Utah legislator talks clean air, tobacco as Park City event nears
February 9, 2016
Parkites interested in the Utah Legislature may participate in a Saturday session this weekend.
Rep. Kraig Powell, a Republican legislator from Heber City whose district includes Park City, is scheduled to hold a town hall meeting in Park City. It is an opportunity to hear from Powell as the Legislature enters its final weeks of the year. The legislative session started on Jan. 25 and is scheduled to end on March 10.
Powell is expected to review his legislative agenda, likely talk about the overall session and take questions from the audience. There has not appeared to be an overriding issue that has captured the attention of Park City. There will likely be interest, though, in the possibility of legalizing marijuana for medical use as well as standard topics like education and transportation funding.
In an interview, Powell highlighted a piece of legislation that he intends to co-sponsor regarding air quality. The bill would require that all new water heaters to produce only ultra-low levels of nitrous oxide emissions.
"My Park City constituents often contact me about clean-air issues," he said.
Powell, meanwhile, is sponsoring a bill that would raise the age limit on tobacco products like cigarettes, electronic cigarettes and chewing tobacco. The age limit would be increased from 19 years old to 21 years old. Powell said research shows 90 percent of smokers begin prior to turning 21 years old. Increasing the minimum age would save lives and reduce future health care costs, Powell said.
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Powell also is sponsoring a bill that would prohibit someone from using an aerial drone if doing so would hinder firefighters battling a wildfire. Prohibiting drones at a fire scene would allow the firefighters to operate undisturbed by a drone flying above, he said.
Powell said the bill seeks to make violations anything from a class B misdemeanor to a second-degree felony, depending on the circumstances. A second-degree felony is punishable by a prison sentence of between one and 15 years and a $10,000 fine upon conviction while a class B misdemeanor is punishable by up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine if someone is convicted.
Powell’s list of numbered bills also includes pieces of legislation dealing with vehicle safety inspections, education funding, alcohol rules and testing standards.
A City Hall staffer intends to attend the Powell event, Matt Dias, the assistant Park City manager, said. Dias tracks the Legislature on behalf of the municipal government and plans to distribute a list of bills that City Hall is monitoring at a Park City Council meeting on Thursday.
Dias said Park City officials are especially interested in the possibility of a bill that would restrict a local government’s ability to regulate the location of short-term rentals, often dubbed nightly rentals. Park City restricts the location through zoning rules. Dias said legislation that removes the ability of a municipal government to restrict locations would "usurp the local authority."
"We’d be opposed to any legislation that removes our authority to plan and zone our community," Dias said.
The Powell event is scheduled from 2 p.m. until 4 p.m. on Saturday in Room 101 of the Park City Library.
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