Dear Friends and Family,
I hope you are having a wonderful Summer, and you have the chance to spend quality time with your loved ones. As we draw near to Independence Day, I have enjoyed reflecting on how grateful I am to be part of our wonderful state and nation. On the Fourth of July weekend, I encourage you all to continue to consider our state’s extreme drought conditions and celebrate responsibly. Thank you for all you do. Below is a summary of this month’s interim meetings and important events.
Wildfire Prevention and Safety
As we once again enter wildfire season, we need everyone's help to prevent fires. Currently, 99% of the state is in severe drought conditions, and 80% is in extreme or exceptional drought conditions. However, last year, despite the historic drought, we experienced 922 fewer human-caused wildfires than in 2020, a 50% reduction. Utahns showed they could make a difference in preventing wildfires by practicing responsible fire safety measures. This year, we need to continue to be extremely cautious to preserve our beautiful state. We can all prevent fires by properly extinguishing campfires, securing trailer chains to make sure it doesn't drag, not parking vehicles in dry grass and maintaining trailers and RVs. Track Utah's drought conditions here.
As you celebrate the Fourth of July and Pioneer Day with family and loved ones, please be especially safe with fireworks. This includes using fireworks only during legal times and days, keeping a fire extinguisher and water nearby and using fireworks away from dry grass. To see where you can legally and safely deploy fireworks in your area, click here.
Sensitive Materials in Schools
Nationwide, children have increased access to pornography, posing severe risks to their health and development. To protect our children from this dangerous matter, the Legislature passed H.B. 374 Sensitive Materials in Schools, which prohibits child access to pornographic or indecent instructional materials in school settings, including public school libraries. Local Education Agencies (LEAs) must take feedback from parents on whether instructional materials meet the appropriate standards.
The Attorney General’s Office issued a memorandum to the Utah State Board of Education (USBE) regarding H.B. 374. The USBE will hold a special board meeting on June 30 to discuss H.B. 374 and provide school districts and charter schools with guidelines and procedures to review materials. As schools implement this bill, I encourage all parents to work with their LEAs to evaluate the materials our children can access. Watch the meeting here.
Utah’s Primary Election
Utah's primary election is just a few days away. You may either vote in-person or mail your ballot by June 28. If you did not register to vote in time for the primary election, you can still register to vote in future elections. Please continue to stay involved in the election process. We have a government of the people, by the people and for the people when citizens exercise their right to vote. You can find information on how, when and where to vote here.
Utah Manufacturing Modernization Grant
With recent worldwide supply chain issues, we have seen the need to lessen our dependence on manufacturing overseas and bring more manufacturing back to Utah. S.B. 212 Manufacturing Modernization Grant Program created a $10 million grant program to help local businesses maintain or develop manufacturing in the state. In 2020, manufacturing was the third-largest source of GDP in Utah. This program will support companies that are expanding automation and innovation, bringing jobs to Utah and contributing to our economy. Applications for the Utah Manufacturing Modernization Grant will close on June 30. If this grant applies to your business, I encourage you to apply.
On June 19, 1865, Union Major General Gordan Granger announced the end of the Civil War to the people of Texas and proclaimed that all enslaved persons were free. With that announcement, the Emancipation Proclamation issued years earlier was finally in full effect. Since then, June 19 has been known and celebrated as “Juneteenth,” and is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of emancipation.
This year, we passed H.B. 238 State Holiday Modifications to make Juneteenth an official state holiday. As we celebrate the end of slavery this month, I want to express my deep gratitude to all those who sacrificed, many by giving their lives, to extend fundamental freedoms to all of our fellow citizens.
Appropriations Subcommittee Overview
The Utah Legislature is responsible for balancing the state's budget each year. Even after 15 years of being the highest-ranked state for economic outlook, we have never taken our budget responsibilities for granted. Utah has eight appropriations subcommittees. Every senator and representative sits on one appropriation subcommittee to ensure decision-making power is distributed equally throughout the legislative body. Each appropriations subcommittee considers a specific portion of the budget and makes recommendations to the Executive Appropriations Committee. Each year, appropriations subcommittees examine at least 20% of the budget within their purview. This guarantees that the entire state budget is thoroughly vetted every five years.
The appropriations process is an open and public process, and we value public input on what should be a priority. You can review meeting items or participate in appropriations committee meetings here.
Identifying Priorities for Education Criteria
We currently use statewide test scores to measure the performance of our public schools and identify schools that need additional attention. However, when testing was largely unavailable during the pandemic, we observed a need to develop a more comprehensive evaluation criteria that takes into account multiple factors of student success.
Currently, a legislative working group is working with teachers, parents, school leadership and students to identify priorities and develop a proposal for a more well-rounded evaluation criteria. During the Education Interim Committee, the working group updated the committee on their findings, including a survey sent to parents, students and teachers that found academic growth, a good school climate and quality teachers are strong predictors of a thriving school system. A comprehensive report will be reviewed in September’s Education Interim Committee Meeting. You can listen to the initial report here.
Congregate Care Facilities Updates
Approximately 100 congregate care facilities in Utah provide residential treatment for youth with behavioral struggles. While these programs offer an important service to our communities, we must ensure the health and safety of children are being met. This year, to enhance guardrails in congregate care programs, we passed S.B. 239 Congregate Care Program Amendments, which requires programs to allow weekly confidential voice-to-voice communication between children and their families outside of traditional therapy. In this month's Political Subdivisions Interim Committee, we received reports that this critical opportunity for residents to maintain family relationships has been beneficial. Learn more here.
Senator Ron Winterton
Utah Senate District 26