Friends and Neighbors,
As October unfolds, we find ourselves amidst a dynamic period of legislative activity. This month’s interim session was full of committee meetings and preparatory actions for the upcoming General Session in January. With only one interim meeting left, I know we will be in a good position to be effective during the 2024 General Session. As the days grow shorter and the air turns crisper, we welcome the unmistakable signs of autumn and begin to prepare for the winter months.
This month, Utah was lucky to be in the direct path of a rare spectacle - an annular eclipse. This remarkable event, where the moon perfectly aligns with the sun, is a reminder of the beauty of our Earth, which is highlighted in our state’s uniquely diverse landscapes. Such occurrences are infrequent, making them truly awe-inspiring. The next partial solar eclipse visible in Utah won’t take place until August 12, 2026. I hope you and your family were able to witness this celestial display, perhaps with the best views in the central part of our state.
As the month draws to a close, we prepare to honor the many men and women who serve our country this Veterans Day on November 11. This solemn occasion provides us with an opportunity to express our profound gratitude for the service and sacrifice of all veterans. Their dedication to our nation is a beacon of courage and resilience, and we stand united in appreciation. I humbly thank each and every Utah veteran for their selfless service to our state and nation.
See below for more information on October’s interim meetings plus other updates on the work we are doing.
Standing with Israel
Earlier this month, there was a gathering on the Capitol steps of various lawmakers, government officials, Utah's Jewish leaders, community members and fellow Utahns in solidarity to support Israel. I was dismayed by the highly coordinated and brutal attack launched by the terrorist group Hamas against Israel. Thousands of rockets have since rained down on Israeli population centers, targeting innocent civilians. This devastating invasion has resulted in the tragic loss of thousands of Israeli lives, including American citizens, among them at least one from Utah. Moreover, countless innocent civilians have been subjected to unspeakable atrocities and torture, with hundreds of vulnerable individuals, including children, women, and the elderly, being taken hostage.
Utah's deep-rooted connections with Israel, spanning religious ties, shared family-centric values, and similar geographic and economic landscapes, resonate profoundly. I unequivocally support the State of Israel and condemn the abhorrent acts of terrorism perpetrated by Hamas.
In this period of conflict and uncertainty, I stand in solidarity with Israel's unwavering resolve to defend itself and its people from such heinous acts. Across the state, numerous rallies and gatherings have emerged as powerful demonstrations of our state's steadfast commitment to Israel. As a demonstration of unity, the Capitol was illuminated in blue and white to show solidarity with Israel and Utah's Jewish community. The Legislature also issued a citation in support of Israel.
In these trying times, let us collectively pray and hope for an end to violence and a return to peace. Our thoughts and prayers are with all those affected by this tragic situation.
School Safety Efforts
As the Legislature has been particularly focused on school safety and bolstering school infrastructure this year, two of our committees considered legislation to further secure our campuses and protect our students from hazards and in emergencies.
School Threat Penalty Amendments
The Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Interim Committee held a presentation on the draft legislation, "School Threat Penalty Amendments," which would require a student to be suspended or expelled from a public school if the student makes a false emergency report targeted at a school. The bill would enhance the penalties for threatening violence against a school, making it a second-degree felony for an actor who submits a false emergency report in certain circumstances.
The Statewide Information and Analysis Center was invited to inform the committee on school hoax and threat incidents, providing data on the prevalence of school threats and lending insight into the severity and quantity of threats our schools and districts face. The committee approved "School Threat Penalty Amendments" as a committee bill file to be considered for passage in the upcoming 2024 General Legislative Session. This is another step in our continual effort to implement security measures and protocols to protect students in the event of an emergency. See the presentations here.
SafeUT and the School Safety Commission
The Education Interim Committee approved the draft legislation, "SafeUT and School Safety Commission Amendments," as a committee bill file for the 2024 session. The bill would extend the sunset date for the commission by five years, allowing the commission to continue coordinating statewide efforts related to the School Safety and Crisis Line (SafeUT), promoting awareness and exploring solutions to both the mental health crisis and school safety threats. I see this as a crucial development for the state to address the safety concerns in our schools. Learn more here.
Road Rage Update
In a continual effort to reduce the number and severity of road rage incidents on our highways and streets, the Transportation Committee met this October to follow up on their June 2023 meeting, where the issue of aggressive driving was determined to be an interim study item. The Utah Highway Patrol attended and presented data on reported road rage incidents, crashes and fatalities. Unfortunately, the number of cases has increased, exceeded or came close to exceeding the rates from previous years. The committee heard potential strategies to address the growing concerns of road rage and aggressive driving, including recommendations from the Division of Public Safety and the Roadway Safety Committee. Watch the presentation here or view the data here.
The Business and Labor Interim Committee discussed the possibility of opening a committee bill file to extend the sunset date of the Massage Therapy Practice Act. This act governs the massage therapy profession in Utah, including oversight of the Utah Board of Massage Therapy. Extending the sunset date would ensure the continuity of these services in the near future while further actions are considered. Additionally, it would ensure the safe practice of massage therapy in the state by providing minimum qualifications and standards for massage therapists.
