Senator Hillyard: 2020 Legislative Session: Week 4

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

This session is flying by! We have already completed week 4 of the legislative session which means we are more than halfway through the entire session. We have passed a total of 88 bills so far and still have hundreds more to consider. Here are some of the highlights from week 4:

Budget Update

This week we received an updated revenue forecast. Thanks to hard-working citizens throughout the state, Utah’s economy continues to expand, and the most recent forecast indicates higher revenue numbers than previous forecasts.

The ongoing General Fund forecast indicates an available $92 million. Previously, we were on track for a $51 million deficit for our one-time General Fund needs, but recent collection numbers increased by $38 million, leaving us with a $12 million deficit for one-time General Fund needs.

As we have seen for several years now, Education Fund revenues outpace General Fund revenues. One-time funds in the Education Fund are estimated at $323 million, with $518 million in ongoing education funds.

These are great numbers, but they do highlight a structural imbalance in our State budget. The ongoing Education Fund is five and a half times that of the ongoing General Fund. It is much easier to fund government if the General Fund is higher than the Education Fund. Budget requests seeking money from the General Fund are quadruple available revenue, and that is not even considering bills with fiscal notes, cost of living expenses, and big budget items like Medicaid. We are not in a crisis state at this point, but the structural issues with our budget are notable even in a good year.

Over the next few weeks, we will thoroughly review and determine how to fund critical items such as transportation, social service programs, and public education, to which $80 million has already been dedicated in the base budget.

You can learn more about the budget here.

Passing School Buses

Current Utah law states a driver cannot pass a school bus when it is stopped and its stop-sign-arm is extended. Last year, the transportation department of the State Office of Education conducted an informal study. On a single school day, all school bus drivers were asked to write down how many times drivers failed to stop for their school buses. On that single day, bus drivers documented over 900 violations of this law.

H.B. 84, Traffic Code Amendments increases penalties for motorists who pass a stopped school bus. As frustrating as it may be for drivers to wait a few extra seconds, it is vital to ensure the safety of Utah’s school children as they enter and exit school buses. H.B. 84 passed in the House and Senate and returned to the House for concurrence.

You can listen to the bill presentation on the House floor here.

Personalized License Plates

Amid a controversial license plate debate in Utah that made national headlines, S.B. 97Personalized License Plates Amendments gives Utah’s Motor Vehicle Division added clarification and authority regarding what is admissible on personalized Utah license plates. For example, it allows the Motor Vehicle Division to refuse to issue license plates with combinations of letters and numbers disparaging an ethnic group. The bill allows combinations of letters or numbers referring to an official state symbol. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that specialty license plates constitute government speech because they are state issued. This bill includes an amendment to recognize and consider Utah’s non-discrimination law. The Motor Vehicle Division brought forth concerns about offensive and otherwise problematic personalized license plates during Rules Committee review with suggested language and other recommendations. This bill will give the Motor Vehicle Division broader authority to approve or deny personalized license plate requests. This bill passed in the Senate and will be considered in the House.

You can listen to the floor presentation here.

Delivery Driver Age Amendments

S.B. 142Delivery Driver Age Amendments reduces the age requirement from 19 to 18 for food and delivery platforms such as Uber Eats, DoorDash, etc. This bill won’t affect liability or employee driver insurance. Most states that have already adopted similar statutes now have more drivers participating and helping fulfill consumer needs.

You can listen to the committee presentation here.

School Leadership Development Amendments

We can all appreciate the value of outstanding teachers. They motivate, educate and inspire our children. Even the best teachers can become worn out and leave without the support of good leadership. Research conducted by the Utah State Board of Education shows principals are a major deciding factor in whether teachers stay at high-needs schools. Research conducted by the Bush Institute indicates that an effective principal can improve student achievement by as much as 20 percent. While we recognize the great benefits of effective principals, many principals lack opportunities to receive mentoring or coaching.S.B. 99School Leadership Development Amendments creates a school-district grant program enabling mentoring and coaching for Utah’s new and aspiring principals.

This bill passed unanimously in the Senate and will now be considered in the House.

Here is a summary of the issue created by the Utah State Board of Education. You can listen to the floor presentation here.

Later Start Time for High Schools

As more research comes out about sleep needs for youth– particularly for high school aged students, many parents and schools have begun to question the start time for high schools. H.C.R. 3 Concurrent Resolution Encouraging Consideration of a Later Start Time for High School, encourages local school districts and charter schools to research and consider the potential benefits and consequences of a later start time for high schools. This does not require local school districts or charter schools to adjust their start times, but encourages them to consider the latest research and make the best decision for their schools and students. This bill passed in both chambers and will now be sent to the governor for his consideration.

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