Summit County to host state legislators at County Courthouse
It’s no secret that Summit County has lacked a presence in Utah state politics over the years, undeniably struggling to ensure its interests are heard at the state capitol, according to Jana Young, Summit County’s director of public policy and intergovernmental affairs.
The county’s Democratic-leanings in a largely Republican state has left leaders polarized on policy issues and created an unfavorable view of the county at the statehouse, she said.
In an effort to facilitate a stronger relationship with state legislators, the county is scheduled to host a legislative reception on Thursday, Nov. 9, from 4 to 6 p.m. at the County Courthouse in Coalville.
Young, who was hired to improve the county’s relationship with the Legislature, said the event is an opportunity for the county’s elected leaders and department heads to meet with state representatives and discuss some of the issues the Legislature will be covering in the coming session.
“While we have made a lot of strides through the Utah Association of Counties, we are still trying to change perceptions and be more collegial,” she said. “This is part of that effort. I don’t think a lot of legislators have had the opportunity to come to the courthouse and meet with the county’s elected officials. This is their chance to get to know us and the county.”
Lawmakers who represent the county in the State House and Senate have been invited to the event. Rep. Logan Wilde (R-Morgan), Rep. Tim Quinn (R-Heber), Sen. Kevin T. Van Tassell (R-Vernal) and Sen. Allen M. Christensen (R-Ogden) are among those expected to attend.
The reception is not advertised as a public event. However, Young said if members of the public show up, they will not be turned away.
“It is certainly an open meeting and because it impacts the community, people may have an interest in hearing about it,” she said. “But, it’s more of a chance for us to focus on the relationships we are trying to build between the council and our elected representatives.”
Some of the issues that leaders are expected to discuss at the event include tax reform, transportation planning and funding, funding for new elections equipment and local matters, including failing septic systems.
Kent Jones, county clerk, said he is interested in the level of support the state is going to provide for funding new elections equipment. He said federal funding has contributed to equipment purchases in previous years. But, he said, the state and counties will be on the hook for the next election cycle.
“The county is going to have to scrape up some money in the budget for the new equipment we need for mail-in ballots, but we are hoping for a 50/50 match,” he said. “If the state gives us something from the Legislature then it won’t be that big of a yearly hit.”
Steve Martin, county assessor, said he plans to attend the event because he wants more information about any tax or revenue measures that may be under consideration. He said he has heard rumors about changes to how primary residences or greenbelt farm lands are assessed. Tax reform for existing taxes, exemptions and credits were a major focus during the Legislature’s interim session. Utah’s Tax Review Commission is expected to provide recommendations during the 2018 Legislative session for ways to modernize the state and local tax system.
“As of right now I don’t really have anything concrete to talk to them about,” he said. “The discussion about tax reform will be interesting, and I do have questions about what they think will happen and how it will affect fulfilling my responsibilities. I always try and keep tabs on everything as close as I can as far as the duties of my office.”
Knowing these issues are being debated at the state level, Young said, “We just want the opportunity to let them know where our concerns are and find out what they are planning on working on.
“It is a good chance for them to hear what we are monitoring and what we are concerned about as we head into a situation where they are taking votes and debating,” she said. “We want them to keep in their mind the interest of their constituents.”