Senator Sandall: Week Two of Our Legislative Session

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

The second week of the 2020 Legislative Session is in the books! Committee agendas and reading calendars are filling up with bills in a hurry. Meanwhile, appropriations committees are finalizing the base budgets and will beginning the work on the overall budget for the state. The state’s budget is probably the most important work done by the Utah Senate. Our constitution requires a balanced budget and it is a tall task to complete this work in the weeks ahead.

Budget

This week we reviewed and passed nine base budget bills representing different appropriations subcommittees. These bills are based on each subcommittee’s budget from the previous year. Passing these bills during the second week of the session eliminates the possibility of a government shutdown. During the last week of the session, we will pass the “bill of bills,” which includes a complete budget for the year, including new funding for programs and other line items.

Here is a list of each of the base budget bills passed this week:

H.B. 1 Public Education Base Budget Amendments
H.B. 5 Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environmental Quality Base Budget
H.B. 6 Executive Offices and Criminal Justice Base Budget
H.B. 7 Social Services Base Budget Amendments
S.B. 1 Higher Education Base Budget
S.B. 4 Business, Economic Development and Labor Base Budget
S.B. 5 Retirement and Independent Entities Base Budget
S.B. 6 Infrastructure and General Government Base Budget
S.B. 7 National Guard, Veterans’ Affairs and Legislature Base Budget

Fetal Remains

Utah law does not ensure women who have experienced a miscarriage or abortion have the right to request the fetal remains for burial or cremation. There is nothing in current Utah law protecting a woman’s right to make this decision in any clinic or hospital. S.B. 67 Disposition of Fetal Remains seeks to give women the right to choose the final disposition of fetal remains following an abortion or miscarriage and requires the hospital or clinic to handle those remains in a respectful manner. There is a misconception circulating that this bill would require women to bury or cremate the aborted or lost child. This bill simply gives women the option to bury, to cremate or to make no decision on the final disposition of the fetal remains. Nothing is required of parents wanting healthcare facilities to handle the final disposal.
This bill passed in the Senate Health and Human Services Standing Committee and will likely be debated on the Senate floor next week.

Affordable Housing

Housing affordability is an issue affecting more Utahns every year. S.B. 39 Affordable Housing Amendments, seeks over $30 million to help more Utahns afford housing. The Commission on Housing Affordability has earmarked this fund for affordable housing projects and a rental assistance program. The bill passed out of committee and will go to the Senate floor for consideration.

Listen to the bill’s committee presentation here.

In the News: KSL

Energy Storage Grant

New energy storage technology shows promise in our ongoing efforts to improve Utah’s air quality. S.B. 78 Energy Storage Innovation, Research, and Grant Program Act, will establish a grant program to advance solar and wind powered energy systems and store the excess energy generated. This one-time appropriation of $5 million will fund an initial market in Utah. It will help increase demand and drive down price and will require no ongoing state investments. Energy storage will afford Utahns added security by providing power during natural disasters or power outages.

The bill passed in the Senate Transportation, Public Utilities, Energy and Technology Committee and will soon be debated on the Senate floor.

You can listen to the committee presentation here.

In the News: Deseret News

Red Flag Bill Dropped

For the last three years, we have seen red flag gun bills introduced in the Utah House of Representatives only to stall out early on in the process. Red flag gun laws allow family members and law enforcement officials to petition the courts to remove firearms from a person in crisis who has been determined to be a danger to them self or others. This week the sponsor of this legislation for this year announced they would likely not run the bill due to lack of support.

In the News: Deseret News |

Statewide Rail Plan

As the population of our state continues to grow, wise infrastructure planning becomes increasingly important. S.B. 92 Statewide Comprehensive Rail Plan, requires the Utah Department of Transportation to conduct a study and create comprehensive plans for expanded use of fixed rail for freight, commuting and long-distance travel. The study will include enhanced freight service along the Wasatch front, specifically with the Utah Inland Port in mind.

Upgrading FrontRunner by “doubletracking” will allow trains to run faster and more frequently. The goal is to help rail travel compete with freeway travel in terms of convenience and speed. The viability of high-speed rail will also be considered in the long-term, connecting our metropolitan areas with each other and those of additional Western states.

This bill passed in the Senate committee with a favorable recommendation.

You can listen to the committee presentation here.

Recall U.S. Senators

You may have heard in the news that a representative in the state Legislature has a bill file open to create a process in Utah for impeaching a U.S. senator. I want to take a minute to clear the air on this issue by sharing the history behind this topic.

Alexander Hamilton wrote that a recall provision was included in a draft of the original United States Constitution but was unanimously withdrawn during the Constitutional Convention. Afterward, three states attempted to include a recall provision but were unsuccessful during the ratification process. There was then an unsuccessful attempt to include a recall provision as part of the 17th Amendment. More recently, New Jersey attempted to include a recall provision; but when it was challenged in the Supreme Court of New Jersey declared it unconstitutional.

Based on the history of state efforts to enact U.S. senator recall provisions, focusing on this would most likely waste valuable time.

Marriage Amendments

Utah has some of the harshest bigamy laws in the United States. Our strict penalties for practicing plural marriage have resulted in unintended consequences, with some practitioners of polygamy not seeking legal help in cases of abuse. Our polygamy laws have not successfully prevented the practice of polygamy, but they have enabled abusers to oppress victims in a shadow society. S.B. 102 Marriage and Bigamy Amendments, seeks to remove the fear of government persecution for those practicing polygamy by reducing the crime of bigamy from a third-degree felony to an infraction. The law will not condone polygamy or make it legal in Utah. The hope is that by reducing the severity of the crime, other crimes will be more freely reported, and polygamous communities will become more integrated in society, seeing greater benefits in legal representation, healthcare and public education.

Mother of the Year

Each year we take a moment during Senate floor time to honor and recognize the Utah Mother of the Year. This year’s Mother of the Year, Barbara Booth, is the mother of seven children and has served her community over the last 27 years as a foster mother to over 100 additional children. She has chosen to care for some of the most vulnerable children in foster care: children with special medical needs. She is truly a remarkable mother!

National Blue Ribbon Schools

In November 2019, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos recognized 362 American schools as National Blue Ribbon Schools. Four Utah schools were included. This award recognizes outstanding public and private schools that exemplify school excellence, innovative educational practices, turnaround stories and success in closing subgroup achievement gaps.

During Senate floor time, we highlighted Utah’s four 2019 National Blue Ribbon Schools and honored them with SCR 5 – Concurrent Resolution Recognizing Utah’s National Blue Ribbon Schools. This award is a wonderful testament to the great vision and hard work of administrators, educators and communities in supporting excellent education of our children.

Juan Diego Catholic High School of Draper was honored for performing within the top 15 percent of the nation. This honor is the first for a Utah high school since 1997, when Judge Memorial Catholic High School received the award.

Three public schools were honored for performing within the top 15 percent of the state: North Rich Elementary School of Laketown, McMillan Elementary School of Murray, and Crimson View Elementary School of St. George.

You can watch the recognition here.

Read more about the U.S. Department of Education National Blue Ribbon Award here.

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 ssandall@le.utah.gov. 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 jgould@le.utah.gov. 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,

Scott Sandall
Senate District 17