Dear Friends and Neighbors,
During the 2022 General Session, we worked to appropriate $26 billion, the largest budget in Utah’s history, and passed over 500 bills.
This year’s extraordinary budget provided a generational opportunity for our state to fund education and social services at record levels, appropriate money for water conservation efforts, set aside $1.2 billion for infrastructure and carry out a significant tax cut for the second consecutive year.
For the first time, we allocated more money for social services than education. Funding was provided for healthcare, housing affordability and mental health. Additionally, $55 million was set aside to address the state’s homelessness crisis.
We also raised the education budget by $383 million in ongoing revenue, a 9% increase. This substantial amount included $124.6 million in ongoing funding for the state’s basic school formula, bringing the total increase in the value of the Weighted Pupil Unit (WPU) to 6%.
During this historic and unforgettable session, we continued Utah’s long-lasting tradition of wise and careful planning when it comes to finding solutions for the needs of the state.
2022 General Legislative Session Recap
It is our Constitutional responsibility to pass a balanced budget each year. Early in the session, we pass smaller, bare bones base budgets to ensure our state continues running even if there is a breakdown during negotiations. Near the end of the session, the Legislature passes what is referred to as the “Bill of Bills,” which allows us to supplement the base budgets with expanded appropriations based on the latest revenue estimates shared mid-way through the session.
Our total state budget this year was a remarkable $26 billion, including both state and federal funding. In this recent session, the “Bill of Bills” was more specifically known as H.B. 3 Appropriations Adjustments.
We provided an additional $482 million in the General and Education Fund for fiscal year (FY) 2022 and $3.4 billion in the new General and Education Fund for FY 2023. We also appropriated $748 million from the federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) in FY 2022 and $96 million in ARPA funding for FY 2023.
Here are some budget highlights:
$193 million in tax cuts
$383 million in ongoing revenue to increase the education budget, a 9% increase
$124.6 million in ongoing funding for the state’s basic school formula, bringing the total increase in the value of the Weighted Pupil Unit (WPU) to 6%
$1.2 billion in one-time funds for transportation infrastructure
$9.6 million ongoing and $9.4 million one-time spending to increase 3rd grade reading scores across the state
$15 million in one-time funding for housing preservation
$55 million in one-time appropriations to address homelessness
$38 million for improved access to outdoor recreation and state parks.
Tax Relief for Utahns
After cutting taxes for families, veterans and elderly Utahns during the 2021 General Session, the Legislature set its sights on more than a $193 million tax cut for all Utahns. The bill provides relief to taxpayers while enabling the Legislature to invest in education, transportation, public health, water and more key areas that matter to Utahns.
Reduces the individual and corporate income tax rate for all Utahns from 4.95% to 4.85%. A $163.7 million reduction in taxes
Increases the eligibility for a social security tax credit for seniors. A $15.4 million reduction in taxes
Establishes an earned income tax credit. A $16.1 million reduction in taxes.
We passed significant state funding for education during the 2022 General Session and allocated $7.3 billion dollars to public education. In FY 2023, we increased the education budget by $383 million in ongoing revenue, a 9% increase.
Here are just a few of the public education budget highlights:
$124.6 million in ongoing funding for the state’s basic school formula, bringing the total increase in the value of the Weighted Pupil Unit (WPU) to 6%
$91.5 million for development projects, including systemic earthquake upgrades to improve schools
$64 million in one-time appropriations to local education agencies for additional paid professional hours for educators
$10 million in one-time funds for teacher bonuses to those with extra assignments
$2.3 million in one-time money to provide free menstrual hygiene products in Utah public schools
$9.6 million ongoing and $9.4 million one-time spending for early literacy outcomes improvements to increase 3rd grade reading scores across the state
$12.2 million in ongoing funding for school districts to provide optional full-day kindergarten
$4 million in one-time and $4 million in ongoing appropriations for UPSTART, an at-home kindergarten readiness program to prepare preschool-age children for kindergarten
$3.2 million in one-time money for a statewide online education program
$1.2 million in ongoing funding to expand the SafeUT crisis app, chat and tip line that provides real-time crisis intervention for students.
Helping our students read is a foundational task that sets the trajectory for the rest of their lives. Students who cannot read proficiently by the end of third grade are less likely to graduate and more likely to be on public assistance long-term. Currently, half of Utah students are not reading at grade level by the third grade. S.B. 127 Early Literacy Outcomes Improvement addresses this issue by aligning existing literacy programs toward a common goal, equipping teachers and administrators with evidence-based methods, placing literacy coaches in lower performing schools, and providing resources to support parent, family and community efforts.
Parent Access to School Data Comparison
Utah parents have many options when deciding where their children should receive an education, including charter, STEM, dual immersion language and neighborhood schools. H.B. 270 Parent Access to School Data Comparison will help parents navigate these options by creating an online school comparison tool.
Period Products in Schools
Feminine hygiene is an important thing to consider when addressing female health and education. H.B. 162 Period Products in Schools focuses on eliminating period poverty by making feminine hygiene products available in all K-12 schools in Utah. The bill emphasizes that no child should be embarrassed, miss school because they can't afford products, feel guilty, or use unhealthy methods of stopping their period. The bill seeks to make these necessary goods available in a safe and appropriate setting.
Paid Professional Hours for Educators
As highlighted throughout the pandemic, teachers are now faced with the difficult task of preparing lessons for students with diverse needs in multiple ways. This is not only challenging but time-consuming. In an effort to support teachers in their efforts, H.B. 396 Paid Professional Hours for Educators requires the State Board of Education to provide one-time funding for additional paid professional hours for educators. This offers teachers flex days for instructional planning and development.
