Legislative 2021 Updates – Senator Wilson

 


11/24/21:

About
Utah State Legislature

Dear Friends and Neighbors,As we approach Thanksgiving, with its emphasis on family and gratitude, I want to express my appreciation for all you do to make our community such a wonderful place to live and work! I consider it an honor and privilege to serve our district.                                                                                                    The Utah State legislature recently met in a Special Session. There, we passed several bills, and I had the honor of speaking to H.C.R. 201 on behalf of Senator Bramble, who was unable to attend.Interim committee meetings were also held to discuss important issues facing Utah. Below are summaries from the Special Session and Interim Meetings.

Vaccine Mandates 

Mandates are not the right approach to managing COVID-19. In Utah, we work to find the right balance between protecting business rights and individual rights.   For years, Utah’s K-12 immunization and vaccination numbers have remained high while allowing medical, religious, and personal exemptions. More recently, we have seen success with vaccine exemptions in our state universities.  During the special session, we passed a law, S.B. 2004 Workplace COVID-19 Amendments, to provide employees with COVID-19 vaccine exemptions for religious, medical or personal reasons. The law also prevents employers from taking adverse action if an employee has a vaccine exemption, including demoting, reducing wages, firing or refusing to hire.  Further, if an employer requires COVID-19 workplace testing, S.B. 2004 requires the employer to pay for it and prohibits an employer from maintaining a record of an employee’s proof of vaccination, except under certain conditions. While S.B. 2004 does not include federal contracts, it is a step in the right direction to protect individuals’ freedoms to make medical decisions. Additionally, Utah is working to prevent the Biden administration’s questionably unconstitutional vaccine mandate that forces businesses with over a hundred employees to get the COVID-19 vaccine from being implemented.  Currently, Biden’s OSHA vaccine mandate was put on hold by a federal court as it goes through the judicial process. In the ruling, the court said, “The petitions give cause to believe there are grave statutory and constitutional issues with the mandate.” We will continue to work to protect individuals’ right to make medical decisions.  Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes is also working with 11 other state attorney generals on a lawsuit to try and stop the Biden administration’s vaccine mandate for healthcare workers. Learn more about the lawsuit here.Drought Conditions   

It was noted in this month’s Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environment Interim Committee that although Utah no longer has an emergency drought order in place, 100% of the state is still in drought conditions and 79% of the state is in “extreme” drought conditions or worse. However, the Department of Natural Resources reported our state has made some progress. Rain and snow this fall has benefitted soil and moisture conditions, which means precipitation this winter will mostly fill reservoirs and lakes rather than soaking into parched soil. Despite this good news, stream flows have not increased as expected and are below normal levels in 48 of 97 reported streams. Reservoir levels are also very low, with the Great Salt Lake at a historic low and 37 of Utah’s 45 larger reservoirs below 55% capacity. Listen to the report here.  988 Crisis Response System 

During the Government Operations Interim Committee meeting last week, the committee heard a presentation about the state’s plan for the new 988 Crisis Response System going into effect nationwide in July 2022. The Utah Behavioral Health Crisis Response Commission reported on their studies of 12 areas of state compliance with national crisis response standards, including research on the interoperability between 911 and 988.   Utah Behavioral Health Crisis Response Commission found Utah’s current behavioral health Crisis Line has increased in demand by 51% from the beginning of the pandemic through October 2021. Over 92,000 total crisis calls were received in the 2021 fiscal year, including 1,353 life-saving interventions for callers at imminent risk of suicide. Along with increased demand, the length of time to resolve crisis calls increased by 64% from March 2020 to October 2021. In 86% of calls, concerns were resolved over the phone, 4% of calls were referred to an emergency department or hospital and in 2% of calls, law enforcement was involved. Listen to the presentation here.  Water Safety in Schools and Childcare Facilities  According to a 2017 sample study presented to the Legislative Water Development Commission, 92% of schools and childcare centers tested around Utah have detectable amounts of lead in the water. Lead can be dangerous and harmful, especially for the young students who use those water systems. Lawmakers are drafting legislation to establish baseline testing in all schools and childcare centers by the close of 2023. The purpose is to create a safer and healthier environment for children by resolving any identified problems and notifying the public. Listen to the presentation here.  Education and Mental Health Coordinating Council Over the years, the Legislature has recognized our state’s need for expansive mental health resources and has responded by establishing and supporting commissions, councils and working groups to address this need. This month, the Education and Mental Health Coordinating Council heard presentations on a few of these groups’ accomplishments and successes. Each group has made remarkable improvements over the years by growing in both numbers and influence. Listen to the presentations here.   Vehicle Registration   For many years, Utah has relied on taxes from gasoline sales to fund maintenance for public roads. However, as more people drive electric vehicles, taxes on gasoline will lose value over time. In 2018, the Legislature instituted an alternative fuel vehicle fee to cover a portion of those vehicles’ contribution to building and maintaining Utah’s transportation system. During this month’s interim meetings, the Transportation Interim Committee considered legislation that would create a similar vehicle registration fee for certain fuel-efficient vehicles to help support Utah’s transportation system. The committee provided feedback on the drafted legislation and will consider it again at a later date. Watch the presentation here.

