Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Our 2021 General Legislative Session concluded and over 500 bills were passed this year. We also passed a budget, which is the most important work that we do every year. This newsletter is a summary of some of the legislation that passed regarding elections, housing and public safety.
Elections and Government
Every year, the Utah Legislature works to ensure Utahns can engage in government processes. During this session, we passed legislation that continues to provide accurate and secure elections.
Last year, while many states scrambled to put together their mail-in-ballot elections, Utah was already well prepared and was a standard for other states to follow. While we are proud of how well we handled the elections, there is always room for improvement. For example, we found that ballots occasionally are mailed to deceased voters. H.B. 12 Deceased Voter Amendments, creates a more uniform process to rectify this issue. When a Utahn passes away, the bill requires that the death certificate be sent from the state registrar to the Lieutenant Governor’s Office within five business days of the certificate's registration. The certificate will then be sent to the county clerk’s office, where the deceased name can be removed from the voter rolls. Before each election cycle, the Lieutenant Governor’s Office will crosscheck each name against the United States Social Security Administration data.
The Legislature also worked to improve transparency for voters in regard to where their ballot is in the process. H.B. 70 Ballot Tracking Amendments allows you to sign up for email or text message notifications when your ballot has been mailed, received or counted.
Conceal Carry Firearm Amendments
H.B.60 Conceal Carry Firearms Amendments, allows anyone who is over 21 and legally allowed to possess a firearm, to carry a concealed weapon in public without a concealed carry permit. This bill also establishes a Suicide Prevention and Education Fund in which a portion of funds collected from the concealed carry permit class will go toward firearm safety and suicide prevention efforts.
Homelessness and Housing Affordability
Homelessness and housing affordability are priorities for Utah lawmakers. In fact, housing prices are rising at a rate of 12 percent annually, and economists estimate that Utah has a gap of over 53,000 affordable housing units for individuals with average or low incomes. S.B. 164 Utah Housing Affordability Amendments, is designed to stimulate growth in affordable housing without interfering with the free market. The bill provides support and funding for low-income renters at risk of eviction. It also encourages political subdivisions to inventory surplus government land for possible future affordable housing developments.
Currently, some types of residential housing units are off-limits due to burdensome municipal regulations, preventing homeowners from creating Accessory Dwelling Units (ADU). This prevents individuals with extra space in their homes from converting the area into a rentable apartment. H.B. 82 Single-family Housing Modifications, removes some of the obstacles that keep homeowners from having ADUs within the walls of their homes.
The state has put immense effort into getting people off the streets and into homes. H.B. 347 Homeless Services Amendments, enhances coordination efforts between agencies by creating the Office of Homeless Services within the Department of Workforce Services and establishes the state homeless coordinator within the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget.
Public Safety, Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice
Over the last year, the state has had substantial conversations regarding police reform. One of the conversations has been about the importance of de-escalation training for law enforcement officers. H.B. 162 Peace Officer Training Amendments, requires 16 hours of additional training for law enforcement, including mental health, crisis intervention and de-escalation control courses. 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.
Law enforcement officers are usually the first to respond to 911 calls, regardless of the reason for the call. Quite often, people who call 911 are trying to help someone experiencing a mental health crisis, which most police officers aren’t trained to resolve. S.B. 53 Behavioral Emergency Services Amendments, makes additional mental health crisis training available for emergency service professionals. Agencies throughout Utah can create teams of appropriately trained professionals to respond specifically to mental health emergencies. These professionals will be licensed to treat individuals and provide them with proper resources.
S.B. 102 Peace Officer Training Qualifications Amendments, changes Utah law to allow lawful permanent residents who have lived in the U.S. for at least five years to serve as police officers. This change will help create police departments that more closely resemble the diverse communities they serve.
Use of Force
In Utah, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) has been involved in conversations with various law enforcement organizations, including Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) and the Utah Department of Public Safety. These groups worked towards a common goal of addressing law enforcement use-of-force standards in the state of Utah. S.B. 106 Use of Force Amendments, requires that POST establish statewide use-of-force standards and conduct an annual review of those standards.
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. You’re also welcome to join me at the Capitol and if you’d like to meet with me in person outside of interim or the legislative session, you can reach Jason Gould at email@example.com. He’ll help us get in touch.
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