Dear Friends and Neighbors,
We have successfully completed one week of the 2020 General Legislative Session. The opening day is largely ceremonial, and we were fortunate to have Elder Ulisses Soares from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints offer the invocation, the Utah Air National Guard present the colors, and the Utah Symphony perform the national anthem.
Here are a few of the highlights from week 1:
S.B. 59Daylight Saving Time Amendments: Each year in the spring and fall, I receive emails from constituents on daylight saving time. Many have stressed the inconvenience of the change in time twice a year for young children, and others suggest it may not be necessary anymore. This year, S.B. 59Daylight Saving Time Amendments seeks to end Utah clock changes. The bill proposes Utah stay on Mountain Daylight Time year-round, pending congressional approval and at least four other western states passing similar legislation.
Currently, the federal government allows states the option to either participate in or abstain from daylight saving time changes. For those who choose to abstain from daylight saving time, the federal government only permits the use of standard time. If this bill passes, Utah will be one step closer to year-round Mountain Daylight Time–spring forward and stay forward.
You can listen to my committee presentation here.
S.B. 17Heber Valley Historic Railroad Authority Sunset Date Extension: This extends the Heber Valley Historic Railroad Authority for an additional 10 years. There has been a lot of discussion on this topic over the interim, and ultimately the general belief is that this should either be discontinued as a state agency or be turned into a private entity. We’re extending the sunset date on this so we can start working on transitioning the authority with the various stakeholders to unwrap it as a quasi-government entity.
S.B. 65Child Welfare Amendments: This is my annual clean-up bill clarifying many provisions on how DCFS and Child Welfare stakeholders can better serve their constituency. Specifically, this bill clarifies which employees undergo background checks, modifies how delinquent or runaway children are classified, and requires routine review of foster care reimbursement rates every 3 years. Throughout this proves we have had stakeholders from all entities involved. Ultimately, we want to make sure everything is correctly calibrated to appropriately meet the needs of our community.
Passing a balanced budget each year is always a top priority. We spend the first few weeks of the session meeting in appropriations subcommittees to consider how we spend money in each area–for example, public education, social services and transportation. Within the first few weeks, we pass base budgets, which allow the government to continue functioning on a basic level. This prevents the state government from shutting down. Once the base budgets are passed, the Executive Appropriations Committee continues to meet and negotiate the “bill of bills,” a complete and comprehensive line-item budget including new one-time and ongoing funding.
You can learn more about the state’s budget here.
Repeal of Tax Reform
One of the first bills we passed this session was H.B. 185Tax Restructuring Revisions – Repeal which, as the name suggests, repealed all parts of the tax reform package we passed in December. While we still need to address the state’s budget structural imbalance issues, it became clear during the signature gathering for the referendum that many citizens had strong concerns around the tax legislation passed over a month ago. Repealing the bill also helped remove legislative budgeting uncertainties. It would have been difficult to pass a balanced budget for the year without knowing our revenue outlook beyond November. H.B. 185 passed unanimously in the Senate, and with only one dissenting vote in the House. We do not plan to pass major tax reform legislation during this session.
You can read the press release announcing the decision here.
Proposed vaping legislation became an immediate priority during the first week of the session. Legislators and industry experts are teaming up to combat the dangers of vaping among youth. From taxing vape products to implementing strict policies on vape prevention, all proposals are being considered. In the Senate, some bills include S.B. 37Electronic Cigarette and Other Nicotine Product Amendments and S.B. 40Youth Electric Cigarette, Marijuana, and Other Drug Prevention Program. As more vaping-related legislation comes through, I will continue to inform you.
In the News: KSL | KJZZ | Salt Lake Tribune
Water banking could facilitate local, voluntary and temporary transactions that generate income for water right owners. It would increase access to water to better support Utah’s increased water demands. S.B. 26Water Banking Amendments creates a local, voluntary and temporary pilot for water banking. Over 70 stakeholders weighed in on this meeting, and nearly two dozen outreach meetings were held throughout the state to solicit input. The bill addresses legal barriers to water market activity, incentivizes the use of water banks and creates a governance structure for water banking, among other things. This pilot will be tested through three-demonstration projects in specific watersheds and has a 10-year sunset period that can be extended or repealed. You can learn more about water banking at utahwaterbank.org. This bill passed the 2nd reading in the Senate with unanimous support.
You can listen to the floor presentation here.
Constitutional Amendment – Session Start Date
Did you know the start date for the general legislative session has changed multiple times in the last 20 years? Currently, the Utah Constitution dictates that the legislative session begins on the fourth Monday in January. S.J.R 3Proposal to Amend the Utah Constitution – Annual General Session of the Legislature, would remove the specific start date to allow the legislature to adjust the start date when needed. There would be limitations: the session would still be required to begin in January and run for 45 consecutive days, exempting holidays. Flexibility is important. When the Olympics or other major events come to Utah, session scheduling can be adjusted without having to change the Constitution each time we need to change the date.
I appreciate those of you who took the time to complete the survey I sent out.
What do you think? Please respond back to me regarding these bills and any other bills or topics you desire.
I am grateful to represent you in the processes that make Utah such a great place to live and raise our families.
I hope to hear your input on these issues this session. The best way to contact me is via email. I look forward to hearing from you.
Senate District 6