Legislative 2021 Updates – Senator Wilson

 


2021 Legislative Update: Week Six

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

Week six of the general session has been both challenging and rewarding. There were great discussions regarding our budget for fiscal years 2021 and 2022, with revenue estimates showing the longstanding strength of Utah’s economy, despite unprecedented financial challenges due to COVID-19. This year, a historic $400 million increase will go toward public education. Read the full press release here.

On the more challenging side of things, we have been presented with a number of bills that involved emotional testimony and required a great deal of careful deliberation. A constituent requested that I explain my opinion of one of these difficult bills, HB302 Preserving Sports for Female Students, in my newsletter. I appreciate the opportunity to do so as this is important legislation with the potential for far-reaching consequences.

HB302 Preserving Sports for Female Students
My concerns with HB302 include 1-constitutional challenges resulting in costly litigation for the State and taxpayers, 2-economic impact from the loss of events, tournaments, sponsorships, etc. who withdraw participation from Utah because HB302 is not in accordance with policies established by athletic associations at every level, and 3-the detrimental effect on vulnerable youth of the LGBTQ community who are at an increased risk of suicide. Of the 80,000 high school athletes in the state of Utah there is currently not a single transgender participant. However, in our community of Cache Valley, there have been 13 young people who have died by suicide in just the past 8 weeks! I do not know the particulars or if LGBTQ issues were involved, but regardless of the reasons, this is extremely concerning to me.

As a father of five daughters, four of whom played sports on a high school level, I support ongoing conversation and legislation that resolves concerns and appropriately advocates for female athletics. HB302 was not defeated in committee. The vote to adjourn the meeting grants an opportunity to step away from the emotional intensity for a time and the possibility of resuming additional deliberation of an extremely complex issue. I would invite you to listen to all of the HB302 hearings with an open heart and mind to considering both sides of the issue and all the potential unintended consequences. https://le.utah.gov/~2021/bills/static/HB0302.html

I am very appreciative of all the input I am receiving from you. I recognize it is frustrating when your elected officials may not handle a bill exactly as you want. Please know that I do hear you and that I care about your concerns.  I am honored by your trust and support in electing me as your senator, and I remain committed to decide my vote in accordance with my conscience, the Constitution, and my constituents.

Highlights from this week’s legislation:

988 Mental Health Crisis Assistance
When people experience a medical emergency, the default solution is to dial 911. For decades, that option has worked well for most people. However, for those experiencing a mental health crisis, that solution hasn’t been as effective. Instead, there is a national mental health crisis hotline where 90 percent of individuals are stabilized over the phone at the cost of $40. This process prevents police or EMS from being dispatched and eliminates potential hospital or ambulance bills for the individual in need.

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, which begins in July 2022. S.B. 155 passed the Senate and will now be considered in the House.

Tax Cuts 
Last week, we announced the state will provide approximately $100 million in tax relief to Utah citizens. Though Utah’s economy is in an advantageous position compared to other states, many Utahns are still struggling, and the Senate wants to provide tax relief to those who need it most. The tax relief package targets families, veterans and elderly Utahns and will be accomplished by three bills: S.B. 153S.B. 11 and  H.B. 86.

  • S.B. 153 Utah Personal Exemption Amendments, restores part of the dependent tax exemption, which was reduced in the 2017 federal tax reform, increasing 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 in our great state.
  • S.B. 11 Retirement Income Tax Amendmentstargets men and women who served in the armed forces by eliminating individual income tax on military retirement pay.
  • H.B. 86 Social Security Tax Amendments, eliminates income tax on some social security income, benefiting many Utah seniors living on a fixed income.

In-Person Instruction Prioritization 
Recent reports found that several schools throughout Utah have closed for 40 percent of the academic year, leading to a 600 percent increase in students failing all classes. S.B. 107 In-Person Instruction Prioritization, ensures students have the opportunity to learn in the classroom, whether that be in-person or virtual learning. S.B. 107 passed in the Senate and will now be considered in the House.

