Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Last week, the Legislature met for interim committee meetings and appropriations subcommittee meetings. Appropriations subcommittee meetings occur about once every other month and include members from both the Senate and House. During these meetings, subcommittees review funding for state government and balance the budget. After the subcommittees meet, they give their funding recommendations to the Executive Appropriations Subcommittee where final budget decisions are made. Some of the items discussed during the most recent subcommittee meetings include funding for a mental health research facility and education. These meetings are open to the public and links to past meetings can be found here. Below are some significant items we have covered so far.
During the special session in May, the Legislature appropriated $90 million from the American Rescue Plan Act to help build the Utah Mental Health Translational Research Building on the University of Utah campus. These funds will be combined with $65 million from Utah’s philanthropic community, and together will build a leading research center focused on solving mental health challenges like suicide, child and young adult mental health, rural mental health, stigma, workforce shortages, and the unknown neurological, psychiatric, and social factors created by COVID-19.
During the Infrastructure and General Government Appropriations Subcommittee meeting, the University of Utah presented a utilization plan and outlined the foundation for creating a system-wide approach to resolving Utah’s mental health crisis. Listen to the presentation here.
With Utah’s current severe drought conditions, our state needs to take extra precautions to prevent wildfires. This means making smart and responsible choices when it comes to fireworks safety throughout the July holidays. The Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands reported 364 fires, 315 of which have been human-caused, during the Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environmental Quality Appropriations Subcommittee. Utah currently has four large fires, including the largest, the Bear Fire, which has burned over 11,000 acres. Listen to the report here.
Utah is currently experiencing extreme drought. Earlier this year, the Division of Water Resources (DWR) recommended that the state drought coordinator and Utah’s Division of Natural Resources (DNR) convene the Drought Review and Reporting Committee. The committee recommended an executive order should be issued declaring a state of emergency due to the drought. Gov. Cox released the declaration on March 17. In May, the Legislature extended the drought declaration through October. On June 8, the state issued another drought declaration to further restrict water use at state facilities and prohibit fireworks on state lands.
Though we have no control over droughts in our desert state, we do have control over our water conservation efforts. Learn about your role in water conservation here. Find a helpful lawn watering guide here.
Every ten years, the U.S. Constitution requires the U.S. Census Bureau to conduct a count of every person who lives in the United States. The results of the census are used for redistricting, which is the process of drawing new district boundaries for congressional, legislative and state school board districts based on the state’s resident population.
In Utah, the Legislature is responsible for redrawing district boundaries. Once the state receives the data from the U.S. Census Bureau, members from the Utah Senate and House of Representatives will hold town hall meetings across the state. Members of the public are encouraged to attend these meetings and provide input and feedback. In addition to participating in town halls, all Utahns will be able to use a state-of-the-art map drawing tool to create their own maps for the legislative committee to review. Learn more on the redistricting website here.
Read the interim highlights from our Legislative Research team here.
Senator Ron Winterton
Utah Senate District 26