We are now half-way through the 2008 Legislative session. Here's an update on a few accomplishments so far.
Base budget. On the first day of the session, HB 1 Minimum School Program Base Budget Amendments passed the House of Representatives.
This bill approves the same operating budget for schools as last year, but also allows for this year's growth.
The bill does not increase per-pupil spending, but accommodates new, incoming students.
New appropriations will be decided in the coming weeks. I am hopeful that we will see a significant increase in the per-pupil funding including a healthy increase for our teachers.
I will be paying special attention to several initiatives that would benefit both public and higher education in rural Utah.Issues such as transportation, opportunities for accelerated learning programs, and capital equalization, certainly affect rural schools much differently than in urban areas.I will report on these as they are addressed.
For our Vets. There are number of bills this year that provide services to our state's Veterans. HB 129 appropriated $19.7 million for the construction of a Veterans' Nursing Home in Ogden.
With many of Utah's Veterans watching from the gallery, the bill passed unanimously out of the House. When the vote was closed, the whole room stood and applauded.
We are grateful to be able to provide this facility to Utah's Veterans who have served our state and our country.
Several other measures recognizing the sacrifices made in our behalf by our Veterans are making their way through the system. I will add further details as they become available.
Public Lands. This week a joint resolution was heard in committee opposing limits on access to public lands.
The resolution passed unanimously out of committee and is now ready to be heard on the House floor. As always I will be vigilant in supporting measures that support and ensure multiple-use policies for our public lands.
Healthcare reform. The House has passed the first step to significant health care reform. HB 133 Health System Reform sets up the framework for study of the issues surrounding healthcare and a task force that will spend the rest of the year studying methods to increase quality healthcare for Utah's citizens.
The task force will examine methods of cost containment, increasing accessibility, portability, affordability, and quality of healthcare in Utah.