April 2023 - Newsletter
Dear Friends and Neighbors,
It is hard to believe that the 2023 General Session ended over a month ago. As I look back on my experience, I am honored to have been a part of such an impressive and historic session. Countless hours were dedicated to establishing sound policy for Utahns, and I am moved by the thought and care that went into each bill that was passed. Many of these bills will go into effect in the next few weeks, and I am excited to see their positive impacts.
To accomplish so much in a short time, it was crucial that we worked together during the session. We passed 575 bills, and the governor did not veto any legislation, demonstrating the impressive collaboration shown this year. We are now preparing for our monthly interim meetings, a time to research and discuss legislation for the next general session. Keep an eye on your inbox, as I will be sending monthly newsletters covering the important topics we discuss.
I am grateful for the opportunity to serve our community. Please continue to provide feedback and insights on topics or concerns for our district. You can reach out to me at email@example.com.
2023 Interim Schedule
After the general session is over, we continue to meet regularly in interim committees to research, discuss and prepare legislation for the next 45-day general session. The Legislative Management Committee recently approved the interim committee schedule, assignments and study items for 2023.
Study items that will be discussed over the next year include water conservation, labor laws, homelessness, affordable housing, energy production and the electrification of the state’s transportation systems. The full list of study items can be found here.
All interim meetings and proceedings are open to the public and live-streamed, recorded and shared publicly on le.utah.gov. Input is an important part of the legislative process and I would encourage everyone to participate, either in person or virtually.
Most interim committee meetings will be held at the Utah State Capitol with the exception of September interim. September interim meetings will be held in St. George, allowing the opportunity for our community to participate in person.
2023 Interim Schedule:
May 16-17 at the Utah State Capitol
June 13-14 at the Utah State Capitol
August 8-9 at the Utah State Capitol
September 18 in St. George
October 10-11 at the Utah State Capitol
November 14-15 at the Utah State Capitol
December 5 at the Utah State Capitol
Utah Senate committee assignments can be found here.
Best Economic Outlook for 16th Year
Utah’s strategic policies, smart fiscal decisions and forward-thinking reserve funds, combined with the hard work of Utahns across the state, have placed our state on top once again. For the 16th year in a row, Utah ranked the state with the best economic outlook by Rich States, Poor States: ALEC-Laffer State Economic Competitiveness Index.
During the 2023 General Session, we made generational investments in education, social services, water, housing, transportation and infrastructure while cutting taxes for the third consecutive year. Though we are experiencing unprecedented success, we continue to look toward the future and plan for economic downturns and uncertainties. Utah is well-poised to protect its economy and citizens.
I am grateful to live in a state and work with colleagues who prioritize Utah’s economy. When our economy is thriving, that means Utahns are thriving. Over and over again, we’ve shown that our state can rise to the top.
Autism Awareness Month
April is recognized nationally as Autism Awareness Month. Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a complex developmental disorder that affects a person’s ability to communicate and interact with others. More than 3.5 million Americans currently live with ASD, and 1 in 68 children are born with a variation of it. Many of us know someone on the autism spectrum, so April is celebrated as a time to raise awareness around the differences of those on the spectrum, supporting people and educating the public on autism.
Did you know an autism diagnosis can cost more than $17,000 annually per child? In the recent 2023 General Legislative Session, we passed S.B. 204 Autism Coverage Amendments to amend Medicaid coverage in Utah to include coverage for autism treatment services to help alleviate the financial burden on families so they can better focus on caring for their loved ones.
The Utah Policy Innovation Lab
Utah is a place that sparks creativity and encourages collaboration. We have some of the brightest minds at our universities, businesses and local communities. To bring these minds together for the benefit of all Utahns, we passed H.B. 42 Technology Commercialization Amendments during the recent session, creating The Utah Policy Innovation Lab.
The Utah Policy Innovation Lab, a public-private partnership, will facilitate the exchange of ideas and leverage the collective expertise and resources of stakeholders. As legislators, we are excited to hear their insights and learn from their impressive work as we come together to address complex policy challenges facing our state.
Caregiver Compensation Amendments
Caregivers are an essential part of many families in our state. They devote countless hours and effort to their loved ones. This often makes it so they are unable to hold employment and cover basic expenses. We sought to address this during the 2021 General Session with S.B. 63, which made compensation available to spousal caregivers.
Since then, we have seen many Utahns benefit from the funding. However, the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted other groups of caregivers that needed similar financial assistance. Federal ARPA funds were made available to those that look after dependents under 18 and dependents over 18. We saw the positive impacts this had, including better care and increased quality of life for all involved.
As a Legislature, we wanted to continue offering support to these groups, in addition to spousal caregivers. S.B. 106 Caregiver Compensation Amendments accomplished this by extending caregiver compensation to all who need it. The bill allows spouses and parents to stay home and provide important care while having partial coverage for expenses available to them.
Flood Awareness and Resources
April was declared Flood Safety Awareness Month to increase flood risk awareness and encourage Utahns to prepare for flooding. This spring, the state has experienced floods and we are expecting more to come. On April 18, Gov. Cox declared a state of emergency due to current flooding conditions and future risks. The dangers of flooding have already been seen through landslides, rockslides, mudslides and homes flooding.
During the 2023 General Legislative Session, we appropriated $5 million for emergency management flood mitigation. The executive order called by the governor will allow the state to tap into the State Disaster Recovery Restricted Account and gain access to aid from the federal government and other states. The Utah Division of Emergency Management has activated the State Emergency Response Team and is deploying resources, including nearly 2 million sandbags, to help prepare for flooding.
It’s important to have flood information to mitigate emergencies in your neighborhoods. Resources can be found on the Utah Department of Public Safety website and the Be Ready Utah flood page. Be prepared and stay informed throughout the flood season.
In April, the Legislative Audit Subcommittee heard from the State Auditor regarding audits of the healthcare in state prisons, the space utilization by the Utah Schools for the Deaf and Blind, the San Juan County Commission, and the two-year follow-up of 911 call answer times for Salt Lake City 911.
The follow-up of the Salt Lake City 911 performance audit showed that there had been a significant improvement in the time it takes to answer a 911 call, finally hitting the national standard after almost 11 years. Meanwhile, the follow-up audit for healthcare in state prisons was less favorable as it showed only four of the 13 recommendations of the previous audit had been implemented. Space utilization of the Utah Schools for the Deaf and Blind performance audit resulted in recommendations for the Legislature to work alongside the Utah School Board of Education to better serve this population. Lastly, the performance audit of the San Juan County Commission showed that two of the three commissioners had partaken in questionable actions leaving a gray area within the bylaws. The audit suggested that San Juan County create additional bylaws to remove confusion and allow for a clear path forward.
It is extremely important we take care of those in prison and their families and ensure auditors' recommendations are implemented. Based on department responses, I am optimistic that correctional organizations will implement the audit recommendations and make improvements.
All these audits, recommendations and department's responses can be heard in depth here.
Senator Ron Winterton
Utah Senate District 20