Liveblogging The Executive Appropriations Committee Meeting

I’m here at the joint Executive Appropriations Committee meeting of the Utah Legislature and the room is packed. I had to help move spare chairs into the room in order to get a seat.

The official guest roll indicates there are quite a lot of Wasatch Front Regional Council members and representatives and city officials as well as UDOT leaders looking for news and influence over the transit bond diversion process.

First order of business is approving revenue estimates from fiscal years 2007 and 2008.

Representatives of the Wasatch Front Regional Council are testifying to the committee on proposed weighted criteria for transportation processes. WFRC Executive Director Chuck Chapel is testifying while West Valley City Mayor Dennis Nordfelt and Draper Mayor Darrell Smith sit with him.

Chapel is discussing UDOT’s TIP process for ranking projects and USDOT’s ideas about similar processes. He claims the technical requirements of the law have been met by the process he is proposing.

There is a question before the committee on having the legislature update weightings of the criteria or amend the criteria themselves. Speaker Curtis sounds like he wants to change the standards. Chapel stands up for Salt Lake County and notes that the law specifies only WFRC can create a weighting and the legislature can approve or disapprove but not amend. Curtis is pressing him pretty hard and asks him why he hasn’t noted where other committee members’ suggestions might be illegal, but of course other committee members haven’t proposed illegal changes.

Curtis is still trying to get Chapel to agree that the committee can demand amendments to the criteria.

There is some discussion over differences between House and Senate procedure in the committee. “It’s going to be a long 45 days,” says one legislator.

Now it sounds like the WFRC is giving in to Speaker Greg Curtis on the process and influence of the committee under law. “I thought I knew how to read a statute but I didn’t.” The committee suggests that they will demand changes in the criteria now that they have browbeaten the WFRC representatives into accepting the possibility of changing them.

Curtis is trying to establish that WFRC will follow his demands and accept the committee’s reordering. He asks if the WFRC agrees with his new understanding of the process. “Is that your understanding?” “It is now,” answers the WFRC representative.

The changes proposed by the committee that approval will depend on are,

  • rankings for each criteria be scaled
  • rankings be relative to cost
  • cost effectiveness be ranked matched to congestion relief

I’ll write about the practical effects of that after I understand them.

Looks like only Rep. McGee, Sen. Mayne, Sen. Hale, and Sen. Dmitrich opposed the attempt of the committee to manipulate the criteria. All but Dmitrich are from Salt Lake. It doesn’t look promising

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