As we close down Day 9, we mark the fact that 20% of the legislative session is behind us. Nine special moments during these first 9 days are depicted above and 9 important issues are highlighted below.
Two more of my bills have been numbered and are awaiting a committee assignment. They were included in the Family Economic Prosperity Priorities press conference last week and both contribute to supporting families in the workplace as they help grow a strong economy.
This bill creates a tax credit for employers providing paid family leave to their employees. The tax credit is equal to 25% of the amount claimed under the federal employer tax credit for paid family and medical leave. It is awarded to any qualifying business who grants to their employees at least two weeks of paid family leave and family medical leave, by either implementing the Family Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) or an equivalent benefit provided by the employer.
This bill provides protection to all Utahns against discrimination that may occur in the workplace. It complements existing protections for Utahns working for employers with more than 15 employees by providing a state remedy for claims involving those working for employers with fewer than 15 employees.
And now, in honor of Day 9, here are 9 bills to watch:
*Thanks to the Senate Journal for some of the helpful write ups below*
- Opioid crisis
Every month 24 individuals in Utah die from prescription overdoses. Here is more information about the opioid epidemic that will prove helpful as we discuss several bills to address this problem throughout the rest of the session.
Suicides are on the rise nationwide, and our state is no exception. The Utah State Legislature has made addressing suicide a priority for years, and we continue to strive to make resources available in every community across the state.
An individual can live for days without food and water, a few minutes without oxygen but almost no time without hope. At the Legislature, we are aiming to bring attention to our friends, families and neighbors, young and old, who are struggling with depression or anxiety that there are people who will stand with you and fight for you.
Over the past seven years, the Legislature has worked on over 15 bills addressing suicide prevention. Suicide prevention training has been required for behavioral health professionals and some school staff, and suicide prevention strategies have been implemented in schools. The Legislature has appropriated funds for three new statewide employees working to help prevent suicide and has passed legislation to study issues surrounding suicide and the implementation of a mental health crisis hotline.
The state has been highly successful with its SafeUT app. This app and other crisis services have enabled over 65,000 individuals in Utah to seek help in times of crisis over the past 18 months.
The state also recently assembled a Teen Suicide Prevention Task Force comprised of stakeholders from business, education, local churches and healthcare, led by Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox and Representative Steve Eliason. The task force has been assigned to bring a suicide prevention plan to the Legislature by February of this year.
The Legislature will continue to work to ensure that those battling hopelessness don’t have to do it alone.
The four bills this session determined to change the tide of the suicide epidemic include:
SB 31: Utah Mobile Crisis Outreach Team Act This bill creates a new type of first responder, specializing in mental health
SB 32: Mental Health Crisis Line Commission Sunset Amendments This bill extends the commission to continue work for 5 more years
HB 41: Mental Health Crisis Line Amendments This bill provides for a statewide crisis line available 24/7
HB 42: Medicaid Waiver for Mental Health Crisis Services This bill asks that Medicaid cover intervention services
Community programs making a difference:
Live Hannah’s Hope
In the News: Fox 13 |
Operation Rio Grande continues and in the latest phase Salt Lake County on Monday announced a $300,000 program to help homeless and drug-addicted people arrested in that ongoing operation to continue their recovery after their release from jail and initial drug treatment. The funding from the state Department of Workforce Services will cover placing up to 150 people in post-treatment residential recovery facilities. There, they can live in a supportive environment with other recovering addicts for up to three months while they look for work and otherwise rebuild their lives.
- Tax reform
One of our top priorities this year as a legislature is to pass a meaningful tax reform to help prepare us for the big changes anticipated for our state in the coming years. We are predicted to double in population over the course of the next 50 years. The Revenue and Taxation Interim Committee studied out the various potential tax reform plans throughout the year. While there have been many different proposals for changes, the general consensus is that we do not want to make minor changes that only benefit a few people. The goal of this tax reform is to broaden the base and lower the rate for everyone. An official bill dealing with this type of reform has not yet been introduced.