Higher Education Speech 
Currently, broad and ambiguous anti-harassment policies are one of the most common ways universities censor free speech. The federal law addressing this issue comes from a U.S. Supreme Court case that defines when speech crosses the line to criminal conduct. H.B. 159 Higher Education Speech, sets a standard all state universities can follow to ensure free speech is respected on campus. H.B. 159 passed in both the Senate and House and will now go to the governor.

Vehicle Registration Renewal Notices 
Last year, the Utah Tax Commission discontinued postcard mailers reminding vehicle owners when their vehicle registration renewal is due. Since this practice was discontinued in September, Utahns have asked for these mailers to be sent again. H.B. 170 Vehicle Registration Renewal Notice Requirements, officially requires the Department of Motor Vehicles to resume the use of registration renewal reminder mailers. This bill passed on second reading with unanimous support in the Senate.

Grant Program for Small Businesses  
Many businesses felt the impact of COVID-19 this year, particularly small businesses. S.B. 202 Grant Program for Small Businesses, creates a grant program that will be administered by the Governor’s Office of Economic Development for small businesses that experienced significant loss due to the pandemic. The grant covers three months of fixed costs, including payroll, rent, utilities and insurance. S.B. 202 passed in the Senate and will now be considered in the House.

(Left) Presenting my bill, S.B. 197 Trust Deed Amendments
(Right) S.B. Trust Deed Amendments passed in the senate and will now be considered in the House.

Announcements:
Join My Town Halls 

The Cache County Republican Party has organized a weekly virtual town hall on Facebook Live (here) every Thursday at 7:00 PM throughout the General Session (until March 11) to inform you on the latest developments in the Legislature. We are expecting to have late floor time debate on Thursday, March 6 and my schedule will not permit my attendance for the upcoming town hall. However, I plan to attend the following town hall on Thursday, March 11 at 7:00 PM.  “See” you there!

Please submit your questions by filling out the form (here) by Wednesdays at 6:00 PM.

Utah Saves Week Campaign

The Utah Legislature named week six “Utah Saves Week” to encourage Utahns to learn about saving strategies, build wealth and connect with free resources to achieve financial goals. One way to start saving is to search our state’s unclaimed property database, mycash.utah.gov, at least once a year for unclaimed property, as well as for property belonging to family, friends, deceased relatives and organizations you support. Read how to check if you have unclaimed property here. 

(Left) Unclaimed property in my senate district alone.
(Right) This is Bill. Bill came to visit us in the senate floor as we kicked off Utah Saves Week.
Stay Connected

I will be sending a weekly newsletter update during the session. I have also been assigned my legislative intern, Tony Victorino. He will help me stay organized and ensure you’re being heard. Tony can be reached via phone/text at 385-441-0601 or tvictorino@le.utah.gov

I am excited to work my very first session in the Utah Senate. Thank you for giving me this opportunity.


2021 Legislative Update: Week Five

Dear Friends and Neighbors,
We have just completed week five of the 2021 General Session during which we recognized the service and sacrifice of Utah’s fallen soldiers, honored the life of Cache Valley native, William E. Christofferson, and passed a number of important bills. I have appreciated your correspondence this week and encourage you to continue to reach out with your suggestions and concerns.

Utah’s Fallen Soldiers
We must never forget that freedom is bought and paid with a price by men and women who selflessly put their lives in harm’s way to protect others. We are grateful for the service and sacrifice of all our military and truly saddened by the loss of those who have given the ultimate sacrifice. We extend our heartfelt sympathies and gratitude to their families, some of whom joined us in the Senate gallery. Watch the Senate’s fallen soldier recognition here.

(Family of fallen soldier)

Honoring the Life of William E. Christoffersen 
William E. Christofferson, a Cache Valley Native and local hero, was also honored in the Legislature last week. William Christofferson served in World War II and dedicated his life to helping veterans. He advocated for veterans across Utah and helped create the first veterans nursing home in Salt Lake City. Read the full resolution here.

(Left: William Christofferson)
(Right: Veterans and family of William Christofferson)

Highlights from this week’s legislation:
Emergency Response
S.B. 195 Emergency Response Amendments, creates checks on executive powers during long-term emergencies without hindering rapid emergency response. This bill is a direct result of the concerns we heard from Utahns across the state and does not disrupt the ability of the executive branch or the Utah Department of Health or local health agencies to respond to day-to-day emergencies, such as natural disasters. S.B. 195 creates checks and balances between the different branches of government as well as between state and local governments, including health departments, during long-term emergencies. It also increases transparency and allows for public input.

