Dear Friends and Neighbors,
We’re officially halfway through the session and have passed over 90 bills. It’s been an eventful week. As many of you may have heard, Paris Hilton visited the Senate. I think it is fair to say that most of us form opinions about celebrities without knowing much about them. As a teenager, Paris Hilton was subject to abuse and trauma that no person should have to endure. She faced this abuse right here in Utah. Instead of languishing in anger, she decided to do something about it. Ms. Hilton was here to speak to a Senate committee about her experience and to advocate for changes to our laws so that other children don’t endure the same treatment. She isn’t being paid to do this. She’s doing it because it’s the right thing to do. So many of the bills that we pass come from people who see a need and devote their time, talents and energy to fix the problem. Luckily, they don’t all need to be celebrities. Utah is full of people who want good things for our state and I’m grateful for Paris Hilton’s testimony and for so many others who do their part to make Utah better.
Improving Air Quality
Throughout the pandemic, we have seen working from home greatly decrease traffic volume and increase air quality. Many people have also noticed that working from home does not impact productivity and can improve an employee’s work/life balance. My bill, S.B. 15 Workforce Solutions for Air Quality Amendments, requires that state agencies provide and measure teleworking options for state employees during bad air quality days. 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. S.B. 15 passed in the committee and will now be heard on the Senate floor. To listen to the committee meeting, click here.
Higher Education Scholarship Amendments
Last year, the Legislature passed a bill to expand the Regents' Scholarship eligibility to include Western Governors University, Westminster College, BYU and Ensign College. This year, S.B. 136 Higher Education Scholarships Amendments, renames the "Regents' Scholarship" to the "Opportunity Scholarship", deletes outdated language from the program and sunsets the New Century Scholarship. Essentially, this bill merges two separate technical education scholarships that were separate before the Legislature joined Utah's systems of higher education in 2020. It will take effect Fall 2021 for the graduating class of 2022. S.B. 136 passed the Senate and will now return to the House for their consideration. You can watch the floor presentation here.
It was a special privilege to have Sarah Frei and her parents join us on the Senate floor this week as we voted to pass H.B. 47 DUI Revisions, nicknamed “Sarah’s Bill.” Last summer, Sarah and three of her friends were hit head-on by a drunk driver, paralyzing Sarah from the waist down and resulting in the loss of her legs. The drunk driver had a blood-alcohol level four times higher than the legal limit but was released on bail while still under the influence. H.B. 47 would deny bail to drunk drivers who injured or killed someone until they have gone before a magistrate (civil officer or judge). This bill underwent changes in the Senate and will now return to the House for their concurrence. You can watch the Senate floor debate here.
Recognizing U.S. Space Force
Utah has benefitted from housing Hill Air Force Base. By hosting this base, Utah has received government contracts and projects that have created desirable jobs and improved Utah’s economy. This week, we passed H.B. 57 Armed Forces Amendments, which formally recognizes the U.S. Space Force in our code and qualifies Utah to work with the new military branch. You can watch the floor presentation here.
Expanding Health Care Access
Utah is currently experiencing a shortage of doctors. As such, mid-level care providers like nurse practitioners and physician assistants (PAs) help meet our healthcare needs throughout the state, particularly in rural communities. This year, the Senate is considering various bills to expand physician assistants' scope of practice. Last year, a supervising physician for a PA in rural Utah passed away, preventing the PA from seeing and treating patients he had been treating for years due to the loss of the supervising physician.
In the midst of a pandemic, we need to ensure that Utahns throughout the state have access to healthcare.
The first bill, S.B. 27 Physician Assistant Act Amendments, expands the scope of PAs’ practice to allow a pathway for PAs to operate without a supervising physician once they receive sufficient training.
The second bill, S.B. 28 Physician Assistant Mental Health Practice, focuses specifically on our psychiatric health care 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.
These bills each passed their second readings in the Senate, but are currently circled to allow for more stakeholder input before final passage.
Three years ago, the Legislature passed a pilot program for counties along the Wasatch Front to conduct emissions inspections for 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. This bill passed in the Senate and will now be considered in the House. You can watch the floor presentation here.
Regulatory Sandbox Bill
In Utah, we want our businesses to thrive. While regulations provide helpful protections for both the industry and the consumer, sometimes the red tape of regulation can prevent new businesses from thriving and limit innovation. One example of this is the regulations that made it difficult for Utah breweries to create and sell hand sanitizer in the pandemic's early months. H.B. 217 Regulatory Sandbox Program Amendments, creates a "sandbox" program where companies can suspend certain regulations for a limited period of time while they are testing new ideas. This will allow companies to see if their ideas will work before enacting regulations. It is important to note that H.B. 217 does not suspend regulations pertaining to public health and safety measures. This bill passed with unanimous support on second reading in the Senate. You can watch the floor discussion here.
