October marks Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Together, we’re united against cancer.
Earlier this month I had the opportunity to attend a conference in Washington, D.C. so I can build a stronger network and knowledge about Medicaid. It was a great opportunity to learn about what policy makers and interest groups from all over the country are doing on Medicaid.
This month’s newsletter involves a variety of legislative topics along with some exciting news for the State of Utah. Hope you enjoy the read.
Legislative Interim Highlights
Read a complete report of legislative interim highlights for October here. Below are some topics worth highlighting:
Did you know that committee and task force assignments are made by the Senate President and the Speaker of the House? We also participate in caucus meetings. Caucuses are groups that gather to discuss a common interest – like a Republican or Democratic caucus. Participation in a caucus is voluntary. A number of years ago, a group of legislators created the Clean Air Caucus – a bipartisan group with members from both the House of Representatives and the Senate, that meets monthly to evaluate legislation relating to clean air from previous sessions, hear reports from experts and form possible legislation for the upcoming session. This month, we discussed emissions reduction and carbon pricing as well as the Division of Air Quality’s annual report and priorities.
Vaping-related illness continues to be an alarming problem in our state and in the nation, with the number of cases continuing to rise. We have multiple committees studying this issue, each from different perspectives. This month, two separate committees discussed different legislation to consider in the upcoming session. The Education Interim Committee discussed draft legislation, "Electronic Cigarettes in Schools Amendments," which addresses student use of alcohol, tobacco, electronic cigarette products and other substances through education and prevention programs and discipline policies. Additionally, the Judiciary Interim Committee adopted, as a committee bill, draft legislation, "Tobacco Retailer Amendments," which modifies the definition of a retail tobacco specialty business, amends the number of times a peace officer may conduct an investigation of a retail shop for underage tobacco sales and amends permit violations for tobacco retailers. You can listen to the Education Interim Committee discussion here and the Judiciary Interim Committee discussion here.
Tax Restructuring Proposals
This month, the Tax Restructuring and Equalization Task Force began the recommendation phase of their work. This involved reviewing six different proposals and resuming public comment. Additionally, the task force voted to move forward with drafting a bill based on the co-chair’s proposal, found here.
This proposal seeks a balancing-act approach to tax restructuring, which includes a cut to the state income tax rate, the full restoration of the sales tax on food, a food tax credit to offset the negative impact on low-income households, a tax exemption for Social Security Income and a proposal to remove the state constitutional earmark to use income tax exclusively for education. In addition to these ideas from the co-chair’s proposal, the task force also voted to include ideas from other proposals, including a feminine hygiene tax exemption and to include an Earned Income Tax Credit. This proposal would result in an overall tax cut for all households. A rough draft of the bill will be presented on November 7, at the next Task Force meeting. You can find all proposals under “Meeting Materials” for October 22. You can listen to the committee presentations, discussion and public comment here.
Unemployment in Utah
Utah’s economy and workforce are stronger than ever. The Utah Department of Workforce Services released its annual report for the 2018 fiscal year to highlight programs and divisions within the department. While we certainly face challenges with ongoing issues like homelessness and the affordability of housing, there has been significant progress toward finding solutions.
Utah has led the nation in job growth with our current economic expansion. In September, Utah’s unemployment rate dropped to 2.7%, compared to the national average of 3.5%. This was primarily due to the support of workforce training, education and connecting employers with job seekers and, in particular, adding telecommuting jobs for job seekers in rural Utah. To help fill the needs of employers, job seekers can apply for apprenticeships and work-based learning opportunities in Utah. Read the annual report here.
Read more about additional actions taken on economic development here (Page 3).
In the News: Utah Policy
Utah ranks 6th in the nation for suicide and is similar to our neighboring Rocky Mountain states with relatively high rate of firearms per household according to a presentation the Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health gave during Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Interim Committee. The Firearm Safety Program was created during the 2019 session. The program details the importance of reducing access to more immediately lethal means of suicide and increasing access to physical and behavioral healthcare.
2019 Utah Elections
On November 5, Utah is having municipal general elections for city councils and mayors. With less than a week away, make your voice heard in local government by voting. Just know you can still register to vote online and you can also register to vote with a provisional ballot on November 5 using a provisional ballot at a local polling location. Visit elections.utah.gov for more information.
Tax Restructuring and Equalization Task Force Meetings
o Thursday, November 7, 4:00 p.m.
o Thursday, November 21, 5:00 p.m.
Daylights Saving will be on November 3 so, on Sunday at 2 a.m., turn your clocks back one hour to 1 a.m. If you’re tired of Daylight Savings every year, stay tuned for the 2020 General Legislative Session, where we are likely to see legislation addressing Daylight Saving. In 2019, the Utah Legislature passed a resolution urging U.S. Congress to pass the Daylight Act.