Full-day kindergarten is becoming highly requested across the state, but it is currently limited in its availability. H.B. 193 Full-day Kindergarten increases funding for the enhanced kindergarten grant program. It is another step toward expanding full-day kindergarten and establishes criteria so the funding goes to areas with the highest need. There will be an application process for the program and the bill clarifies that kindergarten will remain optional.
School Nursing Services Amendments
Health and education outcomes have been linked, making medical personnel an important resource for students. Currently, the legal requirement for schools is to have one nurse for every 5,000 students. S.B. 114 School Nursing Services Amendments amends this requirement to one nurse for every 2,000 students. Approximately 25% of kids in our schools have a condition that requires medical assistance. This change will greatly benefit them and the quality of education they receive.
Refugee and Immigrant Student Policies
Enrollment in school is often a refugee family’s first meaningful interaction with a Utah institution. H.B. 230 Refugee and Immigrant Student Policies Amendments supports refugee students throughout the school enrollment process. The bill addresses challenges refugee students may experience.
Budget Highlights for Higher Education:
$15 million in one-time funds for electric vehicle research
$3 million ongoing funds for mental health support for students
$2 million in ongoing appropriations for occupational health and safety training
$2 million in ongoing funds for the Healthcare Workforce Initiative
$5 million in ongoing funds for the Engineering Initiative
$1.2 million in ongoing funding for the Civic Thought and Leadership Initiative
$3 million in one-time appropriations for Equipment for Technical Education programs
$15 million in one-time funds for Learn and Work in Utah Expansion
$18 million in ongoing funds for the planning, programming and design of a veterinary school
Performance Funding Goals
Over the years, the state has been working toward a system where higher education is funded based on performance. S.B. 42 Higher Education Performance Funding Goals codifies five-year performance goals set by the Utah Board of Higher Education for the Utah System of Higher Education. The goals set by S.B. 42 will be the metrics for future higher education funding.
Higher Education Data Privacy
In 2018, the Legislature passed a bill to protect public school student data while making it easier for the different public-school offices to share data efficiently. When S.B. 207 was being drafted, the Utah System of Higher Education asked to be exempted from the provisions. Recently, the Utah State Auditor’s office came to the Legislature with some areas of concern, specifically in higher education. S.B. 226 Higher Education Data Privacy and Governance Revisions brings the Utah System of Higher Education into the purview of the Utah Data Resource Center, which already oversees data in the public school system. While S.B. 226 still requires stringent data privacy standards, it will also allow for more efficient data sharing and better tracking of student academic achievement from K-12 through our institutions of higher education.
Child Welfare Interview Requirements
For children who participate in a Division of Child and Family Services (DCFS) child welfare investigation, it can be a traumatic experience. H.B. 153 Child Welfare Interview Requirements, with the support of DCFS, establishes procedural changes that will help the child being interviewed feel supported and comfortable.
Behavioral Health Curriculum
The Legislature has prioritized connecting youth to crisis intervention services. S.B. 171 Behavioral Health Curriculum Program creates a youth behavioral health curriculum that will be available at no cost to students. S.B. 171 also provides one-time funding for the Huntsman Mental Health Institute and State Office of Education to develop, publish, update and distribute the curriculum to individuals and organizations throughout the state.
Congregate Care Program Amendments
Utah has many congregate care programs (residential treatment centers) that offer services for youth with clinical or behavioral needs. While these services can be beneficial, adjustments are needed based on accounts of abuse and fear from previous residents. This topic was addressed in the 2021 General Session with the passage of S.B.127. However, legislation proposed in this session, S.B. 239 Congregate Care Program Amendments, makes some amendments and adds to its provisions.
A primary area that is addressed in this legislation is the transportation of youth to congregate care facilities. Currently, transportation companies are largely unregulated. In some cases, youth being transported were left with long-term trauma. The bill aims to prevent this and promote transparency in transportation companies by requiring that the individuals staffing their organization undergo a background check, and that they register with and be licensed by the state. Additionally, once youth arrive at a facility, they are often denied the opportunity to reach out to their parents and report mistreatment. With a similar goal of increasing transparency and reducing the number of such instances, S.B. 239 establishes the availability of voice-to-voice communication between a resident and their family or guardian, among other changes.
Child Care Amendments
The Utah Department of Workforce Services has reported that the state needs at least 1,500 more child care programs to meet existing demand. H.B. 15 Child Care Amendments removes barriers and increases total child care capacity by allowing community reinvestment agencies to use their housing allocation to pay for expansion of child care facilities. H.B. 15 requires the Utah Office of Child Care to use COVID-19 relief funds as grants to child care provider startups and requires a proposal for housing and transit reinvestment zones to promote increasing access to child care.
Child Welfare Amendments
Utah stakeholders, including the Guardian Ad Litem and the Division of Child and Family Services, had concerns with Utah’s adoption process and worked together to institute changes. The result, S.B. 132 Child Welfare Amendments, creates greater protection for children going through the adoption process.
S.B. 243 Parent-time Amendments creates a standardized set of schedules that puts newly divorced parents, attorneys and the courts on the same page when scheduling parent-time with children during holidays and summer break. These changes will eliminate a substantial amount of conflict by simply creating a standardized approach with the ultimate goal of keeping conflicts from spilling over into the lives of children with divorced parents.
Courts and Corrections
Budget Highlights for Courts/Corrections/Juvenile Justice Services:
$19.2 million in ongoing and $13 million in one-time money for new correctional facility direct supervision model staff
$5 million in ongoing appropriations to the Corrections Certified Staff Pay Plan
$1.5 million in ongoing money for the Probation and Parole Employment Incentive Program
$1 million in ongoing funds for public safety retirement amendments
Limitations on Employer Liability
Formerly incarcerated individuals in Utah face many barriers when searching for employment. One of these barriers is employers often worry that hiring these individuals could result in legal action taken against them. S.B. 95 Limitations on Employer Liability resolves this concern by ensuring certain legal actions may not be brought against an employer simply for hiring a person previously convicted of an offense. This bill does not prevent legal action against an employer when there is cause to believe the employer negligently hired or failed to adequately supervise an employee.
