Still in the midst of a busy 2014 legislative session, 53rd District Rep. Melvin Brown (R-Coalville) announced that he will run for re-election once again this November. Brown's current tenure in the State Legislature began in 2007. He also served a lengthy stint from 1987 to 2000.
Brown said that defending property and water rights are two issues of importance to him and his constituents. "We've got to continue the fight for rural Utah - bottom line," he said.
Two bills related to water rights that Brown said are crucial include H.B. 49, sponsored by Rep. Kay McIff (R-Richfield) and S.B. 211, sponsored by Sen. Margaret Dayton (R-Orem).
S.B. 211 would require a person applying for a temporary or permanent change to a water right to allow the state engineer to determine the amount of water being beneficially used and to limit approval of that application to that determination. H.B. 49 would change the requirements needed for a water right change application and would require parties to mediate water right issues.
With about two weeks remaining in the legislative session, Brown is confident that these two bills can be passed.
State sovereignty is another notable cause to be advanced, and he said he thinks it is being "ignored."
"All of us Western states with a lot of public land are at a distinct disadvantage because it controls our tax base and puts an inordinate burden on our citizens and we have to put up regulations on surface rights and don't have access to mineral rights," Brown said.
Addressing Utah's underfunded education system is also a priority, and he said the Legislature is "trying to do all we can" to give Utah students more opportunities even though the state spends less on education than any other state in the union. He said our students' performance is "good, but it's still not enough."
With the population along the Wasatch Range expected to double in the next 25 to 30 years, Brown said bolstering existing infrastructure is crucial. He said residents of Summit County may expect the drive to Salt Lake City not to have similar traffic problems as the Interstate 15 corridor over time, but added many Utahns may migrate to Summit County, exacerbating transportation issues.
This legislative session, Brown has been involved with bills seeking to close unneeded "off-budget accounts." Every year, the Fiscal Analyst's Office mandates in-depth audit of a Legislature-related area. These unnecessary off-budget accounts, of which Brown said there are 35, are either not being used or are no longer functional. Bills must be passed to repeal those accounts, he said, although the largest account was in the $7,000-8,000 range.
"The question is, why have [these accounts] in statute when they don't mean anything and they don't do anything?" said Brown who sits on the House Appropriations Committee.
Beyond fiscal responsibility, Brown is concerned about state sovereignty, and he hopes the long-lasting struggle between the federal government and individual states is remedied soon.
"Hopefully, somehow, we can bring that balance back a little and allow the states a little more self-determination," Brown said.
The filing window to run for Brown's seat in the state legislature will be open from March 14-20. District 53 covers the east side of Summit County and portions of the Snyderville Basin. The district also includes portions of Rich, Daggett and Duchesne counties. So far, no other candidates have announced their intention to oppose him.
For more information on Rep. Brown's sponsored bills this legislative session, visit le.utah.gov.