Well hi, it's Dr. Z. Brian Zehnder. Thought I'd give you a little bit of background on some of the ballot initiatives. I've had a number of people asking me about them. And we have so many on the ballot this year to talk about. Rarely do people in Utah have a opportunity to weigh in on so many decisions. I've decided to give you a brief summary of each item and my reasons for voting against it or for it. Of course, some of you may disagree with my decisions, and I'm glad we live in a country where it's okay to disagree without being disagreeable. And we may not agree on everything, but whatever our beliefs I hope we share them with our friends and neighbors in a way that is helpful without being partisan about it. So let's just dig into it real quick.
Constitutional Amendment A, it's a straight forward and logical change to the Utah Constitution. Currently, Utah military service members qualify for a property tax exemption when they serve on active duty for at least 200 days in a calendar year. With the change, the service member will qualify for the property tax exemption if they serve at least 200 days in a continuous 365 day period and they don't necessarily have to be in the same calendar year. But, it must be within a continuous 356 day period. So I support this amendment. I think it's reasonable.
Constitutional Amendment B. This amendment changes the Utah Constitution so that there's a property tax exemption on real property that the state or local government leases from a private owner. These are the only cases where the government entity pays a property tax directly. So it is not an exemption for the property owner. It just does not make sense to me to use tax money to pay taxes. This is exactly happens when the state is required to pay property taxes. I also support this amendment.
Constitutional Amendment C. This one changes the Utah Constitution to allow the president of the Utah senate and the speaker of the house to convene the legislature into session under certain limited circumstances -- certain emergencies that they deem necessary. And, it seems like it's a reasonable idea. But, I have a sense that the reason this is on the ballot for you to consider is because the legislature was unhappy that the governor did not call a special session when Representative Chaffetz resigned from office. Overall, our process works pretty well. I think the process is working fine the way it is.
And I don't think we need to approve this amendment. So I don't support Amendment C at this time.
Now let's go on to the next section. First one is non-binding opinion question number one. And this is a difficult issue for me because I'm not a proponent of raising taxes. This is where we have the 10 cent per gallon gas tax, that would allow money to be taken from the general fund and actually put towards education. Over the last few years, the legislature has increased educational funding in every session. I realize that Utahans feel strongly about the need for increased funding and I support the need for an unbiased accounting of the public's opinion. This will allow the legislature to enter the session with the information we need to act. If this opinion question passes, I will do everything in my power to make sure the funds indeed go to the classrooms. So, while I'm not generally in favor of a tax increase, I do support education for our children because they are the future leaders of tomorrow. We just want to make sure we're being transparent and accountable on how we're using that money.
Proposition number two: This establishes a state controlled process to allow for persons with certain illnesses to acquire and use medical cannabis.
I am generally in favor of medicine being treated like medicine. Thus, medical cannabis, if we treat it like medicine, is a very good idea.
If you go to the doctor, for example, and the doctor says, "I think you need some penicillin" you don't go to the pharmacy and say, "hey, doc, give me some penicillin." The Pharmacist will say, "Well, what dose?" And your doctor will tell you what dose. The pharmacist will say, "Well, how often are you supposed to take it?" And the doctor will have that information as well. So, the way the initiative was originally written, or is written, is that if a doctor says you need cannabis, you go and you get a bag of cannabis.
What's the dose? How often do you take it? For how long? Does it have side effects? Are there allergies? So that's part of the problem with the initiative.
I do oppose the use of recreational marijuana at this time. Though this proposition does not any way legalize recreational use, I do believe that it is written in a way that does open the door to more recreational use in Utah. I am encouraged by the work that's been done over the last few weeks by the stakeholders to address some of the concerns that exist in proposition two, as I just mentioned.
The senate and the house leadership with the governor's office and other stakeholders have created a proposal that allows for medical marijuana with sufficient controls in place to curtail recreational use. Regardless of what happens in the election, Governor Herbert plans on calling a special legislative session in November to consider these changes. There are no guarantees, but the legislative process will allow for plenty of public input and deliberation. So I do support proposition two, understanding that a special session will take place to improve the initiative after passage.
Proposition number three: In the last legislative session, the Utah legislature expanded medicaid to allow care for the most vulnerable, low income Utahans. Proposition three will further expand medicaid and incentivizes increased spending on able bodied, working age adults. It increases the tax sales rate from 4.7% to 4.85% costing Utah families an additional $90 million annually. The Governor's office has warned that proposition three could be fiscally unsound in future years. We have learned quite a bit about full medicaid expansion from the experiences in other states and in most states, budget issues and short falls continue to be a problem. If Utah expands medicaid further, and winds up with a shortfall, the only fix would be to reduce the budget in other areas, or raise additional revenue through taxation.
Despite the above concerns, there is also a chance that HB 472, which was passed this year and I was a senate sponsor, may in fact be approved by the federal government. That law would include a work requirement with a maximum limit on Utah tax payer dollars. Thus, we expand medicaid and we have chance to limit our financial risks to taxpayers with approval of a federal waiver. So, proposition three could pass and the bill that we passed last year could also be granted the waiver. So, blending the two proposals would require some work by your elected officials. It's clear that the public desires to help care for the underserved. We simply need to transparent about the potential costs.
So I do support proposition three. I also support HB 472, and we'll see how it all plays out. But expanding care to those in need is important to me, and I believe it's important to the majority of Utahans.
Proposition four: This creates a seven member commission to recommend restricting plans to the legislative that divide the state into constitutional, legislative, and state school board districts. This commission would be appointed by the governor and the legislative majority and minority leaders. Anytime that the power in government is given to unelected, appointed people, I do become skeptical. Restricting can never be a perfect process, but I do support the alternative proposed at this time. So I support proposition four.
Take Care. Bye Bye!