Legislature meets to mold Utah’s future

Increasing tuition and fees at the College of Eastern Utah, concealed weapons restrictions and improving Highway 6 are some of the items the Utah Legislature will debate in its six-week section that concludes next Wednesday.

This archived article was written by: Chase D’Ambrosio

Increasing tuition and fees at the College of Eastern Utah, concealed weapons restrictions and improving Highway 6 are some of the items the Utah Legislature will debate in its six-week section that concludes next Wednesday.
The Utah System of Higher Education is made up of nine colleges and universities including the University of Utah, Utah State University, Weber State University, Salt Lake Community College, Utah Valley State College, Snow, Dixie State College, CEU and Southern Utah University. In support of these schools, the USHE subcommittee has proposed ongoing funds towards salary retention $7.5 million, 75%/25% compensation funding proposal act $3.8 million, mandated costs of Operating and Maintenance $2 million, mandated costs utility rates $7.5 million, mandated costs IT software/hardware $900,000, scholarship initiatives $6.2 million, various financial aid $5.5 million, services of hearing impaired $1 million, institutional priorities $9.5 million, institutional partnerships $1.8 million, and USU/WSU engineering $900,000, accumulating a total of over $55 million this year.
The USHE subcommittee proposed one-time funds for 2007-2008 that accumulates well over $30 million. O&M mandated costs -$1.8 million, mandated IT software/hardware $3 million, mandated utility rates $1.6 million, WSU/USU partnership $865,000, financial aid $130,000, library scholarships $1 million, engineering scholarships 1&2 $5 million, USU Davis Botanical Gardens $900,000, electronic college phase-out $267,000, requests from appropriation financial aid endowment $20 million and seismic monitoring appropriations requests $450,000.
Some proposed bills that are being discussed but have not yet became rectified include Senate Bill 70, Utah Valley University Institution Name Change, sponsored by John Valentine, which would change the name of Utah Valley State College to Utah Valley University and appropriates $10 million in on-going funding each year.
SB 62, College and University Tuition Tax Credits, proposed by Sen. Greg Bell, creates a refundable tax credit of up to $300 for taxpayers with an income of $30,000 or less for tuition and fees paid to a USHE institution. Estimated fiscal impact is $8.4 million. House Bill 309S1, Scott Lundell Tuition Waiver for National Guard Members surviving dependants, proposed by Rep. Greg Hughes, requires USHE institutions to provide an undergraduate tuition waiver for the surviving dependants of guard members or active duty military who are killed in action
One bill that was discussed but did not pass that would have affected students at CEU is the bill sponsored by Gregory S. Bell dealing with restrictions of concealed weapons in a higher education facility.   This bill modifies provisions related to the possession and carrying of concealed firearms at institutions of higher education.  
The highlighted provisions of this bill is ‘provides that an institution of higher education may enact a rule prohibiting concealed firearms in specified faculty and staff offices at the institution; provides for posting of a notice of the prohibition at a staff or faculty office; requires a reasonably proximate secure-storage facility for storing concealed firearms outside of designated offices; and authorizes a higher education institution to make a rule that allows a dormitory resident to have only roommates who are not licensed to carry a concealed firearm.”  
Other proposed bills that may directly affect students are HB 185- Higher Education Partnerships Appropriation sponsored by Rep. Gordon Snow. The bill appropriates $7.1 million to Utah State University for programs at regional campuses and partnerships with Weber State, Snow College and CEU.
HB 79S1 Concurrent Enrollment Amendments which was sponsored by Rep. Kory Holdaway, is a priority bill of the K-16 alliance, to move funding from concurrent enrollment to be included as part of the minimum school program; HB 79S1 also failed to pass.
HB371, Applied Technology Amendments, sponsored by Rep. Ron Bigelow, makes the statutory change necessary to merge the South East Applied Technology College with CEU as approved by the Board of Regents, and other changes related to training for high paying jobs and duplication of CTE courses with other USHE institutions. The bill was also denied by an overwhelming majority vote.
CEU students will benefit indirectly if the legislature decided to spend more money fixing Utah’s road systems.   Many students are forced to travel Utah Highway 6, which has been deemed as one of the deadliest roads in America.   The highway meanders through narrow mountain passes, while the travelers compete for their place on the road with speeding 18-wheeler trucks.   Two lanes run the entire length of the highway with the exception of a few short-passing lanes.   Although weather and recklessness are to blame for many of the accidents, there are many changes that could be done to the road to make it safer for travelers.
Although nothing is for certain, and nothing will be finalized until Feb 28, many items being discussed in the state legislature will directly affect the future of students and Utah residents.  
Not many people are aware as to what is actually discussed during state legislation of how it will possibly effect Utah residents. More information regarding the Utah State Legislature can be obtained by visiting hpp://www.le.state.ut.us/ which is the official site for the Utah State Legislature.
The Utah State Legislators are elected by the individuals that they are chosen to represent, other wise known as constituents. Utah is divided into 29 districts determined by population; each district elects a senator to represent them in the legislature.   There are 29 members of the Utah State Senate, 21 which be long to the Republican Party and eight belong to the Democratic Party; with13 more members of the Republican Party they have the government majority in the state senate.   The second part of the Utah State Legislature is the Utah State House of Representatives.  The House of Representatives is made up of 75 members, 56 belong to the Republican Party and 19 which belong to the Democratic Party, with a government majority of 38 the Republicans control the legislature.                
The 57th Utah State Legislature began meeting Jan 15, 2007. The legislature congregates every Monday through Friday and continues through Feb 28, 2007. Once the legislature comes to a conclusion, student’s and tax-payers futures as well as pocket-books will change; only time will tell if it will be a positive change or not.