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The City Café

For those interested in sharing ideas and perspectives regarding local government.

The past few days have brought important updates on the 3Fs: fireworks, firearms, and federal transportation funding.

FIREWORKS:

By now, we hope that your city has evaluated the environmental conditions within your city and taken appropriate steps to inform the public about your city’s restrictions (if any).  ULCT met with Governor Herbert on Thursday afternoon and again yesterday afternoon (Monday) to discuss the legality of municipal restrictions.  The Governor seems comfortable with most of the actions taken by municipalities to date.  We don’t expect a special session on fireworks but the Governor is willing in January to reevaluate the existing statutes and clarify city authority over fireworks.  Please let ULCT know if you need additional assistance on fireworks either for this week or for the Pioneer Day time period.

FIREARMS:

Additionally, ULCT met on Monday afternoon with shooting sports representatives, legislators, the state forester and his attorneys, and the governor to discuss potential restrictions on firearms discharge due to the hazardous environmental conditions.  Cities already have the authority to restrict firearms discharge within city limits.  Meanwhile the governor, the state forester, and state attorneys believe that current law grants authority to the state forester to temporarily limit firearms discharge in certain areas.  In order to implement a temporary restriction, the area’s environmental conditions must meet certain hazardous standards including low humidity, high temperatures, high winds, and lack of moisture.  Likewise, state law currently empowers the state forester to restrict certain types of ammunition and targets that are scientifically proven to cause sparks and potentially cause fires in the dry conditions.  The entire group was supportive of the state forester’s efforts to educate residents on what types of ammunition and targets to use as well as enforcing illegal discharges.  The group also approved of the state forester taking necessary and limited steps to restrict firearm discharge in unincorporated counties in targeted areas per the standards listed above.  As with fireworks, we do not expect a special session to address potential firearm discharge restrictions.

FEDERAL TRANSPORTATION FUNDING:

Last Wednesday night (June 27), House and Senate conferees signed off on a two-year transportation authorization bill, which would fund federal surface transportation programs at current levels through September 2014.  Senator Hatch and Congressman Bishop were both on the conference committee and were instrumental in including policies in the bill that are favorable to Utah and to local government.   The previous surface transportation bill was set to expire on Saturday, June 30.  On Friday afternoon, the U.S. House of Representatives voted 373 to 52 and the U.S. Senate voted 74 to 19 to approve the bill.  Utah’s Representatives voted in favor of the bill (HR 4348).  The transportation bill also includes an agreement on interest rates for student loans and the National Flood Insurance Program.

The final transportation authorization bill includes key provisions for local governments:

  • An off-system bridge set-aside for local bridges not on a federal-aid system
  • Maintains the threshold for Metropolitan Planning Organizations at the current level of 50,000 in population and provides new authority in rural regions in the planning process
  • Replaces the current Transportation Enhancement, Safe Routes to Schools, and Recreational Trails programs into one new Transportation Alternatives Program; cuts total funding by 34%, and makes MPOs responsible for administering half of the new program
  • Makes changes to project delivery, increasing the threshold for “categorical exemptions” and defines certain activities as categorical exclusions under NEPA
  • Creates a streamlined approval process to accelerate project delivery for transit
  • Funds transit at $10.584 billion in FY 2013 and $10.701 in FY 2014

Conference report  Text of HR 4348

Please let ULCT know if you have any questions about any of the 3Fs.  Have a Happy and safe 4th of July!

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