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2024 Session - Week 4

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Friends and Neighbors,   

   

The 45-day legislative session is more than halfway over! This past week was full of committee meetings, debates and activities with various groups here at Capitol Hill. As our budget subcommittees met for the final time this session, we are even more focused on passing policies and budgets that directly benefit you. 



We focused on passing bills that will have regional and statewide impact, several of which are highlighted below.

 

Budget Process  

Week four marks the last time appropriation subcommittees will meet this session. Over the past three weeks, we have heard funding requests from constituents, organizations and stakeholders. This week, we met as subcommittees and ranked all funding items in a master list. These lists will now be sent to the Executive Appropriations Committee for a final ranking. As the end of the session nears, these lists, along with the fiscal notes from all bills passed, will be consolidated into the final budget bill – known as the “Bill of Bills.” 

  

You can learn more about the budget process and see what funding requests have been submitted here.

 

How to Navigate the Legislative Website        

To be involved in the legislative process, it is important to stay informed and know what government resources are available. With this in mind, we have created video tutorials that explain how to best utilize the legislative website (le.utah.gov). We will highlight a new tutorial each week of the session, and we hope that it will be both helpful and instructive. This week’s tutorial explains how to use the legislative tracking service.


 

Protecting Youth from the Harms of Social Media  

Utah is leading the nation with landmark legislation that helps safeguard kids and teens from the growing mental health crisis tied to the rise in social media addiction. In our state, 88% of parents believe social media has a detrimental impact on children and youth, and nearly half of teens nationwide, ages 13 to 17, said using social media makes them feel worse. A staggering 53% of teen girls in Utah have persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness, a 61% increase since the invention of social media.  

 

The goal of S.B. 194 and H.B. 464 is to protect minors from harmful product features of social media while empowering parents. These bills continue the work of Utah’s previous landmark legislation to provide parents with enhanced tools and resources, including strict age-verification processes, default privacy settings and tools for overseeing minor accounts.  

  It also requires social media companies to offer parents and legal guardians tools to oversee minor accounts, including setting time limits, scheduling mandatory breaks, viewing total and daily average use time and seeing connected accounts. Read more here. 

 

Addressing Behavioral Health in Utah 

With the recent trend of increasing mental health conditions throughout the nation, government organizations are finding ways to address behavioral health concerns. Behavioral health encompasses conditions related to mental health and substance use disorders, such as depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and more. 

  

To increase the efficiency of Utah's behavioral health system, the Legislature is considering S.B. 27 Behavioral Health System Amendments. S.B. 27 creates a behavioral health commission within the Department of Health and Human Services. The commission combines several existing behavioral health entities under a single umbrella. By creating a centralized entity, behavioral health organizations will more effectively and efficiently address behavioral health concerns in the state. You can track the progress of the bill here. 

 

Utah Tech University Day on the Hill 

We welcomed Utah Tech University to the Capitol for their Day on the Hill. During our Senate floor recognition, we were joined by many Utah Tech students and faculty leaders. Utah Tech provides a unique educational experience. As the university with the most affordable tuition rate in Utah and an incredibly low student-to-faculty ratio, Utah Tech provides a personable education experience for over 12,000 students. I enjoyed seeing Utah Tech's work first-hand when we visited the campus for our September interim meetings. Go Trailblazers!




Snow College Day 

Snow College stands as a pillar in Central Utah’s educational community. This year, the college celebrates its 135th Anniversary. To honor Snow and all its contributions to Utah, we welcomed many faculty, staff, alums and students to the Senate for a glimpse of the legislative process. 

  

Being one of the oldest colleges in the West, Snow’s history is deeply intertwined with Utah’s. The college currently boasts around 6,000 students and offers certificates, associate degrees and, as of 2018, two bachelor’s degrees. 



I am grateful for all Snow College 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 Badgers! 

 

Legislation 

S.B. 92 Student Communication Methods  

Our society increasingly relies on the internet and smartphones, and this is no different in the classroom. Schools are turning heavily to smartphone apps to help distribute information, sell event tickets and make announcements. Partnerships with schools are essential to mitigating the harmful impacts of social media.  

 

S.B. 92 Student Communication Methods addresses how notifications should be delivered to students in school. It mandates a non-electronic communication method be distributed in addition to any electronic methods. Notably, the bill does not preclude schools from utilizing electronic means as long as they provide a non-electronic alternative. Learn more here. 

