Dear Friends and Neighbors,
I hope you have all been well and enjoying the beautiful scenery Utah offers. On Capitol Hill, the legislature recently met for an interim session, where a few committees convened to discuss the issues facing our communities. Below are some points of discussion from those committee meetings.
State Water Policy and Drought Conditions
Utah has moved from an "exceptional" drought category to an "extreme" drought category, which is a slight improvement. Utah's Department of Natural Resources Director, Brian Steed, presented this update to the Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environment Interim Committee along with news that state soil this year has a much higher moisture level than last year. This means snowpack should reach reservoirs before it is absorbed during runoff.
While the news is positive, we all still need to continue to conserve water as we recover from this historic drought. Our state's expected population growth heightens the need to conserve water. As we strive to provide adequate water supplies, the state has created several relevant government programs. Including an expanded turf buyback program, an integrated land use and water use program, an agricultural optimization program and a program to install secondary water meters. You can learn more here.
The Judiciary Interim Committee heard a presentation proposing an audit on the 2020 general election. As a Legislature, we continually work to keep our election laws accurate to ensure election integrity is upheld. While improvements can always be made, Utah has been lauded as the gold standard for elections across the nation for years. Listen to the presentation here.
The Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Interim Committee heard a presentation calling for additional clarity with Utah laws regarding DUI offenders who cause serious injury or death. Often the penalties for these offenses are severe, but can vary depending on the section of code used in charging the defendant, causing inconsistencies in charges and sentencing. Legislation was proposed to clarify, though not lessen, penalties resulting in more consistent outcomes for DUI offenders who seriously injure or cause death. Listen to the presentation here.
This interim, the Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS) updated the Public Utilities, Energy and Technology Interim Committee on its carbon free technologies project. Right now, 41% of UAMPS energy is derived from zero-emission resources and is expected to grow to 61% by 2030 with help from the project. Listen to the update here.
Additionally, Utah Clean Cities came to the Capitol to update the committee on advanced fuels projects across the state. These projects include advanced clean energy storage, an advanced fuel station, Bayview Landfill RNG project and more. You can learn about these projects here.
Utah’s Legislative Redistricting Committee recently concluded its statewide public hearing tour. The committee held over a dozen meetings across the state, gathering feedback, reviewing maps and listening to Utahns’ concerns. Hundreds of Utahns attended the public hearings in person and online, and nearly 100 maps were shared with the committee.
The Independent Redistricting Commission will present maps to the Legislative Committee on Monday, November 1 and the full Legislature plans to adopt maps in mid-to-late November. For the most updated information, visit redistricting.utah.gov.
School Curriculum Transparency
The Education Interim Committee voted to create a working group to study school curriculum transparency. The working group’s goal is to explore how to build a better process for parents to observe and provide feedback on what is taught in classrooms, creating a more open approach to education. The intent is for school districts to receive input from parents on supplemental materials and controversial issues before it reaches the point of contention. Some Utah schools already practice this, but possible legislation could expand the practice to a statewide expectation. The working group will report back to the Education Interim Committee in November with their findings and recommendation. Listen to the discussion here.
Monoclonal antibody treatments are showing extremely promising results. Intermountain Healthcare’s study indicates with the treatment, Utah could see a 57% reduction in hospitalizations a day of those who would otherwise be hospitalized. The treatment is free to Utahns and paid for by the federal government.
The Utah Department of Health testified before the Health and Human Services Interim Committee meeting regarding Utah’s monoclonal antibody treatment progress. Currently, Utah is administering 450-550 doses weekly, but has 2,000 doses available. We need to be administering all 2,000 doses weekly to prevent as many Utahns as possible from getting hospitalized. By removing obstacles to allow more individuals to administer the treatment, we can save more lives. Listen to the meeting here.
Until next time,
Senator Ronald Winterton