SENATOR SANDALL: WEEK SIX OF OUR LEGISLATIVE SESSION

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

Week 6, the last full week of the 2020 General Legislative Session just wrapped up. Next Thursday at midnight will mark the end of the session. At this point, we’re working to finalize the budget and complete the process of turning ideas into bills and turning those bills into law. Next week will be filled with many hours of debate on the House and Senate floor. Concepts that have been in the works for months and years will be moved forward to the Governor’s desk or will go back to the drawing board. It can be a difficult process but nothing that affects the lives of this many people should be easy.

Setting and balancing Utah’s budget is also a difficult and deliberative process. Weeks of study and consideration by appropriations subcommittees pass their final budget requests on to the Executive Appropriations Committee. The Executive Appropriations Committee which is made up of Senate and House leadership will set the final budget for the upcoming year.   All of these committees are assisted by staff from the Office of the Legislative Fiscal Analyst. This team of non-partisan financial analysts and economists has been nationally recognized for their expertise and we couldn’t do this work without their dedication to excellence.

While we do not have the final budget prepared yet, our Executive Appropriations Chairs have assured us that we will be increasing education funding again this year. Utah legislators consistently prioritize education funding and have increased it from $2.8 billion to $3.8 billion in the past five years alone. We are expecting to see a 5 percent increase to the Weighted Pupil Unit (WPU) and over $500 million in new money to education.

Click here to find out more about the budget process and the Office of the Legislative Fiscal Analyst.

Hannah Davila-McArthur, a student at SUU, has been my legislative intern this session. Hannah makes me very hopeful for the future of our country. She has been such an energetic and helpful presence this session and I can’t wait to see what the future holds for her.

Friday was the second Educator Day on the Hill we have had this session and each time I’m even more glad for the opportunity to speak to the people that have their boots on the ground in our schools. Everybody knows that teachers are so incredibly important to our children and grandchildren’s lives as they develop and gain those important childhood experiences. I so appreciate their immense dedication to our education system so I was more than happy to hear any concerns they expressed and discuss what I can do to continue supporting education bills as this session wraps up.
This Wednesday was Tourism Day on the Hill! It was great to see my Box Elder friends come down here to the Capitol to represent our county. It is really important that people can see what rural counties have to offer to the tourism industry here in Utah.
Rural Economic Development

State leaders have talked a lot recently about the strength of Utah’s current economy. Unfortunately, most of our state’s economic success is occurring in urban areas. S.B. 95Economic Development Amendments, has definitely been a labor of love several years in the making. This bill creates grant programs for rural counties to help develop their local economies. The bill uses money from the Utah Science Technology and Research Initiative (USTAR) that we put on hold during the 2019 Legislative Session.

On Friday I presented it in the House Economic Development and Workforce Services Committee. Several supporters sat with me to speak in support of the bill, including: Val Hale, the Executive Director of GOED, Theresa Foxley, CEO of the Economic Development Corporation of Utah, John Hiskey, the senior policy advisor for Utah League of Cities and Towns, and Kaitlyn Piper of the Salt Lake Chamber. After some great questions, S.B. 95 passed out of the committee unanimously with a favorable recommendation. Now it’s headed on to the House floor for debate!

Listen to the bill presentation on the Senate floor here.

Coronavirus

Governor Hebert has issued an executive order declaring a state of emergency in preparation for cases of novel coronavirus in Utah.

With the coronavirus (COVID-19) continually making headlines, many Utah citizens are asking about our state preparations. The short answer: Utah is ready. Utah and its citizens are uniquely prepared to handle this situation. We have a culture of collaboration, preparedness and caring for neighbors. Even though this is a worrisome public health situation, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) believes the immediate coronavirus health risk to the general public is low. The governor created a task force and activated the Incident Command System to ensure effective communication and coordination. The task force includes members of the medical community, business community, Utah State Board of Education, Utah Department of Public Health and faith-based communities. The goal is to minimize disruptions and maximize safety.

Utah has a distinct advantage with the Intermountain Medical Center (IMED) in Murray. It is one of the few hospitals in the nation with a special medical unit designed specifically for treating high-risk infectious patients. IMED’s staff is trained to effectively manage and contain even the Ebola virus, which is much more serious than COVID-19. For this reason, the CDC recently reached out to request we admit a coronavirus patient, who is a Utahn, into our special unit.

There is a lot of misinformation about COVID-19. Find updated information and prevention tips about COVID-19 online at coronavirus.utah.gov.

