I wanted to get this email out to you sooner, but on June 14th, my oldest daughter sustained severe injuries in a horrible car accident on Geneva Road.
I have been spending almost all my time at the hospital with her. This has rocked our family’s world–it is shocking how quickly life can change. I have been so humbled and grateful for the goodness and thoughtfulness of people.
We have had many good wishes, prayers, and kind deeds extended to her and her family from loved ones and strangers. I genuinely appreciate the outpouring of care from so many in our community; it has made me want to be a better, more compassionate person.
JUNE 2020 5th SPECIAL SESSION
Last Thursday, the legislature met for the 5th Special Session of 2020. Twenty-seven bills were passed, which is quite a few for a special session. Also, Representative Sandra Hollins read the Utah Legislature’s citation recognizing Juneteenth, a celebration of emancipation and our commitment to the equality of all people.
Some of the bills I voted for
HB 5003 School District Use of Property Tax Revenue–This legislation allows for increased flexibility in a local school board’s use of revenue from the capital local levy over the next two years. I think this is a great bill and increases local control.
HB 5007 Peace Officer Amendments–This bill, which was supported by law enforcement, prohibits the training of peace officers in the use of choke holds, carotid restraints, or other restraining methods that may impede breathing or blood circulation and cause unconsciousness. It also prohibits a peace officer from employing a “knee on the neck” and creates penalties if this occurs.
Some legislators had concerns that by prohibiting this training, we were taking away options from a peace officer. Currently in Utah, peace officer training does NOT include the use of choke holds or these other choking methods, and so this bill will not change current training practice, but it assures that it will not be taught in the future..
There was some opposition to making the “knee in the neck” a felony. However, there were statements from peace officers that this tactic was never necessary to subdue someone. If an officer has someone on the ground in such a way that they could employ a knee to the neck, the person is already subdued. There is no reason for a peace officer to ever use this tactic, and the results are serious enough that making it a felony seemed reasonable to me.
SB 5001 Budget Balancing and Coronavirus Relief Appropriations Adjustments and H.B. 5012 Public Education Budget Amendments– These bills makes appropriation adjustments to balance the state budget for FY 2020 and FY 2021. Our revenue estimates project a decline from February 2020 revenue estimates of $757 million ongoing and $93 million one-time. We cut a total of 1.7% of the budget. These cuts were targeted, and social services and education budgets were actually increased. This is the breakdown by subcommittee.
- Business, Economic Development, and Labor – 3.6% cut
- Executive Office of Criminal Justice – 0.6% cut
- Higher Education – 2.2% cut
- Infrastructure and General Government – 18.8% cut
- Natural Resources, Agriculture, and Environment Quality – 2.4% cut
- Public Education – 1.3% increase
- Retirement and Independent Entities – 0.6% cut
- Social Services – 5.4% increase
- Executive Appropriations Committee – 26.9% cut
This 1.7% would be significantly higher and the cuts much deeper had we not used funds set aside for this very reason. We used approximately 27%, or $680 million, of multiple rainy day funds to back fill budgets so that more drastic cuts did not need to be made.
HB 5011 WPU Value Increase Guarantee–This bill provides provides for an annual increase in the value of the weighted pupil unit (WPU) in the Public Education Base Budget until a cumulative amount of $140,500,000 is reached. This is the amount of the 6% WPU that was initially funded in the 2021 budget.
HB 5010 Covid-19 Economic Recovery Program–This bill sets up the framework to use over $50 million from the CARES Act revenue to target businesses that were most affected by the pandemic and encourage consumers to re-engage in our economy. The Economic Recovery Grant Programs is a set of grants that will go directly to business and organizations with a requirement to that they do a “give back” to the consumer. The CARES funds must be spent by the end of the year making it important these grants get up and running as soon as possible.
H.J.R. 502 Joint Resolution on Legislative Compensation–The Legislative Compensation Commission recommended that the daily salary rate for legislators be raised by $7/day, and this resolution states that we are rejecting that raise.
Bills I voted against
I did vote no on several of the bills that passed.
H.J.R. 504 Joint Resolution Further Extending the State of Emergency Due to the Infectious Disease Covid-19 Novel Coronavirus–The legislature already extended the state of emergency to June 30th, and this bill extends it to August 20th.
SB 5003 Covid-19 Immunity Provisions–This bill gave immunity to a governmental entity, its officers, and its employees in cases related to COVID-19. I just don’t know that we should be giving the government more immunity.
SB 5011 High Risk Population Protection Amendments–This bill, among other things, allows a long-term care facility to discharge a patient if they do not submit to COVID testing. This comes too close to forced testing for my comfort. Those of us who voted no were also concerned as to what would happen to a patient if they refused to be tested and were discharged.
Here are some articles with more information on the special session:
- Utah lawmakers return to Capitol for special session
- Utah Legislature approves coronavirus-related budget cuts, addresses other pandemic impacts in special session
- Education, social services get boosts in funding as Utah lawmakers make COVID-19 budget cuts
- Lawmakers slash millions from the state budget, but increase education funding slightly
- Lawmakers approve measure to cut their own paychecks
- Lawmakers approve a ban on police officers putting their knees on a person’s neck
Have a great week and let me know if you have any questions. Because of my daughter’s situation, it might take me a little longer to respond.