With less than two weeks left in Utah’s 45-day legislative session, several big issues are left to be tackled by legislators, including a huge tax reform measure.
House Bill 441, the Tax Equalization and Reduction Act, cleared its first hurdle Friday when it was passed through a committee to move on for full consideration in Utah’s House of Representatives. The 8,000-line tax bill aims to correct a declining sales tax base by lowering the state sales tax rate to 3.1 percent and reducing income taxes, but in return, taxing services.
The sponsor of the tax overhaul bill, Rep. Tim Quinn, R-Heber City, told the House Revenue and Taxation Committee on Friday that Utah has been moving away from a goods economy and more towards a service economy. He used the example that he used to buy music by purchasing a record, which was taxed. His kids get music by purchasing a subscription service, which is not taxed.
“Those may seem insignificant, but when you multiply them over the hundreds and hundreds of things that we used to buy that now many of us consume as a service, you can understand the problem,” Quinn said.
A few other measures still making their way through the Legislature during the next two weeks include:
Conversion therapy: A bill that would prohibit “conversion therapy” to be used on minors was held by a House committee Friday. The plan would prohibit any treatment aimed at changing sexual orientation or gender identity, which has ranged from talk therapy to practices like electric shock. Therapists who practice it could lose their license.
BYU subject to GRAMA: Senate Bill 197, sponsored by Sen. Curt Bramble, R-Provo, would require Brigham Young University’s private police force to be subject to public records and transparency laws. BYU has spoken in favor of the bill, which was approved by a Senate committee and is currently on the Senate consent calendar.
Emergency funds: House Bill 305, sponsored by Rep. Mike McKell, R-Spanish Fork, would create an account to make disaster mitigation funds available to municipalities and counties. The bill was inspired by the needs of cities like Woodland Hills and Elk Ridge, which were greatly impacted by the Pole Creek and Bald Mountain fires in September. The bill has passed the House and been introduced in the Senate.
Alcohol policy: A bill to allow a higher percentage of alcohol by weight available in Utah grocery stores made it through the Senate, but has yet to advance in the House. Senate Bill 132 would change the alcohol level allowed to be sold in grocery and convenience stores from 3.2 percent to 4.8 percent by weight.
Abortion: House Bill 166, sponsored by Rep. Karianne Lisonbee, R-Clearfield, and Bramble prohibits an abortion if the woman is seeking an abortion “solely because an unborn child has or may have Down syndrome.” The bill has passed both the House and Senate and will head to the governor’s desk for a signature.