As week six of the 2008 General Session comes to a close, here's an update on things that will be of interest to south-eastern Utah communities.
HB 402. I have signed as a co-sponsor with Rep. Fred Hunsaker, R-Logan, on HB 402. This bill requires drivers to pull off the road when holding up five or more cars behind them. This would be especially helpful in rural areas, particularly on canyon roads such as Highway 6. Sometimes the most dangerous situations on our highways are created by drivers impeding the flow of traffic. This causes the trailing drivers a great deal of frustrations which leads to unsafe passing. This bill should ease frustration and make our roads safer.
Budget. Budget talks are getting serious on the Hill. What once was a very bright fiscal picture has turned into a very average year for state funding. The lower projections have left all of state government competing for funding sources $340,000,000 short of revenue projections made just three months ago.
Education. A proposal for teacher compensation was once talked about in terms of $2,500 per teacher with a recommendation for a 7 percent increase in per pupil funding. However, that has now been modified to $1,700 per teacher and 2.5 percent increase in per pupil funding.
I have been in favor of the 7 percent increase and will continue to push for funding along those lines. Much of the available education fund money is being used for new programs. While new programs are nice when funding is available, this year the money needs to be targeted for teacher's pay.
Veterans. Funding for the Veteran's Nursing home is a step closer to reality. The bill has now passed the House and the Senate and has been prioritized for funding. The bill allowing high school diplomas for veterans has passed both the House and Senate and is awaiting the Governor's signature.
Public Lands. Several bills protecting access to public lands continue to make their way through the legislature. I have supported these bills and they will certainly help with ensuring Utah's public lands remain open for multiple-use.
I will provide a legislative wrap up at the conclusion of the session. The session will conclude at or about midnight on March 5.