2023 Session - Week 2
Friends and Neighbors,
It was another great week at the Capitol. From STEM Day on the Hill to visits from schools in our district, there were many individuals who visited this beautiful building, and it is great to see Utahns getting involved
During week two, in addition to hearing budget numbers presented, I spent many hours in committee meetings and considered a variety of bills. So much hard work has gone into all the proposed legislation and it is truly an honor to be involved in this process. I had many thoughtful discussions with my colleagues on a variety of topics.
Below you will find a description of some items that were addressed and events that happened last week. I will continue to send regular updates during the remaining five weeks of the session. I encourage each of you to reach out with your questions and thoughts. You can contact me directly or my intern Gracia Allen at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you for all you do. It is my privilege to represent you.
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, which include 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.
S.B. 106: Caregiver Compensation Amendments
S.B. 106 Caregiver Compensation Amendments, allows for parents and caregivers to decide what option will provide the best care and quality of life for their dependents, whether that be at home with a caregiver or in an institutional facility Through state programs, we have been able to help provide funds for home caregivers. Currently, there are three sub-groups that are able to apply for the caregiver's compensation funding. The first is the spousal group, by the passing of S.B. 63 during the 2021 General Session. This initial program had great success. During the pandemic, ARPA funds were granted to the state, allowing two other groups, the dependents under 18 group and the dependents over 18 group to be funded. The funding for the additional groups showed that the in-home care resulted in higher quality of care and quality of life. This bill will extend this funding, allowing the spouse or family member who provides care, to receive partial compensation for the work lost. A presentation on this bill can be found here. Read the executive summary or the complete, detailed analysis here.
The Utah STEM Action Center is a division of the Utah Department of Cultural and Community Engagement tasked with advancing STEM education best practices in Utah. As Utah’s partner in promoting Science, Technology, Engineering and Math education they work to identify and support best practices by leveraging resources across education, industry, government and community partners to support economic prosperity. Thanks to Utah STEM partners for making STEM Day on the Hill possible! We enjoyed welcoming students for some hands-on STEM fun. Learn more about Utah STEM here.
Charter Day on the Hill
This week we celebrated Charter Day on the Hill. We had students from charter schools all over the state come visit the Capitol and learn more about the legislative process. It was a privilege to see students, teachers and administrators discussing the issues pertinent to charter schools and watch incredible performances by the talented students in the Capitol rotunda. We are lucky to have these students in our state!
S.C.R 5 – Concurrent Resolution Concerning the Celebration of Halloween
The Government Operations and Political Subdivisions Committee heard S.C.R. 5 Concurrent Resolution Concerning the Celebration of Halloween in committee last week. S.C.R. 5 encourages Utah communities to celebrate Halloween on the last Friday in October. The resolution does not change Halloween from officially being on October 31, but designates the last Friday in October as the day Halloween is to be celebrated in Utah. When Halloween falls on a weekday, there can be confusion regarding when to celebrate the holiday, especially in schools. Additionally, when Halloween is on a weekday, school attendance can also decrease the day after Halloween due to the late night of Halloween celebrations. Rather than having students return to school the day after a fun-filled, late night, S.C.R. 5 encourages Utahns to designate the same weekday every year for Halloween celebrations. You can learn more about the proposed resolution by listening to the conversation in the Senate committee here.
Prescription Discount Program Amendments
Prescriptions are an important part of today’s healthcare. H.B. 24 Prescription Discount Program Amendments allows the Public Employees' Benefit and Insurance Program to add 13 additional prescriptions to the discount program. The intent of the bill is to provide affordable medications. Adding prescriptions including insulin and epinephrine to the discount program will help alleviate financial stress and benefit many who have serious and ongoing conditions. The growing increased availability of medication will lead to an increased health and quality of life for all. This bill passed the Senate Health and Human Services Committee and will not be heard on the Senate floor.
DFCM Statewide Master Plan
State agencies around Utah are experiencing rapid growth and evolving demands. Outdated workspaces can no longer accommodate growing needs for space and updated technology.
In the Infrastructure and General Government Appropriations Committee, we heard a presentation by the Division of Facilities Construction and Management (DFCM) about how they plan to address these issues. DFCM described their Statewide Master Plan, which outlines the funding of building improvements and optimization around the state.
Because of rising construction costs, DFCM intends to repair and update existing buildings where possible, rather than opt for new buildings. They will complete this in phases over the next several years. Phases 1 and 2 are already underway.
Not only will the Statewide Master Plan improve the output of state agencies by providing a better workspace, but it will also save Utah a significant amount of money. The presenters projected that, in the next 50 years, the state will save $429 million in new construction cost avoidance and $569 million in operations cost avoidance. That is over a billion dollars in savings to Utah, in addition to the projected increased space and employee efficiency.
How to Navigate the Legislative Website
Staying informed and knowing how to use government resources are important parts of being involved in the legislative process. With this in mind, we have created video tutorials that explain how to best utilize the legislative website (le.utah.gov). We will be highlighting a new tutorial each week of the session, and we hope that they will be both helpful and instructive.
This week’s tutorial walks you through the steps of how to virtually join a committee meeting.
Senator Ron Winterton
Utah Senate District 20