Sexual Exploitation Amendments
The increasing demand for child pornography is alarming. The surge in the market has led to increased victimization of and sexual violence against innocent children who are revictimized with continued distribution. S.B.167 Sexual Exploitation Amendments seeks to target the child pornography industry by increasing the legal penalty for producers and distributors. These individuals are primarily responsible for its continuation. Currently, these individuals are grouped with those who possess or view the explicit content. From a legal standpoint, they have committed the same crime, which is a secondary felony. While all actions mentioned are deplorable, we feel it is incorrect to group them together, and the process, as it is, lacks the appropriate consequence for producers’ and distributors’ actions, at an average of only 180 days in jail. With this legislation, producing or distributing child pornography will be regarded as a first-degree felony and punished as such. This bill is meant to protect our youth from the violence and trauma of child pornography.
When a violent criminal is charged and convicted, the perpetrator of that crime may be offered a plea deal without the victim’s knowledge. For a victim who fears for their safety, it can be disconcerting to find out that the person who hurt them has avoided prison as a result of a plea deal. H.B. 134 Victims' Rights Revisions requires that victims involved in a violent crime be notified when a plea bargain may take effect in their case.
Young individuals may be especially susceptible to deception and are more likely to confess to crimes they did not commit when presented with false information. Studies have shown that half of all confessions from juveniles in the criminal justice system are false. H.B. 171 Custodial Interrogation Amendments prohibits the use of incorrect information about evidence by law enforcement in an interrogation with a minor. It also prohibits law enforcement from making unauthorized statements or false promises of leniency.
Juvenile Justice Amendments
There are some individuals who are in the care of Juvenile Justice Services (JJS) who would benefit and voluntarily request to stay past the date their time with the group ends. Currently, their time with JJS is terminated when they reach a certain age. However, H.B. 55 Juvenile Justice Amendments establishes that in a limited number of cases, an individual can continue with their services until the age of 25, provided that it can be terminated at any time by either the individual or Juvenile Justice Services. The aim of this bill is to offer necessary help where it is needed.
Utah State Correctional Facility Operational Amendments
The main goal within Utah’s correctional facilities is to reduce the rate of recidivism. One of the most successful ways of accomplishing this is by allowing inmates the opportunity to self-correct with educational opportunities and rely on each other for support. S.B. 139 Utah State Correctional Facility Operational Amendments seeks to accomplish this by requiring the Department of Corrections to:
Offer program opportunities that are evidence based and evidence informed
Implement direct supervision where appropriate to reduce violence and enhance voluntary participation in program opportunities
Develop an individual case action plan for each offender and share any changes/progress made with the sentencing and release authority
Provide training in direct supervision and trauma-informed care
In 2015, a series of reforms called the Justice Reinvestment Initiative (JRI) was signed into state law. These reforms changed the way crime is punished in Utah with the goal of reducing recidivism. These reforms were based on nonviolent and violent crimes. Oftentimes, nonviolent crimes motivated by addictions or mental illness can be best handled through treatment.
As with any policy change, it is wise to review and analyze new policies after it has been in effect for a few years. A legislative workgroup has studied these issues in recent months to find what is and is not working under current law. S.B. 179 Criminal Justice Amendments follows the reforms' original intent, to focus prison beds on violent offenders and provide treatment for the addicted and mentally ill while addressing any issues. For example, the data collection component is stricter and stops Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice (CCJJ) funding for organizations that do not comply with data collection requirements. The Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health is also required to collect and report better recidivism and offender treatment data. S.B. 179 also requires counties to form criminal justice coordinating councils to ensure all stakeholders are in sync and working together.
Excessive speeds when driving and illegal car racing are two things that regularly threaten the safety of Utahns. S.B. 53 Driver Speeding Amendments seeks to discourage the occurrence of both by:
Providing a minimum fine for a speeding violation where the individual was traveling at a speed of 100 miles per hour or more
Amending the offense of reckless driving to include traveling on a highway at a speed of 105 miles per hour or greater
Allowing the seizure of a vehicle that is not street legal and engaged in a speed race/exhibition
Moving an illegal car racing offense from a “Class B” to a “Class A” misdemeanor.
Correctional Officer Eligibility
Currently, individuals 19-year-olds are prohibited from becoming correctional officers. S.B. 96 Correctional Officer Eligibility Amendments allow 19-year-olds to become certified and work as correctional officers for the Department of Corrections.
Education and Career-readiness
Offering structured learning opportunities to incarcerated individuals has proven to help them make positive changes in their lives and prepare to return to society. H.B. 194 Department of Corrections Education Services requires the Department of Corrections to ensure appropriate educational or career-readiness programs are made available to inmates. The bill also requires the Department to consider an inmate's current participation in an educational or career-readiness program when making a decision regarding an inmate's transfer or disciplinary sanction.
Disability Assistance and Treatment
Budget Highlights for Disability Assistance and Treatment:
$24 million in ongoing appropriations and $4.9 million in one-time spending for home and community-based services and intermediate care facilities for individuals with various disabilities
$6 million in ongoing and $3 million in one-time money to shorten the disabilities waiting list$5.1 million in one-time funding for Division of Services for People with Disabilities (DSPD) caregiver compensation
$1 million in ongoing appropriations for adult autism treatment.
Electric Assisted Bicycle Use Amendments
Cities and counties often restrict motorcycle travel on trails to bicycles and foot traffic only. This can present an issue for those with mobility disabilities who rely on a motorized device. S.B. 66 Electric Assisted Bicycle Use Amendments require state agencies and local authorities to consider individuals with disabilities during the planning and construction of bicycle trails.