Mental Health Day for Students
This week, the Senate heard H.B. 81 Mental Health Days for Students, which adds 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. H.B. 81 passed in the Senate and was sent to the governor for consideration.

Pharmacy Benefit Amendments
Utah has several health clinics that qualify for 340B drugs, a federal program that provides discounted medication. These small clinics across the state support diverse populations, low-income families and underserved areas. S.B. 140 Pharmacy Benefit Amendments, clarifies that clinics that qualify for 340B medications may bill the insurance company for the full price of 340B medication and capture the additional profit to improve their healthcare systems. S.B. 140 passed in the Senate with unanimous support. You can watch the floor presentation here.

Canine Caused Injury
H.B. 213 Canine Injury Amendments, states if a wandering dog is injured or killed when encountering another dog in an enclosed or fenced area on private property that the owner of the attacking dog is not liable. This bill passed in the Senate with an amendment that clarified the immunity only applies in situations where the attacking dog is inside an enclosed or fenced area. The bill will now return to the House for concurrence to the changes made while in the Senate. You can watch the floor presentation here.

Confinement of Egg-laying Hens
S.B. 147 Confinement of Egg-laying Hens, prohibits farm owners from confining egg-laying hens in enclosures that are not considered cage-free housings and sets January 1, 2025, as the self-imposed date to achieve cage-free hen environments in Utah. It also designates the Department of Agriculture and Food as the enforcer of the provisions in the bill. Large-scale egg producers worked together with animal advocacy organizations on this legislation. S.B. 147 passed in the Senate and will now be considered in the House. To listen to the bill presentation, click here.

(Presenting my bill, S.B. 143 Revenue Bond and Capital Facilities Amendments)
Announcements:
Join My Town Halls 

The Cache County Republican Party has organized a weekly virtual town hall on Facebook Live (here) every Thursday at 7:00 PM throughout the General Session (until March 11) to inform you on the latest developments in the Legislature. Please submit your questions by filling out the form (here) by Wednesdays at 6:00 PM.I am committed to listening and learning from you. Hope to “see” you there!

(Cache County Republicans Facebook Zoom Town Hall)
COVID-19 Vaccines Now Available for those 65+ 
Last week, Gov. Cox announced that Utahns 65 and older now qualify for the COVID-19 vaccine. You can learn more about Utah’s vaccine distribution plan here. Also, if you have any trouble scheduling your vaccine through your local health department, you can reach the Utah State Health Department’s COVID-19 immunization hotline by calling 1-800-456-7707.

In the News: KUTV | KSL | ABC 4 | Fox 13

Stay Connected

I will be sending a weekly newsletter update during the session. I have also been assigned my legislative intern, Tony Victorino. He will help me stay organized and ensure you’re being heard. Tony can be reached via phone/text at 385-441-0601 or tvictorino@le.utah.gov

I am excited to work my very first session in the Utah Senate. Thank you for giving me this opportunity.

Sincerely,

2021 Legislative Update: Week Four

Dear Friends and Neighbors,
We’re officially halfway through the session. Last week has been quite busy with numerous meetings, constituent emails, phone calls, and committees. I am working hard to represent you and am especially appreciative for your support and input. Keep voicing your concerns and input with me.
Presenting H.B. 69 Traffic Code Amendments during senate floor time debate.
Join My Town Halls 
The Cache County Republican Party has organized a weekly virtual town hall on Facebook Live (here) every Thursday at 7:00 PM throughout the General Session (until March 11) to inform you on the latest developments in the Legislature. Please submit your questions by filling out the form (here) by Wednesdays at 6:00 PM.
I am committed to listening and learning from you. Hope to “see” you there!Senate District 25 Highlight
I want to congratulate Jisung Lee from Logan High School for being named one of the top two youth in Utah for the 26th Annual Prudential Spirit of Community Awards. The program honors students for their volunteer service focused on addressing the challenges of our changing world. Click here for the news release announcing this prestigious award.
I am very proud of you and grateful for your hard work. Way to represent Logan!

