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2024 Session - Week 3

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Dear Friends and Neighbors,   

  

It was another exciting week at the Capitol. This session has been flying by and we are almost halfway through! Last week, we considered several Senate and House bills on the Senate floor and discussed relevant topics in committee. I feel privileged to work with my fellow legislators to find policy solutions that best suit Utah’s needs.   

  

It was a pleasure to welcome several organizations and colleges to the Capitol and see everyone supporting issues they care deeply about. Thank you to those who have reached out and provided me with feedback since the session began. Passionate individuals like you inspire and motivate me as I work to try and make Utah an even better place.

 

Energy Independence 

Investing in the state’s energy capabilities is a top priority this session. Utah is making considerable progress toward energy independence and a secure energy future.  

  

Securing Utah’s energy future is about more than keeping the lights on – it’s about ensuring we have reliable energy resources for generations to come that will provide fuel for our vehicles, keep us warm during cold winters and cool during the hot summers and power our cities and businesses. 

  

When it comes to energy, we’re applying an “all of the above'' approach. We cannot rely on one energy source alone. We’re looking at any and all energy resources to ensure power remains affordable and reliable for generations to come. 

 

Learn more about our energy objectives and bills here. 

  

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 finding a committee’s agenda. 



Recognizing Utah’s Service Members of the Year 

The Utah Service Member of the Year award recognizes outstanding performers from the state's major military entities, including the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Space Force. The Senate honored these fine service members and their families for their ongoing service and sacrifice. Our thanks are the least we can offer for their dedicated efforts, ensuring continued readiness during challenging times.


These service members represent the best of the military in Utah. They remind us of the true meaning of service and sacrifice. Their dedication and commitment to excellence inspire us all. We will always value those who wear the uniform and their families. Watch the recognition here. 



U.S. Naval War College Visit   

We recently welcomed the U.S. Naval War College’s Field Studies International Program of Newport, Rhode Island to the Capitol. The program’s 30 distinguished officers from 28 nations study naval planning, leadership and international affairs. The group stopped in Utah as part of their tour of the United States and visited the Legislature to learn more about our state government and unique part-time citizenship model.   

 

The students are a remarkable and dedicated group from diverse cultures and ideologies who share maritime traditions, experiences and challenges. Many go on to serve in high-ranking leadership positions in their respective navies. As coalition forces are increasingly summoned to respond to conflicts and disasters and promote peace worldwide, the knowledge these students take with them is crucial on both the national and world stage. Watch the recognition here. Learn more about the Naval War College here. 



Hockey 

Utah is the state of sports. Following last week's resolution supporting a Major League Baseball team, we saw the passage of S.J.R. 12 Joint Resolution Supporting a National Hockey League Franchise in Utah. With our state's strong ties to winter sports and the renowned "greatest snow on earth," Utah presents an ideal destination for a National Hockey League (NHL) expansion. 

  

The resolution highlights Utah's robust economy and tight-knit communities, perfectly positioned to sustain major league sports franchises. Our proud legacy, exemplified by our successful hosting of the 2002 Winter Olympics and Paralympics, further underscores our suitability for such endeavors. As we continue to build upon Utah's rich sporting heritage, adding an NHL team would enhance our state's cultural vibrancy and provide thrilling entertainment and economic opportunities for residents and visitors alike. Utah stands ready to extend a warm welcome to a new hockey team. 


Legislation 

  

Improving Teacher Retention and Recruitment 

Utah is home to the best teachers in the country. Ensuring these dedicated professionals receive ample compensation for their unwavering commitment has long been a top priority. Building upon last year's landmark achievement of passing the most substantial teacher salary raise in history, our dedication to valuing Utah's educators continues this year. 

  

S.B. 173 Market-Informed Compensation for Teachers introduces an optional program that acknowledges and rewards teachers for their exceptional contributions to enhancing student outcomes. Through the guidelines stated in this bill, educators can earn up to $100,000. This pioneering program aims to rightfully recognize and incentivize top-performing teachers for their invaluable efforts in positively impacting the lives of their students. 

  

S.B. 137 Teacher Empowerment introduces an alternative teacher evaluation process that engages educators and prioritizes their professional development, recognizing the challenging yet gratifying nature of teaching. S.B. 137 also provides teachers with more training dollars and more choices in how they spend their training dollars. By offering teachers more autonomy in their evaluation and training, we can help empower and retain our state’s great teachers. 

 

Learn more about these and other education bills here. 

