationally, the country is becoming more divided on this issue and I think efforts to undermine existing laws in other states loom on the horizon. I plan to continue work on this issue, but believe the current make-up of our state legislature makes its implementation pretty much impossible here -- at least through legislative channels.. I am trying to consider innovative ways to expand terminally-ill patients’ choices in end-of-life care.

There is appetite for providing remedy in the case where an elected official should be evaluated in terms of their mental capacity to fulfill their duties of office. I look forward to tackling that further this interim.

I was happy to act as House floor sponsor for
2nd Substitute SB74 Medical Interpreter Amendments, sponsored by Sen. Luz Escamilla. This was an update of a bill that I ran back in 2009 that established a voluntary certification program for medical interpreters. Since then, it was necessary for us to update this law to eliminate the list of languages that were first listed (hard to keep this current and it’s extraneous to put that in the code). We also offer a tiered system for certification and provide a mechanism for interpreters to be certified by national interpreter qualifying organizations.

We had limited success with air quality bills and funding:

4th Sub HB 29 Energy Efficient Vehicle Tax Credit (Rep. Handy & Sen. Bramble) - This bill unfortunately died on a 37-38 vote on the House floor. It would have extended Utah's existing energy vehicle tax credit, which expired at the end of 2016. 

HCR 18 (Rep. Arent & Sen. Shiozawa) - This resolution, which encourages consumers to consider smog ratings when purchasing a vehicle, passed both chambers with little to no opposition.

HB 96 (Rep. Eliason & Sen. Bramble) - With a little more contention on the floor, this bill passed, allowing counties to use revenue from emissions fees to maintain a national ambient air quality standard. 

Clean Air Appropriations RequestsFunds have been appropriated for air quality research by Representative Ed Redd, air monitoring by Representative Patrice Arent, and a Depot District Clean Fuels Tech Center sponsored by Representative Mike Schultz. 

Here are some of the bills about which I received quite a number of emails:

HB442 Alcohol Amendments (Rep. Wilson & Sen. Stevenson) - While I understand that a number of local restaurant owners came to consensus on the final bill, I have heartburn with much that was proposed in HB442 and at the end of the day just couldn’t support it.
SB154 Solar Access Amendments (Sen. Fillmore & Rep. Gibson) - I have received many emails both in support and opposition to this bill. I apologize that I was off the floor for the vote (for those of you who were tracking my votes). I got called into a conference committee to resolve issues associated with an affordable housing bill minutes before the vote was taken and I missed casting a vote here. It did pass with a majority of support of House members.
HB155 Driving Under the Influence and Public Safety Revisions (Rep. Thurston & Sen. Adams) - Yet another alcohol regulation, this bill lowers the legal blood-alcohol content limit from 0.08 to 0.05, with the argument that our current law sends a message that you can drink up to a certain point and then drive. Utah will be in first in the nation to pass this low of a legal blood-alcohol content limit.  
HB460 Capitol Development Projects Bonding Amendments (Rep. Froerer & Sen. Harper) - This bill adds an additional $100 million to the cost of the new state prison. After being introduced on Monday, it was voted on by the House and did not receive committee hearings in either the House or the Senate. This money will go to the outside infrastructure of the prison (such as roads, water lines, and sewer pipes) and was not included in the original price estimate. I voted against the bill due to lack of transparency in the manner by which it was presented.

SB159 Helmet Requirement Amendments (Sen. Shiozawa & Rep. Dunnigan) - In an effort to decrease the number of brain injuries and the overall fatality rate of motorcycle crashes, this bill requires the use of a motorcycle helmet until the age of 21 years old. Current law states riders 18 years-of-age and younger must wear a helmet. I supported this bill and believe it will not only save lives, but will reduce the overall impact motorcycle-related accidents have on our health care system.

HJR18 Joint Resolution on Economic and Environmental Stewardship (Rep. Edwards) - A valiant effort, sponsored by my colleague Rep. Becky Edwards, to facilitate an official hearing of the Utah student-led climate change resolution. It served as a commitment to create and support solutions to the causes and effects of climate change in Utah. Though it failed in a 5-5 tie vote on Monday, this conversation is not over. My colleagues and I are highly impressed with the initiative taken by those involved and look forward to the continued involvement of Utah students.

HB395 Health Insurance Amendments (Rep. Dunnigan & Sen. Shiozawa) -  Every year we inevitably have one piece of legislation that pits very ardent and important stakeholders against each other. The ability for physicians to recoup reimbursement for services rendered to patients (who may be out of network) and resulting sizable billings with which the patients have to navigate was the policy quandary set forth by HB395. Continued opposition to the bill by area physicians was a sticking point for me, and I felt I couldn’t support the bill.

I will be taking some downtime now, but will be back in the saddle come April to begin planning for next session. We work over the interim to map out our policy strategy for the next year and I'll be picking up my bills again at that point.  As always, don't hesitate to reach out over the next few months (email still is best). I'll be seeing you out and about in the district!

Warm regards,

Rep. Rebecca Chavez-Houck (Rep. RCH)