Updated: May 25
Dear Friends and Neighbors,
It’s hard to believe that we’ve had our first interim meetings and are already preparing for the 2024 General Session! Time is flying by, but I am excited about the great things to come in Utah.
During May interim meetings, I worked with my colleagues to consider many important topics and heard updates on legislation. Interim is an important part of the legislative process, and I was honored to be involved. We also had the chance to convene in a special session where we extended the state of emergency and allocated funding to address flooding mitigation and response. You can watch the special session here.
I appreciate each of you and all you do. I had the opportunity to hear from many of you in the past few weeks, and I admire your commitment to reaching out and letting your voice be heard. I feel lucky to serve you and our state.
As we near Memorial Day, I would like to express my deep gratitude for the members of our military who made the ultimate sacrifice and gave their lives for our freedoms. It is with a heavy heart that I think of the loved ones they left behind, and I express my appreciation for their commitment to our nation. We are blessed to live in a country that has been protected by such valiant individuals.
On May 29, I would encourage each of you to reach out to the families of fallen veterans in your local communities and share your thanks for the freedoms we enjoy.
What is Interim?
During the 45-day legislative general session, many items that do not make it through committee meetings are put on a master study list. The committee chairs then prioritize what should be studied over the interim period based on the master list and input from committee members.
Throughout the rest of the year, interim committees then study the identified key issues facing the state. We listen to expert and public testimony to determine whether or not to recommend legislation, and we vote to prioritize particular bills for the upcoming general session and occasionally for future special sessions.
Unlike during the general session, when the Senate and House each have standing committees comprised of only their own members, interim committees are made up of both senators and representatives. Interim meetings are held throughout the year, generally on the third Wednesday of the month, are open to the public, and can be streamed live or listened to at a later date.
Utahns can join live interim meetings virtually or in person. To do so, you will need to go to le.utah.gov and select the page of the committee you are interested in joining. There, you will see a location, date and time listed for any upcoming meetings. Watch a tutorial on how to join virtually here:
Special Session Update
This month, we convened for the 1st Special Session of the 65th Legislature. A special session is an opportunity for the Legislature to vote on pressing issues that arise in between general sessions. During the special session this month, the Legislature considered four items, which all passed unanimously in both the House and Senate. Details about the four pieces of legislation are outlined below:
H.J.R 101 Joint Resolution Extending Emergency Powers for Flood Mitigation & Infrastructure Rehabilitation
Because of the state’s record-breaking snowpack year, Gov. Cox declared a state of emergency due to the increased risk of flooding. A state of emergency expires 30 days after being issued by the governor unless the Legislature chooses to extend it. Certain funds can only be accessed during a state of emergency, and emergency managers have depleted the money appropriated by the Legislature during the 2023 General Session for flood mitigation efforts. As such, the Legislature passed H.J.R 101 which extends the state of emergency and allows the state access to additional emergency response funding for flood mitigation and infrastructure rehabilitation. The state of emergency will now expire on August 15, 2023.
H.B. 1001 Emergency Response Funding
The state needed to provide additional funds to ensure state agencies have the necessary resources to address ongoing flooding. H.B. 1001 is complementary to H.R.J 101 and reallocated and appropriated $40 million from existing budgets to address flooding avalanche control, slide mitigation, other emergency flood impacts and snow removal cost overruns.
H.B. 1002 Restricted Persons Amendments
During the 2023 General Session, the Legislature passed H.B. 225, which inadvertently changed the definition of a Category II restricted person to include an individual who is not a citizen or national of the United States with a nonimmigrant visa. This definition change made the firearm restrictions for an individual with a nonimmigrant visa more stringent than federal firearm laws. H.B. 1002 reverses the changes enacted by H.B. 225 by removing an individual with a nonimmigrant visa from the definition of a Category II restricted person. An individual who is not a citizen can now possess a firearm under state law if, in accordance with federal law, the individual possesses a valid hunting license or permit or was admitted to the United States for lawful hunting or sporting purposes.
