Condos, livestock and drinks, Oh my!
In addition to proposals that will affect the entire state, such as changes to liquor laws, there are also bills addressing real estate and ranching.
Many of the lawmakers are Realtors themselves, like Rep. Gage Froerer, R-Hunstville, who is sponsoring eight bills dealing with real estate and property issues.
Chris Kyler, CEO of the Utah Association of Realtors, said he was at the Capitol Monday in meetings about the rights of Home Owner Associations. He said that, in some ways, Utah has three different sets of laws dealing with property in organized communities.
He said of a lot of the discussion going on at the Capitol is about creating a uniform set of laws for condominiums, timeshares, town homes and traditional subdivisions with an H.O.A. (like Promontory or Tuhaye).
"They’re trying to strike a balance between the property rights of owners and the rights of the community," he said. "It’s harder than it sounds."
Rep. Curt Webb, R-Logan, is sponsoring HB10 addressing some of these issues.
He said he’d like to see a registry set up for H.O.A.’s so parties involved with the transfer of ownership can easily access documents on unpaid fees or other problems that could lead to legal entanglement.
He said he’s also concerned about the authority of H.O.A.’s to put a lien on a property because of unpaid fees.
"Should they be empowered to have those foreclosure rights which no one else does except those holding first mortgages?" he said. "Nonjudicial foreclosure powers seem overly strong for liens this size," he said.
Rep. Froerer could not be reached for comment, but he also has a bill addressing H.O.A. rights called HB86 that pertains to rules about owners renting out their unit and laws restricting future developments of the community.
Rep. Patrick Painter, R-Nephi, could not be reached but is working on a bill addressing liens on property due to unpaid water bills. Sen. Wayne Niederhauser, R-Sandy, who could not be reached, is sponsoring SB31 modifying the Residential Mortgage Practices and Licensing Act, with many proposed changes to licensing procedures.
Rep. James Dunnigan, R-Taylorsville, would like to see mobile home park residents be given the opportunity to make an offer on the park if desired. The current law only requires park owners to notify residents of a sale after it is done. Sometimes residents wish to pool resources and purchase the park together. He would require park owners to notify residents of their intention to sell. Sen. Scott Jenkins, R-Plain City, has a bill that would clarify the services covered by the mobile park fee so new residents are not confused as to what utilities and other costs are covered by the owners.
Clubs and Restaurants
Sen. Scott McCoy, D-Salt Lake City, would like to make changes to liquor laws.
Current law requiring stickers from the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control to be placed on every bottle in Utah costs the state $1 million a year and isn’t any more effective at preventing alcohol smuggling than scanning bar codes, he said.
He’d also like to extend a recent change that allows clubs and restaurants to serve alcohol on election days to state liquor stores.
"It’s only two days maximum, and being open will mean more revenue for the state," he said.
And a third provision of his SB 106 would allow restaurants to serve alcohol from 10 a.m. to 1 a.m. instead of noon to midnight the same as private clubs.
McCoy said it doesn’t make any sense to restrict the hours of establishments serving food with alcohol to limit the hours people could be driving under the influence.
Regarding the bigger picture of liquor law reform at the 2009 legislature, McCoy said he’s concerned that it will turn into some kind of bizarre trade-off. He’s afraid some lawmakers will say they will only support the end of private club memberships if other measures are taken to restrict access to alcohol like forcing restaurants to erect barriers hiding bars.
"It doesn’t make sense to trade one crazy liquor law for another," he said.
He called scanning driver licenses "Orwellian," "authoritarian," and "paternalistic," and said it’d be an expansion of government and a decrease of privacy both contrary to Republican Party platforms.
"It’s not a good trade. It’s the solidifying of the Zion Iron Curtain and setting up a police state," he said. "One step forward, two steps back."
Rep. Neil Hansen, D-Ogden, would like to see smoking lounges permitted in Utah.
Two entrepreneurs, Madison Palmer and Samantha Sanchez, told him they’d like to open a smoke shop or a cigar bar in Ogden but were prohibited by the Utah Indoor Clean Air Act.
Hansen is seeking an exception to the law for businesses that make at least 25 percent of their profit from the sale of tobacco.
That requirement would prevent restaurants and private clubs from using the law as a loophole, but would allow places for smokers to go to smoke, Palmer said.
Rep. Wayne Harper, R-West Jordan, is sponsoring HB55 to allow counties to tax alcohol served in restaurants for the purpose of promoting tourism and maintaining airports.
Current law allows counties to tax food in restaurants up to 1 percent of the sale. Harper said his bill is just an extension of that which was neglected in previous legislation.
"This is a simple clarification bill," he said via email. "This is a local option tax and stays in the county."
Summit County Treasurer Glen Thompson said he found the proposal curious.
"It’s nice to have additional revenue for tourism purposes, but in my mind any tax has to be really justified before we can do it. No one up here is really interested in raising taxes," he said.
The Park City Chamber/Bureau is one entity that receives funding from these county taxes. Chamber/Bureau executive director Bill Malone won’t learn the details of the bill until today, but said Tuesday his "initial reaction is taxes are high enough."
"I’ve watched Harper over the years, I’m trying to think where he’s drubbed this one up," Thompson said facetiously. "Alcohol and tax are two words he usually isn’t involved with."
Harper responded by saying he does not shy away from controversial issues.
Rep. Ronda Menlove, R-Garland, who could not be reached, would like to clarify the definition of and punishments for "Wanton Destruction of Livestock."
Rep. Michael Noel, R-Kanab, who also could not be reached, is sponsoring a bill regarding livestock watering rights on public land.
Rep. Sheryll Allen, R-Bountiful, who could not be reached, is sponsoring HB236 making changes to the procedure to apply for government museum and library grants.
Go to http://www.le.utah.gov to look up bills by subject, number or sponsor.
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