Students with Disabilities Funding Revisions
In Utah, there have been issues regarding special education funding. Often, there are difficulties in getting the appropriate funding to schools that are attended by special education students. H.B. 113 Students with Disabilities Funding Revisions addressees this by requiring the State Board of Education to do:
Annually review standards and guidelines related to establishing disability classifications
Ensure the standards and guidelines provide schools the flexibility to respond to the needs of students with disabilities
Permit disability program money to be used for facilities in some circumstances
Amend the formula related to the amount of money students with disabilities receive
The bill is intended to streamline the process of getting funding to students with disabilities and reduce the complicated nature of the current process.
Special Education Amendments
It is important that Utah’s special education students have the best possible experience at school. S.B. 134 Special Education Amendments requires a local education agency to provide special education in the least restrictive environment, regardless of whether the other students in the classroom are students without a disability. The bill also permits local education agencies to use state special education funds on special education students, even if doing so provides an incidental benefit to students without a disability.
We are extremely grateful for the contributions and sacrifices of our disabled veterans. H.B. 155 Veteran Access to State Parks expands the State Parks Disabilities Honor Pass to all Utah veterans with any disability rating from the Veterans Administration. With this bill, the existing program will expand to help show our thanks for these individuals.
Business and Economic Development
Budget Highlights for Business & Economic Development
$1 million in one-time appropriations for Utah Manufacturers Automation and Technical Assistance Grant
$1 million in one-time funds for the Utah Technology Innovation Fund
$1 million in ongoing money for sports and Olympic event funding
$8 million in one-time funding for Property Tax Deferral Amendments
$1 million in one-time appropriations for InUtah Pandemic Outreach
$6 million in ongoing and $6 million one-time funding for Utah Rural Jobs Act Amendments
Consumer Privacy Act
In Utah, it is a priority to increase consumer rights without over regulating or overburdening businesses. S.B. 227 Consumer Privacy Act seeks to strike a balance between consumers and businesses regarding data. It provides the rights for consumers to access and delete certain personal data that certain businesses have maintained. It also allows them to opt out of collecting and using personal data for certain purposes. The bill requires certain businesses that control this data to safeguard it, provide clear information about its use and comply with the consumer's wishes regarding their information.
Utah Rural Jobs Act Amendments
Based on the recommendations from a recent legislative audit, H.B. 25 Utah Rural Jobs Act Amendments provides tax credits for interested parties to invest in eligible small businesses in rural Utah. Rural small businesses are an important part of our local economies and communities. This bill will help small businesses thrive.
State Film Production Incentives Amendments
Utah was once the filming site for many motion pictures. However, due to other states and locations offering better incentives for the film companies sponsoring these endeavors, we have lost most of these projects. Not only has this been a financial detriment to the state, especially rural parts of our state, it has also resulted in a significant loss of income for businesses that serviced these companies and all the individuals they employed. Motels and restaurants alone have reported significant losses. S.B. 49 State Film Production Incentives Amendments addresses this issue by allowing the Governor's Office of Economic Opportunity to issue a tax credit incentive for certain motion picture productions. Film companies that do their work in rural Utah counties will be able to claim back a certain portion of their spending. We hope to bring the film industry and their business back to rural Utah by making this benefit available.
Public-private Partnership Amendments
Increasing government efficiency is an important aspect of public-private partnerships. S.B. 22 Public-Private Partnership Amendments addresses this by allowing the Governor’s Office of Economic Opportunity to perform facilitator functions itself or contract another person to do so. It also modifies the responsibilities of a facilitator. This will help private industry bring forth proposals for public-private partnerships and make the process more efficient.
Economic Development Modifications
Economic Development is important for Utah, which is emphasized by our existing incentive programs. However, these programs are outdated and no longer applicable to the current economy. H.B. 35 Economic Development Modifications addresses this by rewriting certain incentive programs and bringing code into line with what is occurring today. It makes the following changes:
Requires Unified Economic Opportunity Commission (UEOC), instead of the Business and Economic Development Subcommittee, to identify targeted industries for economic development
Modifies provisions related to the issuance of economic development tax credits
Limits tax credit eligibility to certain projects involving targeted industries located within rural areas or approved by UEOC
Allows local government entities to create an economic development zone for the purpose of incentivizing projects.
Budget Highlights for Healthcare:
$3.2 million in ongoing appropriations for targeted increases to state hospital and developmental center for front line staff
$3 million in ongoing funding for equal Medicaid reimbursement rate for autism
$2 million in ongoing spending for domestic violence shelter-based support services
$1 million in ongoing money to the Medicaid program for children with complex medical conditions
$1.7 million in one-time funding for healthcare workforce financial assistance programs
$5.7 million in ongoing and $60 million one-time funds for Medicaid Consensus.
Every year during open enrollment for Utah’s Medical Assistance Act, some children who meet the criteria for coverage are denied acceptance to the program. H.B. 200 Medicaid Waiver for Medically Complex Children Amendments increases the program’s capacity by amending the Medical Assistance Act’s application, eligibility, treatment and evaluation provisions.
First Responder Mental Health
The people tasked with protecting the safety of our communities quite often take the stresses of their jobs home with them. H.B. 23 First Responder Mental Health Services Amendments requires all first responder agencies to provide mental health resources for employees, spouses, children and retirees.
A miscarriage or stillbirth can be a heart-rending experience for a young, expectant family. S.B. 63 Bereavement Leave Amendments extend Utah’s current three-day paid bereavement leave to mothers and fathers who experience miscarriage or stillbirth. This is the first bereavement bill of its kind in the United States.
Insurance for Volunteer EMS Personnel
First responders in rural Utah counties are often volunteers, and it can be difficult to recruit people to take on these responsibilities with no pay. H.B. 289 Insurance Coverage for Emergency Medical Service Personnel creates the Volunteer Emergency Medical Service Personnel Health Insurance Program to promote recruitment and retention of these volunteers by providing insurance.
