Business and Economic Development
In an effort to help our Utah businesses thrive and allow for more innovation, we passed H.B. 217 Regulatory Sandbox Program Amendments, which creates a “sandbox” program where companies can suspend certain regulations for a limited period of time while they test new ideas. This allows companies to see if their ideas work before enacting regulations. It is important to note that H.B. 217 does not suspend regulations pertaining to public health and safety measures.
Economic Development – Strategic Planning
H.B. 348 Economic Development Amendments, reworks the state’s economic development strategy by creating the Utah Economic Opportunity Commission. A decade ago, the sole priority of the state was to attract jobs. While this proved successful, we now have additional needs due to the growth in our state. The goal is to shift our focus from economic development to economic opportunity, which includes ensuring that Utah citizens can acquire housing, college graduates can find work, families can have financial stability and stay-at-home parents can re-enter the workplace when, and if, they desire. This bill also creates a grant program designed to enhance broadband services in rural Utah. This is an important step forward in our long-term economic development and opportunity planning.
Teachers and Counselors
Utah is currently experiencing a shortage of teachers and school counselors in public schools. Several school districts are working on innovative approaches to meet teacher needs. H.B. 381 Grow Your Own Teacher and School Counselor Pipeline Program, creates a grant program to assist Utah paraprofessionals, school counselor assistants and school counselor interns in obtaining licenses to become teachers or school counselors and provides a scholarship to certain school employees.
Parents and Students
In a continued effort to address learning losses due to the pandemic, the Legislature passed S.B. 148 Public Education Modifications, providing transparency for parents and educators to address any learning loss students may have experienced during the pandemic.
S.B. 226 Online Education Program Revisions, allows online course providers authorized by the Board of Education to offer classes for students through the Statewide Online Education Program. In 2011, Utah was recognized for allowing students access to free online courses. This bill will ensure students have additional options to courses that best fit their needs and learning styles.
Energy & Air Quality
Workforce Solutions for Air Quality Amendments
In the first few months of the pandemic, we experienced less traffic and improved air quality as a result of an increase in people working remotely. S.B. 15 Workforce Solutions for Air Quality Amendments, allows more state employees to telecommute during bad air quality days to decrease the number of cars on the roadways.
This session, we passed several bills in support of healthcare affordability for Utahns. H.B. 206 Epinephrine Auto-Injector Access, allows patients to purchase EpiPen medication at a discounted price. The Legislature also passed HB 262 Children’s Health Insurance Amendments, which seeks to expand the coverage of uninsured children throughout the state by creating the Children’s Health Care Coverage Program.
Expanding mental health services to all Utahns and decreasing suicide rates continues to be a priority for us. Below are just a few of the bills passed that create additional services and further enhance these efforts.
Last year, Congress established 988 as the national mental health crisis hotline number. S.B. 155 988 Mental Health Crisis Assistance, helps Utah get ready for the launch of the new hotline number by applying for Medicaid waivers to help pay for treatment, creating an account for crisis response funds to pay for the call center, developing mobile teams and follow up treatment and increasing additional members to existing commissions to assist in the rollout of 988.
Suicide is the leading cause of death for Utahns ages 10 to 24. In an effort to target services to our youth, we passed H.B. 81 Mental Health Days for Students, adding mental health as a valid excuse for a school absence. Other states that implemented this attendance policy have seen a decrease in youth suicide rates. Additionally, we passed H.B. 93 Youth Suicide Prevention Programs Amendments, which expands the education of suicide prevention to elementary and secondary grades and requires the programs to be age appropriate.
Access to Higher Education
Data shows that education can reduce the odds that incarcerated people will reoffend once they are released. H.B. 279 Higher Education for Incarcerated Youth, provides students in custody with concurrent enrollment credits through a virtual learning program administered by Dixie State University.
In another effort to expand higher education accessibility in Utah, the Legislature passed S.B. 45 Higher Education Classes for Veterans, allowing veterans to audit courses offered at state institutions of higher education for a nominal fee.
Public Safety, Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice
Over the last year, the state has had substantial conversations regarding police reform. One of the conversations has been about the importance of de-escalation training for law enforcement officers. H.B. 162 Peace Officer Training Amendments, requires 16 hours of additional training for law enforcement, including mental health, crisis intervention and de-escalation control courses. S.B. 38, K-9 Policy Requirements requires that police dogs and handlers in the state of Utah undergo an annual certification process. It also amends Utah law to provide liability protection for officers and agencies if the dog acts in a way contrary to the officer’s commands.
Law enforcement officers are usually the first to respond to 911 calls, regardless of the reason for the call. Quite often, people who call 911 are trying to help someone experiencing a mental health crisis, which most police officers aren’t trained to resolve. S.B. 53 Behavioral Emergency Services Amendments, makes additional mental health crisis training available for emergency service professionals. Agencies throughout Utah can create teams of appropriately trained professionals to respond specifically to mental health emergencies. These professionals will be licensed to treat individuals and provide them with proper resources.
We passed legislation that will provide approximately $100 million in tax cuts to aid families, veterans and elderly citizens and further boost Utah’s economic success.
S.B. 153 Utah Personal Exemption Amendments, restores part of the dependent tax exemption, which was reduced in the 2017 federal tax reform and increased taxes for many Utah families. In 2018, the Utah Legislature brought back a portion of the exemption and is now seeking to restore even more of the exemption to further reduce taxes for families.
S.B. 11 Retirement Income Tax Amendments, eliminates individual income tax on military retirement pay for men and women who served in the armed forces.
H.B. 86 Social Security Tax Amendments, benefits many Utah seniors living on a fixed income by eliminating income tax on some social security income.