In the News: KUER |
- The environment
HB101 will rope in diesel vehicles for emissions testing in Utah County
As Utah’s population continues to grow and pressures mount on the already busy and crowded Wasatch canyons, Senate President Wayne Niederhauser, R-Sandy, is proposing variable, electronic tolling as one way to encourage carpooling and mass transit as traffic options.
The Sen. Niederhauser bill, SB71, would streamline the process to have electronic tolling on Utah’s roadways.
Rep. Mike Noel, R-Kanab, is sponsoring HB136 to prevent government lobbying of federal land designations unless it first has the endorsement of the Utah Legislature.
Noel’s bill is in response to the now-defunct Mountain Accord’s push for a federal land designation of about 80,000 acres in the central Wasatch Mountains.
The effort has been revised by the newly organized Central Wasatch Commission and is also being pushed by Save Our Canyons.
Sponsored by Rep. Ray Ward, R-Bountiful, HCR1 directs the state to consider climate change as it crafts energy policies and to commit to encouraging residents and businesses to save energy where possible.
My bill, HCR 7, encourages the responsible stewardship of natural resources and reduction of emissions through incentives and support of the growth in technologies and services that will enlarge the economy.
In the News: DES NEWS
- Martha Hughes Cannon statue
SCR 1 Concurrent Resolution Recommending Replacement of Statue of Philo Farnsworth in United States Capitol Sen. Weiler and I are sponsoring this bill, and a House bill designating the process of moving the statue, Every state is allowed to place two statues in the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, DC. Utah’s two statues are Brigham Young and Philo T. Farnsworth.
This resolution would replace the statue of Philo T. Farnsworth with one of Martha Hughes Cannon, a mother, wife, and physician who was elected to the Utah State Senate in 1896, becoming the first woman in the nation to achieve that distinction. Anecdotally, she ran against her own husband, Angus Cannon, and won.
The changing of the statues would occur in 2020 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which gave all women in the country the right to vote. Significantly, 2020 would also be the 150th anniversary of women’s suffrage in Utah, where women were given the right to vote in 1870 a full 50 years before most women in the country. In fact, Utah women were the first in the modern nation to actually cast a ballot.
Placing a statue of Martha Hughes Cannon in the United State Capitol building will not only honor the memory of a remarkable woman, but also bring awareness to Utah’s significant leadership in the women’s suffrage movement.
In the News: Deseret News |
In Utah, a city or county can only ban fireworks around the 4th and the 24th when a designated fire official determines there are areas within the city or county that are particularly susceptible to fire. Recent fires have reignited the discussion over fireworks regulations and how much flexibility should be given to cities to control fireworks. Representative Dunnigan and Senator Iwamoto, presented HB 38 this week to clarify the ability of cities to regulate fireworks and crack down on illegal use of fireworks. Specifically, the approved time for lighting fireworks is limited to July 2-5 and July 22-25th, a 40% reduction in the approved firework-use timeframe. The penalties for lighting fireworks outside of designated timeframes or lighting fireworks in restricted areas will be increased to fines of $1,000. Under this bill, cities will have more flexibility in regulating firework use in their jurisdictions. This bill has passed the House and will now be heard in the Senate.
- Clean Air
There will be a press conference this week where all bills related to clean air will be presented. Air quality is an important issue in our state, especially along the Wasatch Front. Since 2014, the Utah Legislature has successfully passed almost 40 air quality bills, which is more than the previous 100 years combined. The impact of this work can be seen in the fact that year over year our air is consistently cleaner, even while our population continues to grow.
Ninety-five percent of the time our air quality is very good according to Bryce Bird, Director of the Utah Division of Air Quality; however, we are hit hard when natural inversions occur, trapping all of our pollution in the valley. While we have worked diligently as a Legislature to institute policies that will help clean the air, vehicle emissions are by far the leading contributor, at nearly 50 percent. Industry accounts for only 13 percent of the pollutants in our valley, so the bulk of the problem will need to be solved by each of us, as individuals. The best way for us to help combat this problem is for each of us to choose to drive less when our valley is experiencing an inversion.
We continue to make more progress on this issue every year and this year will be no exception.
For now, here are a few articles outlining some of the current efforts.