The seven-week legislative session has come to a close. I appreciate the emails, calls, and texts I received from so many of you and am grateful for your engagement in the legislative process.
I will be hosting a legislative wrap up town hall with Representative Teuscher this Saturday, March 13th at 10am at Herriman City Hall in the Council Chambers. The townhall is in-person but will also be available on Facebook live. In addition, I'll be joining Senator Fillmore for a town hall that same day, March 13th at 1pm at the South Jordan City Public Safety building.
It was a big session and there is a lot to report on, I’ll jump right in:
HB 161/ SB 11: Military Retirement Tax Amendments: PASSED
Utah was one of three states that still fully taxed military retirement income. This bill was well overdue. Now, individuals who retired from the military no longer have to pay income tax on their military retirement income. The same applies to their survivors and their benefits. For military retirees, this exemption will be available starting in 2022 when you file your taxes for 2021.
It is high time Utah joins the majority of the nation in recognizing the dedicated service and countless sacrifices of military retirees and their families. Passing this bill sent a message of gratitude and makes Utah an even more attractive place for military retirees to live and/or work a second career after their service to our country.
HB 43: Emergency Procurement Declaration Amendments: PASSED
This bill was an incredibly important bill in putting guardrails and caps in place on no-bid contracts that were and are entered into during an emergency. HB 43 places a 30-day cap on the length of an emergency contract with the exception of natural disasters (“natural disasters” as defined in this bill: explosion, fire, flood, storm, tornado, winds, earthquake, lighting). The cap for natural disasters is 60 days. After thirty days an agency will need to follow the normal competitive bid process in selecting vendors/services. In addition, this bill requires that an emergency contract be publicly available on the procurement unit’s website within 2 weeks of the date the contract has been entered into; in addition to the contract, the entity will need to include a written document describing the specific emergency that necessitated the emergency procurement, as well as the name of the highest-ranking government official that approved the emergency procurement.
HB 301: Domestic Violence Training Amendments: PASSED & FUNDED
In June of 2020, a horrific tragedy occurred in our district, a father killed his two little boys, and himself. Following this horrendous case of domestic violence, I hosted a domestic violence roundtable discussion with the Utah Domestic Violence Coalition, Allies with Families, and the three Police Chiefs from the cities I represent. From there, we put together a working group to see what we could do improve the resources and tools available to law enforcement and as a result, victims in our state. Domestic violence calls are the most dangerous cases for an officer to respond to; more officers die in the line of duty responding to domestic violence homicides. Police officers are asked to respond to these cases and have varying levels of training and tools to assess how dangerous an individual’s relationship is.
This bill does two things: 1) it creates a domestic violence training curriculum in POST training, and an optional in-depth, follow-up online hybrid course specifically on domestic violence and lethality assessment training for police officers; 2) The Department of Public Safety will work to aggregate domestic violence data to inform the policy making process.
HB 329: Expungement Revisions: PASSED & FUNDED
HB 329 addresses an issue that was brought to my attention by a constituent over interim. Currently there is an expungement process in place on the criminal side for charges and allegations that are dropped for an individual to have that case removed from their record; this is not the case on the civil side. HB 329 allows a person, who has had a dismissed case related to a petition for a stalking injunction, or protective order, to have their name delinked from the case so that if someone searches their name in the future, their name will not pop up automatically.
HR 8: Resolution to Protect Utah’s Institutions of Higher Education from Chinese Communist Party Influence: PASSED
House Resolution 8 calls on universities in Utah who have Confucius Institutes, funded by the Chinese Communist Party, to close their centers and transition to a self-sustainable language and cultural learning center, free from manipulation and interference from China’s government.
HB 63: Impact Fee Amendments: PASSED
HB 63 clarified that the cost of an impact fee study can be included in the total amount of an impact fee. This bill had the support of the League of Cities and Towns, the Utah Association of Counties, and the Property Rights Coalition.
HB 266 which became SB 87, makes it so an individual who blow dries, styles, arranges, curls, shampoos or conditions hair would not be required to have a full-blown cosmetology license that requires 1,200 hours of training, instead, they can apply for a hair handler’s permit, much like a food handler’s permit, to provide minimal hair care services. The permit requires a two-hour course to cover the hygiene and sanitation concerns, following which the individual must pass a test to qualify for the permit.
