Dear Friends and Neighbors,
With Week 5 of the 2022 Legislative Session over, we are now more than two-thirds of the way done! We have passed a total of 155 bills, and they just keep on coming. Remember, you can keep track of these bills with the bill tracker tool found here, and you can check on the overall progress of the session here. If you have ever been to the Senate floor during session or watched a video of floor time, you’ll quickly realize that we spend a little time in between bill debates to honor our fellow Utahns. There are so many individuals and groups that distinguish themselves through service, heroism, hard work, ingenuity and grit. While there is so much to accomplish in so little time, we feel it is vitally important to recognize the outstanding among us as a way to motivate and inspire.
This week was also filled with constituent meetings. I had the opportunity to speak with Channing Hall 8th graders in the Supreme Court about bill processes and the progression of this 2022 Legislative Session. The Youth Advocacy and Prevention Program came to the capitol to discuss substance misuse seen among peers. Students from all age groups were able to meet and share their concerns for health-related issues. I met with pickleball advocates and we are hoping to bring more pickleball courts to Utah! Lastly, a black hawk helicopter gave me a comprehensive tour over Salt Lake City and the Great Salt Lake! We saw how the lake has shrunk over the years to help us better understand things we can do to improve our water resources.
PTA Founders Day
February 17th marked 125 years since the founding of the National Parent Teacher Association (PTA). The PTA has nearly 63,000 members in Utah and has empowered generations of students to realize their potential for success, benefiting students, families and communities alike. This week, we recognized PTA members and seven former Utah PTA presidents. These individuals have generously given their time and energy to our children's education, and the Utah education system would not be the same without these outstanding members of our community.
Senate Art Scholarships
Every year, high school students across the state submit artwork to the Utah All-State High School Art Show. This year, the Utah Senate awarded scholarships, made possible by generous donors, to six students who excelled in the competition. On Thursday, we recognized the Senate scholarship recipients and other participants on the Senate floor. I was amazed by these students’ wonderful talent, especially at such a young age. You can view a virtual gallery of the submissions here.
Utah’s Gold Star Families
Every general session, we take a few minutes to honor Utahns who paid the ultimate sacrifice in service to our country and the loved ones they left behind. It is a selfless act to leave the comforts and freedoms we enjoy in Utah to step into harm’s way in defense of the oppressed in foreign lands and in preservation of the liberties we hold dear. It is only fitting that we pay tribute to the best of us who chose to honorably serve. I express my heartfelt sympathies to these Gold Star Families and pray for all our military. Listen to the citation that was read on the Senate floor here.
On Monday, we read a citation on the Senate floor honoring the Utah Highway Patrol. From floor time to committee meetings, troopers can be found in every corner of the Utah Capitol complex, protecting elected officials, staff and the public. They’ve countered threats, de-escalated volatile confrontations and maintained order. They serve across the state, working long hours, responding to life-threatening incidents and keeping Utah safe. Listen to the citation here.
2022 Mother of the Year
On Valentine’s Day, we had the privilege of honoring the 2022 Utah Mother of the Year, Brigham City’s Nancy Kennedy. Born and raised in Utah, Nancy was brought up in a service and community-minded family. She graduated from USU, served an LDS mission in Spain and was a wildland firefighter. While raising her five kids, Nancy was a teacher at various levels, including at USU and Bridgerland Technical College, and was a monthly presenter on KSL’s Studio 5 cooking show. Nancy is not a stranger to the Capitol. Nancy’s father, Dale Stratford, served in both the Utah House and Senate. Watch her being honored on the Senate floor here.
5A State Football Champions
The Lehi High School Football Team joined us on Wednesday and were honored for their remarkable achievement as the 2021 5A state champions. Along with their athletic accomplishments, the team was also honored for their academic success and commitment to service in their community. Listen to the citation here.
The Utah Taxpayer Association recently celebrated 100 years of serving Utahns. Founded in 1922, they diligently strive to achieve three major goals: fair and low taxes, prudent and transparent spending and keeping businesses from high government intervention. I am grateful for the organization’s continued efforts to increase awareness and participation in the taxation process. Learn more about their organization here and watch the citation here.
Salem Hills High School Performing Arts
Salem Hills High School was recently named the 2021 NFHS Performing Arts School of Excellence. Utah is only the 6th state to receive this distinction. Salem Hills High School was recognized for their incredible programs, including band, choir, dance, ballroom dance, debate, drama, orchestra and visual arts. In the Senate, we honored the educators who lead these programs, one of whom is a state legislator! We are proud to have such excellent teachers, administrators and students represent us at the national level. Watch the citation here.
