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 energy, air quality, health and the pandemic.
Energy & Air Quality
Three years ago, the Legislature passed a pilot program for counties along the Wasatch Front to conduct emissions inspections of diesel vehicles. Through this program, Utah was able to eliminate 1,250 tons of pollutants from the air. S.B. 146 Emissions Testing Amendments, made this a permanent program due to its tremendous success.
Workforce Solutions for Air Quality Amendments
In the first few months of the pandemic, we experienced less traffic and improved air quality as a result of an increase in people working remotely. My bill S.B. 15 Workforce Solutions for Air Quality Amendments, allows more state employees to work remotely during bad air quality days to decrease the number of cars on the roadways. The bill also requires the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget to notify state agencies of mandatory air quality action days and special circumstance days so those agencies can encourage teleworking for their eligible employees.
We strive to make data-driven decisions in the Legislature. To help better understand the state's energy efficiency, we passed H.B. 131 State Facility Energy Efficiency Amendments. This bill requires state facilities to submit utility efficiency information to be used by the State Building Energy Efficiency Program, enabling us to make the best decisions regarding conserving energy in Utah.
The well-being of Utahns continues to be a priority for the Utah Legislature as we work to expand Medicaid resources and affordable healthcare.
Utah is currently experiencing a shortage of doctors. Care providers such as nurse practitioners and physician assistants (PA) are used to meet healthcare needs throughout the state, particularly in rural communities. This session, the Utah Legislature considered various bills to expand physician assistants' scope of practice, including S.B. 27 Physician Assistant Act Amendments, which expands a PA’s range of practice to allow a pathway for PAs to operate without a supervising physician once they receive sufficient training. Another bill, S.B. 28 Physician Assistant Mental Health Practice, focuses specifically on our psychiatric healthcare shortage in Utah by allowing a PA who specializes in psychiatric mental health to engage in the practice of mental health therapy if they meet specific training requirements.
We also expanded the scope of practice for Nurse Practitioners through H.B. 287 Nurse Practice Act Amendments, allowing nurse practitioners to prescribe controlled substances without a letter of authorization from a practitioner in some instances.
This session, we passed several bills to further efforts in support of healthcare affordability for Utahns. We passed H.B. 206 Epinephrine Auto-Injector Access, which allows patients to purchase EpiPen medication at a discounted price. In addition, we passed H.B. 202 Health Care Consumer Protection Act, which prohibits a health care provider from misrepresenting that the provider is a contracted provider under a health benefit plan.
Expanding mental health services to all Utahns and decreasing suicide rates continues to be a priority for us. Below are just a few of the bills passed that create additional services and further enhance these efforts.
S.B. 161 Mental Health Systems Amendments, ensures funds for mental health services keep pace with inflation by requiring consensus estimates to factor in cost increases for mental health within the Medicaid program. This bill also prohibits revoking the license for medical providers who seek mental health help.
Last year, Congress established 988 as the national mental health crisis hotline number. S.B. 155 988 Mental Health Crisis Assistance, helps Utah get ready for the launch of the new hotline number by applying for Medicaid waivers to help pay for treatment, creating an account for crisis response funds to pay for the call center, developing mobile teams and follow up treatment and increasing additional members to existing commissions to assist in the rollout of 988.
H.B. 336 Suicide Prevention Amendments, creates a reporting process for the Utah Medical Examiner to obtain youth suicide data for the Health and Human Services Interim Committee to study. The Utah Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health will also be required to provide training to healthcare organizations. Additionally, the bill changes a coupon program to a rebate program that incentivizes individuals to obtain a biometric gun safe.
Suicide is the leading cause of death for Utahns ages 10 to 24. In an effort to target services to our youth, we passed H.B. 81 Mental Health Days for Students, adding mental health as a valid excuse for a school absence. Other states that implemented this attendance policy have seen a decrease in youth suicide rates. Additionally, we passed H.B. 93 Youth Suicide Prevention Programs Amendments, which expands the education of suicide prevention to elementary and secondary grades and requires the language of the programs to reflect the specific age group.
With the onset of COVID-19, Utahns watched the Emergency Management Act take effect for an extended period for the first time in our state’s history. It became clear the Emergency Management Act is not structured for long-term emergencies such as a pandemic. After listening to Utahns' concerns, the Legislature began working with the Governor’s Office to create checks on broad executive emergency powers.
S.B. 195 Emergency Response Amendments, limits extensive executive emergency powers during long-term emergencies without hindering rapid response. It does not disrupt the executive branch’s or health department’s ability to respond to short-term emergencies, such as natural disasters.
H.B. 294 Pandemic Emergency Powers Amendments, provides for the termination of emergency powers and certain public health orders–including mask mandates–related to COVID-19, upon reaching certain thresholds of positivity rates, vaccinations and other criteria.
H.B. 43 Emergency Procurement Declaration Modifications, a bill I floor sponsored modifies reporting requirements related to an emergency procurement and limits the term length of a contract for emergency procurement.
S.B. 86 Amendments to the Price Controls During Emergency Acts, amends the standard of evidence required to cite a person for a violation of the Price Controls During Emergencies Act (PCDE) and amends provisions regarding when a price is excessive. This bill also requires the Division of Consumer Protection to consider certain factors in determining whether to investigate, contact or request information from a seller for a violation of the PCDE Act.
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