Fireworks in Liberty Park

Legislative Session Mostly Positive For Department

davidwicaiBlog, Legislature

This year’s legislative session, while one of the strangest in recent memory, ended with a number of wins for the department.

Those wins include funding for a full-time collections manager in State History, additional grant funding for multiple programs, and progress on a future home for the historic artifacts and art collections. Oh, and we now have a seventh division.

As with any legislative session, not everything went perfectly. Some might even say the department suffered some losses. I would argue, however, that over the course of this 45-day heavyweight fight, the department took some solid body blows but never went down, never lost a round.

Below are short overviews of legislative actions that impacted the department this year. In the coming days, summaries about actions impacting employees will be posted to the intranet and division-specific overviews will be posted to their individual websites.

Arts and museums grants: The failure of tax reform cut the proposed $6 million from Gov. Gary Herbert by two-thirds, giving the Division of Arts & Museums an additional $2 million. (Read more about the budget).

I still consider this a success for Arts & Museums and the department . The intent language makes it clear this funding should continue beyond this year, assuming a tiered process to differentiate between large and small recipients is in place. More important, as opposed to past years, legislators never debated whether they should expand the grants pool, only how much they should give.

Clean-up bill: House Bill 224 made quite a few important technical changes. Multicultural Affairs will become a division instead of an office, and the Multicultural Commission and MLK Commission were both put into state code. Previously, they existed through a 2013 executive order. Other changes created consistency across the divisions in terms of hiring and boards.

STEM Action Center: The department now has a seventh division. In an effort to allow the Governor’s Office of Economic Development to focus more on their core mission, Senate Bill 172 moved the STEM Action Center to Heritage & Arts. While this came as a surprise midway through the session, it presents a lot of opportunity for the department to have an even greater impact, especially in rural communities. Although they won’t officially join the department until later this year, they will begin participating in department activities — including a presentation at the March 28 Heritage Huddle.

Artifacts and Art Collections Center: The proposed collections facility did not get funded, which was not surprising. But the project did move forward in a couple of ways. First, the appropriations subcommittee tasked with reviewing building requests ranked it the highest among state agency buildings that didn’t get funded, underscoring that support for the project exists. Second, $1.4 million was appropriated for the demolition of The Road Home, one of the proposed sites for the center. Third, the Legislature appropriated $110 million for the replacement of the State Office Building on the State Captiol complex. The first step in that process is a review that Capitol Preservation Board will conduct this year to determine whether that location would work as a storage and exhibition space for the state-owned historic artifacts and art collections.

Ancient human remains: Although only a small addition of language, the passage of Senate Bill 81 will allow the Division of Indian Affairs and other state agencies to pay for the costs of consultation with tribes about locations and processes for the proper burial of ancient human remains.

Civic and character education grants: House Bill 387 eliminated a whole slew of boards and commissions, including the Commission on Civic and Character Education. This commission had approximately $200,000 in ongoing grants funding, and both UServeUtah and Utah History Day received money from that pool. That funding will now go to UServeUtah to be used for grants.