Dear Friends and Neighbors,
We are just wrapping up the first week of the 2020 General Legislative Session. It has been a busy and exciting week and it’s always a humbling experience to work on behalf of the people who elected me. As a reminder, I will be sending out this newsletter once a week during the session to fill you in on the issues and bills considered.
There will be some links for you to listen to debate and to read news articles that may give different perspectives on the debate. I really hope that this is helpful, and I’d like to hear from you if you have questions or comments.
One of my favorite experiences as a legislator is meeting with youth groups from my district. Their intelligent questions and comments make me very hopeful for the future of our state.
Passing a balanced budget each year is always a top priority. We spend the first few weeks of the session meeting in appropriations subcommittees to consider how we spend money in each area–for example, public education, social services and transportation. Within the first few weeks, we pass base budgets, which allow the government to continue functioning on a basic level. This prevents the state government from shutting down. Once the base budgets are passed, the Executive Appropriations Committee continues to meet and negotiate the “bill of bills,” a complete and comprehensive line-item budget including new one-time and ongoing funding.
You can learn more about the state’s budget here.
Repeal of Tax Reform
One of the first bills we passed this session was H.B. 185 Tax Restructuring Revisions – Repeal which, as the name suggests, repealed all parts of the tax reform package we passed in December. While we still need to address the state’s budget structural imbalance issues, it became clear during the signature gathering for the referendum that many citizens had strong concerns around the tax legislation passed over a month ago. Repealing the bill also helped remove legislative budgeting uncertainties. It would have been difficult to pass a balanced budget for the year without knowing our revenue outlook beyond November. H.B. 185 passed unanimously in the Senate, and with only one dissenting vote in the House. We do not plan to pass major tax reform legislation during this session.
You can read the press release announcing the decision here.
State of the Judiciary
Every year on the first day of the general legislative session, the chief justice of the Utah Supreme Court gives a State of the Judiciary address to both bodies of the Utah Legislature. This year, Chief Justice Matthew Durrant described Utah’s judiciary as “vibrant and strong,” and stated he’s never been more thrilled with leadership in the judiciary branch.
As strong as the judiciary is, Chief Justice Durrant acknowledged more work can be done to meet individual needs and increase the availability and affordability of legal services. In addressing the plight of Utah’s mentally ill and addicted, Chief Justice Durrant pointed out that jails and prisons have become “de facto mental institutions,” and that more must be done by the Legislature and the judiciary branch to identify and fill gaps in services.
You can listen to the 2020 State of the Judiciary here.
State of the State
On Wednesday, Governor Herbert gave his 11th and final State of the State address. Each year the governor updates Utahns on the successes and challenges of our state. Those present included members of the Legislature, President of the Senate, the Speaker of the House, justices of the Supreme Court, the Lieutenant Governor and other constitutional officers.
Governor Herbert highlighted the hard work and innovation Utahns contribute to our economy. Utah’s household income is ranked 7th in the nation. Our unemployment rate is at an all-time low of 2.3 percent. Harvard University has ranked our state number one in upward mobility, and we have the healthiest, fastest-growing economy in the United States. We are also one of the most charitable states in the nation, with citizens actively serving one another. Once again, Utah is leading the way in upward mobility; and most importantly, living the American Dream.
Governor Herbert also addressed our success in education and how student achievement has improved significantly in the last decade. High school graduation rates have improved by 11.4 percentage points during the last ten years. Our students now score in the top ten in almost every subject.
Some challenges our state faces include housing affordability, pollution, taxes, public education and other government services. We will continue to focus on finding new solutions. The governor ended by encouraging Utahns to stay engaged during the session. Your voice is instrumental in shaping policies and influencing future generations.
You can listen to the State of the State address here.
Martha Hughes Cannon
During Senate and House floor time, legislators and the public got a first glimpse of the 25-inch bronze statue depicting former Utah State Senator Dr. Martha Hughes Cannon. This replica previews the 7-foot-6-inch statue arriving in National Statuary Hall in Washington D.C. this August–a perfect way to commemorate the 100th Anniversary of the 19th Amendment.
You may recall that during the 2018 session, lawmakers voted to send a statue of Martha Hughes Cannon to represent Utah in the U.S. Capitol. Each state is allowed two statues in National Statuary Hall to honor notable figures in state history. Cannon is known as the country’s first female state senator and was also a leader in the Utah Women’s Suffrage Organization.