Stay Connected
Thank you for your support and engagement. I look forward to hearing from you. Stay in touch regarding any questions, comments, or input.
Sincerely,
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11/5/21:

About
Utah State Legislature

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

I hope you are all doing well and enjoying the abundance of moisture we’ve received lately. The  Utah State legislature recently met for an interim session. Below are highlights from a few of the committee meetings.

Infrastructure and General Government (IGG) Appropriations Subcommittee *Each of the topics and their presentation can be viewed via the link below at the indicated time: https://le.utah.gov/av/committeeArchive.jsp?mtgID=17765

IGG, of which I am Senate chair, met to hear presentations on several important matters for which appropriations have been or will be considered. These included infrastructure and earthquakes (USU’s Dr. Cox, 0:04:56), FrontRunner double-tracking (UTA, 0:38:35), broadband availability and coverage options (Go Utah, UDOT, 1:04:55), sewer and water quality conditions (Division of  Water Quality, 1:55:02), and water infrastructure – Whites Valley Reservoir (Utah Department of  Natural Resources, 2:12:10).

State Water Policy and Drought Conditions 

Utah has moved from an “exceptional” drought category to an “extreme” drought category, which is a slight improvement. Utah’s Department of Natural Resources Director, Brian Steed, presented this update to the Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environment Interim Committee along with news that state soil this year has a much higher moisture level than last year. This means snowpack should reach reservoirs before it is absorbed during runoff.

While the news is positive, we all still need to continue to conserve water as we recover from this historic drought. Our state’s expected population growth heightens the need to conserve water. As we strive to provide adequate water supplies, the state has created several relevant government programs. Including an expanded turf buyback program, an integrated land use and water use program, an agricultural optimization program, and a program to install secondary water meters. You can learn more here.

Monoclonal Antibodies 

Monoclonal antibody treatments are showing extremely promising results. Intermountain  Healthcare’s study indicates with the treatment, Utah could see a 57% reduction in hospitalizations per day of those who would have been hospitalized without treatment. The treatment is free to  Utahns and paid for by the federal government.

The Utah Department of Health testified before the Health and Human Services Interim Committee meeting regarding Utah’s monoclonal antibody treatment progress. Currently, Utah is administering 450-550 doses weekly but has 2,000 doses per week available. We need to be administering all 2,000 doses weekly to prevent as many Utahns as possible from being hospitalized. By removing obstacles to allow more individuals to administer the treatment, we can save lives. Listen to the meeting here.

Additionally, review a video about Monoclonal Antibodies here.

Election Integrity

The Judiciary Interim Committee heard a presentation proposing an audit on the 2020 general election. As a Legislature, we continually work to keep our election laws accurate to ensure election integrity is upheld. While improvements can always be made, Utah has been lauded as the gold standard for elections across the nation for years. Listen to the presentation here.

Life Science Caucus 

Utah is a world leader in genetic research and the manufacture of medical devices. The life sciences industry, one of the fastest-growing segments of our state’s economy, contributes to over 130,000 jobs and accounts for over 8% of Utah’s annual GDP. A Utah Life Sciences  Innovation Caucus was held to raise the visibility of the industry, educate lawmakers on issues important to this growing sector of the state’s economy and provide a platform for discussion that will lead to more informed public policy decisions and innovations that will drive solutions to some of our most pressing healthcare challenges.