Utah State University Day on the Hill
I enjoyed meeting Utah State Student Body President, Sami Ahmed, and Jenn Ha, Student Advocate VP, when they visited last week. Thanks for all you do to advocate for the students at Utah State University! (And thanks for bringing Aggie ice cream with you!)

Highlights from this week’s bills:

Epinephrine Auto-Injector (EpiPen) Access
Last year, we addressed a series of solutions to combat the state’s insulin crisis, including an option for patients to buy insulin at a discounted price through the Public Employees Health Program (PEHP). This year, the Legislature wants to extend beyond insulin discounts by introducing H.B. 206 Epinephrine Auto-Injector Access, which would allow patients to purchase EpiPen medication at a discounted price. This bill passed on the second reading calendar and will be considered on the third reading calendar. You can watch the floor presentation here.

Human Services Oversight  
Last week, Paris Hilton provided testimony in favor of  S.B. 127 Human Services Program Amendments, during the Senate Judiciary, Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Committee. Hilton and others spoke of their experiences in youth residential treatment centers. S.B. 127 increases transparency and proposes to end abusive practices in Utah’s congregate care programs. To hear the committee presentation, click here. For the bill presentation on the Senate floor, click here.
In the News: The Hill | KUTV

Regulatory Sandbox Bill
H.B. 217 Regulatory Sandbox Program Amendments, creates a “sandbox” program where companies can suspend certain regulations for a limited period of time while they are testing new ideas. This will allow companies to see if their ideas will work before enacting regulations. This bill passed with unanimous support on second reading in the Senate. You can watch the floor discussion here.
In the News: Fox13 | KSL | Forbes

Public Education Funding Amendments 
After months of discussions with members of the education community, S.B. 142 Public Education Funding Amendments, aims to make sure Utah students receive equal funding by assessing our public education revenue and current funding structure. S.B. 142 would allow the legislative Public Education Appropriations Committee to make recommendations to better distribute funds throughout the state. This bill passed in the Senate and will now be considered in the House. You can watch the floor presentation here.

Use-of-Force Standards
S.B. 106 Use of Force Amendments, requires that POST establish statewide use-of-force standards and conduct an annual review of those standards. S.B. 106 passed unanimously in committee and will now be heard on the Senate floor. To hear the committee presentation, click here.
In the News: Deseret News

Improving Air Quality
Throughout the pandemic, we have seen working from home greatly decrease traffic volume and increase air quality. Many people have also noticed that working from home does not impact productivity and can improve an employee’s work/life balance.  S.B. 15 Workforce Solutions for Air Quality Amendments, requires that state agencies provide and measure teleworking options for state employees during bad air quality days. S.B. 15 passed in the committee and will now be heard on the Senate floor. To listen to the committee meeting, click here.

Livestock Amendments
Rural county commissioners and prosecutors have been struggling with an increased number of cows and horses being shot in their jurisdictions. Many are also dealing with the occasional theft and killing of livestock guardian dogs. H.B. 166 Livestock Amendments, increases penalties for the destruction of livestock, including livestock guardian dogs. The bill clarifies ownership standards for livestock and livestock guardian dogs. H.B. 166 passed in the Senate and will return to the House for concurrence. To listen to the bill presentation on the Senate floor, click here.

Have a Happy Presidents’ Day! This day honors all U.S. presidents, past and present, for their efforts on behalf of our great nation.

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

After three weeks in session, we are hitting our stride and getting a lot accomplished. We passed a total of 50 bills last week alone and have observed the culmination of years of work and negotiation result in some good legislation. I have been impressed by the efforts of many in the Utah Legislature to be open, respectful, and collaborative.

One comment I often hear from constituents is that we are passing way too many laws. I share that concern and will work hard to ensure that legislation is relevant, efficient and needful. However, I have also found that many bills, rather than adding more laws, make small technical changes to existing Utah statutes – fixing what is already on the books. 

For years, Utah has been ranked the most well-run state in the nation because we have an intelligent, educated, hard-working citizenry that are engaged in the process. I appreciate all of you who have taken the time and effort to share your viewpoints. Please, continue to be involved!