To help reduce the spread of all sickness, we can each take preventive steps, including:

  • Covering coughs or sneezes with a tissue and then throwing the tissue in the trash
  • Proper handwashing – 30 seconds with warm soapy water – taking care to include both thumbs
  • Avoiding close contact with people who are sick
  • Cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe
  • Supporting our personal immune systems through adequate rest and good nutrition
  • Staying at home if sick.

Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls Task Force

In 2019, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDCP) reported that murder is the second leading cause of death among Native American women and girls, who are murdered at a rate ten-times higher than the national average. . H.B.116Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls Task Force, creates a Utah task force to identify causes of this violence in our tribal communities and develop recommendations for the prevention of the missing and murdered Indigenous women epidemic. This bill passed in both the Senate and House will be sent to the Governor for his consideration.

You can listen to the floor presentation here.

In the News: Daily Herald | St. George News |

Insulin Access Amendments

Utahns with diabetes are facing barriers to accessing insulin. Over 200,000 Utahns have diabetes, and about 50,000 depend on insulin. Insulin is expensive, costing upwards of $2,000 per month. Many patients struggle to afford it; others needing insulin are turned away at pharmacies when their prescriptions have expired. Roughly one in four insulin-dependent individuals are being forced to ration their insulin — using less than they are prescribed. This has led to exacerbated health problems and some fatalities.  H.B. 207, , Insulin Access Amendments, presents a series of solutions to address the state’s insulin crisis. It provides for dispensing changes, bulk-purchasing and low-cost plans. This bill passed in the Senate Health and Human Services Committee and is currently on the 2nd reading calendar.

You can listen to the committee presentation here.

In the News: Cache Valley Daily | Deseret News |  Standard Examiner

Consumer Alcohol Beverage Purchasing

In order to increase consumer choice, S.B. 103 Consumer Alcohol Beverage Purchasing, seeks to allow Utahns to work with Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (DABC) to purchase wine and liquor products not currently available at a state store. All orders will go through DABC and will receive the same tax as other products sold in the state. Products order would be available for pickup at a DABC outlet. This bill passed in the Senate and will be considered in the House.

You can listen to the Senate floor debate here.

Distracted Driver Amendments

Distracted driving causes thousands of accidents in Utah each year — an estimated 25 percent of all Utah accidents. Hand-held cell phone use while driving has been illegal in Utah since 2007. Since it is not a primary offense, enforcing this law has been difficult. For example, law enforcement cannot pull drivers over for texting while driving on the freeway. As the law currently stands, hand-held cell phone use while driving is only punishable when coupled with another primary traffic violation. H.B. 101Distracted Driver Amendments, would make holding a cellphone while driving a primary offense. Drivers would still be permitted to communicate on their phones in a hands-free manner, using means such as Bluetooth, cell phone mounting devices or simply resting their phone in a secure spot. Drivers would be allowed to briefly tap or swipe their phones to answer calls or use cell phone assistants like Siri or Ok Google. Exceptions would be allowed during emergencies.
Twenty-two other states have passed similar laws and are seeing declines in motor vehicle accidents. This bill generated considerable debate on the Senate floor, but ultimately passed on the 2nd reading.

You can listen to the floor debate here.

In the News: KSL | Salt Lake Tribune |

E-Cigarettes in Schools

The coordinated effort to reduce the use of e-cigarettes among our youth is greater than ever. H.B.58Electronic Cigarettes in Schools Amendments, establishes rules regarding vaping on school property. For example, local education agencies would be required to adopt policies for confiscating and destroying e-cigarette and vaping products when students are found in possession of e-cigarettes and vaping products in school. The harmful effects of vaping would be added to the health curriculum. Students who report feeling socially isolated in school are three times as likely to have vaped in the last thirty days. With this in mind, H.B. 58 will incorporate programs addressing the social and emotional reasons youth turn to vaping and other addictive substances. This bill passed in the Senate Health and Human Services Committee and will now be considered by the full Senate.

You can listen to the committee presentation here.

In the News: Salt Lake Tribune

Municipal Regulation of Golf Carts

Under Utah law, driving a golf cart on the road is illegal. H.B.184Municipal Regulation of Golf Carts, will give cities and towns the ability to decide whether or not to allow golf carts to drive on a highway. Golf carts would only be operated on specified highways approved by the relevant municipality. That city or town must provide parameters around which highways a person may operate a golf cart on, who may operate a golf cart on that highway, and during what specific hours. In addition, the bill prohibits drinking alcohol while operating a golf cart on a highway. This bill passed in the Senate and the House.

