Legislative Update: AZ, CO, NM, & UT

Arizona

McCain passes the torch of International Republican Institute

Sen. John McCain has resigned as the Chairman of the International Republican Institute, a position he has held since 1993. In his stead, Alaskan Senator Dan Sullivan will serve as McCain’s replacement. McCain intends to continue as a board member of the International Republican Institute.

The non-profit International Republican Institute works to support and strengthen “democracy in places where it is absent.”

In a letter to the board, McCain said that “Serving as Chairman has been one of the most satisfying experiences of my life.”


Colorado

Opposing Protests Make Effort to Listen to Other Side

A recent protest brought opposing positions on gun rights to the state capitol where the two groups were ready to voice their point of view. On one side of the street was a gathering of people expressing their support of the Second Amendment. The other side of the street were proponents of gun control to make sure people are safe from mass shootings.

Although the viewpoints of these groups differ, people tried to have civil discussions about the different points of view. The state capitol site was not chosen by coincidence, but the opposing groups were hoping to set an example for the people who work inside the state capitol building. Participants said that “change cannot happen on one side of the aisle.” And that legislators must “make sure that when you are making law that they represent all of the people of your state, all of the people of your area.”


New Mexico

Local Election Act Voter Impact

A substantial rewrite of New Mexico’s election law is beginning to have its impacts felt by voters, school board and town councils. The Act requires most nonpartisan local elections to be combined into one larger election on one ballot. Backers hope this will increase the number of voters who participate. Additionally, the Act requires that governments that conduct special elections, such as for bonds and tax proposals, all be conducted by mail.

There are three major implications of how the Local Election Act changes the way people vote:

  1. Fewer elections. Many school boards, town councils, and water conservation district boards all have varying election dates. The new Act will combine all these various elections onto one ballot to take place on regularly scheduled “Election Day.” One downside will be longer ballots, and that cities were not included in the Act, thus, allowing them to continue to conduct elections on different dates.
  2. Ballots will be sent in the mail. The Act specifies that all special elections will be conducted entirely by mail. A voter will receive a ballot in the mail, make their selection, and return it in the mail. Postage will already be covered. Proponents hope this will increase voter participation. Voter fraud is a heightened concern of the mail ballot objectors.
  3. Cities could adopt ranked-choice voting. Some cities have already implemented a ranked-choice system of voting – voters rate multiple candidates rather than just choosing one.

Utah

Mining Claims Questioned as Litigation Continues

Senate Democrats are demanding that Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke explain how a Canadian mining company secured mining claims inside the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument when litigation is still ongoing. The litigation challenges President Trump’s authority to decrease the size of the National Monument. The lawsuits filed by environmental and wildlife groups contend that President Trump cannot reduce the monuments under a 112-year-old law.

Senator Tom Udall and 22 fellow Democrats believe President Trump’s proclamation is invalid and that any mining claims with the National monument are “illegal.”  Glacier Lake Resources, based in Canada, purchased mining rights within an area previous protected by the national monument status. Company president, Say Dhillon said in a statement that “surface exploration work will start this summer on the Colt Mesa property and drill permitting will be initiated shortly.

The Bureau of Land Management has not yet approved any new mining in the area.

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Utah Approves Online Sales Tax

Beehive State lawmakers approved legislation on Wednesday allowing the collection of online sales tax. The move follows several other state legislatures after the Supreme Court ruled in July that states could collect taxes from online retailers.

Utah’s legislation requires companies with 200 sales or $100,000 worth of sales a year to pay taxes on transactions. Utah currently has voluntary agreements with large online business, like Amazon and Airbnb, allowing the state to collect $140 million in taxes annually. However, the new legislation will allow the state to collect an additional $60 million in revenue, which will support tax breaks for manufacturers. To incentivize collection, Utah has allowed online business to keep 18 percent of collected sales tax, until the law takes effect in January 2019.

The vote comes after Republican Gov. Gary Herbert called legislators back to the state house for a special session. Herbert and other supporters believe the tax will boost the economy, while Democratic opponents believe the legislation is a giveaway to corporations. The governor is also pushing a November ballot issue that will increase the gas tax by 10 cents, bringing in an estimated $180 million to help fund public schools.