One of the most cherished ideals in Utah is the inherent freedom and privacy of individuals, especially in their personal medical decisions. H.B. 63 COVID-19 Vaccine Exemptions keeps intact provisions in statute that allow employees to make use of four exemptions to vaccine mandates:
Natural immunity for individuals who have previously tested positive for COVID-19
No adverse action can be taken against an employee who uses one of the exemptions with rare exceptions. An employee may be reassigned if the business can establish that the need for the vaccine and the duties of the job require a vaccine. Some employers may also be limited by external requirements like those for bio-life company employees that work in hospitals or Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which are exempt from this bill.
In-person Learning Amendments
H.B. 183 In-person Learning Amendments makes changes to the state’s test to stay programs enacted last year with S.B. 107. Because of the increase in testing requirements as a result of the Omicron variant, House and Senate leadership, along with the governor, suspended the test to stay program in Utah. H.B. 183 codified the suspension and put procedures in place to re-introduce test to stay with the agreement of the speaker of the House, Senate President, Governor and the state superintendent of schools.
Homelessness in our Capitol city has risen dramatically and trickled down to other surrounding areas. We cannot sit back and watch this happen to our communities or citizens. This year, we passed several pieces of legislation and appropriated more than $79 million to address homelessness, in addition to having a homeless coordinator dedicated to finding solutions and promoting collaboration that will create real change.
Budget Highlights for Homelessness:
$55 million in one-time appropriations to establish the COVID-19 homeless housing and services grant program
$3.5 million in one-time money to increase teen centers for students experiencing homelessness
$5 million ongoing funds for a homeless shelter cities mitigation fund
$2.5 million in one-time appropriations for Housing for Hope
Homelessness is a continuing problem, especially for those who lack shelter in the winter months. H.B. 440 Homeless Services Amendments modifies provisions related to the oversight and provision of services for individuals experiencing homelessness, including requiring local governments to plan for temporary overflow shelters.
Utah’s tight housing market can make it difficult for vulnerable populations to find and keep homes. S.B. 238 Homeless Services Modifications establishes the COVID-19 Homeless Housing and Services Grant Program. Additionally, it directs the Office of Homeless Services to administer the program and the Utah Homelessness Council to award grants.
Utah’s thriving economy has created a booming real estate market. This, in turn, has contributed to a shortage of affordable housing. Utah’s Commission on Housing Affordability has worked over the last few years to create incentives and make structural changes to increase the availability of affordable housing without inhibiting the growth of our economy. Over $82 million has been appropriated, including federal funds, for various housing affordability programs.
Budget Highlights for Housing:
$15 million in one-time funding for housing preservation
$5 million in one-time appropriations for the Redeveloping Matching Grant for affordable housing
$55 million one-time from Federal Funds-ARPA for deeply affordable housing grants and wraparound services
$6.0 million one-time from Temporary Assistance for Needy Families federal funds for wraparound services
$1.3 million one-time from the General Fund for affordable and rural workforce housing efforts;
Utah Housing Affordability
There has been a concerted effort in Utah’s housing community to find the structural issues causing the housing shortage in Utah. H.B. 462 Utah Housing Affordability Amendments address Utah’s population growth and housing crisis by creating opportunities for private industries to come in and create more housing options. This bill builds off previous legislation helping pave the way for cities to build moderate-income housing.
Transit Reinvestment Zone
During last year’s session, legislation was designed to maximize development around Frontrunner stations. S.B. 140 Housing and Transit Reinvestment Zone Amendments continue this effort by allowing housing and transit reinvestment zones around light rail and bus rapid transit facilities. This expands on legislation from previous years, which supported housing development around frontrunner stations.
Commission on Housing Affordability
The Commission on Housing Affordability is currently staffed by the Department of Workforce Services. H.B. 36 Commission on Housing Affordability Amendments makes the commission a subcommittee under the authority of the Governor’s Office of Economic Opportunity and the Unified Economic Opportunity Commission. H.B. 36 also modifies the membership and duties of the commission to better align with the objectives of its governing organizations.
Water Conservation and Fire Prevention
Utah is experiencing one of the worst droughts in our state history. We must do all we can to conserve water. During this session, we allocated $350 million to address the state’s water conservation efforts.
Budget Highlights for Water Conservation and Fire Prevention:
$200 million in one-time appropriations for secondary water metering
$50 million in one-time money for agricultural water optimization
$40 million in one-time appropriations to create a trust for Great Salt Lake preservation
$38 million in ongoing and $1.7 million in one-time spending for the creation of a restricted account to fund outdoor recreation
$30 million in one-time funding for Utah Lake preservation
$5.1 million in one-time spending for water conservation efforts
$1.5 million in ongoing appropriations for Utah Lake Authority
$1.5 million in one-time funds for shared stewardship wildfire prevention
$8 million in one-time funds for the Colorado River Authority of Utah
$10 million one-time funds for Utah Lake Federal Grant Matching Fund.
Water Testing in Schools
In 2017, a small sample test of drinking water in schools by the Utah Division of Drinking Water determined that 92% of schools tested had detectable levels of lead. H.B. 21 School and Child Care Center Water Testing Requirements is the result of a multi-year effort to determine the levels of lead in water in schools and child care centers. H.B. 21 addresses the funding and testing of drinking water at Utah schools and child care centers and requires action if lead test results equal or exceed a certain level.
Secondary Water Metering
Water metering helps users monitor and eventually reduce water consumption. H.B. 242 Secondary Water Metering Amendments encourage water conservation by monitoring metering requirements. In addition, the bill provides grants to fund metering and allows for water conservation grants.
