Dear Friends and Neighbors,
We have concluded week 6 of the 2022 Legislative General Session, which means we only have one week left to consider bills. We have until midnight on Friday, March 4th to consider legislation before we adjourn. To date we have passed 223 bills this session. We still have many more bills to consider.
We live stream our floor time as well as the audio for our committee meetings, so tune in and follow along during the process! Also, if there is a particular bill you are watching, I would encourage you to use our bill tracking feature which will keep you up to date on the progress of the bills you’re following.
Russian/Ukrainian Conflict Discussion
As most are aware, earlier this week, Russia invaded Ukraine in an unprovoked and unjustified attack. Bombs are currently dropping across the country, and I condemn Russia’s use of military force against the Ukrainian people. This event has been tragic and traumatizing for innocent civilians, many of who are fleeing their homes. I also recognize the strains most European countries face in this situation. Like the United States, our allies have implemented sanctions to economically punish the Russian government for its actions. However, many of these countries are dependent on Russian oil and natural gas for their energy sources, creating additional difficulties. While we will continue to make thoughtful moves to more sustainable energy sources here and abroad, I am hopeful that this situation will spark a conversation about utilizing Utah’s and the US’ natural resources to eliminate the financial ties between Russia and their European consumers. In the meantime, I continue to pray for Ukraine and that peace and freedom will prevail.
University of Utah Football
This week, we honored athletes, coaches and staff on the University of Utah football team for their outstanding performance during the 2021 season. Despite a restricted 2020 season, the challenges of participating in team athletics during a pandemic and the painful loss of two beloved teammates, these student-athletes united and became the first team in program history to win a Pac-12 championship and earn a place in the Rose Bowl. It was an honor to recognize this team for their extraordinary success. Watch the recognition here.
Utah Saves Week
We had the opportunity to officially recognize “Utah Saves Week” on the Senate floor. “Utah Saves Week” encourages Utahns to learn about saving strategies, building wealth, and connecting with free resources to achieve financial goals. State Treasurer Marlo Oaks and “Bill” joined us on the Senate floor to encourage Utahns to be financially responsible. I encourage you to pledge to save online at utahsaves.org to receive savings advice tailored specifically to your savings goals. Watch the recognition on the Senate floor here.
Hill Air Force Base Families
On Thursday, we honored all Airmen, Guardians, Department of Defense civilians, and their families assigned to Hill Air Force Base. Military families selflessly sacrifice to support their loved ones as they defend our liberties at home and abroad. They are resilient in adapting to ever-changing circumstances, and Utah is a stronger, safer and more vibrant state because of their service. I want to thank all military service members for their sacrifice to the peace we all enjoy in this country. Watch the recognition on the Senate floor here.
Manufacturing Modernization Grant Program
With the recent worldwide supply chain issues caused by the pandemic, we have seen the need to lessen our dependence on manufacturing overseas and bring more manufacturing back to Utah. S.B. 212 Manufacturing Modernization Grant Program creates a program to administer grants to local Utah businesses, helping maintain or develop manufacturing in the state. This program will support companies expanding automation and innovation, bringing jobs to Utah and contributing to our economy. S.B. 212 passed in the Senate and is now in the House for consideration.
Supporting Services for Veterans
The Salt Lake Veterans Home is Utah’s oldest and smallest veteran nursing home, but it also serves the largest veteran community in the state. As we worked to keep these veterans safe and healthy during the pandemic, we saw a need to update the facility. H.J.R. 11 Joint Resolution Supporting Services for Veterans encourages the Utah Department of Veterans and Military Affairs to submit a federal grant application for replacement and expansion of the Salt Lake Veterans Home. Once the home is developed, it will become state property. We appreciate this opportunity to help just a few of the Utahns who selflessly sacrificed for our country. H.J.R. 11 passed in both the Senate and House and will be sent to the governor for his consideration.
Sexual Exploitation Amendments
The increasing demand for child pornography is alarming. The surge in the market have led to increased victimization of and sexual violence against innocent children, who are revictimized with continued distribution. S.B.167
Sexual Exploitation Amendmentsseeks to target the child pornography industry by increasing the legal penalty for producers and distributors. These individuals are primarily responsible for its continuation. Currently, they are grouped with those who possess or view the explicit content. From a legal standpoint, they have committed the same crime, which is a secondary felony. While all actions mentioned are deplorable, we feel it is incorrect to group them, and the process as it is lacks the appropriate consequence for producers’ and distributors’ actions, at an average of only 180 days in jail. With this legislation, producing or distributing child pornography would be regarded as a first-degree felony and punished as such. This bill is meant to protect our youth from the violence and trauma of child pornography. S.B.167 is a result of the efforts of lawmakers, stakeholders, law enforcement and government agencies This bill passed in the Senate and will now be considered in the House. Watch the Senate discussion here.
Water Conservation Modifications Amendments
H.B. 121Water Conservation Modifications Amendments implements key changes for state entities to encourage conservation, which includes:
· Limiting lawn and turf in new state facilities
· Reducing outdoor water usage by 5% by 2023, and 25% by 2026
· Not watering outdoors from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
In addition to these new guidelines for state entities, homeowners may also be offered incentives to “flip the strip,” which means installing drought-resistant landscaping. The bill also instructs the Water Development Commission to study water conservation on public and private lands and make reports on potential improvements. The goal is to improve conservation in Utah by offering incentives to Utahns, increasing research on the subject and setting an example at the state level. The bill has passed the Senate on the second reading. You can listen to the Senate discussion here.
Congregate Care Program Amendments
Utah has many congregate care programs (residential treatment centers) that offer services for youth with clinical or behavioral needs. While these services can be beneficial, adjustments are needed based on accounts of abuse and fear from previous residents. This topic was addressed in the 2021 General Session with the passage of S.B.127. However, legislation proposed in this session, S.B. 239 Congregate Care Program Amendments, makes some amendments and adds to its provisions. A primary area that is addressed in this legislation is the transportation of youth to congregate care facilities. Currently, transportation companies are largely unregulated. In some cases, youth being transported were taken in the middle of the night by an employee and threatened, leaving them with long term trauma. The bill aims to prevent this sort of situation from happening and promotes transparency in transportation companies by requiring that the individuals staffing their organization undergo a background check, and that they register with and be licensed by the state. Additionally, once youth arrive at a facility, they are often denied the opportunity to reach out to their parents and report mistreatment. With a similar goal of increasing transparency and reducing the number of such instances, S.B. 239 establishes the availability of voice-to-voice communication between a resident and their family or guardian, among other changes. This bill was heard and passed favorably by the Senate Business and Labor Committee. You can listen to the committee hearing here.
Election Funding Organizations, nonprofits or individuals sometimes offer grants to fund election programs or pilot programs. S.B. 219 Election Funding Amendments requires election officers who manage elections for a city, county or state to refrain from soliciting, accepting or using any funds outside a government agency. If there is a program that an election office wants to implement, election officers must utilize governmental funds. S.B. 219 ensures that Utah’s elections are fair by prohibiting undue influence from outside entities or individuals. S.B. 219 passed in the Senate Government Operations and Political Subdivisions Committee and will now be considered on the Senate floor. Listen to the committee meeting here.
Please share with me your thoughts on the issues facing Utah.