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Front Page » February 21, 2012 » Opinion » Guest column: It's the middle of Utah's legislative session
Published 953 days ago

Guest column: It's the middle of Utah's legislative session


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By CHRISTINE WATKINS
State Representative District 69

The legislative session is half over and every day is a very busy one. There were over 1,200 bills filed and just over 900 hundred were titled and numbered.

There have been some attempts to open bills dealing with controversial issues from last year, mainly immigration. However, legislators are not ready to rehash what happened in the last session.

HB263 is a bill to give unemployment benefits to spouses of military men or women who quit jobs when they are transferred out of state. Members of the House overwhelmingly supported the bill. A few senators attacked the bill saying that members of the military have plenty of benefits. It did pass the Senate and is on its way to the Governor for signing.

HB124 requires veterans who have been honorably discharged and reservists to take steps to relinquish residency in other states before qualifying for instate tuition. We have soldiers who have gone to war, come back, and now have to pay out-of-state tuition.

SB 116 would give exempt status to a soldier who is deployed more than 200 days in a year from paying his property tax for that year. One senator was particularly angry about this bill. He indicated that we pay for soldiers clothing, we let them shop at the PX, etc. and he did not want to pay his own property taxes, let alone a soldier's tax. We were given an approximate amount as to how much this would increase our property taxes; it was just a couple of dollars.

I have supported the first two bills and I am waiting for the third bill to come to the House floor. I appreciate what the military does for us and our country. I am not always able to help them and their families and believe that these bills provide appropriate ways for all of us to thank them.

I am just sorry this type of help was not there for the men of my generation who fought in the Vietnam War, but to all of you I give a grateful and heartfelt thank you.

A bill that I sponsored, HB60 Proceeds from Federal Grants for Miners' Hospital, is waiting for the Governor's signature. This bill will require the Miners Hospital and the University of Utah to give an accounting of the money they receive each year. The money they receive is from the interest on the Miners Trust Fund that was established when Utah became a state. This fund is to help all miners in Utah who need medical help. Many miners are receiving hearing aids from this fund. If you or someone in your family is a disabled miner or elderly miner in need of medical help from conditions that mining could have caused please look up the Miners Hospital and get medical and financial help.

I am still watching the ECDC permit issue. I have made some calls and am watching the process as the permit is studied.

The Executive Appropriations Committee will start meeting this week and the entities that are hoping for financial help from the legislature will soon find out their financial fate.

I am proud to be a rural legislator and I am working hard with other rural legislators to keep our voices strong.

You can contact me at cwatkins@le.utah.gov.

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February 21, 2012
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