Great Salt Lake Watershed Enhancement
The Great Salt Lake is shrinking rapidly, and the consequences of losing this part of our heritage will be devastating to our ecology, economy and quality of life. Preserving the Great Salt Lake has been a priority this session. H.B. 410 Great Salt Lake Watershed Enhancement appropriates $40 million in one-time funds to create a trust for Great Salt Lake preservation. This trust will be responsible for sustaining the lake’s wetlands and increasing or keeping steady the water flow into the lake.
As we work to improve conservation in Utah, we must offer incentives to Utahns, increase research on the subject and set an example at the state level. H.B. 121 Water Conservation Modifications directs state government facilities to impose water conservation requirements, create an optional incentive program to replace lawn with drought resistant landscaping and requires the Legislative Water Development Commission to study water conservation in the state.
Utah Lake Authority
Utah Lake is an important part of Utah’s ecosystem and provides outdoor recreation opportunities to Utahns. Currently, the Utah Lake Commission seeks to clean and preserve the lake. H.B. 232 Utah Lake Authority creates the Utah Lake Authority and defines its purposes, powers, duties, policies and objectives. It establishes a board that will govern this authority and specifies the qualifications for appointment and the board’s responsibility. The Utah Lake Authority is required to adopt and implement a management plan for Utah Lake. In contrast with the commission, the Utah Lake Authority will have more funding to devote to their efforts, which is intended to yield better results. There will be measures taken to remove phragmites and reduce toxic algae blooms, amongst other preservation efforts.
As a Legislature, we are committed to supporting projects that will preserve Utah Lake for current and future generations. H.B. 240 Utah Lake Amendments expands on work from previous sessions by adding certain criteria for the projects aimed to remediate Utah Lake. The bill requires the projects to substantially accommodate existing use on land in or around the lake. These projects must be legally and fiscally sound. Projects that meet the criteria proposed must be recommended to the Legislature and governor for final approval.
Water Conservation Goals
As the second-driest state in the nation, water policy will always be an important issue in Utah. S.B. 89 Water Amendments requires goals to be set for water conservation and modifies the state’s current water conservation plan.
Water Wise Landscaping
Granting Utahns flexibility to incorporate water wise landscaping on their property can help us meet the demand for water we have across the state. H.B. 282 Water Wise Landscaping Amendments prohibit a municipality, county or association from restricting a property owner from incorporating water wise landscaping on the property owner’s property.
Wildfire Prevention and Preparedness
It is important for the state to do what we can to prevent wildfires, especially as we face this drought. H.B. 145 Wildfire Amendments requires the Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands to study the implementation of a wildfire prevention and preparedness program. This will help the Legislature better understand how the state can prevent wildfires and damage caused by wildfires.
Infrastructure and Transportation
Budget Highlights for Infrastructure/Transportation:
$1 billion in one-time funds for transportation infrastructure
$2 million in one-time money for a children’s mental health campus
$85 million in one-time funds for long-term infrastructure investments
$60 million in one-time funds for Bear Lake State Park Marina expansion
Electronic Vehicle Registration
Drivers will now be able to display a photograph of a registration card on a mobile device instead of showing a paper form. S.B. 99 Electronic Vehicle Registration Amendments follow similar laws already in place for showing proof of insurance on a mobile device.
Military Vehicle License Plates
Some people purchase surplus military vehicles to maintain the vehicle's original condition and preserve its unique nature and history. Under current state law, these vehicles cannot be driven without an attached license plate. However, some of these vehicles do not have a place for an exterior license plate. S.B. 77 Military Vehicle License Plate Amendments allow an exemption from the requirement to display a license plate on a military vehicle and allow drivers to keep the license plates inside the car. This bill is patterned after laws in other states and helps keep these vehicles in pristine condition.
Currently, there are many outstanding issues that vintage vehicle owners face. S.B. 51 Transportation Amendments resolve these issues, including registration, license plates, inspections, and emission requirements. Based on the age of the vehicle and use, bright lines are established as to insurance, exemption from emission checks and support the use of vintage vehicles by their owners.
Last year, the Legislature passed bills to fund major state and regional road projects around the state, with a large number in Salt Lake County. Over the summer, UDOT and engineers identified a few projects that were underfunded. S.B. 51 Transportation Amendments increases funding to ensure these highway projects will be fully funded and constructed. The four projects are:
Bluffdale railroad trestle Monroe Street and bridges in Sandy
4700 South around I-215, and southbound frontage road along I-215
Frontage UDOT complex
13400 South and Bangerter interchange.
Advanced Air Mobility Systems
As companies have increasingly expressed interest in providing remote deliveries — such as drone deliveries — to consumers, we saw a need to update state code to prepare for such adjustments. S.B. 166 Aviation Amendments defines an “advanced air mobility system” and establishes a program for the state to study and identify how remote deliveries should be regulated in the coming years.
Wireless Communications While Driving
Using a phone or tablet device while operating a motor vehicle inevitably causes distraction. It can present a threat to the operator's safety and those on the road with them. S.B. 102 Wireless Communication Device Use in a Motor Vehicle prohibits an individual from using a wireless communications device to view or take a photograph while operating a moving motor vehicle, at the risk of losing their license. This bill does not prohibit individuals from using a wireless communication device during a medical emergency, reporting a safety hazard or reporting criminal activity.
Tinted Vehicle Windows
Many drivers in Utah prefer to have tinted windows. However, this can present an issue for law enforcement. My bill, S.B. 149 Tinted Vehicle Windows Amendments, seeks to strike a balance by increasing the allowable front side window tint on motor vehicles to move from a 43% required light transmittance to a 35% required light transmittance.
