It may have been the “Year of the Train” and tax reform for the Utah Legislature, but they also found the time (and money) to begin a significant change to cultural funding, push forward construction of a storage solution for the artifact and arts collections, and even add a seventh division to the Department of Heritage & Arts.
Overall, the department and its six divisions fared well during this year’s legislative session. Below are some of the highlights.
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 and bringing their annual grants budget to $3.5 million. The funding is one-time for the next fiscal year, although intent language indicates this funding should continue beyond one year. Additionally, Arts & Museums will be developed a tiered process for the grants pool to differentiate between large and small organizations. As opposed to past years, few legislators against expanding the grants pool and the debate focused primarily on amount.
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. The addition of the STEM Center presents a lot of opportunity for the department to have an even greater impact, especially in rural communities.
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 few 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 Capitol 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 civic and character education grants.