Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Week 2 of the legislative session was both busy and exciting. We were able to pass a tax cut for Utahns, discuss important topics, and recognize some incredible people. I am honored to represent you and appreciate all your efforts to reach out and be involved in our state’s government.
Below you will find a description of important things that happened in the Senate during the past week.
Utah Senate Passes More Than $160 Million Income Tax Cut or Utahns
On Friday, we passed more than a $160 million tax cut for all Utahns. S.B. 59 State Income Tax Rate Reduction reduces the income tax from 4.95% to 4.85%. Since the beginning of the pandemic, we've pushed for less restrictions on businesses, creating an environment for Utah’s economy to thrive. The state’s strong economy makes it possible for the Legislature to cut taxes for the second year in a row. Because of conservative, fiscally sound policy, in addition to a tax cut, our state is also funding education and social services at a record high. By cutting income tax, we are helping ensure Utah remains a great place to live, work and raise a family. S.B. 59 passed in the Senate and will now be considered in the House. Learn more about the tax cut here. Watch the bill’s presentation on the Senate floor here.
In the News
For 14 years running, Utah has been ranked with the best economic outlook. This does not happen by chance. Read more about why in the National Review here.
Utah is one of only four states that recovered all the jobs lost at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Read more about this in a Wall Street Journal article here.
Base Budget Bills
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.
Nurse Apprenticeship Licensing Act
In 2020, in response to pressures on our healthcare systems, the state created a temporary nurse apprenticeship licensing program to increase the number of working medical professionals and give students a valuable introduction to their profession. This program allows nursing students who are in their final semester of an accredited program, are in good standing with their program and have permission from the program to begin working under the supervision of certain licensed professionals. S.B. 101 Nurse Apprentice Licensing Act makes the temporary nurse apprenticeship licensing program permanent. The Senate Health and Human Services Committee favorably recommended the bill, and it will now be considered by the full Senate. Listen to the committee discussion here.
Firearm Preemption Amendments
Our most important duty as legislators is to preserve freedoms, including the freedom to bear arms without unnecessary government interference. Utah code prohibits cities and counties from imposing regulations on the ownership, possession, purchase, transfer or transport of a gun. However, in recent years, local governments have attempted to exploit loopholes in state law to regulate firearms. S.B.115 Firearm Preemption Amendments clarifies that local governments do not have the authority to regulate firearms and protects citizens from local government gun regulations that contradict state law. This bill also provides civil action and remedies for violating legislative firearm preemption. The Senate Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environment Committee favorably recommended the bill, and it will now be considered by the full Senate.
Traffic Fine Amendments
The purpose of traffic citations should be to increase road safety and compliance with safety regulations, not to increase local government revenue. S.B.75 Fine Amendments removes the monetary incentive for giving out an excessive number of fines by putting a cap on the portion of a city’s budget that can come from traffic violation fines.
The intent of the bill is to prevent abuses in the legal system, not decrease city revenue. S.B. 75 states that revenue from traffic fines may not exceed 25% of a local government's total general fund revenue. Currently, very few Utah cities meet that criteria. The Senate Revenue and Taxation Committee favorably recommended the bill, and it will now be considered by the Senate. Listen to the committee discussion here.
Electric Assisted Bicycle Use Amendments
Most cities and counties restrict motorcycle travel on trails designated for bicycles and foot-traffic only. Occasionally, electric-assisted bicycles are categorized with motorcycles or other off-highway vehicles and are restricted on trails open to other mountain bikes. S.B. 66 Electric Assisted Bicycle Use Amendments clarifies which electric bikes can be considered electric mountain bikes and which should be considered off-highway vehicles. S.B. 66 passed in the Senate Transportation, Public Utilities, Energy and Technology Committee and will soon be considered on the Senate floor. Listen to the committee presentation here.
Trespass Penalty Amendments
While the number of trespassing violations has decreased in Utah over the last few years, the Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environment Interim Committee found a discrepancy in state trespass law. A trespasser who damages Utah state property can be fined up to three times the actual cost of the damage, while a violation on private property is fined at a much lower rate.
S.B. 68 Trespass Penalty Amendments would change private property violations to match the statutory damages on state lands. S.B. 68 passed unanimously in the Senate and will now be considered in the House. Watch the bill’s presentation on the Senate floor here.
Medical Cannabis Patient Protection
Utah law prohibits discrimination by public employers for possessing or using medical cannabis. S.B. 46 Medical Cannabis Patient Protection Amendments clarifies Utah law and closes any potential loophole by prohibiting a government employer from discriminating against an employee for possessing a medical cannabis card or receiving a recommendation from their physician. S.B. 46 passed in the Senate and will now be considered in the House. Watch the Senate floor presentation here.
S.B. 40 Utah Protection of Public Employees Act Amendments further protects public employees from retaliatory action for failing a marijuana drug test without evidence of impaired job performance due to cannabis use. S.B. 40 passed unanimously in the Senate and is being considered in the House. Watch the bill’s presentation on the Senate floor here.
S.J.R. 2 Urging Congress to Propose the Keep Nine Amendment to the U.S. Constitution
We passed a joint resolution urging Congress to propose the “Keep Nine Amendment,” which would amend the Constitution and require the Supreme Court to remain at nine justices. This amendment would prevent Congress or the president from undermining the independence of the Supreme Court, as it is vital in maintaining our nation’s checks and balances. Adding additional Supreme Court justices would result in an abuse of power in any party. This resolution had bipartisan support in the Senate and will now be heard in the House. Read the resolution here.
Honoring Utah Olympians
This week, we recognized members of the Utah Gymnastics team, including Olympic silver medalists MyKayla Skinner and Grace McCallum, bronze medalist Ameliee Morgan and two-time World Champion Kara Eaker. Utah’s first Olympic swimmer and silver medalist Rhyan White was also recognized for her incredible athletic achievements. It was great to have these athletes join us in the Senate chamber!
Utah Retirement Systems
Utah Retirement Systems (URS) has a significant economic impact on the entire state of Utah, not just its members. A study from 2018 showed economic activity generated by URS pension payments supported almost 9,000 Utah jobs and over $360 million in wages. URS provides retirement and insurance for more than 240,000 Utah members and, in 2021, paid out over $1.8 billion in pension benefits.
Here’s a breakdown of the impact URS had in just my Senate District last year:
This week I worked especially hard on two of my bills, SB80 Real Property Recording Amendments and SB111 Permanent Community Impact Fund Board Amendments. I met with a lot of people throughout the week to get this legislation ready to present on the Senate floor.
UT Police Chiefs Association was here for lunch and I was able to talk with police chiefs that serve in Senate District 26. I also met with the Utah Film Caucus during their first meeting to discuss SB49 State Film Production Incentives Amendments which will help bring more productions to rural UT!
Until next time,
Senator Ronald Winterton
Utah Senate District 26