Redistricting 

Utah’s Legislative Redistricting Committee recently concluded its statewide public hearing tour.  The committee held over a dozen meetings across the state, gathering feedback, reviewing maps, and listening to Utahns’ concerns. Hundreds of Utahns attended the public hearings in person and online, and nearly 100 maps were shared with the committee.

The Independent Redistricting Commission presented maps to the Legislative Committee on  Monday, November 1 and the full Legislature plans to adopt maps in mid-November. For the most updated information, visit redistricting.utah.gov.

School Curriculum Transparency 

The Education Interim Committee voted to create a working group to study school curriculum transparency. The working group’s goal is to explore how to build a better process for parents to observe and provide feedback on what is taught in classrooms, creating a more open approach to education. The intent is for school districts to receive input from parents on supplemental materials and controversial issues before it reaches the point of contention. Some Utah schools already practice this, but possible legislation could expand the practice to a statewide expectation. The working group will report back to the Education Interim Committee in November with their findings and recommendation. Listen to the discussion here.

Speaking of gratitude for all the moisture we’ve received, I enjoyed seeing many of you during the rainy Utah State Homecoming Parade. Go Ags!

Stay Connected
Thank you for your support and engagement. I look forward to hearing from you. Stay in touch regarding any questions, comments, or input.
Sincerely,

9/23/21

About
Utah State Legislature
Dear Friends and Neighbors,

This month marks the 20th anniversary of the day we saw the greatest evil come to our shores. Many lost friends, neighbors and colleagues and even though it was a trying time for our country, we came together and found strength as we helped one another. Words will never be able to express my gratitude for the first responders and civilians who stepped up that day. Their courage and devotion to their fellow Americans will never be forgotten.

To commemorate the 20th anniversary of 9/11, the Utah Senate released a video honoring all those involved. Watch the video here.

COVID-19 Update

Graphic of COVID-19 patients at Intermountain Healthcare

Vaccines are available for all Utahns 12 and older. Find locations here.

Color-coded School Thresholds Added to COVID-19 Dashboard
The Utah Department of Health added new color-coded data to the COVID-19 dashboard under the school tab to make it easier to see which schools are approaching a Test to Stay event. During Test to Stay events, schools are required to test all students for COVID-19. Utah law requires schools to hold a Test to Stay event when:

  • Schools with 1,500 or more students have 2 percent of their students test positive for COVID-19 within 14 days.
  • Schools with fewer than 1,500 students have 30 students test positive for COVID-19 within 14 days.
  • A “Test to Stay” program can be implemented in an elementary school classroom when the classroom COVID-19 case count reaches 3 within a 7-day period. (Bear River Health Department Public Health Order – Effective 9/20/21)

Learn more about the new color-coded information here.

Redistricting
Every ten years, the Utah Legislature is constitutionally required to redraw congressional, state Senate, state House of Representatives and State Board of Education districts to reflect changes in population. To accomplish this, the Legislature formed the bipartisan Legislative Redistricting Committee to gather public input and recommend new district boundaries to the full Legislature.

The committee is currently touring the state to listen to feedback, discuss data and review maps submitted by the public. Find a public hearing near you here. Draw a map to submit to the Legislative Redistricting Committee here.

Judicial Confirmation
An important responsibility of the Senate is to confirm judicial appointments made by the governor. This month, we had the unique opportunity to confirm someone familiar to most of us in the Legislature, former Utah State Representative Craig Hall, who was appointed to fill the Second District Court vacancy left by the retirement of Judge Robert J. Dale. While every judicial appointment is highly qualified, a lot of us have personal experience working with Hall and can attest to his integrity, intelligence and professionalism. Watch his confirmation here.

Housing Affordability
During the Political Subdivisions Interim Committee, we heard a presentation from the Utah Housing Coalition, a group made up of nonprofit and for-profit organizations dedicated to promoting equitable, sustainable communities and affordable housing.

When defining affordability, a broad understanding is housing is unaffordable if it costs more than 30 percent of the resident’s income. There is a shortage of affordable rental homes throughout the state to low-income households or families whose incomes are at or below 30 percent of their area median income. The affordable housing shortage is estimated to be over 45,000 rental homes. Currently, there are several incentives for owners and investors to create low-income housing, including the Housing Tax Credit . Listen to the committee hearing presentation here.

