The final Animal Print Friday was today.
The power of youth made real impact today. First, as they testified for HCR 7, Concurrent Resolution on Environmental and Economic Stewardship, in the Senate Natural Resources Committee. This was the second time students from McGillis School and West High School in SLC and Logan High School in Logan, have testified in committee about this resolution. This time brought a unanimous vote from committee members. Their thoughts are well thought out, beautifully written, and given with heart. You can’t fail with a team like that.
The second group representing the youth movement, was a group of students from the University of Utah were on the Hill learning about policies that support entrepreneurship. Their professor, Dr. Barclay Burns, brings his class up every year and it is always a highlight.
The third came when I had a chance to step off the floor and visit with students from Foxboro Elementary, North Salt Lake. They came prepared with lots of questions for me. So many, in fact, that I missed one of my bills that came up for a presentation on the House floor. Luckily, the bill was circled, which is a legislative pause button, and I’ll be presenting it this week. These students were well prepared and knew they knew their stuff. I am happy they felt at home in the People’s House, and hope they’re up here soon advocating for important issues just like the Logan and SLC students.
Affordable Housing advocates held a press conference today highlighting several bills related to housing affordability. One of my bills, HB 430, was included. More on that below. The highlight for me, was meeting Alexandra, a young mother, who attended the press conference with her 2 year old daughter Peitience. After the press conference ended Rep. Joel Briscoe and I had an opportunity to learn from Alix as she shared her challenges trying to find an apartment that was affordable and livable for her 3 generation family that includes her elderly father, her husband, and two children. I wish more stories like Alix’s could be shared with our colleagues. It always helps putting a face on an issue and this is no exception. Now to the bills.
HB430, Affordable Housing Amendments, creates the Commission on Housing Affordability, to function for 5 years, in the Department of Workforce Services. It builds on a bill I passed last year, HB 36, that created a fund to incentivize real estate developers and landlords to reduce rent and leasing rates for tenants by using loans and enhanced tax credits. That bill was the outcome of a year long Affordable Housing Task Force convened by Lieutenant Governor Spencer Cox and was a very important step forward in dealing with housing affordability, but the issue didn’t end with the passage of that bill in 2017. Having the Commission on Housing Affordability elevates and emphasizes the issue and provides an opportunity for a multi-sector approach to analysis of the state wide needs and resources and recommendations for policy and funding decisions in the future.
Tara Rollins, executive director of the Utah Housing Coalition, said a task force assembled in 2017 “really started a great conversation, and we need to continue that conversation.”
“Right now our population is growing faster than we can put units on the ground, and our wages are not keeping up with our rents,” Rollins said.
There are 68,000 Utahns who are making 30 percent of their median area income, she said, and they are paying more than 50 percent of their income to housing.
The other bills presented in the Affordable Housing press conference were:
HB 278, Paid family and medical leave, is a bill whose time has come. We’ve known for years that employees feel loyalty to an employer who supports their need to take care of family members facing emergent medical situations. That loyalty leads to a stronger work force and prevents people from choosing between keeping their paycheck and supporting their family.
Several news outlets have highlighted paid family leave and my HB 283 this week.
What does HB 283 do?
It provides a tax credit, based on the qualifications of the federal tax plan implemented in Jan. 2018. Up front I need to say it’s not a mandate. It’s an opt in for businesses in Utah who want to support both job growth and working families in Utah. Full-time workers making less than $72,000 a year could receive at least two weeks of paid leave and receive at least half of their wages for their time off to take care of a medical emergency for a spouse, child, or parent. HB278 is a priority of the Salt Lake Chamber, one of the state’s largest business groups. The group says at least tens of thousands of employees would be eligible for paid leave under the bill.
HB278 still must pass the Senate in the remaining four days of the session and would join a long list of bills seeking funding as lawmakers finish assembling the state’s annual budget. The original bill came in with a fiscal note of $4.1M. We have a substitute bill that lowers the tax credit and is expected to cost the state about $800K. The bill is a step in the right direction and really a signal that in Utah, we can be both pro-family and pro-business.
One op-ed provided such good analysis, I’ve included it in it’s entirety below.
Thanks, Deseret News, and Christian Sagers, editorial assistant for the Deseret News opinion section.
