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Bipartisan Caucus Presents Agenda For 2017 Legislative Session

Justin Prather

Thursday the Clean Air Caucus, composed of Republicans and Democrats from Utah’s House and Senate, met to discuss statewide air quality concerns and legislation proposed to address the issue. 

“You couldn’t have picked a worst day or a better day to discuss this big issue.”

That’s Sen. Shiozawa darkly joking about the smog outside the capitol building yesterday at a press conference for the Clean Air Caucus. The event was held to unveil the group’s agenda for the 2017 legislative session.

Rep. Patrice Arent spoke on the groups past successes and its continuing bipartisan efforts to address air quality.

“In the past three legislative sessions, we have passed more clean-air legislation than we have in the history of our state," said Arent. "Our air quality has improved but we need to do a lot more. Today we’re going to talk about some of the many clean-air bills and appropriations that have been proposed for this year. As we speak, I keep hearing about more bills and just because we are behind at getting them drafted, they’re not all on the list yet. We are learning about new ones every single day. Also, the list may be a little shorter this year and that’s because we’ve past so many bills the past few years.”

Arent lamented Utah’s recent bout with poor air quality, children kept inside for recess, and health challenges of those with asthma, holding up her own inhaler.

The members of the Clean Air Caucus also discussed proposed air quality initiatives currently working their way through the legislature. Among them are bills aimed to replace diesel school buses, build electric vehicle infrastructure, increase availability of consumer renewable energy options and funding to replace obsolete air quality monitors.

Arent is confident in the legislature’s ability to address air quality, but says the biggest hurdle to maneuver this session is budgetary.

“There’s always a challenge, particularly with respects to funding because we don’t have a lot of new funds this year and everybody is competing," Arent said. "As I said, I’m in public appropriations – the needs there are dramatic. Health and human services, the needs are dramatic. We’re all competing for funds.