H.B. 1003 Firefighter Death Benefit Amendments
In 2018, the Legislature increased retirement benefits for the surviving spouse of active public safety member under multiple retirement programs. Recently, the Legislature was notified that the benefits of one retirement system (Tier 1 Firefighters' Retirement System - Division B) were not increased in 2018. H.B. 1003 increases the death benefits available to the surviving spouse of a firefighter enrolled in Tier 1 Firefighters' Retirement System - Division B, aligning this retirement system with the increase established in 2018.
Utah Ranked No. 1 Best State Overall
Utah’s focus on strengthening the economy and empowering citizens continues to pay dividends. In April, the U.S. News and World Report ranked Utah the No. 1 best state overall for 2023. The study analyzed more than 70 metrics in eight categories: health care, education, economy, infrastructure, opportunity, fiscal stability, natural environment, and crime and corrections. Utah measured in the top 15 in six of the eight categories, with No. 1 in economy and fiscal stability.
Utah’s emphasis on innovation, collaboration, and education, as well as its creation of diverse industries, has resulted in a robust economy with increased opportunities for Utahns. Utah truly is the best state in the nation. As your state senator, I will continue to work to strengthen our state and ensure Utah’s future is brighter tomorrow than it is today.
Great Salt Lake Commissioner Announcement
During the 2023 General Session, the Legislature passed H.B. 491 Amendments Related to the Great Sale Lake. This bill creates a position for the Great Salt Lake commissioner. On May 22, Gov. Cox appointed Brain Steed as the Great Salt Lake commissioner. After approval from the Senate, Brian Steed will oversee all 12 of the Utah agencies working to save the Great Salt Lake.
Utah’s Guiding Our Growth Survey
Utah’s population growth is a constant consideration for the Legislature. As the fastest-growing state in the nation, preserving Utah’s unique quality of life requires us to carefully weigh decisions and impacts regarding housing, open space, water and transportation.
Our state launched the “Guiding Our Growth” informational campaign and survey to allow Utahns to share their opinions about how to guide our state’s growth. We want to hear from you! What do you think Utah's biggest challenges are in terms of growth? I invite you to participate in this statewide conversation about Utah’s future and our effort to safeguard our quality of life. Survey results will direct conversations to ensure the best outcomes possible for future generations. Take the survey here.
Unique to Utah - This Month 154 Years Ago
On May 10, 1869, the first transcontinental railroad in the United States was finished in Promontory, Utah. The railroad line took seven years of arduous work before the railroad between Omaha, Nebraska and, California, was completed, a distance of 1,776 miles. Before the completion of the railroad, traveling by wagon from the Missouri River to California took 4-6 months; after the completion of the railroad, it took one week to travel from New York to Sacramento. The decrease in travel times increased the cohesion and connection of the United States, causing an economic boom as productivity increased. Individuals can visit the site in Utah where a final, golden spike was driven into the railroad line, connecting the nation from coast to coast.
Best Practice Handbook
The Office of the Legislative Auditor General recently produced the “Best Practice Handbook,” a resource that describes the 12 best practices and 12 common pitfalls they observed when revisiting more than 100 audits over the past five years.
The handbook is intended to help organizations better serve the citizens of Utah. When used proactively by government organizations, it can increase effectiveness, efficiency and mitigate risk. You can read the full handbook here.
Water Conservation Reminder
As we continue preparing our lawns and gardens for summer, I wanted to highlight the unprecedented water year we’ve had so far and encourage smart water use in the coming months. Lake Powell is rising by one foot a day and our total reservoir capacity is at 67%, excluding Lake Powell and Flaming Gorge. This is great news for our state; however, we need to stay vigilant with water conservation to prepare for years when we do not have as much moisture.
The Utah Division of Water Resources has created a new online form where communities in our state can share ways in which they have been wise with water use. Utah residents are encouraged to report water-saving actions to the website, including waterwise landscaping, creative water reuse or major upgrades in commercial water systems. Each of these water conservation efforts and others not listed, are referred to as “water wins.” It takes all of us doing our part to conserve water to ensure we have abundant water storage. Thank you for your individual efforts so far!
Kind regards, Senator Ron Winterton Utah Senate District 20