Homelessness
During the Executive Appropriations Committee meeting, the State Homeless Coordinator Wayne Niederhauser spoke with the committee regarding a proposed purchase of a detoxification center in Salt Lake for homeless overflow housing. Read more about the plan here and listen to the committee presentation here.

Drought Conditions
Brian Steed, Executive Director of the Department of Natural Resources, met with the Natural Resources Interim Committee to speak about drought conditions. Currently, 100 percent of the state remains in drought with 88 percent of the state in extreme drought. While this is an improvement from where we started the summer, the conditions are still worse than in previous years.

The current drought is a result of poor rainfall and moisture accumulation during fall of 2020, resulting in dry soil which then absorbed all snowpack runoff during the winter and spring. Our state relies heavily on snowpack runoff and the lack of water has resulted in depleted stream flows and reservoir levels. However, as we have received high volumes of moisture during the end of summer, which has improved soil and moisture conditions.

Furthermore, Utahns have done well to save water. Director Steed reported several water-use regions where water consumption has noticeably declined during the drought. Jordan Valley Water Conservancy District saw their water usage down nearly 30 percent this August compared to last August. Washington County reported saving 600 million gallons of water this summer despite a population increase. Salt Lake has saved 1.8 billion gallons since July 1.

Even with these positive gains, it remains important for Utahns to conserve. Find more information about Utah’s drought conditions here.

Education Audits 
In August 2019, the Legislative Audit Subcommittee asked the office of the Legislative Auditor General to conduct audits of Utah’s public education system. During September interim, the Education Interim Committee studied an audit of the Utah State Board of Education’s internal governance that the office released this spring. Click here to learn more about this audit. Also, be sure to keep an eye out for the upcoming audits on teacher retention, student performance, teacher and administrator compensation and administrative overhead in traditional and charter schools.

Mental Health
Last week, the Education Interim Committee heard from experts on the impact COVID-19 has had on students’ mental health. Data shows that in Utah’s schools, anxiety, stress and depression have been top risk factors throughout the pandemic. We will continue to monitor this situation and prioritize mental health in our schools. Recently, Utah has made great strides to improve mental health among students by investing in mental health screeningschool counselors, mental wellness programs and much more.

Economy Update
The Executive Appropriation Committee regularly asks for updates on Utah’s economy. During the most recent update, we found that

  1. Utah have recovered more than the number of jobs that we lost over the course of the pandemic,
  2. Our inflation growth is slowing,
  3. We have falling unemployment rates and the second lowest unemployment rate in the nation.

Utah has a strong economy that has not only endured this pandemic, but is continually improving! You can learn more about Utah’s economy here.

Internet Access Programs 
In an increasingly virtual world, both public and private entities see the importance of helping people get access to the internet. Across the state, Comcast Utah is now offering internet services for only $9.95 a month to all students who are Pell Grant recipients. People can also apply to the Federal Emergency Broadband Benefit Program, which can provide up to $50 per month toward broadband service for eligible households.

Teacher of the Year
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Sydnee Dickson named Mark Berrett Daniels, a theatre teacher at Weber High School in Pleasant View, as 2022 Utah Teacher of the Year. Read more here.

I Look Forward to Hearing From You!
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,

Stay Connected
Thank you for your support and engagement. I look forward to hearing from you. Stay in touch regarding any questions, comments, or input.
Sincerely,
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About
Utah State Legislature
Dear Friends and Neighbors,

This is my first interim report of the year. I know my constituents want to stay informed about the latest developments in the Legislature, but if you feel this report is too long (or wish to read specific content), I welcome your feedback on this or any other topic. I am trying my best listen to every voice. You matter to me!

Interim Report:
Last week, the Legislature met for interim committee and appropriations subcommittee meetings. These occur about once every other month and include members from both the Senate and House. Subcommittees review funding for the state government and balance the budget, and then give their funding recommendations to the Executive Appropriations Subcommittee, where final budget decisions are made.

Approximately one week after interim meetings, our non-partisan staff create newsletters reviewing all the main discussions. They can be found here.

