Dear Friends and Neighbors,
We returned to the Capitol on Tuesday, January 19th to convene the 2021 General Legislative Session. The legislative session runs for 45 consecutive days, excluding holidays, which totals seven weeks. Over the course of the session we will consider hundreds of bills. I will send a weekly email update to keep you informed with the highlights from each week.
Public Access during the 2021 General Session
Due to public safety and COVID-19 concerns, adjustments have been implemented to ensure public participation options are available during the legislative session. Committee meetings now have audio and video, making it easier to view presentations and know who is speaking. Here’s how you can be involved during the session.
· You can virtually attend committee meetings and provide public input. Learn how here.
· Beginning next week, you can also attend committee meetings in-person.
· The Utah Senate holds daily press availability where the media can ask Senate leadership and bill sponsors questions. This takes place every weekday during the legislative session. You can watch media availability on the Senate’s Facebook, here.
State of the Judiciary and State of the State
The Utah Legislature was addressed by the executive branch and Utah Courts to update Utahns on the successes and challenges of our state. Gov. Spencer Cox held his first State of the State address where he encouraged Utahns to read the One Utah Roadmap, “a Plan for the first 500 days of the Cox-Henderson Administration with detailed goals and initiatives to strengthen our foundation.” Chief Justice Matthew Durrant gave the State of the Judiciary addressing how COVID-19 impacted our judicial system. He also stated the need to identify biases in the process, resume in-person jury trials and increase internet bandwidth in rural courthouses.
Listen to the State of the Judiciary address here.
Listen to the State of the State address here.
As a Legislature, our Constitutional responsibility is to pass a balanced budget before the close of the General Legislative Session. It is a responsibility we take seriously. As such, we spend the first few weeks of the session meeting in appropriations subcommittees to consider how we allocate money in each area, such as public education, social services and transportation.
Eight appropriations subcommittees prepare base budgets for their assigned subject area over the first couple of weeks of the session. These subcommittee base budgets are passed in the early weeks of the session, which allows the state to continue functioning at a basic level. This prevents the state government from shutting down. Then, typically during the final week of the session, we pass what is known as the “Bill of Bills,” which is the comprehensive budget bill that includes additional appropriations not included in the base budgets. You can learn more about the state’s budget here.
$43 Million Tax Cut Proposed
The first bill debated in the Senate on the first day of the session was S.B. 11, Retirement Income Tax Requirements, which seeks to remove the tax on Military Retirement Income and reduces the tax on Social Security Income. This bill would create a $43 million tax cut. The bill passed unanimously in the Senate and will now be considered in the House. You can watch the floor debate here.
In the News: Deseret News | Press Release
K-9 Policy in Law Enforcement
Last year, bodycam footage of an arrest in Salt Lake City prompted the Salt Lake City Police Department to launch an official review of its K-9 program. The review analyzed 27 instances where individuals were bitten by police dogs in 2018. Eighteen of those instances were investigated by the Salt Lake County District Attorney’s office for possible criminal charges, and the city’s K-9 program was suspended indefinitely.
S.B. 38, K-9 Policy Requirements requires that police dogs and handlers in the state of Utah undergo an annual certification process. It also amends Utah law to provide liability protection for officers and agencies if the dog acts in a way contrary to the officer’s commands. The bill passed unanimously in the Senate and will now be considered by the House.
Listen to the discussion on the Senate floor here.
In the News: KUTV
College for Veterans
For years, senior citizens in Utah have been able to audit courses offered at state institutions of higher education. This means that seniors can attend and participate in classes for a small fee. They don’t have to take tests, write papers, or do any homework, and they won’t receive any college credit. S.B. 45, Higher Education Classes for Veterans, gives Utah veterans the same opportunity. The bill passed unanimously on its second reading in the Senate.
Listen to the bill presentation on the Senate floor here.
Accepting Federal Funds
The latest federal relief package passed by Congress included funding for states. This week we passed H.J.R. 4, House Joint Resolution Approving Acceptance of Federal Funds, which is the formal step we must take in order to accept and receive the federal funds intended for our state. Once we accept and receive the funds, we are then able to appropriate the funds for their intended purposes. You can listen to the floor presentation here.
What do you think?
I am grateful to represent you in the processes that make Utah such a great place to live and raise our families. I hope to hear your input on these issues throughout the session. I mailed surveys throughout the entire senate district to hear from you and get a feel for your legislative priorities.
If you don’t get a copy in the mail in the next few days and would like to respond, you can click on this link : SURVEY
I look forward to the responses and will keep you up to date throughout the legislative session.