Editorial: Don’t forget about Utah State Legislature amid another busy winter

With the busy season underway, the Sundance Film Festival fast approaching and Olympic qualifiers dotting the calendar ahead of the Pyeongchang Games in February, Parkites have plenty to keep their attention over the next couple of months.

But we must take time to focus on another winter tradition, as well: the Utah State Legislature’s 2018 session. Lawmakers are scheduled to convene Jan. 22 for the month-and-a-half-long sprint, and more than 200 bills have already been filed. As always, whatever happens on Capitol Hill will be felt throughout Summit County, meaning residents have a responsibility to pay attention and engage in the democratic process.

This far out, it can be difficult to predict many of the issues that will be most important for Parkites during this session. But there are a few critical topics that are sure to be raised.

One of them is education funding. Park City school officials expect a segment of lawmakers to make another push to redistribute property tax revenue even more dramatically from wealthier areas to poorer districts across the state. If such a bill passes, residents within the Park City School District would likely be affected more than anyone else in the state as an even greater portion of their tax dollars would be distributed to schools outside of Summit County. A more general debate about public education funding will also be among the more prominent topics of the session, given the looming Our Schools Now initiative.

Parkites will also want to pay attention to the discussion about the controversial law passed last year that dropped the blood-alcohol content threshold for a DUI from 0.08 to 0.05, the lowest mark in the country. Hospitality figures in Park City have joined their counterparts from around the state to voice concern that the law could damage the tourism industry. And since it doesn’t take effect until the end of 2018, many are hoping lawmakers tweak it to be more in line with other states that have taken firm, but more reasonable, stances against drunk driving.

Myriad other issues will arise as the legislative session unfolds.

Fortunately, keeping up with the action will be easier than ever this year. The Legislature recently unveiled a revamped website designed to be more mobile friendly, provide information about a user’s representatives based on location and be accessible for people with vision or hearing problems, among other tweaks. That’s in addition to a bill-tracking feature that has made it a breeze in recent years to follow pieces of legislation throughout the session.

It will be an important tool for Parkites, and one that gives them little excuse for not keeping up with what lawmakers are doing, despite all the other action happening locally this winter.

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