Senator Hillyard: 2020 Legislative Session: Week 3

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

We have completed week 3 of the legislative session and it is hard to believe that we will hit our halfway mark on Wednesday! With only 57 bills passed at this point, we still have hundreds of bills we need to consider before we conclude the session. Here are some of the highlights from week 3:

Fallen Soldiers

During each Legislative Session, the Utah Senate honors families of Utah’s fallen service members on the Senate floor. It is deeply sobering to see so many people walking onto the Senate floor to represent family members who have passed away during the past year. There were 17 fallen servicemen we honored. Three of these were killed during WWII and were recently identified and buried in Utah. We paid tribute to those left behind – parents, spouses, siblings, children and friends.

It is so important for all Americans to recognize and honor the high price paid for the freedoms we enjoy. This price is paid by young men and women who selflessly put themselves in harm’s way to protect the lives of people both at home and abroad. This price is also paid by their loved ones left behind.

As an elected body of legislators, we have the opportunity to help exercise our nation’s right to self governance. We honor Utah’s military families for protecting the freedoms we enjoy in this great country and state.

Senate Art Contest

This week on the Senate floor, we recognized winners of our 6th Annual Senate Art Contest. There was no theme this year, which led to a wonderful variety of subject matter. The contest received over 250 submissions from 9th–12th graders throughout the state. Twenty students won $500-$5,000 scholarships. I am proud to announce that Daxton Hansen from my district was awarded $500 for his piece “Aggie Nights”. Winning entries are currently on display on the third-floor exhibit at the Capitol building. Congratulations, Daxton, on your accomplishment!

Budget

We continued to hear Requests for Appropriations (RFA) presentations in our appropriations subcommittee meetings each morning this week.

In recent years we have implemented increasingly strict RFA submissions standards, requiring more detailed budget information, performance measures and prior state funding history. By requiring this additional information, we’re working to eliminate excess spending and unnecessary budget requests.

After submitting all required documentation, legislators and groups sponsoring requests address assigned subcommittees to explain their budget requests and answer questions.

After subcommittees carefully review all presentations, they submit priority lists to the Executive Appropriations Committee for final review and consideration before inclusion in the final budget bill.

Veterans Treatment Courts

Utah currently has two successful Veteran Court programs located in Salt Lake County. These specialty courts exist for veterans who qualify for services through the VA for things like drug abuse and PTSD. When an individual goes through the Veterans Treatment Court, they are connected with services so after they are charged, they are put on a plea-in-abeyance and then go through a program that usually lasts 2-3 years, once they successfully complete the program their charges are usually dropped. This has been very successful in helping the affected veterans receive treatment for problems ranging from drug abuse to PTSD and gets them back on their feet. Because the program has been so successful, there is a desire to expand these treatment courts to northern and southern Utah. I am the floor sponsor of H.B. 100 Veterans Treatment Court Act, which establishes a process for creating veterans courts which will help make them more available throughout the state. This bill passed in both chambers and will now be sent to the Governor for his signature.

150th Anniversary of Women’s Voting in Utah

This week we celebrated the 150th anniversary of women’s suffrage in Utah. On February 12, 1870, a law was signed allowing all women over 21 to vote in Utah Territory. The territorial legislature had voted unanimously in its favor, making Utah the second state to pass such a law. Two days later, on February 14, Seraph Young cast the first female vote in the country under equal suffrage laws. The 19th Amendment allowing women to vote throughout the United States wouldn’t be passed until 1920 — 50 years later.

To honor the 150th anniversary, on February 12, the Utah Legislature unanimously passed H.J.R. 12, celebrating trailblazing women of Utah and our state’s role in the women’s suffrage movement. Members of the Legislature wore yellow roses to commemorate the day.

Higher Education Governance

In an effort to better meet the higher education needs of our students throughout Utah, S.B. 111 Higher Education Amendments proposes to create a unified system of higher education in Utah, bringing Utah’s two- and four-year public schools and Utah’s technical colleges under the same governance structure. Merging the two systems will provide better coordination, increased access to degrees and training around the state, and higher graduation rates. This unification of systems will also make it easier for students to transfer school credits between state colleges and universities, saving time and money for students. Stakeholders from both systems were actively involved in the drafting of this legislation and shared their support publicly during the committee hearing. This bill passed out of the Senate Education Standing Committee unanimously with a favorable recommendation.

You can listen to the committee presentation here.

Constitutional Amendment- Session dates

This week S.J.R. 3 Proposal to Amend the Utah Constitution – Annual General Session of the Legislature passed with unanimous support in the Senate. This bill would allow more flexibility in determining the start date of the legislative session. Parameters are included in the bill that require the session still begin in January, run for 45 consecutive days, and exempt holidays. This bill will now be considered in the House. If this bill passed, it will be included on the ballot this fall for voter approval.

You can listen to the floor debate here.

Please Join Me!

I’ll be holding town hall meetings every Saturday morning at 7:30am during the session at the County Council Chambers in the Historic Courthouse at 199 North Main in Logan. Please join me! Bring your friends, thoughts, and ideas about how to make Cache City, Utah a better place. If you cannot attend in person, the town halls will be livestreamed on Facebook on the Cache County Facebook page.

You can connect to me online via Facebook (Senator Lyle W. Hillyard) or on my favorite, Twitter (@senlylehillyard). I can also be reached by email at lhillyard@le.utah.gov or by phone at 435-757-0194. You’re welcome to join me at the Capitol any time this session – you would be a welcome guest.

Senator Lyle Hillyard