We're Back in Session
Updated: Jan 27
We just finished the first week of the 2021 legislative session. The executive branch and Utah Courts update Utahns on the successes and challenges of our state every session.
Gov. Spencer Cox held his first State of the State address where he encouraged Utahns to read the One Utah Roadmap, “a Plan for the first 500 days of the Cox-Henderson Administration with detailed goals and initiatives to strengthen our foundation.”
Chief Justice Matthew Durrant gave the State of the Judiciary addressing how COVID-19 impacted our judicial system. He also stated the need to identify biases in the process, resume in-person jury trials and increase internet bandwidth in rural courthouses. You can listen to the State of the Judiciary address here and the State of the State address here.
As a Legislature, our Constitutional responsibility is to pass a balanced budget before the close of the General Legislative Session. It is a responsibility we take seriously. As such, we spend the first few weeks of the session meeting in appropriations subcommittees to consider how we allocate money in each area, such as public education, social services and transportation.
Eight appropriations subcommittees prepare base budgets for their assigned subject area over the first couple of weeks of the session. These subcommittee base budgets are passed in the early weeks of the session, which allows the state to continue functioning at a basic level. This prevents the state government from shutting down. Then, typically during the final week of the session, we pass what is known as the “Bill of Bills,” which is the comprehensive budget bill that includes additional appropriations not included in the base budgets. You can learn more about the state’s budget here.
$43 Million Tax Cut Proposed
The first bill debated in the Senate on the first day of the session was S.B. 11, Retirement Income Tax Requirements, which seeks to remove the tax on Military Retirement Income and reduces the tax on Social Security Income. This bill would create a $43 million tax cut. The bill passed unanimously in the Senate and will now be considered in the House. You can watch the floor debate here.
Home Owners Associations (HOA) currently are able to prohibit an individual from installing security cameras at their residence. S.B. 31, Condominium and Community Association Regulation Amendments, prohibits an HOA from disallowing owners to install security cameras on their own units or lots. This bill passed in the Senate with unanimous support and will now be considered in the House.
Last summer Sarah, a Utah high schooler, and her three friends were hit by a drunk driver. The accident paralyzed Sarah from the waist down and resulted in the loss of her legs. As she was still receiving urgent medical care just hours after the accident, the man who hit her was already released on bail. Sarah’s bill, H.B. 47, DUI Revisions, would allow a judge to deny bail to drunk drivers who have injured or killed someone if the court has sufficient evidence to support the charge. These individuals would be held in custody until their trial. This bill passed in the House with unanimous support and will be considered in the Senate.
In the News: KSL
College for Veterans
For years senior citizens in Utah have been able to audit courses offered at state institutions of higher education. This means that seniors can attend and participate in classes for a small fee. They don’t have to take tests, write papers, or do any homework, and they won’t receive any college credit. S.B. 45, Higher Education Classes for Veterans, gives Utah veterans the same opportunity. The bill passed unanimously on its second reading in the Senate. Listen to the bill presentation on the Senate floor here.
I am thankful to have a great intern this session, Claire Taylor. Originally from the Dallas, Texas area, she is a senior at Brigham Young University studying political science. After graduation she will be looking to earn a Masters of Public Administration. Claire will be helping me with scheduling, communications and research. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org
Recent adjustments have been implemented to ensure public participation options are available during the legislative session. Committee meetings now have audio and video, making it easier to view presentations and know who is speaking. Here's how you can be involved during the session:
You can virtually attend committee meetings and provide public input. Learn how here.
The Utah Senate holds daily press availability where the media can ask Senate leadership and bill sponsors questions. This takes place every weekday during the legislative session. You can watch media availability on the Senate’s Facebook, here.
Senator Ron Winterton
Utah Senate District 26