Dear friends and neighbors,
Welcome to the 2020 General Session! The week started with a ceremony in the senate chamber, the state of the judiciary, state of the state by the Governor, and school visits from my district. During the State of the Judiciary, Chief Justice Matthew Durrant described Utah’s judiciary as “vibrant and strong,” and stated he’s never been more thrilled with leadership in the judiciary branch. He acknowledged more work can be done to meet individual needs and increase the availability and affordability of legal services. You can listen to the 2020 State of the Judiciary here. Governor Herbert also gave his 11th and final State of the State address. The Governor highlighted the hard work and innovation Utahns contribute to our economy. Utah’s household income is ranked 7th in the nation. Our unemployment rate is at an all-time low of 2.3 percent. High school graduation rates have improved by 11.4 percentage points during the last ten years. Our students now score in the top ten in almost every subject.
Some challenges our state faces include housing affordability, pollution, taxes, public education and other government services. We will continue to focus on finding new solutions. The governor ended by encouraging Utahns to stay engaged during the session.
Thanks to everyone who filled out my survey. Here are some the results from the most filled out questions:
What is the most important issue in the 2020 legislative session? These were the top 5 from you:
1. Tax Reform
2. Air Quality
4. Health Care Affordability
5. Gun Control
What is your top budget priority? These were the top 5 from you:
1. Public Education
2. Health Care
3. Rainy Day Fund
5. Social Services
Regarding Water Policy, the state should:
1. Incentivize individuals and businesses to conserve water (the most selected option).
If you didn’t have a chance to take my survey, you can still take it here.
Below are some legislative highlights:
Balancing the Budget - Passing a balanced budget each year is always a top priority. We spend the first few weeks of the session meeting in appropriations subcommittees to consider how we spend money in each area--for example, public education, social services and transportation. Within the first few weeks, we pass base budgets, which allow the government to continue functioning on a basic level. This prevents the state government from shutting down. Once the base budgets are passed, the Executive Appropriations Committee continues to meet and negotiate the “bill of bills,” a complete and comprehensive line-item budget including new one-time and ongoing funding. You can learn more about the state’s budget here.
Repeal of Tax Reform - One of the first bills we passed this session was H.B. 185 Tax Restructuring Revisions - Repeal which, as the name suggests, repealed all parts of the tax reform package we passed in December. While we still need to address the state’s budget structural imbalance issues, it became clear during the signature gathering for the referendum that many citizens had strong concerns around the tax legislation passed over a month ago. Repealing the bill also helped remove legislative budgeting uncertainties. It would have been difficult to pass a balanced budget for the year without knowing our revenue outlook beyond November. H.B. 185 passed unanimously in the Senate, and with only one dissenting vote in the House. We do not plan to pass major tax reform legislation during this session. You can read the press release announcing the decision here.
Vaping - Proposed vaping legislation became an immediate priority during the first week of the session. Legislators and industry experts are teaming up to combat the dangers of vaping among youth. From taxing vape products to implementing strict policies on vape prevention, all proposals are being considered. In the Senate, some bills include S.B. 37 Electronic Cigarette and Other Nicotine Product Amendments and S.B. 40 Youth Electric Cigarette, Marijuana, and Other Drug Prevention Program. As more vaping-related legislation comes through, I will continue to inform you.
Daylight Saving Time - Each year in the spring and fall, I receive emails from constituents on daylight saving time. Many have stressed the inconvenience of the change in time twice a year twice-a-year time changes for young children, and others suggest it may not be necessary anymore. This year, S.B. 59 Daylight Saving Time Amendments seeks to end Utah clock changes. The bill proposes Utah stay on Mountain Daylight Time year-round, pending congressional approval and at least four other western states passing similar legislation.
Currently, the federal government allows states the option to either participate in or abstain from daylight saving time changes. For those who choose to abstain from daylight saving time, the federal government only permits the use of standard time. If this bill passes, Utah will be one step closer to year-round Mountain Daylight Time--spring forward and stay forward. You can listen to the committee presentation here.
In the News: KSL
Medical Cannabis Implementation - One of the most important tasks in preparing the state for medical cannabis implementation is the selection of Medical Cannabis Pharmacies. The Center for Medical Cannabis has reported that, with the help of an evaluation committee, it reviewed over 130 applications from 60 different companies. In evaluating these applications, they looked for companies with experience in highly regulated industries, many with experience in medical cannabis in various jurisdictions across the United States.
The evaluation looked at operating plans that included security, strategic planning, financial stability and the company’s ability to keep costs low. Fourteen pharmacies were selected and are required to complete the Utah Department of Health-approved medical cannabis coursework before registering as a qualified medical provider in Utah. You can listen to the report here.
In the News: KUTV
Water Banking could facilitate local, voluntary and temporary transactions that generate income for water right owners. It would increase access to water to better support Utah’s increased water demands. S.B. 26 Water Banking Amendments creates a local, voluntary and temporary pilot for water banking. Over 70 stakeholders weighed in on this meeting, and nearly two dozen outreach meetings were held throughout the state to solicit input. The bill addresses legal barriers to water market activity, incentivizes the use of water banks and creates a governance structure for water banking, among other things. This pilot will be tested through three-demonstration projects in specific watersheds and has a 10-year sunset period that can be extended or repealed. You can learn more about water banking at utahwaterbank.org. This bill passed the 2nd reading in the Senate with unanimous support. You can listen to the floor presentation here.
Seen on the Hill
Thanks to the students who stopped by the Hill!
Ecker Hill Middle School
Rocky Mountain Middle School
Timpanogos Middle School
Neola Elementary School
During the session, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you want to schedule an appointment, please contact my session intern Colton Riddle at email@example.com