Interim Highlights:

  • The University of Utah presented a utilization plan and outline for creating a system-wide approach to resolving Utah’s mental health crisis. Listen to the presentation here.  As the Chair of the Infrastructure and General Government Appropriations Subcommittee, I spoke in favor of this effort and recognize the need to address mental health concerns.
  • The Transportation Committee received an update on the voluntary, pilot Road User Charge.  Listen to the presentation here.
  • The Health and Human Services Interim Committee discussed transgender health care for youth and transgender youth in school sports. No legislation was introduced during this meeting, as legislators continue to work to research the topic further. Listen to the meeting here.
  • The State Board of Education (USBE) took action to address critical race theory in schools by approving administrative rules that address educational equality and how it is included in learning and instructional materials. Last week USBE shared their next steps, which include a public comment period, a training checklist and a timeline for implementation and developing model training. Listen to the presentation here.
  • The Government Operations Interim committee continues to have ongoing presentations and discussions on alternative voting methods, in part to address the issue of plurality in traditional elections. This week the committee received presentations on ranked-choice voting and approval voting. Listen to the presentation here.
  • The Judiciary Interim Committee heard two presentations regarding adult probation and parole to better understand the growing issue with absconders/fugitives. Listen to the presentations and discussion here.
  • The Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands reported 364 fires, 315 of which have been human caused, during the Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environmental Quality Appropriations Subcommittee. Utah currently has four large fires, including the largest, the Bear Fire, which has burned over 11,000 acres. Listen to the report here. 
  • The Legislative Auditor regularly sends the Legislature comprehensive audits of entities that receive public funds. The audits serve as a way to improve programs, reduce costs and promote accountability in government. Find all recent audit reports here. For example, one of the reports includes The Utah Rural Jobs Act Audit Review which indicates that as of this year, nearly 70 percent of capital funds have been invested in rural counties in Utah. Listen to the presentation here.

Water Use/Drought
Utah is currently experiencing extreme drought. Earlier this year, the Division of Water Resources (DWR) recommended that the state drought coordinator and Utah’s Division of Natural Resources (DNR) convene the Drought Review and Reporting Committee. The committee recommended an executive order should be issued declaring a state of emergency due to the drought. Gov. Cox released the declaration on March 17. In May, the Legislature extended the drought declaration through October. On June 8, the state issued another drought declaration to further restrict water use at state facilities and prohibit fireworks on state lands.

Though we have no control over droughts in our desert state, we do have control over our water conservation efforts. Learn about your role in water conservation here. Find a helpful lawn watering guide here.

Fire Season
With Utah’s current severe drought conditions, our state needs to take extra precautions to prevent wildfires. This means making smart and responsible choices when it comes to fireworks safety throughout the July holidays. Listen to the report here.Redistricting
Every ten years, the U.S. Constitution requires the U.S. Census Bureau to conduct a count of every person who lives in the United States. The results of the census are used for redistricting, which is the process of drawing new district boundaries for congressional, legislative and state school board districts based on the state’s resident population.In Utah, the Legislature is responsible for redrawing district boundaries. Once the state receives the data from the U.S. Census Bureau, members from the Utah Senate and House of Representatives will hold town hall meetings across the state. Members of the public are encouraged to attend these meetings and provide input and feedback. In addition to participating in town halls, all Utahns will be able to use a state-of-the-art map drawing tool to create their own maps for the legislative committee to review.  Learn more on the redistricting website here.
Thank you Millville City for having me at the parade last weekend! I always enjoy interacting with my constituents on a personal level. I appreciate you all! (If you have preference on candy for future parades, let me know too! I’m taking requests!)
Earlier this month, I joined a few Senators and staffers to tour the new Utah State Prison site. This was a great opportunity to witness the projects’ progress before its expected completion.
Stay Connected
Thank you for your support and engagement. I look forward to hearing from you. Stay in touch regarding any questions, comments, or input.
Sincerely,
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May Special Session Recap

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

For the past few months, I have been visiting different areas in my senate district to better understand your needs and concerns. I am staying busy but am grateful for this work and honored to represent you. Below is a report of the special session and other important highlights.

