Dear friends and neighbors,
It was another busy week at the Capitol. The session is officially more than halfway through. This week SB97 and SCR2 passed both the Senate and the House! I met with middle schoolers from Rocky Mountain and Timpanogos Middle Schools. They prepared a presentation for Representative Mike Kohler and me concerning teen marijuana use and its effects. I also met with a high school government class from Vernal. They had some wonderful questions about the legislative process. It was also great to meet with constituents from Wasatch county to address their concerns about specific legislation. Lastly, 2News interviewed me about crude oil and the impact some legislation will have on the Uintah Basin.
Helping our students read is a foundational task that sets the trajectory for the rest of their lives. Students who cannot read proficiently by the end of 3rd grade are less likely to graduate and more likely to be on public assistance long-term. Currently, half of Utah students are not reading at grade level by the 3rd grade.
S.B. 127 Early Literacy Outcomes Improvement addresses this issue by aligning existing literacy programs toward a common goal, equipping teachers and administrators with evidence-based methods, placing literacy coaches in lower performing schools, and providing resources to support parent, family and community efforts. S.B. 127 passed in the Senate and will now be considered in the House. Listen to the bill presentation on the Senate floor here.
Special Education Amendments
As we continue to study how to better serve special education students, we have found that some students perform best when they are included in general education classrooms. However, local education agencies can run into an accounting issue when special education funding follows students into general education classrooms.
S.B. 134 Special Education Amendments requires a local education agency to provide special education in the least restrictive environment, regardless of whether the other students in the classroom are students without a disability. The bill also permits local education agencies to use state special education funds on special education students, even if doing so provides an incidental benefit to students without a disability. This bill clarifies state law to ensure special education students can learn in the environment that is most beneficial to them. S.B. 134 passed in the Senate and will now be considered in the House. Listen to the bill presentation on the Senate floor here.
Anesthesiologist Assistant Licensing
An anesthesiologist assistant is a highly-skilled individual who practices medicine under the direction of a licensed anesthesiologist. Currently, anesthesiologists are the only group of doctors in the state without an assistant. However, anesthesiologist assistants cannot work in Utah because their credentials are not recognized. S.B. 121 Anesthesiologist Assistant Licensing Act creates a license for anesthesiologist assistants and establishes qualifications for their licensure. This bill would allow them to practice in Utah under regulation of the Physicians Licensing Board. S.B. 121 passed in the Senate and will now be considered in the House. Listen to the bill presentation on the Senate floor here.
Real Property Recording Amendments
“Real property” is fixed property, including land and buildings. S.B. 80 Real Property Recording Amendments provides requirements for a legal description of real property as written by a county recorder. This bill will create a standard for these legal descriptions and therefore encourage consistent definitions across the state. This will improve effectiveness in legal descriptions statewide. S.B. 80 passed in the Senate and will now be considered by the House. Listen to the Senate floor presentation here.
State Bird of Prey Designation
We had a special and unique guest on the Senate floor, a nine pound golden eagle named Chrys. S.B. 116 State Bird of Prey Designation would make the golden eagle the state bird of prey. The golden eagle represents honesty, truth, majesty, strength, courage, wisdom, power and freedom. These eagles are beautiful creatures and hold significance for many native groups. This bill passed in the Senate and will now be considered in the House. Listen to the Senate floor discussion here. Watch the visit from Chrys here.
Two cowboys, Josh Frost and Kaycee Field, were honored on the Senate floor. Kaycee, who is the reigning world champion and the winningest bareback rider of all time, is the four-time NFR (National Finals Rodeo) Average Champion, two-time Ram Top Gun Winner, and he holds multiple world titles, including six-time World Bareback Bronc Champion. Josh is a two-time NFR Q-2021 Bull Riding Champion and two-time Linderman Award winner. This award recognizes a cowboy who won at least $1,000 in three events. These two men represent Utah well at the many nationwide competitions they compete in. It was a privilege to have them with us. Watch their recognition here.
We unanimously gave final approval to S.B 59 State Income Tax Rate Reduction, which reduces taxes for Utahns by $192.9 million. S.B. 59:
Reduces the individual and corporate income tax rate for all Utahns from 4.95% to 4.85%. A $163.7 million reduction in taxes.
Increases the eligibility for a social security tax credit for seniors. A $15.4 million reduction in taxes.
Establishes an earned income tax credit (EITC). A $16.1 million reduction in taxes.
Utah’s booming economy and fiscally sound tax policy provide us with the opportunity to reduce taxes for Utahns while increasing funding in education, infrastructure and social services. The Senate concurred unanimously with the House’s proposed changes to S.B 59, and the bill was signed by the governor. Listen to the latest bill presentation on the Senate floor here.
Citizen Digital Portal
The state of Utah has over 400 websites. Many of the websites are controlled and administered by different state offices and agencies and have varying levels of usability. S.B. 169 Citizen Digital Portal Amendments is one of a series of bills run over the last few years that move Utah closer to achieving data integration between all agencies. The goal is for Utahns to be able to buy a fishing license, renew their driver’s license or pay their taxes from a centralized digital portal website. It would be designed to provide the highest level of customer experience while protecting the data and privacy of users. S.B. 169 passed in the Senate Transportation, Public Utilities, Energy and Technology Committee and will now be considered on the Senate floor. Listen to the committee presentation here.
20th Anniversary of the Salt Lake Olympics
This week, we commemorated the 20th anniversary of the Salt Lake Winter Olympics. The games were held only a few months after 9/11, one of the most tragic events in our nation’s history. I will never forget the unity and excitement we felt as we cheered on Team USA in our home state. It was a privilege to attend and be a part of these wonderful events. To celebrate, the Senate read a citation on the floor and there was an Olympic cauldron relighting ceremony at Rice Eccles Stadium, the place where the Olympic flame was lit 20 years ago. It was an honor to host world-renowned athletes in 2002 and we look forward to when Utah will once again host the Winter Olympics!
Limitations on Employer Liability
Formerly incarcerated individuals in Utah face many barriers when searching for employment. One of these barriers is employers often worry that hiring these individuals could result in legal action taken against them. S.B. 95 Limitations on Employer Liability resolves this concern by ensuring certain legal actions may not be brought against an employer simply for hiring a person previously convicted of an offense. This bill does not prevent legal action against an employer when there is cause to believe the employer negligently hired or failed to adequately supervise an employee. S.B. 95 passed in the Senate and will now be considered by the House. Listen to the Senate floor discussion here.
In conjunction with this bill, on Thursday, the Senate recognized formerly incarcerated individuals who embraced their second chance by re-entering the workforce and giving back to their communities. I appreciated learning about these individuals who were bold enough to own their past mistakes and are now offering hope to those still incarcerated. Learn more about the bill and the recognition here.
Senator Ron Winterton
Utah Senate District 26