Public Education Funding Amendments
After months of discussions with members of the education community, S.B. 142 Public Education Funding Amendments, aims to make sure Utah students receive equal funding by assessing our public education revenue and current funding structure. S.B. 142 would allow the legislative Public Education Appropriations Committee to make recommendations to better distribute funds throughout the state. This bill passed in the Senate and will now be considered in the House. You can watch the floor presentation here.
Epinephrine Auto-Injector (EpiPen) Access
Last year, we addressed a series of solutions to combat the state's insulin crisis, including an option for patients to buy insulin at a discounted price through the Public Employees Health Program (PEHP). This year, the Legislature wants to extend beyond insulin discounts by introducing H.B. 206 Epinephrine Auto-Injector Access, which would allow patients to purchase EpiPen medication at a discounted price. Often, this life-saving medication is expensive, and the generic brand is not always available to patients in need. The PEHP program indicates that there are funds to cover the costs of this program and will not add additional expense to the general fund. This bill passed on the second reading calendar and will be considered on the third reading calendar. You can watch the floor presentation here.
Depending on the conviction, individuals charged with homicide have the option to be released on parole. S.B. 124 Parole Amendments, provides that individuals who have been convicted of homicide in Utah cannot be released on parole if the victim’s remains have not been found or if the offender does not cooperate with the recovery of the victim’s remains. S.B. 124 passed unanimously in the Senate and will now be considered in the House. To listen to the bill presentation on the Senate floor, click here.
Human Services Oversight
This week, Paris Hilton provided testimony in favor of S.B. 127 Human Services Program Amendments, during the Senate Judiciary, Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Committee. Hilton and others spoke of their experiences in youth residential treatment centers. S.B. 127 increases transparency and proposes to end abusive practices in Utah’s congregate care programs. The bill sponsor worked directly with the Utah Office of Licensing to enhance guardrails in congregate care programs. S.B. 127 passed on its 2nd reading in the Senate. To hear the committee presentation, click here. For the bill presentation on the Senate floor, click here.
The protests this past summer raised questions about law enforcement practices and accountability. 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 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. S.B. 106 passed unanimously in committee and will now be heard on the Senate floor. To hear the committee presentation, click here.
In the News: Deseret News
Rural county commissioners and prosecutors have been struggling with an increased number of cows and horses being shot in their jurisdictions. Many are also dealing with the occasional theft and killing of livestock guardian dogs. H.B. 166 Livestock Amendments, increases penalties for the destruction of livestock, including livestock guardian dogs. Occasionally, individuals traveling in the backcountry, either on Forest Service or BLM land, will see working livestock dogs and assume the dog has been abandoned or lost. In their desire to be helpful, they take the dog, leaving herds vulnerable to predators. The bill clarifies ownership standards for livestock and livestock guardian dogs. H.B. 166 passed in the House and on its second reading in the Senate. To listen to the bill presentation on the Senate floor, click here.
Statewide call for Volunteer Vaccination Distributors
This week, Governor Cox announced Utah’s goal to distribute the COVID-19 vaccine to every adult who wants one in the state by the end of May. In order to reach this objective, Lt. Governor Henderson issued an official call to action for volunteers who are licensed medical professionals to administer COVID-19 vaccines. In addition, the state is also looking for anyone willing to assist in tasks required within the vaccine distribution process, regardless of medical licensing or experience. Those interested can register at utahresponds.org. For more information on volunteer opportunities, click here.
Substitution for Test to Stay in K-12 Schools
Many schools are concerned about students’ ability to complete their coursework and progress toward graduation with the numerous transitions from in-person to online learning. These closures negatively impact students’ ability to learn. This week, the Senate made a substitution to S.B. 107 In-Person Education, providing schools the option to continue learning in the classroom with enhanced testing. It also raises the threshold needed to implement the Test to Stay program to 2 percent. This gives schools more flexibility at the local level to remain open while managing COVID-19, ensuring our students get the best education possible. The substitution passed unanimously in the Senate. Watch the floor presentation here.
Contraception for Inmates
Currently, jail or prison facilities provide inmates with their medications with the exception of contraception methods. H.B. 102 Contraception for Inmates, will require jail and prison facilities to provide inmates with the option to continue medically prescribed methods of contraception. Contraceptives also provide management of medical concerns non-related to pregnancy. This bill passed on the second reading calendar and will be considered on the third reading calendar for further debate. You can watch the floor presentation 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