HB 27: Public Information Website Modification: PASSED
This bill created more transparency and clarity in the public information process and was proposed by the Utah Transparency Advisory Board.
KEY LEGISLATION HIGHLIGHTS
The 2021 legislative session was a banner year for our area, and we made serious progress in funding much needed transportation projects. Working in lock step with fellow house members, senators, mayors, county and city council members and community advocates, we were able to secure funding for major projects in the Southwest corner of the valley. Chief among these is the completion of the Bangerter interchanges on 134th and 98th South, these in addition to the ongoing 126th project will be a game changer in Bangerter highway’s ability to function like a freeway, without cumbersome stoplights.
In addition, Herriman received $1 million for highway improvements to Herriman Boulevard from 6800 West to 7300 West; Riverton received $1.8 million for highway improvements to Old Liberty Way from 13400 South to 13200 South and South Jordan received $1.1 million for highway improvements to Grandville Avenue. For additional details on transportation funding items, you can review HB 244 and HB 433. HB 433 Amendments Related to Infrastructure Funding, provides $834,600,000 for infrastructure projects throughout the state. This is the largest single one-time investment in infrastructure and an incredible investment into Utah’s future.
Over the past year, it has been abundantly clear that the Emergency Management Act of 1953, established over 65 years ago, was created with the intent of addressing relatively short-term emergencies in responding to earthquakes, fires, floods, chemical spills, etc. SB 195: Emergency Response Amendments worked to restore the legislature’s role as an equal branch of government in governing during an emergency. This bill puts checks on restrictive public health orders empowering municipal, county and state legislative bodies to terminate health orders and emergency declarations. In emergencies lasting longer than 30 days, allows the Legislature to identify and nullify individual emergency powers of the governor, the Division of Emergency Management, or the chief executive of a political subdivision. In addition, SB 195 prohibits the governor, state or local health departments, or local chief executive from continuing an emergency after it has expired. This bill also strengthens protections on individuals’ religious liberties and puts a much-needed notification process in place to require communication between the executive and legislative bodies.
Below is a timeline of how SB 195 would apply to a future emergency at the state level.
Another important bill that worked to address the COVID-19 pandemic specifically was, HB 294: Pandemic Emergency Powers Amendments. Among many things this bill does, it will end the mask mandate on April 10th. At that point the majority of vulnerable/at-risk Utahns will be vaccinated. The sponsor of this bill has been working with our health departments, the Governor, and other stakeholders. This bill is the end game for the pandemic and is complementary with SB 195.
We passed legislation that will provide approximately $100 million in tax relief to Utah citizens. Though Utah’s economy is in an advantageous position compared to other states, many are struggling. Three bills, H.B. 86, S.B. 11, and S.B. 153 will aid families, veterans and elderly citizens and will further boost Utah’s economic success.
H.B. 86 Social Security Tax Amendments eliminates income tax on some social security income, benefitting many Utah seniors living on a fixed income. HB 161/S.B. 11 Retirement Income Tax Amendments benefits individuals who served in the armed forces by eliminating individual income tax on military retirement pay. S.B. 153 Utah Personal Exemption Amendments restores part of the dependent tax exemption, which was eliminated in the 2017 federal tax reform, increasing taxes for many Utah families.
This session the Legislature funded public education enrollment growth and inflation. We also restored a 6% increase in per-student funding, set aside $121 million for public school teacher bonuses, and set aside $127 million to ensure we can keep our promises to education in the future. All said, we will provided nearly half a billion dollars on additional money to public education. Our investments did not end in K-12 schools – we also provided a more than 9% increase for higher education – in addition to nearly $200 million in new cash-funded building and land purchases. The Legislature increased education funding by $500 million, a 10% increase.
These are just the highlights of an incredibly productive and unusual session. If you’re still waiting on an email from me, I am working through the last batch, there were some days where I was receiving 400+ emails/day and I’ve done my best to prioritize my constituents and get back with you quickly! I will be working on several issues over interim and will continue sending a regular monthly report. I am grateful to have the opportunity to represent you, to work with you and for you, on issues important to our district and state.
Photo Credit: The Salt Lake Tribune