2017 General Session bills could have direct impact on Cottonwood Heights
Cottonwood Heights City Council, local legislators and staff discuss this year’s legislative session. (Dan Metcalf/Cottonwood Heights)
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The Utah legislature has multiple bills this year that could directly impact the city of Cottonwood Heights. The Cottonwood Heights mayor, city council and staff are closely watching some of those bills in anticipation.
On Jan. 20, the city council members attended a legislative breakfast with some of the local elected legislative representatives to discuss some issues that could face the city with this current legislature session. The breakfast was held at Market Street Grill.
On Feb. 7, Cottonwood Heights Lobbyist Brian Allen updated the council about happenings on the hill.
“There are a record number of bills and a few new faces this year,” said Allen. “There will be over 1,700 bills. Some of the representatives have more than 25 bills, and there’s still time to open files.”
Despite the record number of bills in session, Allen said only between three and four hundred will pass.
“The good news is that everyone is communicating,” Allen said. “We are pretty optimistic about where things are at.”
One of the bills the Cottonwood Heights City Council is concerned about is a short-term rental bill H.B. 253.
“They are working through some definitions,” Allen said.
The bill, Short-Term Rental Amendments, is sponsored by Rep. John Knotwell. The bill prevents a political subdivision, such as a city or county, from prohibiting a person from listing or offering a short-term rental on a short-term rental website such as Airbnb. Cities and other municipalities are concerned over zoning and business license issues in association with short-term rentals.
“There is an issue with 180 days to justify being in a home-owner occupy zone. How do you enforce something like that?” Mayor Kelvyn Cullimore said.
Councilman Tee Tyler asked if a part of a bill that every city allows short-term rentals but have them locally zoned within the city. Allen wasn’t sure of the answer but said it doesn’t hurt to ask the local representatives since it is unknown what their bending points could be.
Cullimore knew they needed to take advantage of that opportunity quickly.
“The less likely it is we will have time to get something done if we keep talking about talking to him,” he said. “We need to find out where his guard rails are.”
Allen said they are trying to figure out what Knotwell is trying to accomplish with the bill. Once that is figured out, they can work with him to minimize some of his concerns.
Cullimore said when Cottonwood Heights became a city, it had a large amount of short-term rentals.
“We have a good ordinance. Even the people promoting this bill have said we have a good ordinance. We are being punished as good actors by the bad actors,” Cullimore said. “We need to have this customized so that it can be something that accomplishes their goal, but in a way that represents local government and control.”
Allen discussed some of Rep. Norman Thurnstone’s bills as well, including H.B. 298, which would require a political subdivision to pass an ordinance to impose a generally applicable time, place or manner restriction on free expression and would prohibit a political subdivision from prohibiting political activities outside of a public building.
“No one has a policy on protesting,” Allen said.
Allen briefly mentioned S.B. 142 and S.B. 139, which would eliminate schools from redevelopment agencies and limit tax increments from schools. Both bills are floor sponsored by Rep. Steve Eliason.
Councilman Mike Peterson asked about the medical marijuana bill and funding for research on medical marijuana.
“It would fund $1 million worth of research, studying three kinds of applications in cancer and pain. There would be three real clinical trials to determine if it can be helpful,” Cullimore said. “The bill funds the study. I think it has a very good chance of passage.”
Allen said in general, the legislature has been generous and kind and are willing to adjust the language of bills.
“We are tracking over 100 bills, about 180 bills total,” Allen said. “We will keep forging ahead.”