|Thank you for the opportunity to serve in the Utah House! I feel very honored to represent the great people in my district. |
Corona virus is at the top of everyone’s mind, and I have received a lot of questions about what Utah is doing to combat it. The governor has the executive authority to declare a state of emergency, which Gov. Herbert did on March 6th. The legislature responded on March 11th with a resolution extending the state of emergency until June 30th. The legislature voted to appropriate $24 million to respond to the virus. I am fairly sure we will be meeting in a special session at some point in the near future to address other issues resulting from Covid 19. Any additional information or executive orders will come from the governor.
The point of the precautions is to slow the virus spread so as not to overwhelm our resources. However, there is no need for everyone to panic and buy a year’s supply of toilet paper–this is a prime example of overtaxing our current resources so that we are left with scarcity. If you click here, you can see how the spread of Covid 19 in the US is increasing exponentially, and we need to use common sense and do what we can to slow that down.
This virus is highlighting how underfunded our Public Health system is. Many County Health Departments–including Utah County’s–have not received adequate funding for years. Ironically, they requested $1 million this year for epidemiologists, which was cut to $500,000. They simply do not have the bandwidth or resources to combat an epidemic, which may be one of the reasons so many restrictions are being put in place.
I am very concerned about the financial burden that these restrictions are putting on our most vulnerable populations. Individuals and families that rely on per-hour or per job income or who don’t have paid sick leave or time off are going to lose weeks or months worth of income. Small businesses that rely on foot traffic are also going to really suffer. I am hoping that some of the $24 million will be going to help those who are most affected both physically and financially.
This session, I sponsored five bills and cosponsored sixteen. Fourteen of the bills I cosponsored passed, and here is how the bills I sponsored ended up.
HJR006 Joint Resolution on Therapy Animals passed through the House and was killed in the Senate. The Senate committee chair is going to work with me and the stakeholders to clear up some ambiguity about what therapy animals are (they are trained to work with clients who are experiencing anxiety, trauma, etc. and only go with their trainer where they are invited) and what they are not (they are NOT emotional support animals and have no rights under the law).
HB205 Students With Disabilities Amendments passed unanimously through the House and onto the Senate reading calendar. This bill fixed the formula that determines the funding–based on population–for students with disabilities in our public school system. Currently, the formula has a two year lag, which means that funding does not keep up with population growth. The Education Appropriations Committee prioritized it fairly high, but ultimately it wasn’t funded and so failed–the fate of unfunded bills.
HB288 Prosecutor Data Collection Amendments was funded and passed and is waiting to be signed by the governor. I have been working with data analysts, the Commission for Criminal and Juvenile Justice, prosecutors, sheriffs, the courts, and other interested stakeholders for over a year on this transparency bill. Because of everyone’s input and willingness to work things out, the end result is very good and widely supported.
This bill requires certain data to be gathered from the jails, prosecutors, and the courts and to be submitted to the state. This will, for the first time, allow us to make data driven decisions and answer questions about how our criminal justice system is functioning from start to finish. Currently, there is no searchable or easily accessible data from our prosecutor’s offices.
HB324 Conviction Integrity Units also passed and is waiting for the governor’s signature. It required a lot of negotiating and took a lot of time to hammer out. This bill sets up the processes and regulations for how a Conviction Integrity Unit (CIU) can function in Utah. CIUs are programs established by a prosecuting agency to conduct extra-judicial, fact based reviews of criminal convictions and sentences.
This is extremely timely and important because the Salt Lake District Attorney’s office has already set up a CIU and needs parameters on what it is allowed to do. You can read a story about the conflicts this bill will avoid here. HB324 is supported by the Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice, the Sentencing Commission, the Utah State Bar, the defense bar, the Rocky Mountain Innocence Project, the ACLU, Libertas, and Americans for Prosperity, among others.
HB211 Renter Expenses Disclosure was so close to passing. I was very frustrated at what happened. I and others worked very hard to get language for this bill that was supported by all stakeholders and protected both renters and landlords. Everywhere I went, people would ask about this bill and tell me how it would have helped them. HB211 simply requires landlords to let prospective renters know what their monthly rent will be before accepting an application fee or any deposits so there will be no surprise monthly fees or increases. It passed unanimously through two committees and the full House and was on the Senate reading calendar ready to be voted on, but then the list of bills was erased. I will write more about the process in my next email, but there was a lot of politics going on the last couple of days and HB211 was a casualty. It was put back on the calendar late Thursday night and was next on the Senate’s agenda when midnight struck. Any bill that had not been voted on was dead, including this one.
A lot of people ask what the legislature is doing to encourage cleaner air. Here is the list of bills of clean air bills that passed.
HB59 – Tax Credit for Alternative Fuel Heavy-duty Vehicles Extends availability of an existing income tax credit related to class 7 and 8 heavy-duty vehicles that use natural gas, electricity, or hydrogen fuels Ongoing: $175,500 (FY 2022)
HB180 – Emissions Inspections Revisions Exempts electric motor vehicles from local emissions compliance fees Fiscal note: $0 2nd Sub
HB235 – Voluntary Home Energy Information Pilot Program Provides for creation of model rules by UT Office of Energy Development to establish a voluntary home energy information program, including information for potential home buyers and sellers about energy efficiency, cost savings, and air quality impacts of single-family homes One-time: $50,000
HB259 – Electric Vehicle Charging Network Requires UDOT to collaborate with the private sector and political subdivisions to coordinate creation of a statewide electric vehicle charging network plan to provide electric vehicle charging facilities along certain state highways One-time: $14,600 – absorbed by UDOT
2nd Sub HB269- Tax Credit Amendments Creates a corporate nonrefundable income tax credit for certain commercial energy systems that use hydrogen electrolysis systems Ongoing: $3,700
HB339 – Clean Air Special License Plate Creates Clean Air License Plate – profits to the Clean Air Fund for air quality education, awareness, and other programs to promote cleaner air Fiscal Note: $0
2nd Sub HB 396 – Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure Amendments Requires Public Service Commission to authorize up to $50 million for a large-scale electric utility’s vehicle charging infrastructure Fiscal Note: $0
SB112 – Inland Port Amendments Authorizes the Utah Inland Port Authority to establish a community enhancement program to address the impacts of the port One-time: $20,000