  

Tax Cuts 

For the past three years, the Legislature has cut taxes by over $1 billion while ensuring funding for the most vital parts of our society, including historic funding for education and social services. S.B. 69 continues this effort by reducing the state income tax again. If it passes, it will mark four consecutive years the Senate voted to reduce taxes so Utahns can keep more of their hard-earned money. 

  

S.B. 69 passed the Senate and will now be considered by the House. 


AI 

S.B. 131 Information Technology Act Amendments enhances penalties for offenses involving the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI). This bill outlines heightened penalties for offenses and addresses the misuse of AI in various criminal activities, including but not limited to child pornography, fraud, misrepresentation of elected or public officials and theft.  

Presently, 12 states have enacted laws that increase penalties for AI-related crimes, whether enforced through civil penalties or overseen by the Attorney General. Moreover, numerous states have already enacted laws to address enhanced penalties in connection with various crimes and to improve information tracking systems. The collective efforts seek to establish a legal framework that effectively addresses the challenges posed by the misuse of AI in criminal endeavors. Learn more here. 

  

S.B. 134 Child Welfare Amendments 

Each year, lawmakers and the Department of Health and Human Services work together to address changes needed in state code. S.B. 134 Child Welfare Amendments extends the sunset date for the Interdisciplinary Parental Representation Pilot Program to Dec. 31, 2026. This bill clarifies the process for filing a complaint for failure to report child abuse or neglect by requiring the Division of Child and Family Services to provide all information necessary. These procedural changes help ensure that a child is placed in the best home with the best care. Learn more here. 

 

Promoting Opportunities for Women in STEM 

Science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) is one of the most rapidly expanding sectors in the United States, employing nearly a quarter of the nation's workforce. Despite its significant economic contribution, women constitute only 21% of Utah's STEM workforce. To address this gap, we considered S.J.R. 7 Joint Resolution Promoting Opportunities for Women in STEM. This resolution seeks to empower women and girls across the state to pursue STEM education and careers, emphasizing that STEM field is inclusive and open to all. Having a diverse workforce is vital for the expansion of STEM. With this resolution, we rally behind all women interested in pursuing this lucrative career. 

  

By fostering diversity in the workforce, we ensure the continued growth and innovation of STEM fields, encouraging all women interested to explore and excel. 


Weber State Day on the Hill 

Last Thursday, we participated in Weber State University Day on the Hill. We welcomed many Weber State faculty, staff, alums and students to the Senate for a glimpse of the legislative process. 

 

Weber State, which recently celebrated its 135th anniversary, has been growing rapidly to meet Northern Utah's thriving aerospace and defense ecosystem's engineering, computer science, cybersecurity and advanced manufacturing needs. There are approximately 30,000 students enrolled at WSU, the highest in the university’s history. It impressively boasts a 21:1 student-to-faculty ratio. Also, Weber was recently placed in the top 10% of universities nationwide for the best return on investment.  

  

I am grateful for all Weber is doing for our state. Universities help train the future of Utah, and it is always a privilege to host them at the Capitol. Go Wildcats!



SUU Day on the Hill 

The Capitol hosted Southern Utah University Day on the Hill! I had the opportunity to meet with students, teachers and administrators to hear about the remarkable work they’re accomplishing at SUU. With over 15,000 students and a 96% growth rate since 2014, SUU has grown into a distinguished university that contributes significantly to our state. With more than 150 undergraduate and 40 graduate and certificate programs, SUU helps students develop professional skills in areas like nursing, business and theater.  

 

We were honored to welcome SUU President Mindy Benson to the Senate floor and recognize her for her incredible leadership that has helped build the university into the outstanding institution it is today. Go Thunderbirds!  



Service in Utah 

We celebrated Utah's culture of giving back to the community during National Service Day on the Hill. We welcomed members and volunteers from AmeriCorps to the Senate in recognition of their national programs that help individuals engage in essential community service.  

 

Utahns are incredibly generous with their time and resources, which is why our state is ranked No. 1 in the nation for volunteer service. Volunteers contributed an estimated $2.7 billion in economic value to the state in 2023. I am grateful for the work of service organizations that help connect volunteers with individuals in need. I am also thankful for those of you who have given your time, resources and energy to helping your neighbors throughout the year. Your efforts help make Utah the best state in the nation to live, work and raise a family. 

 

If you would like to get in touch with me, please reach out to my intern Elijah at 385-441-0602.   

  

Best, 

  

Ron Winterton 

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