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2021 Legislative Newsletter - Week 7

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Dear Friends and Neighbors,

We got down to the wire and finished another successful legislative session. Hard to believe how quickly these seven weeks flew by. We passed a total of 503 bills this session and we passed a balanced a budget as usual. This year our budget came to roughly $23.5 billion for fiscal year 2022. In this healthy budget we allocated $100 million for tax cuts, appropriated historic levels of funding for education with nearly half a billion dollars in on-going money for public education and replenished our Rainy-Day funds that were utilized during the pandemic.

In the coming days, be on the lookout for my legislative recap that highlights significant legislation from the session. Thank you for taking part in this process and staying engaged.

Religious Accommodations in Higher Education

S.B. 244 Student Religious Accommodations Amendments, allows the Utah System of Higher Education to provide religious accommodation policy to all institutions. For example, if a student has a firmly held religious belief that conflicts with an exam or academic assignment, then a written notice will allow for the exam or assignment to be done before or after the original due date. The board will also be required to create a list of religious holidays and ensure that the accommodation will not adversely affect students’ academic opportunities. S.B. 244 passed the Senate and will be sent to the governor for consideration.

Suicide Prevention

The fight against suicide continues to be a priority in the Legislature as suicide is the leading cause of death for Utah youth ages 10-24. H.B. 336 Suicide Prevention Amendments, creates a reporting process for the Utah Medical Examiner to obtain youth suicide data for the Health and Human Services Interim Committee to study. The Utah Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health will also be required to provide training to healthcare organizations. It also changes a coupon program to a rebate program that incentivizes individuals to obtain a biometric gun safe. Another bill, H.B. 93 Youth Suicide Prevention Programs Amendments, expands the education of suicide prevention to elementary and secondary grades and requires the language of the programs to reflect ages. Both of these bills passed in the Senate and will now be sent to the governor for consideration.

Free Speech

Recently, there have been numerous accusations of censorship leveled against social media corporations. It has become apparent that social media platforms are not transparent in the way they moderated content and more specifically, that the platforms are harsher in moderating certain political and religious beliefs. S.B. 228 Electronic Free Speech Amendments, requires social media companies to clearly state their moderation practices and policies, as well as give users advance notice of their policies before they limit speech. If the company removes a user’s content, they need to tell the user why it was removed and provide an opportunity for appeal. S.B. 228 also requires each social media company to have an independent review panel. The bill passed in the Senate and House and will go to the governor for his consideration.

In the News: Fox 13

Teacher and School Counselor Pipeline Program

Utah is currently experiencing a shortage of teachers and school counselors in public schools. Several school districts are working on innovative approaches to meet teacher needs. This week, the Senate passed H.B. 381 Grow Your Own Teacher and School Counselor Pipeline Program, which supports school districts by creating a three-year pilot program to provide scholarships for paraprofessionals working toward becoming licensed teachers or licensed school counselors. This allows school districts to work with individuals they already know will be excellent teachers and counselors to become licensed professionals. This bill passed in both the Senate and House and will now go to the governor for his signature.

Homeless Services

Stakeholders involved in homelessness services in Utah have described the existing programs as inefficient and confusing and most recognize that the problem has eclipsed the current structure in place. H.B. 347 Homeless Services Amendments enhances coordination efforts between agencies by creating the Office of Homeless Services within the Department of Workforce Services and establishes the state homeless coordinator within the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget. This coordinator will be an advisor to the governor on homelessness issues and will report to the Senate and House twice a year. H.B. 347 passed in both the House and Senate and will now go to the governor for his consideration.

In the News: Salt Lake Tribune

Kind regards,

Senator Ron Winterton

Utah Senate District 26

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