Furthermore, the committee is keen on extending the sunset for this act to allow the Office of Professional Licensing Review (OPLR) time to conduct its audit on massage therapy licensing in 2024. The Legislature will review these findings during the 2025 Legislative Session and subsequently make any necessary adjustments to regulate this ever-growing field and provide extra levels of safety and assurance to the public. This bill passed unanimously out of the committee and is now set for consideration during the 2024 Legislative Session. You can watch the committee hearing and learn more here.
2024 Utah Teacher of the Year
This month, the Utah State Board of Education selected Carly Maloney of Viewmont High School in the Davis School District as the 2024 Utah Teacher of the Year. Mrs. Maloney is a concurrent enrollment English, advanced placement psychology, student government and English language development teacher. She was chosen for her example of hard work, diligence in effectively educating her students and kindness toward her fellow faculty members.
A committee with representatives from parent and teacher advocacy organizations, charter schools and the Utah State Board of Education selected Mrs. Maloney for this honor. Mrs. Maloney was presented with a check for $10,000 and will compete with fellow state teachers of the year in a national competition. I am grateful for the example of Mrs. Maloney and every teacher in the state for their dedication and effort to educate the next generation of Utahns.
My529—Utah Educational Savings Plan
Higher education is an important step for many families and individuals. Through programs like my529, the financial burden of that education can be greatly reduced. Utah's my529, also known as the Utah Educational Savings Plan, is a tax-advantaged college savings plan designed to help individuals and families save for educational expenses. Even small sums set aside regularly help make higher education more affordable and reduce the need to borrow.
This program is a valuable tool for saving for education expenses that can help individuals reach their savings goals. I encourage you to look into the program to see if it is a good fit for you and your family. Learn more about My529 here.
Educator Appreciation Month at Hogle Zoo
Hogle Zoo is showing its appreciation for educators during October by providing free zoo admission for teachers. This could be the ideal fall activity for you and your family during this last week of October. You can learn more about the opportunity here.
This month, we have the pleasure of welcoming a new member to the Utah Senate! Heidi Balderree will now represent District 22, taking over for Senator Jake Anderegg. While we bid farewell to Sen. Anderegg after his commendable 11 years of public service to the people of Utah County, we extend our warmest regards to him and his family for their future endeavors.
Heidi Balderree brings with her a wealth of experience in public service, with a primary focus on advocating for the needs of communities and small businesses in Utah County. As a former educator, having taught both Spanish and Japanese to students ranging from grades 4 to 12, she possesses a deep understanding of the concerns of her constituents. These experiences undoubtedly qualify her for this new position. We wholeheartedly welcome her to the Utah Senate and extend our best wishes for her success!
Utah Enforces Immigration Laws
Recently, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Salt Lake City Field Office circulated a memo that implied Utah is a "sanctuary state" and accused Utah sheriffs of not enforcing the policies of ICE. I want to assure you that Utah is not and has never been a "sanctuary state." ICE withdrew the memo following a meeting with lawmakers, the governor's office, and locally elected county sheriffs. We have outstanding sheriffs throughout our state who work hard to enforce immigration law, but they are justified in declining new agreements with ICE when requirements become unreasonable. The crisis at the U.S. border has not resulted from the failure of local enforcement. Instead, the federal government's failures have led to an immigration crisis throughout the nation.
Utah is a state that welcomes immigrants who join our communities through legal channels. I am grateful for the hard work of our sheriff departments and their work to maintain law and order in our state. Together, we will continue to protect the integrity of our state and its commitment to the rule of law, ensuring the safety and well-being of those who choose to call our country home.
In 2019, we celebrated the 150th anniversary celebration of the transcontinental railroad completion in Utah. The railroad was an incredible achievement for our country, and it established Utah as the crossroads of the West. To honor the legacy and impact of the transcontinental railroad, the Golden Spike Foundation has committed to highlighting the diverse people who worked together to build this great railroad. The foundation has commissioned a 43-foot-tall gold monument that will be placed at the Golden Spike Park at Reeder Ranch in Brigham City, Utah, in 2024.
The Golden Spike Monument is a memorial to the men and women who built the system that connected our entire country and made Utah the crossroads of the West. Like those who built the railroad, the spike represents perseverance to take on today’s challenges to build a better tomorrow while honoring them for their work that changed the world.
The spike monument started in Kentucky and took a cross-country road trip, making stops at historically significant sites. We celebrated its arrival at the Capitol with a program full of remembrance and gratitude for our history. The monument will honor the legacy of those who worked to complete the transcontinental railroad and the important chapter it represents in the state’s history, signifying hard work, industrialism and heritage.
Learn more here.
As always, I appreciate those who reach out to make their voices heard and encourage all to contact me with any questions or concerns.
Senate District 20