Buried in the middle of President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address last week buzzed a little blurb that might have flown past the ears of the casual listener. Sandwiched between an expansive infrastructure proposal and the details of an immigration deal was a simple nod to the American family: “And let’s support working families by supporting paid family leave,” said Trump to a smattering of applause.
Democrats might have felt like rolling their eyes, while clapping Republicans might have nervously asked themselves, “Do we actually want this?”
The reality is that paid family leave is an idea whose time has come for the American family, and we need a program that’s uniquely tailored to America’s needs.
The nation’s shifting workplace dynamics mean making adjustments to keep the family at the forefront of public policy. As of 2016, 61 percent of families with children had both parents in the workforce. Whether out of necessity or choice, parents are more likely to be employed than before, leading to certain challenges when raising children.
It’s often difficult for a mother or father to take extended periods of leave from their work to care for a new child, with lower-income workers feeling the brunt of the problem. These parents are less likely to work for large corporations that offer generous benefits, and, without the guarantee of job-protected leave, many low-wage earners either feel the need to get back to work as soon as possible after welcoming a new child or quit their jobs entirely. Neither option is good for economic production in the long run, nor does either offer working families support to raise strong children.
Some form of widely available paid leave, then, seems attractive, and the country agrees. A 2016 poll found that 74 percent of registered voters support paid family leave for new parents.
With bipartisan agreement that working parents need a helping hand — ranging from Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D.-Ill., to Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah — the debate should center on what a paid family leave program should look like, as well as what it will cost. But most proposals do little to look beyond tired norms to find a truly American solution.
New York Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s FAMILY Act, for example, is clearly rooted in the desire to help the average family raise children, but its mechanics smack of another entitlement program estimated to cost taxpayers $85.9 billion per year. In the long run, such hefty programs only drag on the economy, and they run the risk of benefiting middle-income workers while leaving low-wage earners in a lurch. These universal proposals also crowd out free-market solutions, which have the potential to be more generous than government-funded programs.
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., is crafting a different approach. His working plan would allow parents to withdraw Social Security benefits when they have a new child, thus delaying benefits for the same duration at retirement. It’s an inventive concept, apparently appealing to Ivanka Trump — a longtime paid family leave supporter — but the finer details have yet to materialize. And in Rubio’s words, “We still have to work on members of my own party” before the idea stands a chance in Congress.
Still another option is to establish tax-preferred savings accounts into which parents deposit money in anticipation of welcoming a new child. The government would offer tax incentives to companies that match employee contributions or that offer company paid leave benefits, much like Sen. Deb Fischer’s, R-Neb., tax credit in the recent tax reform bill. Government assistance would be minimal and targeted only to low-wage earners, contingent upon their own deposits into an account.
Regardless of the approach, tackling such legislation will be a monumental effort. But it can be done by focusing on sound principles. Principles will always resonate with the American people more than partisan platforms. As such, any paid leave program should be deficit-neutral (better yet, reduce the deficit), should target working families who most need the help and shouldn’t compete with a company’s choice to treat its employees well with generous benefits.
The lemminglike justification that the U.S. needs a paid family leave program because it is the only civilized country in the world without one is rote and perhaps the worst motivation for crafting any sort of policy. What the country needs is meaningful debate with input from thought leaders on all sides. Open and honest deliberation will build the foundation for a paid family leave program that’s tailor-made for American families.
Christian Sagers is the editorial assistant for the Deseret News opinion section.
“Hitting for the cycle” in baseball means you’ve played a game where you have hit:
In legislative parlance, that would means in one day you’ve:
That happened to me on Monday. I hit for the legislative cycle. I also had the auspicious honor of adding to that a strike out, which I don’t think wins you any points in either baseball or the legislature. Meaning, one of my priority bills, HB 283, Workplace Protection Amendments, failed to advance out of committee, with a vote of 3-7.
Not all issues and bills in the legislature are created equal. Some are singles, some are doubles, some are home runs…..and some require more time in the rookie leagues before they’re ready to advance to a home run in the bigs. HB 283 is such an issue. I’m certain the issue of workplace discrimination is not going away. We’ll continue to work on it, with all interested stakeholders, and one day the bill will pass.
And that will be a home run.
Every Friday is Educator on the Hill day. It was a treat to visit with Rachel Wright, left, 4th grade teacher at Odyssey Elementary in Woods Cross, and Chera Fernelius, English teacher at Farmington Jr. High. They both assure me they have the best students in the state and it may be true based on the letters from the students they delivered to me today.