Driving Under the Influence
During the pandemic, deaths and crashes in Utah linked to driving under the influence increased significantly. However, recent impactful policies helped reduce these deaths and collisions by 20%. H.B. 137 DUI Amendments reinforce DUI laws by enhancing penalties for driving under the influence and clarifying that blood and breath alcohol levels are relevant for certain offenses. H.B. 137, along with H.B. 29 Driving Offenses Amendments and H.B. 143 DUI Penalty Amendments, continues an effort to reduce the number of people who drive under the influence and enhance the prosecution of DUI offenses.
Public Transit Capital Development
As our state's population continues to grow, we must make strategic investments in multimodal transportation. H.B. 322 Public Transit Capital Development Modifications requires the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) to manage and oversee the development of fixed guideways that are funded by the state and are part of the Utah Transit Authority (UTA). Fixed guideways include FrontRunner, bus rapid transit and related facilities. This bill increases state oversight and engagement in state-funded projects without removing any authority from UTA. This change will help us use UDOT’s expertise and experience to coordinate that growth and develop our transportation systems.
Large Public Transit Projects
As Utah continues to make significant investments in transit, we need to encourage financially wise investments in transportation infrastructure. H.B. 404 Large Public Transit District Amendments requires the Utah Transit Authority (UTA) to compare the costs of different types of available zero emissions propulsion systems when considering purchasing such systems for large public transit projects.
Utah has received funds from Congress through the COVID Relief Fund and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. S.B. 214 Utah Broadband Center Advisory Commission provides direction and oversight to the Utah Broadband Center as it develops the strategic broadband plan that will be used to determine how federal broadband funds will be spent.
Utah Energy Infrastructure
The Retirement and Independent Entities Interim Committee determined the Utah Energy Infrastructure Authority should not be an independent entity. H.B. 46 Utah Energy Infrastructure Amendments repeals the Utah Energy Infrastructure Authority and moves the Utah Energy Infrastructure Board to the authority of the Office of Energy Development.
State and National Parks
Budget Highlights for State and National Parks:
$38 million for improved access to outdoor recreation and state parks
Outdoor Recreation Infrastructure
We worked to create a systematic and reliable funding mechanism for the state's outdoor recreation assets. H.B. 409 Recreation Infrastructure Amendments creates a reliable, consistent revenue source to fund outdoor recreation infrastructure. This new account will be used to fund new construction and upgrades along with land purchases needed for outdoor recreation infrastructure improvements. This does not create a new tax or increase previous taxes.
Federal Public Lands Management
Utah recognizes that the vast majority of Utah’s public lands are managed by the federal government. S.C.R. 2 Concurrent Resolution Highlighting Utah's Willingness to Cooperate with the Federal Partners for Efficient and Sustainable Management of Public Lands requests better cooperation with the federal government in the management of the land and its resources.
Utah Dark Sky Plates
Utah has the highest concentration of dark sky sights in the world, and astrotourism is a rapidly growing segment of our tourism economy. H.B. 88 License Plate Revisions creates a specialty license plate celebrating Utah’s Dark Skies and funds the Utah State Park’s Dark Sky Initiative.
Utah is a gold standard for elections, with some of the most secure and well-run voting processes in the nation. Our state has taken extraordinary measures and implemented procedures to ensure our elections are fair and safe. We do not shy away from taking opportunities to review elections or other processes to enhance security and efficiency.
This year the candidate filing period fell in the middle of the caucus. Caucus attendees may not know who is running for each office when they meet, which could cause confusion. S.B. 170 Election Schedule Amendments, at the parties’ request, moved this year’s election filing period up a week. Additionally, starting in 2024, this bill will move the filing and intent to gather signatures to the week before the general legislative session.
We can ensure that Utah’s elections are fair by prohibiting undue influence from outside entities or individuals. S.B. 219 Election Funding Amendments requires election officers who manage elections for a city, county or state to refrain from soliciting, accepting or using any funds outside a government agency. If there is a program that an election office wants to implement, election officers must utilize governmental funds.
Utah is the gold standard for elections because we are proactive and always looking for ways to improve our election process. A bill I floor sponsored, H.B. 313 Election Security Amendments, addresses election security and voter confidence by requiring county clerks to develop measures to document the chain of custody of ballots and the lieutenant governor’s office to audit voter registration records at least once a year. In addition, the bill clarifies that it is unlawful to vote in the same election in Utah and outside of Utah.
We are continually working to improve efficiency in our election systems and lessen the administrative burden on our county clerks. H.B. 218 Ballot Measure Amendments establishes a process for the electronic collection of signatures, in the presence of a signature gatherer and provides for the security of those signatures. This bill also limits eligible signatures on a petition to registered voters.
Voter Roll Maintenance
Voter rolls are ever-changing as new registrants are added, and existing registrants move or otherwise become ineligible. H.B. 67 Voter Roll Maintenance Amendments require the Lieutenant Governor's Office and county clerks to regularly update the official voter roll, which is a register of voters. The bill also places a requirement that instructions be provided on the outside of an envelope for returning a ballot mailed to the wrong address.
In Utah, we work hard to ensure free and fair elections and work each year to improve the administration and security of the election process. H.B. 387 Ballot Processing Amendments continues this effort by:
Requiring the election officer to post the number and status of ballots that are in the county clerk's possession starting the day ballots are mailed. The bill also requires the election officer to update this data regularly
Adding the requirement that watchers in an election be registered to vote in Utah
Allowing watchers to observe signature verification
Requiring the administering election officer to permit access for a watcher to observe each stage of an election process and allow the watcher to be no more than six feet away from the process
Requiring counties of certain classes to upload votes from a voting machine or scanner, that is conducted on a computer screen, onto a screen that is large enough to be viewed by each watcher
Requiring the county clerk to post the schedule during which the county clerk plans to conduct one or more ballot processes
Requiring the election officer to make an electronic log of all replicated ballots.
