Dear Friends and Neighbors,
We returned to the Capitol on Tuesday, January 19th to convene the 2021 General Legislative Session. The legislative session runs for 45 consecutive days, excluding holidays, which totals seven weeks. Over the course of the session we will consider hundreds of bills. I will send a weekly email update to keep you informed with the highlights from each week.
Public Access during the 2021 General Session
Due to public safety and COVID-19 concerns, adjustments have been implemented to ensure public participation options are available during the legislative session. Committee meetings now have audio and video, making it easier to view presentations and know who is speaking. Here’s how you can be involved during the session.
- You can virtually attend committee meetings and provide public input. Learn how here.
- Beginning next week, you can also attend committee meetings in-person.
- The Utah Senate holds daily press availability where the media can ask Senate leadership and bill sponsors questions. This takes place every weekday during the legislative session. You can watch media availability on the Senate’s Facebook, here.
Honoring Representative Lawanna “Lou” Shurtliff
We began the Legislative session with a moment of silence in honor of the late state Representative Lou Shurtliff. We also passed HCR7, Concurrent Resolution Recognizing the Public Service of Representative Lawanna Lou Shurtliff, to honor her legacy to the Utah House of Representatives, Weber County, and across Utah. Her presence will truly be missed.
S.B. 11, Retirement Income Tax Requirements-The first bill debated in the Senate on the first day of the session was S.B. 11, Retirement Income Tax Requirements, which seeks to remove the tax on Military Retirement Income and reduces the tax on Social Security Income. This bill would create a $43 million tax cut. The bill passed unanimously in the Senate and will now be considered in the House. You can watch the floor debate here and my simple explanation of the bill here.
S.B. 14, Driver License and State Identification Card Amendments– Allows an individual who is ready to relinquish their driving permissions to receive an identification card free of cost. This bill passed with unanimous support in the Senate and will now be considered by the House.
S.B. 16, Utah Retirement Systems Amendments– This is the annual clean up bill for the Utah Retirement Systems. This bill passed with unanimous support in the interim and has broad stakeholder support. The bill makes several changes including: clarifies service credit contributions, defines fraud and criminal offenses, establishes appeal procedures, establishes age restrictions and forfeiture of benefits based on felony convictions. This bill passed in the Senate with unanimous support and will now be considered in the House.
As a Legislature, our Constitutional responsibility is to pass a balanced budget before the close of the General Legislative Session. It is a responsibility we take seriously. As such, we spend the first few weeks of the session meeting in appropriations subcommittees to consider how we allocate money in each area, such as public education, social services and transportation.
Eight appropriations subcommittees prepare base budgets for their assigned subject area over the first couple of weeks of the session. These subcommittee base budgets are passed in the early weeks of the session, which allows the state to continue functioning at a basic level. This prevents the state government from shutting down. Then, typically during the final week of the session, we pass what is known as the “Bill of Bills,” which is the comprehensive budget bill that includes additional appropriations not included in the base budgets. You can learn more about the state’s budget here.
One bill that received considerable debate this week was S.B. 107, In-person Instruction Prioritization. This bill gives parents the option of taking their students out of online-only schools and moving them to another school that offers in-person instruction. Funding would then follow the student to the new school. The bill does not force any student to return to in-person learning, it simply gives parents options if their students are struggling under the online format. As of this week, this bill would only apply to the Salt Lake School District as all other school districts offer in-person learning options. The bill passed its second reading in the Senate and is currently circled on third as the sponsors continues to work with stakeholders, including the Salt Lake School District on the bill.
Listen to the debate on the Senate floor here.
K-9 Policy in Law Enforcement
Last year, bodycam footage of an arrest in Salt Lake City prompted the Salt Lake City Police Department to launch an official review of its K-9 program. S.B. 38, K-9 Policy Requirements requires that police dogs and handlers in the state of Utah undergo an annual certification process. It also amends Utah law to provide liability protection for officers and agencies if the dog acts in a way contrary to the officer’s commands. The bill passed unanimously in the Senate and will now be considered by the House.
Listen to the discussion on the Senate floor here.
In the News: KUTV
College for Veterans
For years, senior citizens in Utah have been able to audit courses offered at state institutions of higher education. This means that seniors can attend and participate in classes for a small fee. They don’t have to take tests, write papers, or do any homework, and they won’t receive any college credit. S.B. 45, Higher Education Classes for Veterans, gives Utah veterans the same opportunity. The bill passed unanimously on its second reading in the Senate.
Listen to the bill presentation on the Senate floor here.
Accepting Federal Funds
The latest federal relief package passed by Congress included funding for states. This week we passed H.J.R. 4, House Joint Resolution Approving Acceptance of Federal Funds, which is the formal step we must take in order to accept and receive the federal funds intended for our state. Once we accept and receive the funds, we are then able to appropriate the funds for their intended purposes. 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.
Senate District 6