I love having visitors on the floor and seeing their excitement as they witness this great legislative process. This is Tula, visiting from California. She was with me as we waited and waited and waited for my HCR 7 to come up on the House calendar for my presentation. In the end we adjourned as the bill right in front of mine was voted on. So, now we’re up first thing on Monday morning.
Senator Orrin Hatch visited the House as we passed a resolution designating today as “Orrin Hatch Day.” What a remarkable legacy of service he leaves to this state and country.
Presenting HB 278, Paid family and medical leave, to the House Revenue and Taxation Committee. The bill passed out unanimously!
We had a heart wrenching recognition on the House Floor of Deserea Turner. She is a shooting survivor who was left for dead by two classmates in Logan last year. Her head wound has left her physically impaired and has caused some mental impairment. But she is improving. She is a strong girl.
Millcreek Jr. High Jazz Band, with Director Chad King, brought down the People’s House this week as they were highlighted as one of the musical groups throughout the state to play in the Rotunda during School District Day on the Hill.
Congresswoman Mia Love speaking to the House Majority Caucus. She will always be a special person in our family because my youngest daughter, Jayne, was an intern in her office 18 months ago. That experience fired up her interest in government and a real loyalty to the Congresswoman.
The Bountiful City Youth Council took a field trip to the Capitol and I had a chance to visit for a few minutes before floor time began. These experiences of youth leadership at a young age solidify for many of these students a desire to make contributions in their community and state and I can’t wait to see what the future holds for these awesome students.
Robin and Matthew Chidester, neighbors and friends for over 20 years, serve as the cub scout leaders of this awesome group. My intern had the opportunity to provide them with a tour as I was on my way to present HB 278 in Rev & Tax Committee. Cub scouts are always so well prepared and interested in citizenship and I love seeing their passion and energy!
A selfie of folks waiting in the House gallery for HCR 7 to come up for a debate. I hope they still have this much energy when we get up on Monday morning!
Bills and issues moving their way through the legislature this week:
Resolution honoring Senator Orrin Hatch
Senator Orrin Hatch has served the state of Utah for over 40 years as a U.S. Senator. Now that he is retiring from the U.S. Senate, our State Senate passed a resolution, SCR 13, to honor Senator Hatch for the good work he has done on behalf of our state. As part of the resolution, February 21, 2018 was designated as Orrin Hatch Day. This resolution gave many legislators a chance to acknowledge the personal and political stories they had with Senator Hatch. You can listen to the floor discussion and Senator Hatch’s remarks here.
In the News: Deseret News
Talent Ready Utah Center
One year ago, during the State of the State address, Governor Herbert launched the Talent Ready Utah Initiative with the purpose of helping meet our workforce needs in the state. SB 131, Talent Ready Utah Amendments, furthers this effort by creating a Talent Ready Utah Center under the direction of the Governor’s Office of Economic Development (GOED). Senator Millner is the Senate sponsor on this bill and I am the House sponsor. This center would provide coordination between education leaders and industry leaders to make sure we’re aligning our efforts in meeting workforce needs. This would help industry leaders be more engaged in educational opportunities like internships and externships. There is an outcome component to this bill that would establish metrics to see if we are having success in our efforts. This bill passed the Senate and will now be considered by the House. Listen to the floor debate here.
For the last four years, we have considered legislation that would allow for the use of marijuana products for medical purposes. With the exception of CBD oil use for epileptic children, no marijuana bills have passed successfully through the legislature. This year, the use of medical marijuana is divided into two main bills. HB 197 would permit the growth of marijuana in the State and charge the Department of Agriculture with overseeing the growing. HB 195 established “right to try” legislation that would permit patients to use marijuana for medicinal purposes if it is recommended by a doctor. These bills originated in the House and narrowly passed. They were recently debated in the Senate Health and Human Services Committee and passed out. These bills will be considered on the Senate floor for second and third reading for passage. You can listen to the committee presentation here.
