Special Session: Vaccine Mandates, Redistricting & More
I hope you and your family are doing well. It has been a busy past couple of weeks! From the NCSL Summit, to a special session, redistricting, and interim, I wanted to report back to you.
I appreciated the opportunity to speak on a panel to discuss how technology is reshaping state legislatures at the Annual Summit for the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). Utah’s legislature was one of the first states to meet, vote, and enable public comment remotely during the pandemic. I am glad to see the option for virtual participation is here to stay; increased access leads to increased transparency and public engagement which can lead to better policy making and increased public trust.
SPECIAL SESSION Vaccine Exemptions Senate Bill 2004 addressed COVID-19 vaccination and testing in the workplace. The legislation empowered an employee to be exempt from a COVID-19 vaccine mandate based on medical reasons, or religious or personal beliefs. In addition, this bill prohibits “adverse action” against an employee who claims an exemption and also prohibits an employer from “keeping or maintaining a record or copy of an employee’s proof of vaccination.” I voted in favor of this legislation, the bill passed in both the House and the Senate. You can read the final language of the bill here. In addition to the work we’re doing at the state level, both legally and legislatively, it was great news to see the Fifth Circuit Court’s decision to “halt the Biden administration’s vaccine or testing requirement for private businesses." This is a huge win for federalism and absolutely necessary as states pushback against the gross overreach of the executive branch. From the Court's opinion: "The public interest is served by maintaining our constitutional structure and maintaining the liberty of individuals to make intensely personal decisions according to their own convictions—even, or perhaps particularly, when those decisions frustrate government officials" You can read the Court’s opinion here. Redistricting As a member of the 2021 Legislative Redistricting Committee it was truly a privilege to be able to go around the state, visiting with residents of local communities to gather their feedback and thoughts on the map making process and what boundary lines they would like to see. Overall, we hosted twenty-three committee meetings, with over half of those meetings being held all over Utah. We live in a beautiful state, with a rich heritage, and great people. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to come to meet so many new people and learn more about the communities across the state. I wanted to give you a report back on the redistricting process and the final maps adopted. First, I am excited to share that our area will be receiving a new seat in the Utah House. Given the explosive growth we have seen in our corner of the valley, the new seat’s boundaries will cover Herriman, Riverton and South Jordan. Based on the census data, the current boundaries for House District 52 alone has 34,000 extra voting constituents. This is a huge win for our region, it means additional representation in supporting education, transportation, and infrastructure projects that will impact our area. You can see the new district and the boundary changes for our area below.
As a committee, we prioritized a “One Utah” vision throughout all our map drawing. We are much stronger in congress when we have six members representing both urban and rural Utah. When our committee toured rural Utah, one of the main requests we heard was to have an urban/rural mix in the make-up of our congressional maps. Rural Utah is the lifeblood of the state in terms of agriculture, energy, and recreation while urban Utah drives our economy. In addition, we prioritized keeping cities and counties intact, when possible. This was a significant difference to the maps drawn in the last redistricting process, a decade ago. To see the new maps that have been adopted by the legislature, click below: School State Board Congressional State House State Senate To read my full report back on the redistricting process, click here. In addition to these important issues, we voted on bills addressing bail reform, the name change of Dixie State University to Utah Tech University while still preserving the designation of the “Dixie campus,” election schedule updates for the coming year, and the extension of the State Flag Task Force. INTERIM This week we had our last interim committee meetings for the year. In Health and Human Services, we reviewed legislation that addressed healthcare worker protections, for medical professional who are harmed while on the job at their workplace. In addition, we discussed electronic cigarette products and what policy changes can be made to reduce their impacts on our youth. Following our review of legislation, we received a progress report from the Department of Health on the Utah Youth Suicide Research Project. Thus far researchers have found that suicide among teens in Utah remains at a very high rate but is not increasing as it was between 2008 and 2015. Additionally, the project has identified several factors as major contributors to teen suicide in Utah. Emerging factors include bullying and other traumatic life experiences. I think it’s important to note that teens who died by suicide often told someone in person or online of their intentions to end their own life. As a community we need to be prepared to give help and get help when needed. You can read the full report here. If you or someone you love needs help, call the Utah Lifeline to speak to a licensed clinician at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Additional resources can be found at https://liveonutah.org/ Over the past several months I have received thousands of emails, to those who have reached out, thank you for engaging in the legislative process, and thank you for your patience as I have worked to respond. It’s truly a privilege and honor to be able to represent you in the legislature.