Senator Hillyard: 2020 Legislative Session: Week 5

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

This legislative session is flying by! We just completed week 5 of the legislative session, so we now have two weeks left to conduct our business. Most notably, in the next two weeks we will pass a balanced budget that will fund the many functions of the state from education to social services. As I shared last week, our revenue forecasts show growth, but we will not be able to fund many of the requests and bills presented this year. At this point of the session, after we debate a bill with a large fiscal note, we move it to “table on 3rd” to effectively hold the bill until funding can be determined.

Here are some highlights from week 5:

Budget

This week Kristen Cox, the Executive Director of the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget, shared the following handout with the legislature as we work on budgeting. I thought some of you might enjoy reading the one pager for your personal or business lives.

Better Boundaries Compromise

For the last two years, the Legislature has worked on negotiations with Better Boundaries, the organization that sponsored Proposition 4 in 2018. Some provisions included in the original proposition were unconstitutional, and all sides understood the need to address this by making adjustments. Through continued collaboration throughout this legislative session between the lawmakers and Better Boundaries produced an amicable and promising compromise this week. S.B. 200, Redistricting Amendments, preserves the core intent of Prop 4, including much of the original language, while resolving the constitutional roadblocks. Under this bill, there will still be an independent redistricting commission responsible for drafting maps for congressional, state legislative and school board districts. Utah Legislature allocated $1 million to fund the independent redistricting commission’s efforts so it can hire its staff and purchase software and equipment. This bill still allows the independent commission to create maps and publicly submit maps for consideration, keeping the public informed and involved in the process. While the Legislature is not constitutionally obligated to accept all proposals, lawmakers and representatives of Better Boundaries believe this will make redistricting more transparent and fair.

This bill passed in Senate committee with a favorable recommendation. You can watch the press conference announcing the compromise on our Utah Senate Facebook page here.

E-Cigarettes

As I mentioned above, we are very concerned about the rising use of e-cigarettes, especially among Utah’s youth. Data indicates alarming levels of participation from youth 12-18, who easily become addicted due to the high nicotine content. The Legislature has made significant efforts during this session to protect Utah’s youth from the dangerous consequences of vaping. S.B. 37, Electronic Cigarette and Other Nicotine Product Amendments, is designed to create new restrictions and also tax vaping products at a higher level, similar to tobacco products. The bill creates more severe criminal penalties for selling to minors and prohibits certain discounts and giveaways associated with vaping products.

The new tax on vaping products is expected to collect around $18 million during its first year of implementation and will largely be used to fund efforts to prevent vaping and drug use among Utah’s youth. This puts vaping products at the same tax level as tobacco products.

Here is a simple graphic that breaks down how the tax collected on e-cigarette and vaping products will be distributed.

 The bill passed on 2nd reading in the Senate and will be debated again next week on 3rd reading.

Listen to the bill presentation here.

Abortion Prohibition

Life is precious. S.B. 174Abortion Prohibition Amendments, which was heard in committee this week, would ban all elective abortions in the state of Utah other than rare circumstances involving rape, incest, the possible death of the mother’s life, or a lethal birth defect (as diagnosed by two physicians). This bill contains a contingency clause: it only goes into effect if and when the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade. In the future, if that case is ever overturned, the language will be sent to the Office of Legislative Research and General Counsel to ensure the statute would pass constitutional muster. If, at that point, legal counsel determines the statute is constitutional, the law would then go into effect. After a healthy floor debate, this bill passed on 2nd reading in the Senate. We will debate the bill one more time in the Senate before it is up for final passage.

You can listen to the floor debate here.

Family Planning Services Amendments

Another bill we debated this week also aims to prevent unintended pregnancies and abortions. S.B. 74Family Planning Services Amendments, would allow the state to apply for an automatic pre-approved federal Medicaid waiver, and provide family planning services for individuals who do not qualify for traditional Medicaid and have a household income at or below 250 percent of the federal poverty level. This bill also has economic benefits: the state will receive a 90/10 match of federal dollars. Before the bill’s passage, an amendment was included to exclude anyone 18 and under from these services. This bill passed the Senate and will now be considered in the House.

You can listen to the floor presentation here.

Please Join Me!

I’ll be holding town hall meetings every Saturday morning until March 7th 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. March 7th will be our last town hall until the summer when we will resume our monthly town halls.

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