|The Utah State Legislature is not meeting in the capitol building this year due to construction. All bills will be debated in an office building that stands north of the capitol. The quarters are cramped and little public viewing is allowed, but closed circuit television is being fed to other rooms to accomodate citizens who wish to see it. That video can also be viewed via the internet. A link to that can be found at www.le.utah.gov.|
In recent years, money distributed to counties by the Utah Permanent Community Impact Board has built everything from courthouses to golf courses.
The board determining where CIB money goes is made up of various members, some from state government, some from the counties and a few from such places as education.
But a bill introduced to the Utah House of Representatives' natural resources, agriculture and environment standing committee on Monday would change the makeup of the CIB board. The proposal basically eliminates the education representatives on the board and adds two members from the largest mineral producing counties.
The bill is sponsored by John G. Mathis, the legislator whose district includes most of Uintah County.
Uintah County is currently the state's largest federal mineral lease revenue contributor to the CIB fund.
"That board has a thin line to walk when it is considering requests for funds from various counties," said state representative Brad King on Monday. "Certainly the producing counties have a right to representation on the board, but that board also has to take into account the past, counties that were impacted over the years by mineral production and are not requesting funds for projects."
King, who represents legislative district 69 which includes 2/3 of Carbon County, said he had just looked at the bill and hadn't weighed all the ramifications of it just yet.
The proposed bill alters the basic makeup of the CIB board by removing two of the 11 positions currently occupied by a representative from the state board of education (public education) and the state board of regents (higher education).
The slots would be filled by representatives from the two Utah counties producing the most mineral lease monies during the four-year period prior to the terms of appointment.
The two counties would be would be determined by the state's department of community and economic development.
Excluding the two education positions, the members who presently sit on the CIB panel include:
A representative from the states board of water resources.
A representative from the state water quality board.
A representative from the CIB staff.
The state treasurer.
A representative from the state transportation commission.
A locally elected official from Carbon, Emery, Grand or San Juan county.
A locally elected official from Duchesne, Daggett or Uintah county.
A locally elected official from Juab, Millard, Sanpete, Sevier, Piute or Wayne county.
A locally elected official from Beaver, Iron, Washington, Garfield or Kane county.
Representatives that fill the county spots are presently nominated by the states respective association of governments associations (in the case of the Carbon, Emery, Grand, San Juan nominee it is the Southeastern Association of Governments (SEUAOG) ).
For some it would seem this bill is the logical step in the evolution of the CIB. In recent years, both branches of education have received some money from the CIB but the emphasis has shifted. Many think that energy and mineral producing counties need more representation on the board.
However others fear that some counties could get more power on the board than they should have. For instance Uintah county belongs to the Uintah Basin Association of Governments and could have two representatives from their county on the board because they are the number one mineral-producing county in the state.
Another fear is that changing the board could have an effect on the money the board works with. At a recent SEUALG board meeting this very problem was discussed. Some members voiced concern that presenting such a bill could be like waving a red flag in front of a bull, with the bull being the state, drawing attention to the CIB and the amount of money it has.
Another bill in the state senate also could draw attention to that money as it asks for more of the states portion of the severance tax on oil and gas be given to the counties and local governments as well.
The CIB revision bill is now in committee and will be held there until it is debated and analyzed.
King says that since the legislature began 11 working days ago, one bill residents of Carbon County have been especially concerned with is a bill that would require medical personnel to report injuries incurred from ATV and off-road vehicle accidents in the same way the law requires them to report gun shot and stab wounds.
"That bill got instant attention from many residents in our county," said King. "I got a lot of calls and emails wondering why this bill wanted to group those injuries in with crime statistics."
King surmised that the bill was really designed so the state could keep accurate statistics on the injuries and injury rates, but he also realized that it could be used for other purposes as well, particularly for those that oppose ATV use in the state on public lands.
"Right now it is being held in committee," he said. "That is one bill we will be watching closely."
King said that there would be some kind of commendation from the legislature in the next few weeks for Waldo Wilcox, who owned the Range Creek property until two years ago when the state took it over. After the state acquired it they realized the enormous cultural resources that existed in caves and along the bases of cliffs in the parcel. Most scientists agree it may be among the last untouched sites pertaining to ancient peoples who lived in the area over a thousand years ago.
"We want to honor him for being such a good steward of that land during all the years he ran it," said King.