Dear Friends and Neighbors,

This legislative session is flying by! We just completed week 5 of the legislative session, so we now have two weeks left to conduct our business. Most notably, in the next two weeks we will pass a balanced budget that will fund the many functions of the state from education to social services.

As I shared last week, our revenue forecasts show growth, but we will not be able to fund many of the requests and bills presented this year. Again, that is due to the fact that nearly all of the new funds are income tax, which is dedicated to funding education.  Therefore, covering the increased cost of Medicaid expansion and rising health care, operation, public safety and corrections cost is really hard.  There are many agency, citizen and community requests that come to us.  When an increase in funding comes via a bill with a large fiscal note, we move it to “table on 3rd” to effectively hold the bill until funding can be determined.

Here are some of the major capitol and large item funding increase requests: higher education for 6 more buildings for their campuses, additional needs to improve or add new state parks, employee compensation, WPU increase, new road projects such as Bangerter interchanges and road widening, increasing starting salaries to attract and retain troopers and corrections officers, increase utility costs, system improvements for data security and 911 system upgrades and expansion.
 


Here are some highlights from week 5:

My Bills

SB 59 Daylight Savings Time Amendments  – This bill passed the House 70-1 and is now heading to the Governor for his signature. 
SB 59 does the following:

  • Utah will move to daylight savings time once the federal government changes the 1966 Uniform Time Act to allow states to stay on the DST schedule year-round
  • Utah’ switch to DST is further contingent on 4 other western states also switching to DST
  • Ends the over 4 decade debate of which clock to choose: standard time like Arizona, twice annual clock switching (the most disliked option) or the summer clock schedule of year round daylight time that we are on 7.5 months of the year {lighter later schedule} that we again will change to next weekend.

I have watched my annual session surveys on clock preference change over the years from a slight favor for standard time {lighter earlier} to now nearly 2/3rds supporting the summer clock schedule.  The nearly uniform request and position is to stop changing clocks.

A vote to stay on Standard Time actually happened this week as well.
Over the years, the legislature has debated and voted on the option to stay on Stand Time.  Per the requests some representatives were receiving from their constituents to have a vote to remain on Standard Time year-round, a substitute bill to keep Utah on Standard Time was presented to the House.  That bill failed with a vote of 6 in favor and 51 against (6-51).

The following states have passed bills to set a time preference:
Stay on Standard Time:

  • Arizona & Hawaii

Move to Daylight Savings Time year-round:

  • Utah, Oregon, Washington, Tennessee, Florida, Delaware, Maine (California has 1 vote left before it is adopted) Arkansas and Alabama are also close to passing bills and Nevada has adopted a resolution asking Congress to allow for DST option so that state can switch
  • Bills have been introduced in 26 states this year to request Congress to allow for the DST option or to move to DST year-round with that option is available

S.B 180 Foreclosure Sunset Date Amendments– This is a simple bill that repeals an old section of code pertaining to notices given to people renting in a building that is in the foreclosure process.  It cleans up state code and refers to federal code for requirements.

S.B. 199 Electronic Cigarette Substance Amendments– My colleagues and I are very concerned by the rising number of youths using electronic cigarettes. The data indicates the most effective way to keep these products out of the hands of youth is to increase the cost of the product and use that money for education and prevention efforts. This bill would create a $0.61 tax per milliliter of e-cigarette substance. In addition, this bill regulates online sales of e-cigarette products.  This bill is harmonious with SB 37 described below.

S.B. 209 Fire and Rescue Training Amendments– This bill is part of an effort to refine and improve the fire and EMS training academy. This bill formalizes the relationship between Department of Public Safety, State Fire Marshall and local fire departments with Utah Valley University to operate a fire and rescue training program with advice and support from the Utah Fire Prevention Board. The bill establishes a secure funding and accountability mechanism. While UVU will run the program, they are obligated under this bill to work closely with the Utah Fire Prevention Board for technical expertise and advise. I will present this bill in committee next week.
 
