Representative highlights bills, issues expected to appear before Legislature
Rep. Patrick Painter of Utah District 67 encompassing western Carbon County may live more than a 100 miles from Helper, Spring Glen and Carbonville, but his recognition of the problems in the eastern part of the state and what people think is clear.
"I love to come to Carbon County and visit that part of my district," said Painter during an interview last week. "The people are genuine and they treat me like a rock star when I come there."
Painter took over a district a few years ago that is split between a highly Republican area in Utah, Juab and Sanpete counties and a largely Democratic one in Carbon.
Some local residents were concerned about a Republican representative's ability to understand the problems of an area that has been labor oriented for years. But based on comments from even his Democratic counterparts in the Utah Legislature, Painter has represented the area well.
And the state legislator intends to keep doing that.
"I am interested in representing my entire district, whether particular citizens are Democrats, Republicans or Independents," explained Painter.
The representative, who owns Painter Motor, a Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge dealership in Nephi, sees a lot of bills coming through the Legislature that can affect rural lifestyles and economies.
"Last year, there was a bill in the Legislature to provide better gas and oil revenues for the counties involved in the production of those valuable assets," said Painter. "I think this year it will be funded. And most specifically, that could provide a lot of funds for Carbon County, possibly up to $3 million."
In addition, Painter indicated that the usual debate about how to set the budget for the state for the year will also be a big part of the larger story.
The state representative pointed out that the budget surplus will not be as large in 2008 as last year, when teachers an unprecedented amount of money directly from the legislature.
"Still, the fights will be over how to split the money between education and the general fund," said Painter. "People obviously have different ideas on this. There will be some talk about limiting property tax increases and, of course, this year we will begin to see the results of the 5 percent flat tax that was enacted by the Legislature last year. That tax system began on Jan. 1."
The statewide news media has also been hyping a bill that Painter and Senator Margaret Dayton of Orem are proposing to the legislature.
The legislative proposal allows municipalities and water districts to hold onto unused water rights longer than in the past.
"The water right forfeiture bill is a bill to allow counties, municipalities and water districts to plan better for growth," said Painter. "It will allow them to keep the water for a long time so that they can know what they will have if their population increases."
House Bill 51, or Water Right Forfeiture Protection as the proposal is known, would protect specific entities from forfeiture of water rights for non-use reasons.
The legislation would allow cities and water districts to retain unused water rights for 30 years; farmers and ranchers would have to apply every seven years.
At present, all groups must apply every five years.
Some in agriculture are nervous about the bill. But Painter said the bill is good for everyone and will not harm agriculture.