Tax Reform to Affect Local Development Events

Representative Christine Watkins was visited by members of the  Carbon County Teacher’s Association last week.By Rep. Christine WatkinsLast week was a really tough week at the legislature. There were so many concerns brought up by many citizens about HB441 Tax Reform. I heard from so many constituents from all four of the counties that I represent.  The issue is critical, but the process was flawed and rushed.On Thursday, we were told in a quickly-called caucus meeting that the brakes were being applied to the bill. Then, on Friday, we were given the news that we were going to have a “skinny budget.” I was surprised to hear that the Business, Economic Development, and Labor Sub-Appropriation Committee, the one that I am the  vice chair of, was going to have its budget put into an emergency fund. This news has put over 80 nonprofit agencies into a tail spin. Many of my priority requests were put through this committee and with this news, my requests will not get funded. Leadership is working on this problem and as of this writing, I do not know what is going to happen.A great bill that I support is HB433, which deals with expanding the inland port out into rural Utah. The concept is of a hub and spoke model which would allow, as a hub, Carbon to export coal or Duchesne and Vernal to export oil and gas without having to ship it to Salt Lake City. I spoke in favor of this bill and it passed the House and is on its way to the Senate. I will say that some who opposed were concerned about spreading pollution to other areas of the state. After hearing all of the pleas to reduce pollution on the Wasatch Front, I am confused by this thinking. This should definitely help reduce pollution in the urban areas.HB324 passed out of the House and a Senate committee. This bill gradually increases the age to buy tobacco products or vaping products to age 21. There are minors who think e-cigarettes are a healthy alternative to tobacco, and it is not true. E-cigarettes are full of nicotine, which is addicting and unhealthy. The Utah Retail Merchants Association supports the change but wants tougher language so that every city in the state abides by the same rules. We’ll wait and see what the full senate does with this bill.I am a member of the Education Standing Committee, where we heard SB134, which addresses campus safety. We heard the heart-wrenching testimony from Lauren McCluskey’s father. Lauren was murdered on the University of Utah Campus after many attempts to get help. The argument was compelling and unfortunately needed. We need to believe that our young adult children can get help on their college campus if they are being stalked and harassed. The bill passed unanimously.My front license bill passed the House and will be in the Senate this last week of the session. This bill would remove the requirement for a front license plate. It would exempt commercial trucks who travel through weight stations.I have enjoyed the visits from Price City Mayor Mike Kourianos as well as council members Amy Jespersen and Rick Davis.The mayor of Moab, Emily Niehaus, has visited numerous times and this last week she brought her fourth grade son, Oscar. I was also visited by Carbon Education Association teachers. The student body president from USUE visited with several of her cabinet members. I will say that I love it when familiar faces visit me on the hill. I want to hear from the leaders and citizens about their concerns.I come home Friday and I am looking forward to the Home and Garden Show at the Carbon County Fairgrounds. I will do one last article to let you know about bills that passed and Tax Reform issues. Thanks for all you do for rural Utah.Contact:Email: [email protected]: (435) 650-1969Facebook: Representative Christine Watkins District 69