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2023 Session - Week 5

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Dear Friends and Neighbors,

As usual, the week was busy, but I am proud of what we have accomplished. I have spent many hours in committee meetings hearing proposed legislation and in the Senate chamber debating bills. I appreciate all the hard work that has gone into the legislation we have and are considering. I look forward to continuing this process with my colleagues as we head into the final weeks of the 2023 General Session.


Below you will find a description of some items that were addressed and events from last week. I will continue to send regular updates during the remaining two 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 gallen@le.utah.gov.

Tax Cuts for Utahns

Over the past two years, the Utah Legislature has reduced taxes by nearly $300 million. To continue Utah’s commitment to reducing taxes and cultivating a family and business-friendly environment, the Legislature is proposing an additional $400 million in tax relief for Utahns.

The bill, H.B. 54 Tax Revisions includes:

  • Reducing all Utahns' income tax rate from 4.85% to 4.65%.

  • Expanding social security tax credit eligibility to individuals earning up to $75,000 per year.

  • Providing a tax benefit for pregnant women by allowing a double dependent exemption for children in the year of their birth.

  • Increasing the earned income tax credit (EITC) from 15% to 20% of the federal credit.

By lowering Utah’s income tax to 4.65%, an average family of four making $80,000 a year will see a $208 reduction in tax liability.

  • Low-income households will see about a 22% tax cut.

  • Middle-income households will see about a 6% tax cut.

  • High-income households will see about a 4% tax cut.

For the third year in a row, the Legislature will return money to the hard-working Utahns who earned it. I am committed to providing tax relief while continuing to fund education and other important programs and initiatives. Read the bill here.

Honoring Utah’s Fallen First Responders

We were honored to be joined by the families of two fallen first responders on the Senate floor. The Senate held a moment of silence for firefighter Capt. Brian Holbrook, Utah Highway Patrol officer Sgt. Craig Ward and all public safety personnel who lost their lives protecting the people of Utah. These selfless individuals paid the ultimate price in the service of our state and words cannot adequately express my gratitude for the sacrifice of these individuals and their families. To those who serve or have served as first responders, thank you for your devotion to our state. We will continue our legislative efforts to support our first responders. You can watch the presentation for Utah's fallen first responders here.


Eliminating Adoption Barriers

Utah is a family-focused state, and as such, the Legislature is looking at ways to eliminate barriers that prevent Utah families from adopting. The adoption process can be arduous and expensive, but the Legislature is working on simplifying the process through the passage of S.B. 154 Adoption Amendments. By removing barriers, we hope it helps enable and better help families and agencies in their efforts to find children good homes. You can track the progress of S.B. 154 here.

Electing County Sheriffs

Sheriffs are the only elected law enforcement officers in the country and report directly to the people, providing an important check and balance and protection. Currently, Utah has 29 elected Utah sheriffs’ that are Republicans, Democrats and Independents. However, the election of sheriffs is in the Utah Constitution. H.J.R. 10 Proposal to Amend Utah Constitution - Election of County Sheriffs, proposing to put a question on the 2024 November ballot asking Utah voters if they would like to amend the constitution to protect the right to elect local county sheriffs. It does not alter the role or responsibilities of sheriffs. Instead, it preserves sheriffs will remain democratically elected. Read the resolution here.

Protecting Utah Teens from the Harms of Social Media

The CDC recently released data showing that nearly three in five (57%) of U.S. teen girls persistently felt sad or hopeless in 2021, doubling that of boys. Additionally, the data showed that nearly one in three girls seriously contemplated suicide. Since 2010, rates of depression and mental health crises in American teens have nearly doubled, where before, rates remained stagnant. Social media creation and use have been linked to these increased rates.

S.B. 152 Social Media Regulation Amendments works to protect teens from the harms of social media and give parents more control. The bill provides parents with tools, including setting a strict age verification process and the ability to set time restrictions. S.B. 152 also prevents social media companies from collecting data on minors and restricts direct messages to minors without being “friends” on the platform. S.B. 152 passed the Senate and will now be considered in the House.


Another bill focused on social media regulations, H.B. 311 Social Media Usage Amendments, makes any contract a minor enters into on a social media app invalid unless a parent or guardian consents to the contract. It also prohibits social media companies from using design features that make social media addictive platforms for teens.

Both bills strive to make social media safer for Utah teens and provide parents with the tools necessary to protect their children. S.B. 152 and H.B. 311 will continue through the legislative process. Track the bills here and here.

Preparing for Another Winter Olympics

In 2002, Utah was honored to host the Winter Olympics and welcomed world-renowned athletes. The Legislature is preparing the state to host another Winter Olympics. The following bills recently unanimously passed in the Legislature and focus on the effort to bring the Games back to our great state:

  • H.C.R. 8 Concurrent Resolution Addressing the Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games enables the Utah Legislature and the governor to enter into a host site agreement with the International Olympic and Paralympic Committee. It also helps Utah continue its legacy with the Olympic games and gives the Legislature oversight to review the contract before the governor signs the Olympic Host Agreement.

  • H.B. 430 creates a committee of three senators and three representatives who would review the Olympic Host Agreement. It also ensures the host agreement includes a requirement that mitigates any damages and allows the state to terminate the contract if unlawful activity occurs. The committee will act as a go-between for the state and the games, giving greater transparency into the host committee and its activities.

