November Update

Happy Thanksgiving! It is my hope that we take the time to consider how we can continue to cultivate and express the feeling of gratitude all year long. I want to express gratitude to my wonderful family and the constituents of Senate District 26. Your support and positive remarks allow me to represent you and prioritize your needs.

Last week we wrapped up the last interim session of the year. This means I’ll be preparing for the upcoming 2020 General Session. During that time your feedback and input is crucial as I consider legislation. Always feel free to email or call me for any items you want me to consider, I'm happy to assist you.

As the snow continues to fall please take caution in your commute and stay safe. Hope you enjoy this month’s newsletter.

Utah State Senate

Legislative & Interim Highlights

Read a complete report of legislative interim highlights for November here. Below are some topics worth highlighting:

Tax Reform

During the last general session, the House introduced a bill, H.B. 441 Tax Equalization and Reduction Act, with the intent to stabilize the state's revenue structure. As you may recall, a joint decision was made to not move forward with the bill due to public concerns and time constraints. Instead, the legislature established the Tax Restructuring and Equalization Task Force to further research the issue and review possible ways to stabilize the general, transportation and education funds.

During the summer the task force held eight town halls throughout the state to hear directly from Utahns. Approximately 1,500 people attended, and more than 540 individuals gave feedback.

Then, the task force held four study phase meetings to review possible solutions and analyze opportunities to adequately fund the general, transportation and education funds using revenue sources that will grow with the population and the economy. The overall goal continues to be looking for a means to stabilize our tax structure and provide a tax decrease for Utahns.

After the study phase, the task force began the recommendation phase. They met for nearly five hours on October 22. Task force members presented various draft policy proposals and resumed public comment.

Following the first meeting, the task force voted to move forward with the co-chair’s initial draft proposal as a baseline with three additions:

  • An earned income tax credit for those experiencing intergenerational poverty
  • Reinstate the reporting requirement for exemptions
  • Introduce a feminine hygiene tax exemption

Additionally, the task force identified two areas to review possibilities for stabilizing education funding when the economy is thriving, flat, dips or during a recession including:

  • A resolution to remove the constitutional requirement for education
  • Opening a bill file to continue to fund public education at its current level and create an alternative, more stable, funding mechanism for public education

As the proposal was drafted into bill form there were numerous changes. The proposal and draft legislation will continue to be refined as it goes through the legislative process. Once the task force has its final recommendation they will present it to the full legislature.

The goal is to have this process be as open and transparent as possible. I appreciate your feedback throughout this process. Please continue to call or email me with your ideas, questions and concerns.

Here are some of the items in the current bill draft:

  • Reduce individual and corporate income tax rates
  • Expand the Utah dependent exemption
  • Create an income tax credit for Social Security income
  • Create a state earned income tax credit
  • Restore full sales tax rate on food
  • Create a “grocery tax credit” for low-to-middle-income residents


You can find the most recent bill draft here and a summary of the bill here. The task force’s next meeting will be on Monday, December 9 at the Capitol.

Listen online at le.utah.gov and provide feedback at strongerfutures.utah.gov.

Vaping

The use of e-cigarettes by minors remains a major concern in our state. Because e-cigarettes and vaping products are relatively new there is a lot of work to be done legislatively to protect our youth. In the upcoming session we anticipate considering a package of bills addressing different areas including taxes, regulation, access and education. The Education Interim Committee received a report on the draft legislation pertaining to the education arm of this issue. The education bill has three key components: establishing clearer consistent policies for vaping on school property, student awareness as well as education and prevention.

Listen to the full presentation here.

Medical Cannabis Update

The Cannabinoid Product Board (CPB) reported on their efforts in developing guidelines on the use of cannabis under the Utah Medical Cannabis Act along with guidelines for a physician recommending treatment with a cannabinoid product. All guidelines are expected to be submitted to the Division of Occupational Professional Licensing and the Health and Human Services Interim Committee. As a result, the CPB will continue working with experts, the Utah Department of Health and Center for Medical Cannabis to review emerging research and develop any necessary resources. Read the full report here.

Listen to the full presentation here.


Public Safety & Firefighter Tier II Enhancements

As you may recall, earlier this year we passed SB 129 Public Safety and Firefighter Tier II Retirement Enhancements. After the session, a working group was created to continue studying the issue. The working group met with many stakeholders to determine how to deal with issues like how to fund retirement. The new draft legislation presented in committee this month addresses the funding source. It takes from the growth in the insurance premium tax, changes the amount for employer contribution from 14-16.5 percent and creates a balancing factor for dealing with the payment of benefits in the case of a death of an active member in the line of duty.

Listen to the full presentation here.

Utah Works Program

The Utah Works Program was created last year to help ensure Utah has the workforce we need. The program is set up to be a collaborative effort that aligns our work by including Talent Ready Utah, employers and education entities as we focus on recruiting the right kind of talent to the state. The program gives short-term training or pre-training to prepare the workforce for employment. The purpose is to get people into jobs quickly to meet employer needs. When the program was created it was not narrowly defined enough. The training provided is intended to be short-term. meaning weeks rather than years. The Utah Works Program bill presented in committee specifies the narrow scope of this training. In addition, the bill allows us to track where we are recruiting from and how to help us refine the program in the future.

Listen to the full presentation here.

Clean Air Caucus

Utah faces unique challenges with air quality due to environmental and geographical factors. The Legislature is aware of the challenges associated with air quality including health concerns with air pollution and its impact on economic development. The bipartisan Clean Air Caucus met earlier this month and heard from industry experts on an alternative fuels report, Utah ozone study, the University of Utah’s efforts to improve our air quality, a Division of Air quality update, hydrogen infrastructure and proposals for the upcoming General Session.

November saw the last meeting of 2019. As legislation regarding this issue is discussed in the next session, keep your eye on the Utah Senate Newsroom for future meeting materials, agenda items and meeting dates. Read the latest on the Clean Air Caucus here.


UTech Annual Report

In October, UTech released its "Annual Report 2019" to provide information on the successes and importance of career and technical education for students. The report indicated UTech graduates experienced an average wage increase between 20 and 30 percent, depending on their program of study. With Utah’s booming economy and high-demand careers in the tech sector, accessing these resources can make a substantial difference for students and adults wanting to transition into the middle class, without the need for reliance on public assistance.

Read the complete report here.

Significant Dates

Tax Restructuring and Equalization Task Force Meetings

  • Saturday, December 9 at the Capitol

 

Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.