Credit Union, Education Bills Move Forward

Credit Union, Education Bills Move Forward

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Government Specialist Richard Piatt reporting Included in the next to the last-day flurry of activity: Important changes to a public education reform bill. And, Governor Leavitt now has the bank and credit union proposal in his lap, after lawmakers tweaked it basically all session.

The State Senate debated and passed a bill that takes on Utah's three largest credit unions. And the moment they did, the e-mails started. Hundreds, within a matter of minutes, all from the banker-backed Resolution Alliance, all with generic messages--mostly received with annoyance.

It's an example of how draining the issue has been this year. A compromise bill now before the Governor is watered down compared to it's earlier version.

The bill delays additional credit union tax for two years, imposed only after a task force studies it and lawmakers approve it.

It also bans Mountain America, America First and Goldenwest credit unions from commercial lending. And it reiterates limits to how credit unions expand.

Scott Earle of the Utah League of Credit Unions says, "We did not get what we wanted, and there are provisions in this bill that we're not happy with."

Even after 14 versions of the bill this year, the fight isn't over yet. The two year study insures that--a delay bankers say they can live with.

"This is a big step forward in solving some of the inequities that exist in the marketplace today," says Howard Headlee of the Utah Bankers Association.

In the House, hours of debate on the education omnibus bill eventually passed with important changes as well.

That bill now includes only the greater competency standards--a green light to the State Board of Education to start requiring changes.

Removed from the bill: Tuition Tax Credits, and the tax increase originally proposed to help pay for it all.

"We're going to try to insure that when our students graduate from high school, they have certain basic competencies. They can read, they can write, they can make basic computations," explains Senator Tom Hatch of Panguitch.

Also today: Lawmakers are moving closer to imposing sales tax on cable and satellite television bills.

They also approved a plan to tax hazardous waste. And beer drinkers will now pay another four cents a six pack.

All are just a sampling of the many tax and fee increases intended to help balance the state's $7.3 billion budget this year.

The budget is the overriding concern now as the final day of the legislature looms. Although that sounds fairly simple, most people expect it'll be a full day at the Capitol, starting at 7 am tomorrow and ending at midnight.

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