A longtime Republican senator from Provo says he will continue his previous efforts to reduce certain government regulations that he believes serve as bureaucratic hurdles if he is re-elected to the Utah State Legislature.
Sen. Curt Bramble, who has represented State Senate District 16 for nearly two decades and was forced into a primary during the Utah Republican Party’s April convention, said he would focus on “taking a critical look at our regulatory structure and reducing regulations, particularly where regulations appear to be turf protection.”
“They’re not primarily protecting public health, safety and welfare,” Bramble said Monday about the types of regulations he would target.
Bramble pointed to the state’s occupational and professional licensing requirements as an example. During this year’s general session, Bramble sponsored Senate Bill 23, a bill that makes it easier for those with out-of-state professional licenses who move to Utah to continue working.
“If an individual has a valid business license from any other state, and that license has been in place for at least a year and there’s been no agency action against that license, then DOPL (the Utah Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing) shall issue that individual a Utah license in whatever trade or profession it is,” Bramble said about the bill. “Unless DOPL believes that the individual is unqualified.”
S.B. 23 passed through both legislative chambers unanimously and was signed by Gov. Gary Herbert on March 30.
Prior to the bill’s passing, those licensed in other states “had to demonstrate that the education, the testing (and) the experience (they had) were substantially equivalent to that (required) of another state,” said Bramble, “and yet there was no criteria for what ‘substantially equivalent’ meant, and so trying to make it equal would never work. Because the tests are not exactly the same.
“And so it was a huge hurdle for individuals to come into Utah,” he said. “Where they’d been practicing or working a trade in another state but they couldn’t get a license in Utah.”
The Provo Republican also said he would work with other state lawmakers to pass comprehensive tax reform, noting that he is a certified public accountant (CPA), was “one of the chief architects” of the state’s 2007 tax reform package and opposed the most recent tax reform efforts.
The Legislature passed sweeping tax revisions in December and repealed the revisions on Jan. 28, the second day of the general session, following widespread public outrage.
Senate voting records show that Bramble was listed as “absent or not voting” during the two sessions that the Senate voted on the tax reform measure, Senate Bill 2001.
When asked why he opposed the state’s latest tax reform effort, Bramble said it was in part due to the rushed process that led to the bill passing.
“Even though I was on the (Tax Restructuring and Equalization) Task Force and even though we had eight months of holding hearings throughout the state, the actual bill came out on Dec. 11 and ... they passed it on Dec. 12,” said Bramble. “So the actual bill that passed never had a public hearing, it had no public input whatsoever.”
Bramble added that “there were provisions that I felt should have been in the bill that weren’t,” including tax relief for Social Security recipients and military retirees.
“Those were not part of the bill, and some of the things in the bill were very, very difficult (to understand),” he said. “If you’re going to have a very complex bill, you need to have time to take it back to your districts to listen to your constituents. You need to be able to explain to your constituents what’s being proposed and then listen to their responses.”
Bramble said the public would be able to give its input on tax reform this fall and tell lawmakers whether they supported removing a constitutional earmark on income taxes for education as part of that reform.
“One of the biggest challenges we have with our fiscal requirements is that we have a constitutional earmark on income taxes that they have to be set aside for education,” Bramble said. “On one hand, that sounds very good. But the practical reality is with that constitutional earmark … (Utah) has remained the last in the nation on education funding.”
Amending the constitution, Bramble said, would enable Utah lawmakers to “look for other innovative ways to see that education gets the funding it needs.”
Bramble received 58.3% of delegate votes during this year’s Utah Republican Party convention while his opponent, Sylvia Andrew, received 41.7% of votes. The two GOP candidates will compete during the primary election on June 30.