May 2021 Special Session Report

Accepting and Appropriating Federal Funds
A special session was convened for the primary purpose of accepting the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds Congress allocated to Utah. The ARPA funds total roughly $1.7 billion. We passed S.J.R. 101 Joint Resolution Approving the Acceptance of Federal Funds (approving the acceptance of the federal funds) and S.B. 1001 Appropriations Adjustments (appropriating $571 million of the roughly $1.7 billion that the state is expected to receive in ARPA funds for specific purposes). Additionally, we made a few adjustments to the budget we passed earlier this year to replace some of the state funding with ARPA funding.

Here are a few of the items we funded with ARPA this month:

  • $103 million for business and economic development
  • $100 million for water conservation
    • $165 million for social services (includes a food bank in San Juan County, mental health services and vaccine distribution)

Our state will receive the funding in two phases – 50 percent this May and the remaining in May 2022. On May 10, the U.S. Department of the Treasury released additional guidelines outlining how these funds may be used. There will likely be further clarifying updates from the U.S. Treasury.

We are committed to spending the federal stimulus responsibly with a focus on funding items that:

  • Create generational impact
  • Provide statewide benefits to citizens
  • Generate sizable benefits without future liability
  • Address long-term challenges in our state

Over the interim and during the 2022 General session, we will continue to review how to best appropriate the funds within priorities that fit the guiding principles.

Masks in Schools  
As our country continues to make great strides in the fight against COVID-19, many states across the nation are beginning to lift mask mandates following updated CDC guidelines. With more and more Utahns getting vaccinated, and with the decrease in cases and hospitalizations in our state, it is important to allow students and families to choose whether or not to wear masks during the 2021-22 school year. The Legislature passed H.B. 1007 Face Covering Amendments, removing the mask requirement in K-12 schools and higher education institutions. These changes came from S.B. 195 to ensure consistent policy regarding oversight for all Utah schools.

Critical Race Theory  
American history should be taught in a way that accurately depicts our country’s highs and lows, triumphs and mistakes. Although our nation’s history is complex, we continue to strive to be better. During a Senate-called extraordinary session, the Senate passed S.R. 901 Senate Resolution on Critical Race Theory in Public Schools, encouraging the State Board of Education to review standards for curriculum and ensure no curriculum or instruction materials in our state include the following concepts:

  • that one race is inherently superior or inferior to another race;
    • that an individual should be discriminated against or receive adverse treatment because of the individual’s race; or
  • that an individual’s moral character is determined by the individual’s race.

Additionally, during our May interim meetings, the Education Interim Committee voted to study critical race theory throughout the year. Read the Senate Majority Caucus statement here.

Sanctuary States  
Our most important duty as legislators is to preserve Utahns’ freedoms, including the freedom to bear arms without government interference. The Senate passed S.R. 902 Senate Resolution Declaring Support for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms and Exploring Sanctuary State Status during a Senate-called extraordinary session. This resolution affirms the right to keep and bear arms as a fundamental right protected by the Bill of Rights and the Utah State Constitution and supports the idea of exploring the possibility of becoming a Second Amendment sanctuary state.

2021 Interim Session

Interim committees study key issues facing the state to help prepare for the 45-day general session. The committee chairs prioritize what should be studied over the interim period based on items that did not make it through the session and input gathered from committee members. The purpose of the committees is to focus on issues that are a top priority to help ensure a proper vetting occurs.

Interim meetings are held throughout the year, typically the third Wednesday of the month, and are open to the public which can be streamed live or listened to at a later date at le.utah.gov.

See the list of proposed 2021 interim study items here.

Bumped into Rep. Blake Moore at a reception in District 25. Grateful for the great leadership we have in Congress.

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Enjoyed a delicious lunch at Stacked! with some special guests after touring Autonomous Solution, Inc in Logan. I am excited for the potential growth in jobs and opportunity this industry will bring to District 25.
(Left to Right) – David Zook, Mayor Holly Daines, Senator Mitt Romney, Mayor Damon Cann

Enjoyed visiting with members of our community during Richmond City’s 106th Annual Black & White Days. This celebration dates back to the first Holstein show in 1912 where local dairymen drove their best Holsteins. Read more about this unique Cache Valley tradition here.

Always great to see citizens come together and celebrate what makes us the best district in Utah. I especially feel grateful to see our veterans and honor their service.

