League of cities, towns anticipates policy debates at legislative session
During the Jan. 2 Sunnyside council meeting, Mayor Bruce Andrews provided information on the 2007 legislative session from the Utah League of Cities and Towns.
According to the report, the state will have significant budget surpluses in 2007 and the league anticipates major policy debates on issues such as eminent domain, transportation funding, telecommunication and cable taxes and local land use authority.
All Carbon County cities are members of the ULCT, which was formed in 1907 and serves 241 incorporated municipalities in Utah.
The ULCT's purpose is to represent the interest of municipal governments at the state and federal level as well as to provide training and technical assistance to local officials concerning municipal issues.
The league's report outlined the following points and proposals for the 2007 legislative session:
Land use - the ULCT contends that the significant and sustained growth in population throughout Utah has propelled proper management of land use to the forefront in the state.
In September 2006, the ULCT membership adopted a resolution to codify the position of the cities and towns on land use matters.
Among the specific proposal is the concept of allowing developers to compel a local authority to make decisions on specific land use matters.
The proposed legislation would not, however, predetermine the outcome of such a decision, but expedite the appeal process when appropriate, according to the report.
Sales tax distribution - during the 2006 Utah Legislature, the league supported legislation to move all cities and towns onto a 50-50 distribution formula for the 1 percent local option sales tax.
The formula is based 50 percent on the point of sale and 50 percent on the population of the city where the sale occurred.
The change in law had significant negative impact on many cities, but was determined appropriate by the ULCT to ensure that all cities were treated equally under the distribution formula.
The league's proposal is to encourage the Utah Legislature to allow local government to determine the appropriate distribution formula.
Telecommunication issues - the ULCT holds a policy position to ensure that all communities have telecommunications and cable options for their citizenry.
This means providing local franchise arrangements that ensure fair telecommunications competition and basic service to all residents within the city.
The league would like to see legislation that would maintain local government autonomy on franchising arrangements as to ensure a fair and comprehensive telecommunications environment in local communities according to their legislative newsletter for 2007.
Transportation funding - the league reports that transportation funding shortfall ranges from $5.8 billion in the next 10 years to roughly $16 billion in in the next 20 years.
The ULCT sees multiple funding sources as the only way to combat this enormous shortage of funds and will support the following actions.
The removal of the one-sixteenth sales tax diversion cap for local class B and C road projects. Class B and C roads include many of the coal haul routes and improved gravel roads locally.
The use of portions of the state budget surplus on one-time congestion mitigation improvements,
Clarification that local governments can bond against the the local option corridor preservation funding mechanism.
The league support and examine alternative transportation funding options including gas tax, vehicle registration fees, and local option tax authority.
Eminent Domain, the league of cities and towns recently passed a resolution that addresses private property right protections, while also ensuring that local governments may effectively redevelop blighted areas within their community. Eminent domain is a term used to define the power a government has to take property for public use if deemed necessary. The 5th Amendment of the United States Constitution provides that "just compensation" be payed for seized property. The league supports the following concepts along with others concerning this matter in their report.
To establish that only areas that comply with the new defined blighted area criteria are eligible for use of eminent domain under the redevelopment statute.
They would also require a super majority vote of the governing body before eminent domain can be included in the project area plan and implemented by an agency.
With the legislative session scheduled to begin on Jan. 15 there could be many changes in our cities and towns.