In the News: Deseret News
Cannabidiol (CBD) has shown promise as a treatment for Epileptic conditions. Two years ago, HB58 by Representative Froerer allowed patients suffering from epilepsy to use medical CBD for treatment. The law was silent, however, about where people could get the CDB, though most patients in Utah obtained it from Colorado. Since then, CBD products have become more widely available here in the state but are almost completely unregulated. Some CBD products are laced with potentially harmful substances like THC and fentanyl, which has led to medical complications and even hospital visits–the causes of which are due to the additives, not the CBD. This bill creates a regulatory infrastructure for CBD sales in Utah. Under Utah law, only Epileptic patients can use CBD products, and this does not change under this bill. SB130, sponsored by Senator Vickers, has two major components. The first component authorizes the Department of Agriculture to regulate CBD the products that are currently being sold to Epileptic patients. The company selling the CBD must register their product with the state and pay a fee. The fee would be used to test the integrity of the products, determining if the product CBD, nothing less and nothing more. The second component submits Utah’s application for a waiver with the DEA to allow the state to develop a medical grade CBD product that doctors can prescribe. This bill has passed the Senate and will be heard in the House.
School Security Locks
Senator Weiler was approached by a constituent, who, concerned for the safety of his daughter, wanted to donate locks to his daughter’s elementary school to be used during a lockdown situation. Unfortunately, state building and fire codes prohibit the use of these locks on classroom doors in the state of Utah. Weiler’s bill, SB87 School Security Locks, allows school districts to decide for themselves to install bolt locks on classroom doors. The bill passed after the Senate concurred with a House amendment on Thursday the 15th, one day after the mass school shooting in Florida. Weiler told the Deseret News, “I’m hoping that by removing this legal barricade, more schools in Utah will be able to take whatever steps they deem appropriate to protect students.” Watch Senator Weiler presenting the bill on the Senate Floor here.
In the News: Deseret News
Honoring Thomas S. Monson
Thomas S. Monson has been a prominent figure in Utah for the last 50 years, most recently serving as the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. As such, it seemed fitting to honor his memory on the Senate floor this week. HCR 5, Concurrent Resolution Honoring Thomas S. Monson, recognizes his many years of service in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, as well as his other accomplishments in life like serving in the U.S. Navy and graduating from the University of Utah and Brigham Young University. His family was present on the Senate floor during the debate. The resolution passed both chambers unanimously.
In the News: Deseret News
Utah’s consensus revenue numbers were released today in cooperation with leaders from the Utah Senate, House of Representatives, Legislative Fiscal Analyst, the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget and Utah State Tax Commission. We will use this analysis as we determine where the added revenue should be allocated: rainy day fund to education to new programs to tax cuts to ???? At this point, everything is on the table and we’re paying particular attention to the fact that the last time revenue was this robust was 2008, right before the last recession.
The revised total available new revenue at this time, after base budget changes, is $453 million ongoing and $128 million one-time, for a total of $581 million. At last year at this time, it was $361 million available ongoing and $6 million available one-time.
The FY 2018 amounts do not include $25-$80 million in new ongoing revenue that can be expected from the federal tax reform.
In December, consensus numbers estimated $382 million ongoing and $101 million one-time in available new revenue.
In January, the Legislature designed a portion of the new revenue to:
Leaving $292 million ongoing and $12 million one-time available for tax cuts and further spending priorities, prior to base budget reductions. During the base budget process, the Legislature reduced spending by $35 million ongoing and $33 million one-time.
Our economists now predict that the Legislature will have additional $126 million ongoing and $83 million one-time in new revenue compared to the December amounts.
The new ongoing revenue:
The new one-time revenue:
The revised total available new revenue at this time, after base budget changes, is $453 million ongoing and $128 million one-time. At last year at this time, it was $361 million available ongoing and $6 million available one-time.
The above FY 2018 amounts do not include $25-$80 million in new ongoing revenue that can be expected from the federal tax reform.
As a state Representative I have always felt one of my most important responsibilities is to hear from my constituents. During the time of my service this has taken many forms:
Tonight was the annual mid-session Town Hall, held at the Bountiful City Hall, and hosted by Rep. Ray Ward, Sen. Todd Weiler and me.
We were able to present some of our bills we are currently working on and then take questions from the audience. The topics discussed were driven by the constituents who were there. They included:
Thank you to all those who came and participated tonight as well as the thousands of others who have come to Town Halls and all the other constituent events throughout the past 10 years. Your voices have been heard and have directed my service. The final Town Hall of the legislative session will be held after our session ends. Stay tuned for details.