Utah Outdoor Recreation Grant Recipients 2021
Below is a list of projects that were awarded in District 25 thanks to the Utah Outdoor Recreation Grant through the Governor’s Office of Economic Development. Congratulations to the organizations that applied and working tirelessly on these projects. To learn more about the different grants, selection committee, and eligibility, you can visit their website HERE.

Logan River Blue Trail:  – Logan City $201,201.00
Hyde Park Canyon Loop Trail Construction – Cache County $3,724.62
N. Logan Bonneville Shoreline Trail Extension – North Logan City $10,000.00
CCID Outdoor Classroom – The Center for Creativity, Innovation and Discovery $10,000.00

Stay Connected
Thank you for your support and engagement. I look forward to hearing from you. Stay in touch regarding any questions, comments, or input.
Sincerely,

 


2021 Legislative Session Recap

Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Last night of the session. We stayed a little after midnight to congratulate everyone who made the process possible.

It has been an honor to serve with my Legislative colleagues. I am also especially grateful for our local law enforcement and their dedication.

Legislative highlights from the 502 bills that passed in the 2021 general session
(You can see a list of all the bills that passed this session here.)

Budget
It is our Constitutional responsibility to pass a balanced budget each year. Early in the session, we pass smaller, bare bones base budgets to ensure our state continues running even if there is a breakdown during negotiations. Near the end of the session, the Legislature passes what is referred to as the “Bill of Bills,” which allows us to supplement the base budgets with expanded appropriations based on the latest revenue estimates shared mid-way through the session.

Our total state budget this year was a remarkable $23.4 billion, including both state and federal funding. In this recent session, the “Bill of Bills” was more specifically known as S.B. 3 Appropriations Adjustments.

Education
This year, the budget provided historic levels of education funding, with over half our state funds appropriated solely for public and higher education. This funding included providing $121 million for teacher and staff COVID-19 stipends, restoring a 6 percent (WPU) increase in per student funding and allocating $127 million for future education spending to ensure we keep our commitment to fund public education enrollment growth and inflation. After all is said and done, we will have put aside nearly half a billion dollars for public education ongoing funds. That’s half a billion dollars each year, every year, from now on.

Transportation and Infrastructure
The Legislature appropriated $1.1 billion for transportation infrastructure to be spent over the next several years to fund infrastructure projects in every corner and region of the state. Investing in roads and transit over several years will help limit new debt while reducing overall debt over time.

Medicaid
During the 2021 General Session, the Legislature fully funded Medicaid growth and inflation. At the same time, we fixed a $56 million structural imbalance in Medicaid expansion.

The images below show a high-level summary of the budget and where the money is going. You can learn more about the budget at budget.utah.gov.

Business and Economic Development

Regulatory Sandbox 

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.

Education 

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.

 

Health 

Affordability 

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.

  

Mental Health 

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.     

  

                        Youth Services

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. 

Higher Education

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

Training 

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. 38K-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. 

 

Taxes

We passed legislation that will provide approximately $100 million in tax cuts to aid familiesveterans 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.

Logan Regional Vaccine Clinics This Week – Vaccines Available

Here is some information related to COVID-19 Vaccines.

  1. Our community vaccination clinic will only be on Thursday, March 18 with the Pfizer vaccine this week.
  2. They still have plenty of openings for patients to sign up this week – spread the word and notify your friends and family who are eligible to sign up.  via intermountain.com/covidvaccine.
  3. Feel free to share this Facebook post.
Stay Connected
Thank you for your support and engagement. I look forward to hearing from you. Stay in touch regarding any questions, comments, or input.
Sincerely,

2021 Legislative Update: Week Seven

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

That’s a wrap! My first legislative session in the Utah Senate is now complete! We passed a balanced budget – an important responsibility we face as a Legislature and one that is required by the Utah Constitution. This year our budget totaled roughly $23.5 billion for fiscal year 2022, of which we allocated $100 million for tax cuts, appropriated historic levels of funding for education with nearly half a billion dollars in on-going money going to public education and replenished the Rainy-Day funds that were utilized during the pandemic.

As I reflect back on the work of these past 45-days, I want to express my greatest appreciation to my constituents and community members for their support. I will continue to inform you of the latest developments and encourage you to keep reaching out.

