Wednesday , March 07, 2012 - 1:13 PM
Each year the Legislature considers 1,000 plus bills in a very short 45-day time period. Some of the bills deal with public policy changes, others with budgetary matters, and some are a combination of both.
I'm often asked how I make my decision to vote yes or no on a particular bill.
On some bills, it can be a very easy decision on how to vote.
Some issues are on items in which I campaigned and made my position clear to my constituents through the campaign process.
In those instances, I stay true to my campaign promises to vote a certain way. On other issues that might not have been discussed or known during the campaign, I employ a variety of techniques to decide how to vote.
First I review the legislation and try to gauge the pros and cons for myself, then I might review my email and phone messages from constituents, I might consult with experts or legislative colleagues that are more familiar with the issue, or I might meet with interested parties to gather feedback on the legislation. Often all of the techniques are employed in a vote.
One of the tools I refer to frequently is my constituent survey. At the beginning of each year, I compile a list of questions about some of the issues I suspect will be heard by the Legislature and ask my constituents to complete and return the survey.
I then have my intern compile the results so I can refer to them throughout the session. I thought you might be interested in some of the survey results.
Several of the questions dealt with finances and how to spending the estimated $280 million in revenue growth the state expected to gain. I asked respondents to rank their priorities from one to 10.
It will likely come as no surprise that public education came out as the top priority followed by economic development. Tourism and health care ranked as the bottom two spending priorities.
In keeping with the survey results, I'm happy to report that public education captured the majority of the revenue growth funding.
Here are a few of the items within the public education budget that were funded with the revenue growth:
* $41 million for enrollment growth for the 12,500 new students who will start school next year,
* $5 million for teacher supplies,
* $7 million for computer adaptive testing,
* $5 million for small, rural schools,
* Nearly $22 million in per pupil spending increases,
* $5 million for online testing,
* $2.5 million for charter schools,
* Over $1 million for special education students,
* $5 million for school buildings
Another question I asked dealt with drug testing for recipients of state assistance (welfare or TANF benefits) and whether recipients should have to pass a drug test before receiving benefits.
This question received an overwhelming positive response; 82.4 percent of my survey respondents supported this type of a policy change.
As a result, I opened a bill, HB155 Drug Screening for Temporary Assistance for Need Families Recipients, to do just that.
At the time of writing, the bill had passed the House and was awaiting a hearing in the Senate.
Asking to hear from constituents is not just lip service from elected officials. We do want to hear from you and your responses have a big impact on funding and public policy.
Please continue to reach out to your elected officials throughout the year in town hall meetings, surveys and in direct correspondence.
Brad Wilson represents House District 15 in Davis County. He is writing a series of articles during the annual legislative session chronicling his experiences.
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