The replica will be on display throughout the session until Thursday, March 12, on the first floor of the Utah State Capitol. To keep up with the latest regarding the statute, visit sendmartha.com
Proposed vaping legislation became an immediate priority during the first week of the session. Legislators and industry experts are teaming up to combat the dangers of vaping among youth. From taxing vape products to implementing strict policies on vape prevention, all proposals are being considered. In the Senate, some bills include S.B. 37 Electronic Cigarette and Other Nicotine Product Amendments and S.B. 40 Youth Electric Cigarette, Marijuana, and Other Drug Prevention Program. As more vaping-related legislation comes through, I will continue to inform you.
Daylight Saving Time
Each year in the spring and fall, I receive emails from constituents on daylight saving time. Many have stressed the inconvenience of the change in time twice a year twice-a-year time changes for young children, and others suggest it may not be necessary anymore. This year, S.B. 59 Daylight Saving Time Amendments seeks to end Utah clock changes. The bill proposes Utah stay on Mountain Daylight Time year-round, pending congressional approval and at least four other western states passing similar legislation.
Currently, the federal government allows states the option to either participate in or abstain from daylight saving time changes. For those who choose to abstain from daylight saving time, the federal government only permits the use of standard time. If this bill passes, Utah will be one step closer to year-round Mountain Daylight Time–spring forward and stay forward.
You can listen to the committee presentation here.
In the News: KSL |
Medical Cannabis Implementation
One of the most important tasks in preparing the state for medical cannabis implementation is the selection of Medical Cannabis Pharmacies. The Center for Medical Cannabis has reported that, with the help of an evaluation committee, it reviewed over 130 applications from 60 different companies. In evaluating these applications, they looked for companies with experience in highly regulated industries, many with experience in medical cannabis in various jurisdictions across the United States.
The evaluation looked at operating plans that included security, strategic planning, financial stability and the company’s ability to keep costs low. Fourteen pharmacies were selected and are required to complete the Utah Department of Health-approved medical cannabis coursework before registering as a qualified medical provider in Utah.
You can listen to the report here
In the News: KUTV |
Water banking could facilitate local, voluntary and temporary transactions that generate income for water right owners. It would increase access to water to better support Utah’s increased water demands. S.B. 26 Water Banking Amendments creates a local, voluntary and temporary pilot for water banking. Over 70 stakeholders weighed in on this meeting, and nearly two dozen outreach meetings were held throughout the state to solicit input. The bill addresses legal barriers to water market activity, incentivizes the use of water banks and creates a governance structure for water banking, among other things. This pilot will be tested through three-demonstration projects in specific watersheds and has a 10-year sunset period that can be extended or repealed. You can learn more about water banking at utahwaterbank.org. This bill passed the 2nd reading in the Senate with unanimous support.
You can listen to the floor presentation here.
Constitutional Amendment – Session Start Date
Did you know the start date for the general legislative session has changed multiple times in the last 20 years? Currently, the Utah Constitution dictates that the legislative session begins on the fourth Monday in January. S.J.R 3 Proposal to Amend the Utah Constitution – Annual General Session of the Legislature, would remove the specific start date to allow the legislature to adjust the start date when needed. There would be limitations: the session would still be required to begin in January and run for 45 consecutive days, exempting holidays. Flexibility is important. When the Olympics or other major events come to Utah, session scheduling can be adjusted without having to change the Constitution each time we need to change the date.
I Look Forward to Hearing from You!
Connect with the Utah Senate for updates wherever you live on social media. We’re on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, and all sorts of other sites. Feel free to visit our new website for updates, articles, and information: https://senate.utah.gov/.
I’ll try to continually keep you informed about my work on the Hill – likewise, please keep in touch – I’d love to hear your insights and opinions.
I can also be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. My mobile phone number is (435) 279-7551. You’re also welcome to join me at the Capitol.
If you’d like to meet with me in person during the interim or the legislative session, you can reach Jason Gould at email@example.com. He’ll help us get in touch.
I’m truly grateful for the opportunity you’ve given me to serve in this capacity. We live in a unique and special place. Thank you for all you do to make Utah the best state in the nation – and thanks for paying attention.
Until next time,
Senate District 17