Well, week one of our general session is in the books and, like everything right now, it has been different. For one thing, it’s much quieter. The Capitol is pretty much closed to the public, which could be problematic since we are doing the public’s work. Of course, we still need input, so changes have been made to follow Covid-19 guidelines while also giving you access as we discuss bills and budgets.
We also started the session a week earlier this year, which ended up being the same week as the inauguration. Crazy as things have been recently, I think it really drives the point home that we need to take our work seriously. I really hope that we as a legislature and you as constituents can work collaboratively together to make Utah a better place to live.
Thanks for this opportunity.
Public Access during the 2021 General Session
Due to public safety and COVID-19 concerns, adjustments have been made 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.
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.
I am happy to have another amazing intern this session. Andrew Withers is a senior, studying economics at Utah State University. He is originally from Twin Falls, Idaho and moved to Logan to attend school. His dream job is to work at the Federal Reserve and he plans on attending graduate school in the future. Andrew is helping me with my schedule, communications and research.
Honoring Representative Lou Shurtliff
The Utah Legislature presented HCR7, Concurrent Resolution Recognizing the Public Service of Representative Lawanna Lou Shurtliff, in honor of the late state Rep. Shurtliff’s legacy to the Utah House of Representatives, Weber County, and across Utah. We had a moment of silence in the Senate chamber to recognize her contributions. Her presence will be missed.
Address to the Utah Legislature
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.
$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.
HOAs can currently prohibit an individual from installing security cameras at their residence. S.B. 31, Condominium and Community Association Regulation Amendments, prohibits an HOA from disallowing owners to install security cameras on their own units or lots. This bill passed in the Senate with unanimous support and will now be considered in the House.
Last summer, Sarah, a Utah high schooler, and her three friends were hit by a drunk driver. The accident paralyzed Sarah from the waist down and resulted in the loss of her legs. As she was still receiving urgent medical care just hours after the accident, the man who hit her was already released on bail. Sarah’s bill, or H.B. 47, DUI Revisions, would allow a judge to deny bail to drunk drivers who have injured or killed someone if the court has sufficient evidence to support the charge. These individuals would be held in custody until their trial. This bill passed in the House with unanimous support and will be considered in the Senate next week. In the News: KSL
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.
In November, state leaders met with Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the CDC, and Dr. Deborah Birx, White House coronavirus task force coordinator. State leaders were told that the spread of the virus primarily occurs in communities rather than in schools and that schools should resume in-person learning. Out of the 41 public school districts in Utah, 40 are providing an in-person option for their students. Salt Lake School District is the only one that does not. During the first quarter of online instruction at Salt Lake School District, 364 secondary school students failed all their classes, an increase of 600 percent. S.B. 107, In-person Instruction Prioritization, gives parents the option of taking their students out of online-only schools and moving them to another school that offers in-person instruction.
Funding would then follow the student to the new school. The bill does not force any student to return to in-person learning, it simply gives parents options if their students are struggling under the online format. The bill passed its second reading in the Senate. Listen to the debate on the Senate floor here.
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.
I Look Forward to Hearing From You!
I'll try to continually keep you informed about my work on the Hill – likewise, please keep in touch – I’d love to hear your insights and opinions. I can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’m truly grateful for the opportunity you’ve given me to serve in this capacity. We live in a unique and special place. Thank you for all you do to make Utah the best state in the nation – and thanks for paying attention.
Until next time,
Senator Dan McCay
Utah Senate District 11