Senator Sandall: Week Three of Our Legislative Session

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

We have just concluded week 3 of the 2020 Legislative General Session, and what a productive week it was!

This week we recognized our Senate Art Contest Winners. We received hundreds of submissions from high school students around the state. The top 20 students were recognized on the Senate floor on Wednesday and their art is hanging in an exhibit outside of the Senate office in the Capitol. The first-place winner, Malia Collins, received a $5,000 scholarship award and her art will remain in the Senate office. If you get a chance to come to the Capitol, go to the third floor to view the exhibit and see how much talent is in our state.

Here are some of the great people I got to meet this week on Capitol hill:

The busyness of the General Session is in full swing as we finish up the third week. Luckily, I was able to take a break from meetings and committees to chat with some great 5th graders from Fielding Elementary. These kids had plenty of Tremonton pride and were excited to be at the Capitol on behalf of their school. We visited for a little while and got to take a few photos together. On my way up the stairs to get back to floor time the kids even gave a line of high fives.

Today I got to discuss several of my bills and other topics with the Utah Farm Bureau and others from the rural community. There were a lot of public engagement and valid questions that I got the chance to answer in plenty of detail. We talked about how with any bill affecting rural Utah it is better to work as a unified group to support our cause as a community. Everybody there was so engaged and clearly cared for their cities and towns. Seeing their involvement encouraged me to remind them that when the time comes every one of them, regardless of age or origin, can step up to represent their communities because somebody always will.

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.

The State Capitol was crowded with over 1,500 youth and school children that day learning about Utah’s history of women’s suffrage. Circling the 4th floor are pictures depicting some of the earliest and leading women in Utah politics. Elementary school children competed in scavenger hunts to find depictions of women they’ve learned about in school. Volunteers dressed in character, representing individuals such as Martha Hughes Cannon, Seraph Young, Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and engaged youth in learning about heroines in the women’s suffrage movement. Students and teachers filled the Rotunda with music, singing the song “Champions of Change,” which features Utah women who made a difference in the state and their communities.

In the News: Salt Lake Tribune

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. 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.

See photos honor families of Utah’s fallen service members here.

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 eliminating 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.

Higher Education Governance

In an effort to better meet higher-education needs of both students and employers throughout Utah, S.B. 111 Higher Education Amendments proposes to create a unified system of higher education, bringing Utah’s eight public two- and four-year colleges and universities (USHE)  and Utah’s eight technical colleges (UTech) under the same umbrella. This bill aims to help Utah students in a variety of ways. It would allow school credits to transfer seamlessly between all 16 state colleges and universities, protecting students’ investments of time and money. It would reduce student loan debt and increase graduation rates by making postsecondary degrees and certificates more affordable and manageable for students. It would help make higher education more accessible for Utahns — including students in rural areas. It would help ensure institutional programs align with evolving job market demands.

Merging the two systems will reduce overlap and duplication, provide better coordination, promote comprehensive strategic planning, and make administrative efforts more efficient — allowing state education funds to be leveraged in new and important ways. Stakeholders from both USHE and UTech 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.

In the News: Salt Lake Tribune

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 exact start date of the legislative session each January.

Twice during the past 20 years, the Legislature has had to initiate and pass constitutional amendments to adjust the annual General Session start date. This required a state-wide vote each time. For example, in 2002 the session start date needed to be adjusted to work around Winter Olympics events. Just this week, Utah leaders announced a new committee responsible for preparing an Olympic bid. If this bid is successful, flexibility in the General Session start date may be imperative again soon.

Parameters are included in the bill requiring the session still begins in January, runs for 45 consecutive days and exempts the same holidays.

This bill will now be considered in the House.

You can listen to the floor debate here.

