Effort to wrest federal lands meets push to pay teachers better at Capitol.
Underpaid teachers and opponents of Utah’s new national monument on Wednesday came together in a rare piece of legislation bridging the two groups.
The proposal from Rebecca Edwards, R-North Salt Lake, won support from the House Wednesday morning. It urges the state to set aside potential future sales of public lands to grow teacher’s starting salaries.
The House passed the measure onto the Senate in a 62-7 vote.
Utah lawmakers have long maintained that the state, which is covered by two-thirds federally-managed land, could better maintain its public lands and keep it open to a variety of uses, including energy development.
“This is an attempt to marry public lands with public education and address significant concerns with both in the state,” Edwards said.
Utah’s rate of teachers leaving in their first five years is higher than the national average, according to state figures. And teacher pay became a flashpoint last summer, when the state board allowed college graduates to begin teaching without any prior experience in classrooms. The move was made amid a statewide teacher shortage.
The board said the streamlined the path to a teacher’s license removed unnecessary requirements for people who already have expertise, but critics said it was short-sighted. Teachers unions and some legislators opposed the policy, saying the real problem is low salaries and a lack of respect for teachers, which start out at about $35,000 in Utah, according to state figures.
The bill won praise from West Jordan Republican Rep. Ken Ivory, who chairs the legislative Commission on Federalism that seeks to limit the reach of the federal government in Utah.
The resolution lacks the force of law, Edwards said, but lays out the Legislature’s intent should the state succeed in gaining control of federal lands.
A measure encouraging Utahns to buy cars with higher smog ratings has won approval from the Utah House of Representatives.
The House on Wednesday passed the proposal on the Senate in a 65-3 vote. It’s one piece of broader air-quality legislation this session.
“Higher smog ratings can make a big difference,” said bill sponsor Rep. Patrice Arent, D-Salt Lake City. “Utahns are always looking for ways to improve our air.”
The proposal urges Utah car shoppers to spring for a car with a smog rating of eight or higher on the 10-point scale. The measure lacks the force of law, but Arent said it’s an important step in recognizing the role emissions play in Utah’s winter and summer pollution.
A separate measure from Arent requiring counties with emissions testing programs to include diesel cars and trucks in their testing also is awaiting approval from the Senate.
People in Utah who have received coverage under the federal health care law are set to tell their stories Wednesday at the Capitol as Congress considers repealing and replacing the law.
The group of people with PTSD, cancer, cystic fibrosis and stroke and other health issues are highlighted in a report from Alliance for a Better Utah. The group warns that many in the Beehive State would lose their coverage if Congress dismantles the law that stipulates that insurers can’t deny people coverage simply because they have pre-existing conditions.
The Trump administration asked governors and state insurance officials for their thoughts on repealing the Affordable Care Act in December. Alliance for a Better Utah said it created the report because it was disappointed that everyday people were not asked to participate.