Other Key Topics at Capitol Hill this week.
Better Boundaries Compromise
For the last two years, the Legislature has worked with Better Boundaries, the organization that sponsored Proposition 4 in 2018 to clarify conflicts between the Proposition, state code and the Utah State Constitution on who draws various districts. Some provisions included in the original proposition were unconstitutional, and all sides understood the need to address this by working through the concerns and making adjustments. Through continued collaboration throughout this legislative session between the lawmakers and Better Boundaries, the long awaited the stakeholders produced an amicable and united compromise this week. S.B. 200Redistricting Amendments, preserves the core intent of Prop 4, including much of the original language, while resolving the constitutional roadblocks. Under this bill, there will still be an independent redistricting commission responsible for drafting maps for congressional, state legislative and school board districts. Utah Legislature allocated $1 million to fund the independent redistricting commission’s efforts so it can hire its staff and purchase software and equipment. This bill still allows the independent commission to create maps and publicly submit maps for consideration, keeping the public informed and involved in the process. While the Legislature is not constitutionally obligated to accept all proposals, the efforts and maps created by the commission will be presented in a final public meeting with citizens and lawmakers.  Both lawmakers and representatives of Better Boundaries believe this will make redistricting more transparent and fair.

You can watch the press conference announcing the compromise on our Utah Senate Facebook page here.

E-Cigarettes
As I mentioned above, we are very concerned about the rising use of e-cigarettes, especially among Utah’s youth. Data indicates alarming levels of participation from youth 12-18, who easily become addicted due to the high nicotine content. The Legislature has made significant efforts during this session to protect Utah’s youth from the dangerous consequences of vaping. S.B. 37Electronic Cigarette and Other Nicotine Product Amendments, is designed to create new restrictions and also tax vaping products at a higher level, similar to tobacco products. The bill creates more severe criminal penalties for selling to minors and prohibits certain discounts and giveaways associated with vaping products.

The new tax on vaping products is expected to collect around $18 million during its first year of implementation and will largely be used to fund efforts to prevent vaping and drug use among Utah’s youth. Here is a simple graphic that breaks down how the tax collected on e-cigarette and vaping products will be distributed.
 

 
The bill passed on 2nd reading in the Senate and will be debated again next week on 3rd reading.
Listen to the bill presentation here.
 


Wine Subscriptions
In order to increase consumer choice, S.B. 103 Wine Subscription Program, seeks to allow Utahns to participate in wine subscription clubs. As the law currently stands, if a consumer wishes to order a brand they want to consumer that is not stocked in the State Liquor Store, the consumer must order an entire case of the product. This bill would allow consumers to order new, favorite or unstocked brands by the bottle through participation in subscription clubs. Wine subscription programs would contract with DABC and all products would be shipped to DABC for pickup. Laws pertaining to alcohol tend to be complex and devisive, and this one is no exception. I expect we will see a substitution for the bill before we vote on it on the Senate floor.
You can listen to the committee presentation here.

Small Business Job Creation Tax Credit
Utah has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the nation. While a low unemployment rate is good for our state, some Utahns are still unemployed. S.B. 123Small Business Job Creation Tax Credit Act, provides a tax incentive to companies that create good jobs with wages at or above the county living wage in rural and underserved areas of the state. This program provides a post-performance incentive for businesses creating jobs for the workers that need it most. Employers receiving this incentive must prioritize employment for disadvantaged populations: seniors, veterans, the disabled, former inmates and individuals previously on a Utah state welfare program. In addition, participating companies must create and staff a minimum number of these ongoing high-quality jobs or pay the incentive back to the state. This bill passed with unanimous support in the Senate and will now be considered by the House.
 You can listen to the Senate floor debate here.

School Internship Safety Agreements
 Currently, companies who provide internships for high school students are required to have their employees undergo and pass background checks. While intended to provide safe environments for high school students, this requirement has led some employers to stop providing internship opportunities. The process is expensive for companies and “positive” backgrounds do not necessarily guarantee safe environments for students. S.B. 147School Internship Safety Amendments, requires that employers enter into an “internship safety agreement” with the school in lieu of the background check. By requiring compliance with workplace laws and prohibiting other potentially unsafe situations, S.B. 147 makes it easier for employers to provide internships for high school students while still ensuring student safety.
You can listen to the floor presentation here.
 


What do you think?

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.
 
Wayne Harper
Senate District 6
wharper@le.utah.gov

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