 

Public Art Funding Efforts 

S.B. 144 Public Art Funding Amendments would help fund a 10-year Salt Lake City project program to install public art features in our capital city and surrounding areas. These art pieces would showcase Utah’s history, heritage and culture to our state’s many residents and visitors. S.B. 144 raises awareness of the value and impressions that art and culture provide to our communities. Ahead of the potential 2034 Olympics being hosted in Utah, it would also help us to continue beautifying Salt Lake City and delight visitors with informative public art installations. 

 

The artwork would come from Utah artists who work with their city or county to propose a plan and purpose for their project. In time, these art pieces would be a source of joy, enlightenment and expression for generations to come. Learn more here. Watch the bill’s presentation here. 

 

Utah Firefighter Aircraft Training 

The Utah Fire and Rescue Academy (UFRA) trains Utah firefighters, including volunteers, on best fire and rescue practices. S.B. 119 Fire and Rescue Training Amendments clarifies that UFRA must provide Utah firefighters with training on aircraft disasters. Currently, nine Utah fire agencies require their firefighters to be trained in battling airplane fires in the event of a crash or a similar disaster. However, this training is not offered anywhere in Utah, meaning our firefighters must travel to other states to satisfy this requirement. This bill will allow UFRA to offer aircraft training in-state, ensuring our firefighters have the necessary experience and knowledge when responding to airport calls. The Senate passed S.B. 119 this week, and now it will be sent to the House for their consideration. You can track the progress of the bill here. 



 

License Plate Revisions 

In Utah, the law currently requires vehicles to display both a front and back license plate. S.B. 45 License Plate Revisions would amend this law to no longer require a front plate. Under this bill, the Division of Motor Vehicles would cease issuing two license plates to vehicle owners, mandating the display of the license plate solely on the back bumper. Not only will this change in policy benefit consumers, but it will also reduce waste and costs. As a result, half of the money saved will be returned directly to the taxpayers, with the remaining portion allocated to support DMV operations. This bill passed in the Senate last week and is now being considered by the House. 

  

Addressing Rising Nicotine Addiction in Youth 

S.B. 61 Electronic Cigarettes Amendments addresses the problems that nicotine poses to the people of Utah. 

  

It has been well-established that E-cigarettes pose a significant health risk, especially for kids. An estimated 75% of youth who have tried tobacco first tried vape products, and 90% of all kids start with flavored tobacco products. Flavored e-cigarettes increase the likelihood of teen addiction. S.B. 61 proposes to ban flavored electronic cigarette products. Additionally, the bill will prohibit the sale of e-cigarette products the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not authorized for market use.  

 

You can track the progress of the bill here. 

  

Alternative Education Scholarship Combination 

Our state’s special needs students deserve the utmost care and support. S.B. 44 Alternative Education Scholarship Combination helps address that need. In 2004, the Legislature created the Carson Smith Special Needs Scholarship, and in 2018 the Special Needs Opportunity Scholarship was established. Both these scholarships aimed to provide educational opportunities to Utah’s most vulnerable students. These programs are very similar in purpose, but one has more money than kids, and the other has more kids than money. 

  

S.B. 44 addresses this issue by combining these two programs to ensure that money goes where it is most needed. This shift will occur gradually, allowing students to continually access this scholarship money until the Carson Smith Scholarship phases out. It is vital that funding follows the children to the program that best fits them. Special needs kids deserve no less choice, funding or options than general education students; this bill supports that belief. 


Strengthening Our Relationship with Taiwan 

The Senate unanimously passed a resolution expressing our friendship and support for Taiwan. Utah has enjoyed a strong relationship with Taiwan since 1956. This relationship has resulted in many Taiwanese people living and working within our state, contributing their rich history and shared values to our vibrant communities.  

 

As our state has become connected with the wonderful people in Taiwan, we have also increased our economic connections. Taiwan is Utah's 5th largest trading partner and the 6th largest export destination, totaling more than $650 million in trade during 2020. Recently, Utah strengthened our relationship with Taiwan by participating in a driver's license reciprocity agreement, which allows Utah driver's licenses to be recognized in Taiwan and vice versa. I look forward to continued connections with Taiwan in the future.  