In the News: Salt Lake Tribune

Body Cameras

Back in 2016, the Utah Legislature passed a body camera bill that set minimum standards for the operation of body cameras and their use by law enforcement. This bill did not include penalties in the event that a body camera is not activated or is intentionally turned off by a law enforcement officer. S.B. 210Body Camera Amendments seeks to provide clarity for the general public, law enforcement and the judiciary in cases when body camera footage is missing.

S.B. 210 requires police officers to document reasons they fail to comply with body camera requirements. The bill also allows a presiding judge to provide an adverse inference instruction to a jury in a criminal trial if an officer failed to comply with body camera requirements. This instruction allows a jury to infer that the missing video evidence would have been adverse or harmful to the police officer and not to the prosecutor’s case. S.B. 210 passed in the Senate and will now go to the House for consideration.

Listen to the committee presentation here.

Professional Licensing Amendments

States with burdensome professional licensing laws for those with criminal records have the highest recidivism rates. Most often, former crimes do not prohibit safely performing a desired job. S.B. 201 , Professional Licensing Amendments seeks to empower more people to provide for themselves and their families without returning to crime.

An enormous amount of time and money is invested in educating and training inmates so they can live fruitful and productive lives after their release. During incarceration, many inmates achieve vocational and educational goals that eluded them in their earlier lives. Unfortunately, provisions in Utah law make it impossible to receive or renew professional licenses with a criminal history. For example, an individual incarcerated for driving while intoxicated may be unable to obtain an electrician’s license — despite possessing required skills. S.B. 201 aims to help make it easier for people to make a living after they have met their debt to society. The bill is designed to reduce recidivism by removing needless barriers. S.B. 201 passed in the Senate and will now be considered in the House.

Listen to the bill presentation on the Senate floor here.

Medical Billing

Balance billing, also known as surprise billing, is a major cause for concern in our state and throughout the nation. A major hindrance in addressing this issue is the lack of data about exactly what is happening in our state with our patients. S.B. 155Medical Billing Amendments, requires that all data on balance billing be collected by the same entity through one year and recorded to help everyone see exactly where problems are arising. The hope is that this data collection will bring insurers and providers together and result in better self-regulating. This bill requires a report to the Legislature after one year of data collection. Stakeholders worked together on this bill and are in agreement. This bill passed in the Senate and is now up for consideration in the House.

You can listen to the floor discussion here.

Alcohol Education Amendments

The effects from drinking alcohol while pregnant can be devastating. H.B.208Alcohol Education Amendments, will start a campaign to increase awareness of the consequences of alcohol consumption during pregnancy. Unlike some drugs, alcohol can cause permanent and irreversible physical and mental harm to an unborn child for their entire lifetime. Revenue for this project will come from sales taxes on alcohol. An annual report will be given to the Health and Human Services committee, including how funds were used and measurable results. This bill passed in the second reading calendar in the Senate.

You can listen to the Senate floor debate here.

Addressing the Olympics

In 2002, Utah hosted the Winter Olympics. The Senate passed S.C.R. 9 Concurrent Resolution Addressing Olympics, which expresses our state is supportive of hosting Olympic and Paralympic games once again.
It will now be considered in the House.

In the News: KSL

State Funeral for the Last WWII Medal of Honor

There are currently only two surviving Medal of Honor recipients in the United States. H.C.R. 15Urging a State Funeral for the Last WWII Medal of Honor, urges the President of the United States (who has the authority to hold a state funeral for these soldiers) to give a final and appropriate salute to these last remaining Medal of Honor recipients, essentially honoring all veterans for their vital contributions to our country.
This bill passed in both the Senate and House.

You can listen to the floor presentation here.

Education Funding Proposal

Utah is one of the fastest-growing states in the country, with a population expected to double in the next 40 years. The Legislature is taking important steps to protect education funding as Utah’s population grows and the economy fluctuates. S.J.R. 9Proposal to Amend Utah Constitution – Use of Tax Revenue would allow the use of income tax revenue to support services for children and individuals with disabilities, including social services that supplement educational needs and support students’ physical and mental health. This proposal is subject to voter approval and will take effect if Utahns approve it during the November 2020 general election. This bill generated a lot of debate in the Senate and ultimately passed. This bill will now be considered in the House.

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