Veterans Treatment Courts

While many veterans are strengthened through military service, the combat experience leaves some struggling with issues such as PTSD and drug abuse. Left unaddressed, these issues can escalate to involvement in the criminal justice system. Utah currently has two successful Veterans Court programs located in Salt Lake County. When veterans are charged with certain crimes, there is an option for a plea in abeyance. This allows veterans to plead “guilty” or “no contest” with the option of having charges dismissed after a certain period of time if specific conditions are met.  Veterans are then connected with a veteran treatment court and go through a program requiring attendance at treatment sessions that usually last 2–3 years. Upon successful program completion, charges are usually dropped.

This program has been very successful in helping affected veterans receive treatment, meet obligations to themselves, their families and the court and get back on their feet. Because the program has been so successful, there is a demand to expand these veteran treatment courts to northern and southern Utah. H.B. 100 Veterans Treatment Court Act establishes a process for creating additional veterans’ courts and making them more accessible throughout the state. This bill passed in both chambers and will now be sent to the governor for his consideration.

You can listen to the floor presentation here.

Electric Energy Storage Tax Credits

SB77 Electric Energy Storage Tax Credit is a refundable income tax credit for businesses and industrial users of energy. In an effort to reduce energy waste, this bill would help support existing clean energy and build smart, resilient, secure energy grids. It would help property owners, individuals and institutions invest in large-scale onsite battery storage. For individuals, the rebate would cover 25 percent of the cost for $5,000 and over.  For large commercial and industrial users, it would cover 10 percent of the cost for up to $100,000.

Electronic Driver License Amendments

During the last general session, an electronic driver license amendments bill was passed to launch and conduct research on digital driver licenses in Utah. The Department of Public Safety jumped on board to begin research and ultimately developed a series of questions regarding the project funding model — for example, “should the state fund electronic licenses or should individual citizens pay a small fee to go digital?” This year, SB110, Electronic Driver License Amendments, will create a pilot program to initiate the process of obtaining electronic driver licenses through an app. As technology continues to advance, fewer people are carrying wallets and are increasingly relying on data from smartphones.

In the News: Deseret News

250th Anniversary (Sesquicentennial) of the United States of America

In honor of adopting the Declaration of Independence in 1776, HCR 1, Resolution Recognizing the 250th Anniversary of the United States of America will allow the governor to form a committee to organize a state-wide celebration of America’s 250th birthday in 2026. The national organization spearheading this celebration has asked Utah to join other states in commemorating this historic event.

Tax Commission Authority Amendments

SB38 Tax Commission Authority Amendments essentially repeals the State Tax Commission’s authority to adjust or defer taxes on centrally assessed property and gives county legislative bodies the authority to make those adjustments. The State Tax Commission initiated this change. These tax measures impact local budgets, and administrative responsibilities rightly belong in the hands of elected county officials, who have stewardship over county budgets.

Presidents Day

Happy Presidents’ Day!

Originally established in 1885 to recognize President George Washington, Presidents’ Day is now celebrated as a day to honor all U.S. presidents, both past and present. The United States has been built and safeguarded by great leaders who have assumed heavy responsibilities and taken action — men of courage, foresight and conviction. We honor them for their service to our country.

U.S. presidents have helped establish our independence, maintained peace, set aside land for national forests and national parks, bolstered our defenses, provided disaster relief, promoted education, strengthened ties with other nations, protected our personal rights and helped oversee provisions for the infrastructure that helps us live well.

From its humble beginnings under Washington, our nation continues to grow. Leading it well today impacts over 300 million lives.

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”

—President John Quincy Adams

Valentine’s Day

Research indicates high-quality relationships promote health. When people feel isolated and lonely, not only are they less happy, but their health and brain function tend to decline much sooner.

The Harvard Study of Adult Development indicates individuals more socially connected to friends, family members and their community are healthier, happier and live longer.

In addition to human connections, relationship quality matters. Relationship conflict is bad for health. Good, warm relationships are the most protective. People in the study who described themselves as most satisfied in their relationships at age 50, and felt they had someone they could depend on, were healthiest and happiest at age 80. Their memories also stayed sharper longer.

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