In 2020, 30% of voters were not listed on voter rolls because they chose to keep their information private. This discrepancy caused some individuals to worry about election transparency and integrity. S.B. 32 Voting History Amendments will remove the discrepancy by requiring an election officer to, when reporting voting history for an election, include certain information relating to a voter whose voter registration is classified as private, without disclosing the identity of the voter.
Election ballots, especially longer ballots, are expensive to print. Currently, the legal language of each referendum or ballot initiative is printed on election ballots in its entirety, which considerably increases printing costs. Not only are longer election ballots costly to print, but it has been found that the longer a ballot is, the more difficult it is for the average voter to understand.
S.B. 38 Ballot Amendments would allow initiatives and referenda to be summarized in plain language on the ballot while also referring the voter to a separate insert or website containing the entire initiative or referendum text. We estimate this change will save the state almost $500,000 per election.
School Board Expansion
Utah is the fastest growing state in the nation. This growth has made it difficult for school districts to predict where population growth will occur. In high growth areas, equal school board representation can be a problem. For example, in Jordan School District, one of the seven school board members represents half of the households in the district as a result of uneven population growth. S.B. 78 School Board Expansion Requirements would allow local school boards to expand when population growth warrants it.
Beautiful landscapes and healthy environments are a characteristic of Utah. As the state continues to grow, we must increase efforts to nurture the environments we live in. An important part of protecting our environment is improving our air quality. Over the years, we have made great strides to improve our air quality, and this session continued that effort as we championed several more wins for clean air.
Energy Efficiency Program
When focusing on improving our airshed, we should encourage the use of fuel-efficient or dual-efficiency appliances while respecting individual choice. S.B. 188 Energy Efficiency Amendments provides low-income households assistance in paying their energy bill and replacing low-performing furnaces and heaters. These low-performing and high-polluting appliances have a negative impact on our airshed and tend to cause more expensive energy and utility bills. This program does not raise taxes or utility bills. It merely takes advantage of a pre-existing fund. S.B. 188 also allows the Utah Department of Environmental Quality to use federal funds to establish grant programs to improve our airshed and energy efficiency.
Diesel Emissions Reduction Plan
It is important to create evidence-based policy solutions to the air quality issues we face as a state. S.B. 136 Air Quality Policy Amendments require the Department of Environmental Quality to study and recommend a diesel emissions reduction plan framework. The recommendations will assist the Legislature in understanding the issue.
State Innovation Amendments
Improving air quality and encouraging water conservation was a priority for the Legislature this session. H.B. 326 State Innovation Amendments creates a program for awarding grants to businesses to implement projects that address air quality or water conservation.
Protection of Animals
In many cases, domestic violence victims who have an emotional attachment to an animal are subjected to cruel manipulation by threatening the other party to harm or kill the animal. In cases of domestic violence, 89% of individuals who had a companion animal reported that it was threatened, harmed or killed as a means of emotional exploitation. Nearly half of these individuals would rather stay in the abusive relationship than leave their pet behind, and 25% of survivors returned to the abusive situation because their abuser used the animal as a means of getting them back.
H.B. 175 Protection of Animals Amendments grants protections for animals in domestic violence circumstances. With this legislation, those seeking a protective order in domestic violence cases would be able to include their pets in the order.
Manufacturing Modernization Grant Program
With the recent worldwide supply chain issues caused by the pandemic, we have seen the need to lessen our dependence on manufacturing overseas and bring more manufacturing back to Utah. S.B. 212 Manufacturing Modernization Grant Program creates a program to administer grants to local Utah businesses, helping maintain or develop manufacturing in the state. This program will support companies expanding automation and innovation, bringing jobs to Utah and contributing to our economy.
State Bird of Prey Designation
Utah holds many values close, including honesty, truth, majesty, strength, courage, wisdom, power and freedom, each of which is represented by the Golden Eagle. S.B. 116 State Bird of Prey Designation acknowledges the bird’s significance by making the golden eagle the state bird of prey. These eagles are beautiful creatures and also hold significance for many native groups.
Hunger has always existed, but we have seen an increase in hunger with the recent pandemic. S.B. 133 Food Security Amendments creates the Food Security Council at Utah State University to coordinate state efforts and goals addressing food security. This council is responsible for promoting programs and activities that contribute to healthy eating and active lifestyles and advancing Utah food products.
Community Association Regulations
As a Legislature, we are committed to improving the community living experience for Utah homeowners. We regularly work with HOA residents and HOA management companies to update community association regulations. S.B. 152 Community Association Regulation Amendments prohibits an HOA from restricting a homeowner from displaying a religious or holiday decoration, displaying a for-sale sign, using less water on lawns during a drought, installing or using electric vehicle charging systems in certain areas or installing a solar energy system in certain situations.
Our most important duty as legislators is to preserve freedoms, including the freedom to bear arms without unnecessary government interference. Utah code prohibits cities and counties from imposing regulations on the ownership, possession, purchase, transfer or transport of a gun. In recent years, some local governments have attempted to exploit loopholes in state law to regulate firearms. S.B.115 Firearm Preemption Amendments clarify that local governments do not have the authority to regulate firearms and protect citizens from local government gun regulations that contradict state law. This bill also provides civil action and remedies for violating legislative firearm preemption.
Last year, the federal government officially recognized Juneteenth as the holiday commemorating the end of slavery. H.B. 238 State Holiday Modifications observes Juneteenth National Freedom Day each year as an official holiday in Utah.
Missing Child Identification Program
Nationwide, about 400,000 children go missing each year. S.B. 220 Missing Child Identification Program creates an initiative to provide a fingerprint and DNA collection kit to a parent or legal guardian of a child entering kindergarten. Families can store these kits in their homes and choose to give the kit to the law enforcement agency looking for their child if their child goes missing. This bill does not create a database of the information, and it does not require parents to disclose any information. information.
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