In addition to passing these pieces of legislation, the Senate welcomed the U.S. Olympic Committee on the Senate floor and reaffirmed our commitment that Utah is ready, willing and able to host the world once again!

Thanking School Teachers

Throughout COVID-19, educators instructed in new, innovative ways. Teachers spent countless hours refining their curriculum and creating ways to engage with students from home. H.J.R. 3 Joint Resolution Recognizing School Teachers recognizes Utah's public school educators for their extraordinary efforts to teach students during COVID-19. We recognize the profound challenges teachers faced both during the pandemic and in its wake. Their ability to adapt from in-classroom to remote instruction under immense pressure and time constraints speaks volumes to our teachers' capabilities and devotion to their work. See the joint resolution here.

Helping Patients Afford Life-Saving Medication

With inflation at a 40-year high, it is critical that we look at new ways to ease the financial burdens for those impacted by chronic disease. In the past, one of the most widely used tools patients had to help pay for medication was through funding from nonprofits and pharmaceutical manufacturers’ copay assistance savings programs. These programs helped reduce out-of-pocket medication and medical treatment payments, making it easier for patients to reach their insurance deductible. Unfortunately, a few years ago, insurance companies and pharmacy benefit managers chose to use a loophole in our laws, categorizing new, innovative medical treatments as “nonessential.” Insurers and pharmacy benefit managers now pocket thousands more, all while leaving patients on their own to cover the expenses as a result.

Addressing ESG in Utah

Utah has taken a strong stance against environmental, social and governance (ESG) standards. ESG is an investment framework used by some organizations where factors such as corporate climate policies or workforce diversity are considered when investing in an organization. When investments are made based on ESG considerations rather than capitalizing on a return on investment, the investments have lower performance, as outlined by the Harvard Business Review.

The Legislature is examining several pieces of legislation this session that will protect Utahns' investments from being made based on subjective standards like ESG.

  • S.B. 96 Fiduciary Duty Modifications outlines what considerations an investor can take into account when making a government investment.

  • S.B. 97 Public Contract Requirements prevent a public entity from entering a contract with a company that engages in environmental boycott actions.

  • H.B. 281 Social Credit Score Amendments prohibits a government entity from behaving in a preferential way towards an individual based on a social credit score such as ESG.

  • H.B. 449 Financial Services Requirements requires companies to disclose to customers if they use any subjective standards and, if so, receive permission from customers to use the subjective standards. Additionally, H.B. 449 clarifies that corporations cannot coordinate with each other regarding the denial of financial services for an individual.

Each of these bills seeks to address an aspect of ESG to ensure that Utah's capital market is not politicized.

How to Navigate the Legislative Website

This week’s tutorial explaining how to stay involved in the legislative process by utilizing the legislative website (le.utah.gov) is how to find which legislators represent you.

Tourism Day on the Hill

Last week, we had the opportunity to host Tourism Day on the Hill, an event I look forward to every year. In addition to a blow-up replica of the iconic Delicate Arch, we were joined by tourism groups from around the state. I appreciated the opportunity to learn from county and city representatives. The event highlighted the importance of our state’s tourism industry and the many incredible recreation options Utah has to offer.

Voluntary Firearm Restrictions Amendments

H.B. 300 Voluntary Firearm Restrictions Amendments is an entirely voluntary step to promote gun safety and accountability. The bill creates a voluntary firearm restricted list that allows someone to request to be restricted from purchasing firearms indefinitely, encouraging those who may be struggling with mental health issues or feelings of instability to protect themselves. Individuals can request to remove their names from the restricted list after 90 days. This bill passed the Legislature. You can learn more here.

Supporting Utah Teachers

In 2008, the Legislature directly increased teachers' compensation through the teacher salary supplement. Earlier this session, the Legislature passed H.B. 215 Funding for Teacher Salaries and Optional Education Opportunities, doubling the Educator Salary Adjustment Program and once again directly increasing teacher compensation by about $6,000. However, the pay raises currently do not adjust for inflation or when the Weighted Pupil Unit (WPU) value increases.

S.B. 183 is a companion bill to H.B. 215 and appropriates funding and ties teacher salary supplement and educator salary adjustments raises to increase yearly with the WPU value instead of remaining stagnant. Additionally, S.B. 183 changes how a negative teacher evaluation affects their eligibility for the program by making all teachers eligible unless they have received three unsatisfactory ratings. Currently, only one unsatisfactory rating is required for ineligibility.

I am extremely grateful for the hard work of our Utah teachers. By ensuring that salary increases are tied to the WPU, the Legislature hopes to show our appreciation and support for our teachers. S.B. 183 will now be considered by the House. You can track the progress of the bill here.

Senate Art Contest

Utah is home to many talented artists. We had the opportunity to recognize several young artists last week when we hosted the winners and honorable mentions of the Senate Art Contest. This contest is held annually in conjunction with the Springville Art Contest and features the work of high school students from around the state. Winners receive scholarship money and are selected by a panel of Senate judges. We had the privilege of honoring them on the Senate floor, and I was amazed at the beauty and variety of the artwork present. I am excited to see what these impressive students accomplish and know they will continue to represent Utah well in all of their future endeavors!

In our district, we had the following winners:


Winterton

Holland Springer, from Wasatch High School, with his piece “Thunderbird.” *Honorable Mention*


Traven Miller, from Union High School, with his piece “Untamable.” *Honorable Mention*

Kind regards, Senator Ron Winterton Utah Senate District 20

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