By Maren McInnes
Capital West News
SALT LAKE CITY — The 2015 Utah General Legislative Session heard many major bills about rural Utah. Here are some of the many bills that passed
SB5S1 Natural Resources, Agriculture, and Environmental Quality Base Budget
Sponsored by David Hinkins, R-Orangeville, this bill appropriates $302,267,200 in operating and capital budgets for the fiscal year 2016. It will take effect on July 1, 2015.
HB25 Water Law – Applications and Revisions
This bill sponsored by Rep. Lowry Snow, R-St. George, changes the procedure for a change application. It allows a person who is proposing a change application to request a meeting with the state engineer to discuss issues with the change and allows the engineer to determine if the change would result in “quantity impairment of another water right.” The burden of proof is on the person who applies for the change.
SB14 Renewable Energy Tax credit amendments
This bill was heard during the interim and as Sen. Ralph Okerland, R-Monroe, explains, it is a “clean up bill.” It defines eight commercial energy systems and makes a few technical changes. The language was changed to coordinate with SB13 Income Tax Amendments, sponsored by Sen. Deidre Henderson, R-Spanish Fork. SB14 is sponsored by Okerlund.
HB393 Energy Zones Amendments
Sponsored by Rep. Mike Noel, R-Kanab, this bill creates San Juan County Energy Zones and adopts energy exploration, access, and development policy for the San Juan County. Energy zones are areas under state lands that will become designated for energy development. San Juan County has been recognized for its energy potential and is seen valuable for that asset.
SB216S3 High Cost Infrastructure Tax Credit
Sponsored by Okerlund, this bill will give tax credit incentives to encourage companies to move to rural areas. Companies could apply for a 30 percent tax credit against the costs made for the infrastructure, including roads and running water, gas, and electric lines.
SB76 Substitute Rural Physician Loan Repayment Program
Sponsored by Hinkins, this bill provides grants for health care professionals who work in underserved rural communities. The grants could help pay off high student debts in exchange for their work for a designated amount of time.
SB154 Coal Ash Regulation Amendments
In December, new federal EPA regulations were passed on waste management, especially with ash that comes from burning coal. In the past, plants could place the ash into ponds on the plants’ property or use the ash to mix with cement if it meets certain requirements. State governments have oversight to ensure that this law is implemented. However, the current Solid and Hazardous Waste Act does not include ash as solid waste. Sponsored by Okerlund, this bill removes ash as an exemption.
SB264S1 Survey Monuments Replacement
With wildfires, chaining, and land rehabilitation, often survey and corner markers are removed, displaced, or destroyed. Private lands and public lands are both affected. Sponsored by Okerlund, this bill creates a committee that would administer a way to replace the markers. This committee will have seven members, five appointed by a group who represents Utah counties and two by the ARGC. They will all have to have a knowledge of the public land survey system. This bill has a $100,000 fund appropriated to it.
HB149 Utah Research Institute for Mine Safety and Productivity
Sponsored by Mark Wheatley, R-Murray, this bill makes the University of Utah Center for Mining Safety and Health Excellence the Utah Research Institute for Mine Safety and Productivity.
SB188 Oil, Gas, and Mining Amendments
Sponsored by Sen. Kevin Van Tassell, R-Vernal, this bill allows the Utah Board of Oil, Gas, and Mining to permit drilling of more than one well in a drilling unit provided the board finds engineering or geological characteristics to justify it and it will not create waste.
HB140 Sovereign Lands Around Bear Lake
Sponsored by Rep. Curt Webb, R-Logan, this bill allows for parallel travel along the shores of the lake, defines the word “vessel,” and includes a provision to allows individuals with public access to the lake an opportunity to obtain a license to launch their boats into Bear Lake and to receive invasive species education.
HB102 Agricultural Tourism Amendments
Sponsored by Rep. Lee Perry, R-Perry, this bill removes liability from farmers for those who are injured by inherent risks while visiting their farms. It eliminates the liability of an agricultural area operator when the participant fails “to follow instructions or exercise reasonable care.” However, the bill does require the operator to “post signs describing the inherent risks of an activity.”
HB269S1 Tourist-oriented Highway Signing Program
Sponsored by Noel, this bill allows tourist-oriented directional signs on interstates. This is an entirely new signing program, Noel explains. It is supported by the Utah division of tourism and many businesses.
HB254S01 Livestock Branding Amendments
Sponsored by Noel, this bill defines livestock emergencies, addresses the trade of livestock on websites, and proposes new penalties to discourage theft of livestock. Livestock emergencies are defined as, “the presence of a contagious, infectious, or transmissible disease risk to livestock” and natural disasters. If the Department of Agriculture declares a livestock emergency, people transporting cattle may be required to participate in brand inspection.
Websites designed to sell livestock must say: “Legality of Sales and Purchase, Health Laws. If you sell or purchase livestock on this site, you shall comply will all applicable legal requirements governing the transfer and shipment of livestock, including Utah Code Title 4, Chapter 25, Utah Livestock Brand and Anti-Theft Act, and Title 4, Chapter 31, Control of Animal Disease. Please contact the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food at 801-538-7137 with any questions.
Finally, any person who violates any portion of the Utah Livestock Brand and Anti-Theft Act of the Utah Code is “guilty of a class B misdemeanor” and subject to a fine of up to $1,000 per violation.
HB384 Grazing Zones Amendments
Sponsored by Noel, this bill adds and amends Utah Grazing Agricultural Commodity Zones. It establishes Utah Grazing Agricultural Commodity Zones in Washington County. It also allows counties to pursue grazing options that to lessen the potential for wildfire on grazing zones.