Dear Friends and Neighbors,
After two weeks of session, we’re hitting our stride and getting a lot done. One comment I hear quite often from constituents is that we are just passing way too many laws. There is some truth to that. What Utahns may not know, is that many, if not most bills make very small changes to Utah law. In fact, quite often, bills repeal laws that were passed years ago. So, it is not all about adding more laws, it’s also about fixing what is already on the books. The last few years have seen more of a push to remove burdensome regulations that don’t improve the lives of Utahns or make us any safer.
Occasionally, a law is passed and months later, it is found that there are unintended consequences. It can be something as simple as replacing the word “shall” for the word “may.” It is important that we fix mistakes and do everything we can to get government out of people’s lives while also protecting our rights. Of course, we’re all imperfect and we need your help to get things done. For years, Utah has been ranked the most well-run state in the nation because we have an intelligent, educated, hard-working citizenry that are engaged in the process. Please, continue to be involved in this process. We can’t do it without you.
As always, I’ve provided some summaries of bills that we are considering. You’ll find links to the bill text, to video of debates, and occasionally, news coverage of the issues involved.
Mental Health Treatment
The nationwide push for a mental health crisis hotline began here in Utah. It has become increasingly clear that mental health services need to be improved, and first responders are often not trained to help people experiencing a mental health crisis. More is being done this session to put trained professionals in positions to help people in crisis. S.B. 53 Behavioral Emergency Services Amendments, make additional mental health crisis training available for emergency services professionals. Agencies throughout Utah can create teams of appropriately trained professionals to respond specifically to mental health emergencies. These professionals will be licensed to triage people and get them the resources they need. S.B. 47 Mental Health Crisis, Intervention Council creates a council of stakeholders from various agencies to design the statewide training offered to these emergency services professionals.
Additionally, S.B. 41 Mental Health Access Amendments, require health benefit plans to cover telehealth services for mental health treatment if the plan also covers in-person treatment of the same mental health conditions.
The Utah Sentencing Commission is responsible for advising the Legislature, governor and judicial council regarding sentencing and releasing policies for those who have committed crimes. Last year, the Commission reviewed S.B. 50 Juvenile Offender Penalty Amendments and recommended its passage in the Legislature. The bill came from an issue where a young adult was charged as an adult for a crime committed as a 14-year-old. As a result, they served 10 years in state prison and were put on the sex offender registry. The bill would help ensure that if individuals commit a crime, they face the appropriate level of punishment based on their age when the crime was committed. Currently, if a crime report is delayed until after the perpetrator is an adult, they are tried as an adult.
In Utah criminal law, gang enhancement provisions were applied to help alleviate issues with street gangs or organized criminal enterprises. Since the provisions were originally created, the requirements for applying the enhancements have been considerably loosened. The enhancement was recently used against protesters who committed acts of vandalism. The broad nature of the provisions allowed vandalism to be raised to the level of a first-degree felony, punishable by a maximum life sentence. S.B. 51 Group Gang Enhancement Amendments, raises the bar so that the enhancements are only used in violent offenses and increases the requirement for the number of assailants involved.
S.B. 64 Domestic Violence Amendments, proposes to change Utah law to make domestic violence a third-degree felony in certain situations. If it is a third-time offense in a 10-year window, it will be charged as a third-degree felony.
Double taxation is an issue brought forth by the Utah Tax Commission in which a tax is being paid twice on the same source of income. S.B. 95 Sales Tax Revisions, creates a one-time tax collection for services, a tax break that already exists for retail. Currently, when a business owner needs to purchase items in order to provide a service, the business owner is taxed for the items needed and then the consumer is taxed again for the cost of the service. This bill makes retail and service tax equal by taxing goods and services only once. S.B. 95 passed in Senate Revenue and Taxation committee and is currently placed on the second reading calendar.
According to Utah Highway Patrol in a one year period, there were 1,633 accidents due to car malfunctions related to headlights, taillights, brakes and bad tires. Of those accidents, there were seven fatalities and 734 people injured. S.B. 93 Emissions Test Amendments, sets a requirement for emissions inspectors to inform car owners if their car lights and lamps are functioning; however, no mandatory repair or official enforcement will be put in place. Emission inspectors will have the opportunity to make additional revenue if they wish to sell bulbs at the time of inspection. This bill aims to increase safety measures to reduce the number of fatalities and injuries caused on Utah roads. This bill passed in committee and is currently on the second reading calendar.
In the News: Salt Lake Tribune
Since 2005, the Price Controls During Emergencies Act was not used or modified until the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020. S.B. 86 Amendments to the Price Controls During Emergencies Act, makes necessary changes to the act to ensure consumers are not price gouged and protects Utahns from false claims during an emergency. S.B. 86 targets four changes to the act, including checkpoints before an investigation, transparency in changes to the cost of items, privacy protection for those accused until after adjudication and higher evidentiary standards. This bill passed in Senate Business and Labor committee.
In the News: Salt Lake Tribune
This week we passed our base budget bills. Traditionally these bills use the previous year’s ongoing appropriations as a starting point. This was the first year we included $95 million in new money for education growth and inflation in the base budgets, making it the first year we have included these items in our base budgets. In addition, we also included an increase in per-pupil spending to restore last year’s 6 percent WPU increase. Overall, the base budgets we passed this week also include over half a billion dollars in new state spending for high priority items such as education, Medicaid and COVID-19 response.
As part of our base budget, we passed the following bills:
Consumer Alcohol Purchasing
Last year, we passed a bill that would allow consumers more options when ordering alcohol through the Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (DABC). This included allowing participation in subscriptions like Wine of the Month. The bill required funding that was ultimately rescinded due to the pandemic. This year, we are revisiting the change through S.B. 59 Consumer Alcoholic Beverage Purchasing. This new bill addresses some deficiencies in the DABC’s special order program and create a Consumer Purchasing Division of the DABC to implement the changes. The Senate passed the bill with unanimous support and will now be considered by the House.
Thousands of young women throughout the state visit hair salons or ask a friend to style their hair before prom. It might surprise you to learn that individuals who try to make a little extra money by styling their friend’s hair for prom do so illegally. To address this S.B. 87 Professional Licensing Amendments, creates an exemption from licensure for individuals who only dry, style, curl, shampoo, condition or hot iron hair. Individuals who choose to offer these services without a license will need to display a prominent sign in their place of practice stating they are unlicensed. Additionally, they are subject to sanitization standards established by the Utah Department of Health and accountable to the Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing should they go beyond the exempted services. Stakeholders were engaged throughout the process of this bill to ensure the changes made do not diminish the credibility and stature of licensed cosmetologists. This bill passed in the Senate and will now be considered in the House.
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’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