Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Happy to report back to you on the hard work of the Legislature this past session. This is the forth of four 2021 General Session recaps where I cover our state budget, business and economic development, education, energy & air quality, health, higher education, taxes, transportation and water.
Please continue to reach out to me as you see issues of interest. Your perspective is very important to me. Enjoy!
Business and Economic Development
In an effort to help our Utah businesses thrive and allow for more innovation, we passed H.B. 217 Regulatory Sandbox Program Amendments, which creates a "sandbox" program where companies can suspend certain regulations for a limited period of time while they test new ideas. This allows companies to see if their ideas work before enacting regulations. It is important to note that H.B. 217 does not suspend regulations pertaining to public health and safety measures.
H.B. 348 Economic Development Amendments, reworks the state's economic development strategy by creating the Utah Economic Opportunity Commission. A decade ago, the sole priority of the state was to attract jobs. While this proved successful, we now have additional needs due to the growth in our state. The goal is to shift our focus from economic development to economic opportunity, which includes ensuring that Utah citizens can acquire housing, college graduates can find work, families can have financial stability and stay-at-home parents can enter back into the workplace when they desire. This bill also reorganizes the Governor’s Office of Economic Development into the new GO Utah Office, putting them in charge of coordinating economic development tasks among local and private development entities. Finally, this bill creates a grant program designed to enhance broadband services in rural Utah. This is an important step forward in our long-term economic development and opportunity planning.
My bill S.B. 167 Utah Film Economic Incentives, provides tax credit certificates for productions, films and series when they film in Utah. These incentives are not disbursed until post-production, when the film projects have met the requirements. The film industry has generated more than 7,600 jobs and $147 million in salaries in our state in 2019. This bill will strengthen rural communities by investing in local jobs, stimulating the economy and increasing Utah’s profile as a filming destination.
In an effort to better meet the needs of our growing state, H.B. 433 Amendments Related to Infrastructure Funding, establishes $264 million in bonding for public transportation and transit. This funding will go towards projects like double tracking the front runner. The bill also creates a dedicated revenue stream to fund transit solutions in cottonwood canyons.
Vehicle Renewal Notice
Last year, the Utah Tax Commission discontinued postcard mailers reminding vehicle owners when their vehicle registration renewal was due. Since this practice was discontinued in September, Utahns have asked for these mailers to be sent again. H.B. 170 Vehicle Registration Renewal Notice Requirements, officially requires the Department of Motor Vehicles to resume the use of mailers to remind owners when their vehicles are due for registration renewal.
While we know that we should signal when we merge into a lane, unfortunately, many don't, which may result in accidents. H.B. 69 Traffic Code Amendments, changes the traffic code to clarify that a driver must signal when merging into another lane. This bill also prohibits a driver from operating a vehicle if there is an object, device, or build-up on the windshield that obstructs the driver's view. This device/object must be less than 25 square inches in size.
We also updated the requirements for youth to receive their drivers license. H.B. 18 Driver Education Amendments, extends the term of a learner permit from one year to 18 months. This change does not prevent youth from getting their license upon turning 16. In addition, this bill removes the required six observation hours for driver education observation for 15-17-year-olds.
As the second driest state in the nation, water conservation and the Colorado River are priorities to Utah lawmakers. H.B. 297 Colorado River Amendments has been created to preserve, conserve and protect Utah’s legal share of the Colorado River that was guaranteed in the Colorado River Compact nearly 100 years ago.
Approximately 60 percent of Utah’s population relies on the Colorado River for their drinking water, but despite being the most reliable water source in the western United States, Utah currently uses only 54 percent of what was allocated to the state in the Colorado River Compact. H.B. 151 State Infrastructure Bank Amendments, allows the state infrastructure bank fund to be used for public water and sewer infrastructure projects.
Along with Utah’s management of big water projects, it is important that individuals do what they can to conserve the water we’ve been allocated for household use and irrigation. S.B. 199 Water Amendments, creates a grant program to help small secondary water retailers install secondary water meters and directs the Legislative Water Development Commission to support the development of a unified, statewide water strategy to promote water conservation and efficiency.
Senator Ron Winterton
Utah Senate District 26