Senator Hillyard: 2020 Legislative Session: Week 7

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

We concluded our business this week and it certainly felt like the time flew by. During the 2020 General Legislative Session we passed 510 bills. Many of these were clean up bills, meaning minor words or definitions were changed.

I will send out a session recap highlighting many of the top issues we worked on this session next week, but for this week, here are the highlights from week 7:

Budget

We passed our “bill of bills”, our big budget bill, on the last night of the session as per usual. I’m happy to report that this year we are appropriating $255 million for K-12 education enrollment growth and a 6% WPU funding increase. Education is a top priority for us and so this was an easy decision to make.

We are a state that takes pride in preparedness and so we have also allocated $26 million in one-time funding and $132 million in ongoing funds to our rainy-days funds.

This budget puts $17.9 million ongoing and $5.9 million one-time monies for mental health services for crisis situations.  We are also putting $7.3 million one-time in for air quality programs.

Coronavirus Update 

Here are some of the helpful resources I have received on Utah State and Local Emergency Powers in light of COVID-19, I thought you all might benefit from seeing them too.

Education Funding Proposal 

We passed legislation that will protect, stabilize and expand K-12 public education funding in our state. The two bills comprising the proposal, S.J.R. 9 and H.B. 357, support services for children and individuals with disabilities. Implementation of the proposal is subject to voter approval in the November 2020 general election.

S.J.R. 9Proposal to Amend Utah Constitution – Use of Tax Revenue, passed the Legislature, which would extend the use of income tax revenue to fund critical programs for children and for individuals with disabilities.

H.B. 357Public Education Funding Stabilization, will protect, stabilize and grow Utah’s education funding. This bill moves the Minimum School Program funding (which includes WPU—the weighted pupil unit) to a constitutionally protected account for K-12 education. It will also automatically adjust education funding for enrollment growth and inflation. In addition, this establishes a reserve to meet educational funding commitments during economic downturns.

If approved by voters in the November 2020 election, the proposal would amend the Utah Constitution to allow the use of some income tax revenue to support services for children and for individuals with disabilities, including social services that supplement educational needs and support students physical and mental health.

Also, $75 million will be placed in the education stabilization account, and approximately $3.6 billion of K-12 education funding will be moved to the Uniform School Fund, which is constitutionally dedicated to K-12 education.

The enactment of H.B. 357 is based on a constitutional amendment, which is subject to voter approval in the 2020 general election. S.J.R. 9 will be on the ballot this November.

Start Smart Utah Breakfast Program

We want to see every student succeed. Though, we know that some Utah students face significant barriers, including not getting enough to eat daily. To help address this need, we passed H.B. 222Start Smart Utah Breakfast Program. It creates a program to expand school breakfast access in public schools. While this bill initially failed in committee, I was able to change the no vote in the Senate committee and have them reconsider and then pass the bill, as I was the Senate sponsor.This bill passed through the Legislature and will be sent to the governor for his consideration.

Enhanced Kindergarten

I am the floor sponsor of H.B. 99 Enhanced Kindergarten Amendments. This bill added additional funding for the Optional Enhanced Kindergarten program in public schools. Statistics have showed that if students are not on the 3rd grade level by the time they finish 3rd grade, they will likely never catch back up. This bill allows for optional extended kindergarten so children that need extra help can get caught up. Both the parents of the child, and the teacher must agree that the child could benefit from extended kindergarten. This bill passed in both chambers and will be sent to the governor for his consideration.

Bail and Pretrial Release Amendments

H.B. 206Bail and Pretrial Release Amendments, permits judges to allow some individuals accused of crimes—such as first-time nonviolent crime offenders—to await trial at home. Around 65 percent of people currently incarcerated in Utah county jails are awaiting trial. This burdens our prison system and costs, taxpayers, a great deal of money. It also costs many individuals accused of crimes undue trauma. Most people incarcerated while awaiting trial have not committed violent crimes and are not considered flight risks: they simply cannot afford bail. Prior to incarceration, many have jobs, stable housing and families. As a result of pretrial incarceration, many lose jobs. In many cases, accused individuals spend more time in prison awaiting trial than they spend paying for their crimes after trial.

Gambling Machines and Sweepstakes 

Oftentimes, fringe gambling allows individuals to insert cash into a slot machine-like device where they push a button in hopes of winning cash prizes. Fringe gambling devices have cropped up in convenience stores, gas stations, beauty salons, vape shops and even laundromats. Under the Utah Constitution, gambling is prohibited under “any pretense.” S.B. 214Gambling Machine and Sweepstakes Amendments, addresses loopholes in the law leading to unregulated gambling in some Utah communities. This bill modifies definitions to clarify which types of machines are legal and prohibits the operation of fringe gaming devices. In addition, it enhances criminal penalties for individuals who own or operate fringe gambling devices, not consumers who play them. This bill passed in both the Senate and House and will go to the governor for his consideration.

You can watch the floor presentation here.

Please Join Me!

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. If you would like to watch our weekly townhalls that we held this session you can visit the Cache County Facebook page where all of the town halls were livestreamed.

Senator Lyle Hillyard