It’s officially the last week of the session! Check out what legislation we covered last week.
A big shout goes to: Davis Elementary, Uintah High School and Wasatch High (Economics Students). Thanks for stopping by the Hill!
Utah Girls in Tech Day
Women make up only 18 percent of all undergraduate computer and information science degrees. While women account for 56 percent of those who take an advanced placement computer science exam, only 19 percent of those who take the advanced placement test are women. The Department of Labor expects there will be more than 1.4 million computer software-related job openings by 2020 but will only be enough graduates to fill 30 percent of these positions. Many are working to encourage young women to consider entering the tech industry. SCR 11 would designate March 20 as “Utah Girls in Tech Day” to encourage more young women to consider tech-related careers. This resolution unanimously passed in the Senate and will now be considered in the House.
Senate President Stuart Adams, Speaker of the House Brad Wilson and Governor Gary Herbert held a press conference Thursday to announce an agreement to not move forward with tax reform this session but to continue to work on it during the interim. After the release of HB 441, Tax Equalization and Reduction Act, we all received valuable input from business owners and constituents. Public comment is vital to good policy, and we would like to spend more time getting feedback and suggestions. The legislature will continue to work with stakeholders, business owners and constituents on how to modernize our outdated tax system, and when we get to a place of good policy, the governor has committed to calling us into a special session. There is no strict time frame on this because we want this change to be driven by good policy and not by a deadline.
I encourage you to please stay involved in the process and keep sending me your input and suggestions as we continue to study tax reform during the interim.
Utah Computer Science Grant Act
Computer Science jobs are growing rapidly in our state; they have been identified as one of our most highly demanded jobs. However, only 8 percent of our STEM graduates have majored in computer science. HB 227, Utah Computer Science Grant Act, seeks to build our capacity for computer science education in our schools. The goal is to make a course available in every school by 2022. One of the biggest issues in providing this is lack of training. This bill establishes a grant program for schools to help in the implementation and training of teachers. We want our students to gain skills they will need for the future, whatever field they choose to enter. This bill passed with unanimous support in the Senate on 2nd reading and is currently tabled due to fiscal impact.
Teacher Scholarship Program
For the last few decades, the T.H. Bell Program has existed as a loan program established to help those who want to teach be able to pay for the necessary education. After completing the education program, the loan recipients need to work in Utah for a set number of years to repay the loan. Should the recipients elect not to work in the state for the set amount of time, they are required to repay the loan. In an effort to make teaching a more accessible field, particularly with first-generation college students, HB 188, T.H. Bell Program Amendments, would change the program from loan based to scholarship based. In issuing the scholarships, prioritization would be given to first-generation students who intend to work in a Utah public school. Non-first generation students would still qualify for the scholarship, with prioritization for those who intend to work in a high need area. This bill passed on 2nd reading in the Senate and is currently tabled due to fiscal impact.
Straight Ticket Voting Prohibition Amendments
Currently, 42 states do not allow straight-ticket voting. This practice occurs when you push one button or fill one bubble and vote for all the candidates of a particular political party. Straight-ticket voting can exclude positions like judges, constitutional amendments, school boards and non-partisan candidates. The problems with this practice have persisted over time, such as confusion with voters. HB 259, Straight Ticket Voting Prohibition Amendments, removes provisions from the election code allowing a person to cast a vote for all candidates from one political party without voting for them individually. HB259 would allow people to consider which candidates to support rather than which party. This bill passed in the House and will now be considered in the Senate.
Honoring Fallen Officer Joseph Shinners
On February 6th, the Senate welcomed the family and colleagues of Officer Joseph Shinners from the Provo Police Department on the Senate floor. Officer Shinners was killed in the line of duty while trying to apprehend a wanted fugitive. Officer Shinners was 29 years old, a three-year veteran of the Provo Police Department assigned to the Patrol Division and a member of the Provo/Orem/BYU SWAT team. It was an honor to commemorate Officer Shinners life and the sacrifice he made to protect his community.
To access the presentation on the Senate floor, click here.
Utah law requires sex education in public schools be abstinence-based. These lessons must promote chastity as the most effective means to avoid sexually-transmitted diseases and pregnancy. Some instruction about contraceptives is allowed but cannot advocate or encouraged its use. This has led some teachers to just skip over contraceptives because they worry about stepping over the line in their instruction.
HB 71, Health Education Amendments, is designed to clarify teachers can provide factual information about contraceptives without advocating for it. HB 71 passed in the House and is on its 2nd reading on the Senate floor.
Access committee materials and audio here.
To access the bill presentation on the Senate floor, click here.
It is fairly well known that law enforcement needs to obtain a warrant to search a person’s home or vehicle, but what has been less clear is a person’s electronic information, especially information residing in third-party servers needs a warrant as well. Almost all the applications the public uses – from email to social media – are cloud-based services, meaning all the data is in a remote server and accessed through the internet. HB 57, Electronic Information or Data Privacy, would bring to state law some of the same protections established by the U.S. Supreme Court last year in the case Carpenter v. U.S. This court case ruled the government has to have a search warrant to capture location information collected by cell phone towers, and a person has an expectation of privacy with their information on their mobile phone. HB 57 passed in the House and will now be considered in the Senate.
Access committee materials and audio here.
To access the bill presentation on the House floor, click here.