Local Announcements:
Springville Museum of Art: All-State High School Art Show  
An impressive 23 pieces by 21 students in Senate District 25 were accepted for exhibition at the Springville Museum of Art. Within that group, Congressman Moore’s office chose Swede Winborg’s Seaport View as the piece that will represent Utah’s first congressional district in Washington D.C.

Congratulations to the students and their magnificent artwork! View the online gallery here.

Rich Middle School Second Trimester 2020-21 Honor Roll
Congratulations to the 6th, 7th, and 8th grade students at Rich Middle School who made the Honor Roll second trimester. I am always amazed by how talented our students are, especially in my senate district, and you are definitely no exception. Keep up the good work! (For letters of recognition, please email me at cwilson@le.utah.gov) Read the student names here.
Town Halls
A big thank you to The Cache County Republican Party for organizing weekly virtual town halls during the legislative session. Our next virtual town hall is on Thursday, March 11 at 7:00 PM. You can find the Facebook Live and all recordings here.
Week 7 Highlights:
Higher Education for Incarcerated Youth 
Access to education in prison can lower the odds of an individual committing additional offenses. 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. H.B. 279 passed in the Senate and will now be sent to the governor.Religious Accommodations in Higher Education 
S.B. 244 Student Religious Accommodations Amendments, allows the Utah System of Higher Education to provide religious accommodation policy to all institutions. For instance, if a student has a firmly held religious belief that conflicts with an exam or academic assignment, then a written notice will allow for the exam or assignment to be done before or after the original due date. S.B. 244 passed in the Senate and will now be sent to the governor for consideration.Suicide Prevention 
The fight against suicide continues to be a priority in the Legislature as suicide is the leading cause of death for Utah children ages 10-24. H.B. 336 Suicide Prevention Amendments, creates a reporting process for the Utah Medical Examiner to obtain youth suicide data for the Health and Human Services Interim Committee to study. The Utah Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health will also be required to provide training to healthcare organizations. It also changes a coupon program to a rebate program that incentivizes individuals to obtain a biometric gun safe. Another bill, H.B. 93 Youth Suicide Prevention Programs Amendments, expands the education of suicide prevention to elementary and secondary grades and requires the programs to be age appropriate. Both of these bills passed in the House and Senate and will now be sent to the governor for consideration.Housing Affordability 
Housing prices are rising at a rate of 12 percent annually, and economists estimate that Utah has a gap of over 53,000 affordable housing units for individuals with average or low incomes. S.B. 164 Utah Housing Affordability Amendments, creates a program that permits political subdivisions to take an inventory of surplus government properties throughout the state that cities could grant for future affordable housing developments. The bill also provides funding and support for low-income renters who may be at risk of eviction.

Free Speech 
Recently, there have been numerous accusations of censorship leveled against social media corporations. It has become apparent that social media platforms are not transparent in the way they moderate content, and more specifically, that the platforms are harsher in moderating certain political and religious beliefs. S.B. 228 Electronic Free Speech Amendments, requires social media companies to clearly state their moderation practices and policies, as well as give users advance notice of their policies before they limit speech. The bill passed in the Senate and House and will go to the governor for his consideration.

Teacher and School Counselor Pipeline Program 
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. This week, the Senate passed H.B. 381 Grow Your Own Teacher and School Counselor Pipeline Program, which supports school districts by creating a three-year pilot program to provide scholarships for paraprofessionals working toward becoming licensed teachers or licensed school counselors.  This allows school districts to work with individuals they already know will be excellent teachers and counselors to become licensed professionals.  This bill passed in both the Senate and House and will now go to the governor for his signature.

LEFT (Presenting S.B. 169 School and Institutional Trust Fund Office Amendments during House Education Committee with State Treasurer David Damschen.)  
RIGHT (S.B. 169 passed in the House and will now go to the governor.) 
COVID-19 Update:
Gov expands COVID vaccine eligibility to 50+ and additional comorbidities. Read more here.

Transmission Index Update. Cache and other counties move to “Moderate” level. Read more here.  

Stay Connected

Thank you for your support and engagement. I look forward to hearing from you. Stay in touch regarding any questions, comments, or input.

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.