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Utah lawmakers talk about missed opportunities

The last day of Utah's 2019 State Legislative session lasted until about 11 pm where lawmakers passed a record number of bills. Photo: Colby Walker

SALT LAKE CITY — Leaders on Capitol Hill almost all said they wished they could have done something with tax reform this session, but it did feel too rushed at the end. The Governor hopes a special session this summer will be able to look at a new plan that includes a bigger tax cut for Utahns as well as add taxes on more services.

“It’s a complex issue and, certainly, it’s a significantly important issue, but we need to do a better job of communication,” said Governor Gary Herbert.

Representative Mike Winder, R-West Valley said no tax bill this session feels “like the big unfinished business of the session, because we have a structural imbalance we have to deal with.”

Similar feelings were voiced by Rep. Steven Handy (R-Davis) as well, “Tax reform came so late, it was so complicated, even the rank and file didn’t understand it.”

Some lawmakers weren’t happy about some compromises on big issues, even if they passed. Or they didn’t like changes to certain bills.

“I was really hoping we’d have some real progress made in conversion therapy, and that definitely got bogged down in politics,” said Salt Lake Democratic State Senator Derek Kitchen.

Feelings that were shared by Republican Lt. Governor Spencer Cox, “The conversion therapy issue was disappointing for sure,”  agreed he said, “We were really close to getting something done there.”

Medicaid was another big bill that State Sen. Luz Escamilla (D-Salt Lake) wasn’t happy with, “We had to deal with Medicaid expansion that was not an ideal bill,” she said

“I had HB 209, extreme risk protection orders,” Rep. Handy told us, “we worked really hard on it, took it as far as it could go. It didn’t get a hearing. Maybe next year.”

Davis County Republican state senator Todd Weiler says education, transportation and clean air are topics that never seemed to be resolved to everyone’s satisfaction.

He thinks gun bills, police and firefighter salaries and retirement will be back next year.

“We are a reactive body, if something big happens like the Lauren McCluskey shooting, there’s always stuff that we are reacting too,” said Weiler.

And he mentioned another disappointment:

“Tire recycling, as weird as that sounds. We reimburse companies to recycle tires so they don’t end up in our landfills, but we don’t reimburse them enough. I was trying to get a bill passed this year and I had to scale it back,” he said.