 

NCSL 50th Anniversary Resolution 

The Senate and House passed a joint resolution this week recognizing the 50th Anniversary of the creation of the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). NCSL is a bipartisan organization with three objectives: to advance the effectiveness, independence and integrity of state legislatures; to foster interstate communication and cooperation; and to ensure states have a strong, cohesive voice in the federal system. Founded in 1975, NCSL has evolved during the past half-century to become the premier organization solely dedicated to serving state and territorial legislators and legislative staff. I sincerely commend NCSL and their support committees and staff for providing state legislatures an opportunity to civilly share ideas and perspectives, all for the greater goal of enhancing the American experience. See the resolution here. 

 

Citation Honoring Utah Firefighter Crews 

Our Forestry, Fire and State Lands’ Fire Program and its wildland firefighting crews had a busy year in 2023. They spent over 100 days assigned to wildfire incidents, assisting in  

completing 25 hazardous fuels projects across the state and providing crucial support on over 30 fires across the country. It was our privilege to issue them an honorary citation on the chamber floor for their dedication to protecting our communities, enhancing our state’s resilience against wildfires and educating Utahns on proactive wildfire prevention. We are deeply indebted to the remarkable men and women who selflessly risk their lives to protect our state. Watch the citation here. 


Burns Saddlery Citation 

Burns Saddlery is one of the oldest family-owned western retail businesses in Utah and the world. Over its 148-year journey, the company has grown into a dynamic enterprise with over 100 dedicated employees and expanded to include five manufacturing businesses and three retail locations across Utah and Wyoming. Headquartered in Salina, Utah, Burns Saddlery is an integral part of our state’s Western heritage and culture. Today, Burns Saddlery continues its legacy with pride, looking to the future with the same pioneering spirit that guided its founder, Miles Lamoni Burns. 

  

We recognized their significant contributions to Utah, the Western product industry and the communities they serve on the Senate Floor this past week. We wish its owners continued success and legacy for generations to come. 

  

Redmond Minerals Citation 

We had the privilege of recognizing Redmond Minerals on the Senate floor this past week. Redmond Minerals is a Utah-based company that operates a vital salt mine in central Utah. For decades, Redmond has been providing Utah’s people, animals and crops with essential minerals and has stood as a stalwart in the state’s business community for their contributions. Redmond also plays a pivotal role in keeping our roads safe by providing de-icing solutions during our state’s rough winters. 

 

Culture Industry Report  

On Friday, the Capitol Rotunda was filled with art, science experiments, museums and animals as we welcomed Utah’s cultural industry. Many of the entertainment, economic prosperity and learning opportunities we enjoy in Utah are thanks to these businesses. Over 100,000 individuals are involved in the arts, humanities and cultural sectors. The industry also contributes $17.8 billion in sales and $309 million in tax revenue. We congratulate them on their great work for the betterment of our state. 

 

Career and Technical Education Day 

Career and Technical Education (CTE) in Utah focuses on providing rigorous, high-quality education that is career-focused and helps students graduate and enter the workforce as soon as possible. In the 2022-23 school year, over 180,000 students enrolled in CTE classes with a 97% graduation rate. These classes offer students a leg up in business, trade and other industries.  

 

Utah Life Sciences Day on Capitol Hill (GoUtah) 

Life Sciences Day on the Hill brought an impressive array of science, technology and healthcare displays to the Rotunda. Utah’s life sciences industry has seen a surge in growth and become a staple of our economy. With 1,600 companies and over 180,000 jobs, our life science sector is one of the fastest-growing in the nation. 

 

UT Tourism Day on the Hill 

Tourism is thriving in Utah, with dozens of beautiful natural landscapes to explore and small towns full of rich history. In 2022, the tourism industry in Utah brought our state nearly $12 billion in direct visitor spending, $2.1 billion in tax revenue and over 150,000 travel and tourism jobs. Our five National Parks, 44 State Parks and world-class ski resorts are some of the best the West has to offer. Because of our tourism industry, Utah will continue to be a place for all to recreate and enjoy. 

 

I appreciate those of you who have reached out to me so far and hope to continue hearing your feedback as the session continues. You can reach me through my intern Elijah at 385-441-0602. 

   

Best, 

Ron Winterton 

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