Meet Tony

My legislative intern, Tony, is a Utah State University student and is five steps ahead of the game in ensuring I am prepared and reviewing emails and social media posts to keep me informed of your concerns during the busy days of the session. Thank you so much, Tony!

You can’t see from our masks, but I promise we are smiling!

Below you’ll find summaries of a few bills under consideration with links to the bill text and video of debates. Please let me know if there are specific bills that you would like to see highlighted in subsequent newsletters.

Recognizing COVID-19 Efforts
The last year has been hard on everyone as we’ve learned to live life during a pandemic. Many have been sick or lost loved ones. Thousands lost jobs and some lost businesses. Students, teachers and families had to adapt to a new style of teaching. During this challenging time, many individuals in our state and local health departments worked tirelessly to produce, publish and promote accurate information to help us navigate this pandemic. This week, the Senate passed H.C.R. 6 Concurrent Resolution Recognizing COVID-19 Efforts, to recognize and express our appreciation for these individuals. You can watch the bill presentation on the Senate floor here.

Deceased Voters
Although Utah works hard to ensure accurate and secure elections, ballots occasionally are mailed to deceased voters. H.B. 12 Deceased Voter Amendments, creates a more uniform process to rectify this issue. When a Utahn passes away, the bill requires that the death certificate be sent from the state registrar to the Lieutenant Governor’s office within five business days of the certificate’s registration. The certificate will then be sent to the County Clerk’s office where the deceased name will be removed from the voter rolls. Before each election cycle, the Lieutenant Governor’s office will also cross-check each name against United States Social Security Administration data. H.B. 12 passed the Senate and House and will be sent to the governor. To listen to the bill presentation on the Senate floor, click here.

Driver License Changes 
This week, we considered legislation that would make changes to the driver’s license requirements for new drivers. H.B. 18 Driver Education Amendments, would extend the term of a learner permit from one year to 18 months. This change does not prevent youth from getting their license upon turning 16. In addition, this bill would remove the required six observation hours for driver education observation for 15-17-year-olds. This bill passed with unanimous support in the Senate. To listen to the bill presentation on the Senate floor, click here.

Holocaust Education
Many adults learned about the Holocaust during their K-12 years; however, it seems this important, historic lesson is slowly diminishing in our children’s education. S.C.R. 1 Concurrent Resolution on Holocaust Education, highlights the importance of Holocaust and genocide education for students and encourages the State Board of Education and local education agencies to provide Holocaust and genocide content for schools. This bill passed with unanimous support in the Senate and will now be considered by the House. You can watch the bill presentation on the Senate floor here.

Law Enforcement Weapons Amendments 
Equipping our law enforcement officers with the latest resources to address incidents is critical to protecting the public. S.B. 68 Law Enforcement Weapons Amendments, would create a pilot program that would help the Utah Highway Patrol in purchasing technology to assist law enforcement agencies in police incidents where firearms are involved. This technology would allow firearms to record the number of shots fired and indicate when it was fired. This simple modification would improve the effectiveness of police investigations where firearms are used. This bill passed in the Senate and will now be considered in the House. Listen to the bill’s presentation on the Senate floor here.

Conceal Carry Firearm Amendments 
Utah currently has an “open carry” law that allows individuals who are legally able to possess a firearm to open carry in public. H.B.60 Conceal Carry Firearms Amendments, would allow anyone over 21, who is legally allowed to possess a firearm, to carry a concealed weapon in public without a concealed carry permit. Additionally, this bill would establish a Suicide Prevention and Education Fund and a portion of funds collected from the concealed carry permit class will go toward suicide prevention efforts and firearm safety. This bill will not discontinue the concealed carry permit class or change specifications on how firearms can be carried in public. H.B. 60 passed the Senate and will be sent to the House for their consideration. Listen to the bill’s presentation on the Senate floor here.

Have a great week and keep reaching out!

Stay Connected
I will be sending a weekly newsletter update during the session. For constituent services or meeting requests, contact my legislative intern, Tony at 385-441-0601 or tvictorino@le.utah.gov

Thank you for giving me this opportunity.