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Democrats are griping that Republicans are trying to erase any need to appoint Democrats to the Utah State Tax Commission, although Republicans say they are just trying to make that body nonpartisan.
The gripes surfaced Wednesday as the Senate gave final passage to SB19 to change qualifications for commission members. In a 21-4 vote, all Democrats present voted against it, and all Republicans present voted for it.
It would remove the statutory requirement that no more than two of the commission's members can belong to one party. Sen. John Valentine, R-Orem, is pushing a companion constitutional amendment, SJR7, to remove an identical requirement from the Utah Constitution.
Sen. Jim Dabakis, D-Salt Lake City, chairman of the Utah Democratic Party, said while Republicans have said they are pushing SB19 to improve qualifications of commissioners, he feels they are mostly just trying to get rid of Democrats.
"Rather than increase diversity and differences of opinion, this will indeed narrow the different opinions and points of view," he said. "It is clearly a political decision to take the diversity away."
But Sen. Deidre Henderson, R-Spanish Fork, said the bill and amendment "takes politics out of it" so a governor can focus on appointing members based on "qualification and experience in dealing with tax issues," and not on their party.
The bill requires commission members to have "significant tax experience," including experience in one or more areas of excise taxation, income taxation, sales and use taxation, and corporate taxation.
The Senate on Wednesday was giving final approval to changes approved by a House-Senate conference on the bill sponsored by Sen. Howard Stephenson, R-Draper. Both houses had previously passed the bill by wide margins. Valentine's constitutional amendment has passed the Senate and is pending in the House. If both bodies pass it, the amendment would go to voters for ratification.