Tinted Vehicle Windows
Utah restricts window tints at a higher threshold than surrounding states. Over the years, law enforcement stakeholders have been hesitant to change these restrictions out of concern for officer safety. The Utah Highway Patrol alone pulls over thousands of motorists every month, and troopers value their ability to see the interior of a vehicle as they approach.
S.B. 149 Tinted Vehicle Windows Amendments is a compromise with law enforcement stakeholders to bring Utah closer to tint restrictions in other states without endangering officer safety. S.B. 149 passed in the Senate Business and Labor Committee and will now be heard on the Senate floor. Listen to the committee presentation here.
Public Construction Registry
Before the internet, consumers relied on the yellow pages to find contractors for hire. The internet has increased convenience in many ways, though there isn’t currently an easy way to find licensed contractors and subcontractors. The Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing has a database but isn’t publicly available.
S.B. 148 Construction Registry Amendments creates a public-facing business tool that allows consumers or general contractors to find local licensed subcontractors. S.B. 148 passed in the Senate and will now go to the House for consideration. Watch the bill’s presentation on the Senate floor here.
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 that should be managed differently with the criminal justice system. Nonviolent crimes motivated by addictions or mental illness are best handled by 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 follow 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. The bill passed in the Senate and is now in the House for consideration. Watch the bill's presentation on the Senate floor here.
Utah has strict laws regulating telephone solicitation in the state. However, some areas need clarification. A common solicitation call many Utahns experience is someone interested in buying that person’s home. H.B. 217 Telephone Solicitation Amendments adds this type of call to those prohibited for Utahns on the do-not-call list. The bill also stipulates that a local company is breaking the law if it hires an international call center to call Utahns on the do-not-call list. H.B. 217 also clarifies that each illegal solicitation phone call is a separate violation in Utah. H.B. 217 passed in the House and on its second reading in the Senate. Watch the bill presentation on the Senate floor here.
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, as passed by both the Senate and the House, 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. H.B. 175 also modifies specific definitions of "emotional distress" to include suffering resulting from harm to an animal. When issuing certain protective orders, it allows the court to enjoin the respondent from injuring, threatening to injure or taking possession of certain animals. Watch the discussion on the Senate floor here.
Electronic Free Speech
Over the last few years, social media has become the new public square for discourse and engagement. While this development initially presented an opportunity for the open exchange of ideas, it now poses a threat to freedom of speech by enabling unaccountable corporations with unchecked power to censor, distort and outright ban ideas and people they disagree with. S.B. 198 Electronic Free Speech Amendments requires social media corporations to provide clear information about moderation practices and notify the account holder when the corporation uses a moderation practice on their post.
The bill also creates a mechanism for Utahns to make a complaint to the Division of Consumer Protection if the corporation violates these terms. This bill is currently on the Senate 2nd reading calendar, you can watch the bill discussion on the Senate floor here.
Business Tax Amendments
For most businesses in Utah, certain business supplies are exempt from personal property tax to protect consumers from paying double taxes. When a bakery purchases ingredients such as flour, sugar, eggs, etc, the items are exempt from sales tax, but the cake that is sold is taxed. This ensures the cake is taxed once, not twice to avoid double taxation. Some businesses in Utah are still incurring a double tax, which ultimately, results in the consumer being double taxed. S.B. 93 Business Tax Amendments seeks to remedy this by exempting certain supplies and property used in a service business from incurring specific taxes. This practice is already standard for many businesses. S.B. 93 Business Tax Amendments passed the Senate and is with the House. You can listen to the senate discussion here.
Housing and Transit Reinvestment Zone Amendments
With Utah being one of the fastest-growing states in the nation, we need to innovatively integrate our housing and transportation. S.B. 140 Housing and Transit Reinvestment Zone Amendments, among other efforts, will allow 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. This bill will help communities tackle population growth challenges by expanding housing opportunities and maximizing transportation infrastructure. S.B. 140 passed in the Senate and will now be considered by the House. Listen to the Senate floor presentation here.
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 continues this work by prohibiting an HOA a 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
Installing a solar energy system in certain situations.
These last few years have been trying for our educators and we recognize teaching has become increasingly more difficult with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Educators have worked tirelessly to provide a safe learning environment for our students to thrive. I have been inspired by their resourcefulness, resilience and passion for teaching our students. I express our deep appreciation for teachers and recognize the great impact they have on our students and our state.
Utah is leading the nation in economic performance and continues to exceed expectations. Though Utah’s economy is strong, there are significant factors, including decreased federal stimulus money, that may offset revenue gains.
Fiscally conservative policies and forward-thinking rainy-day funds enabled us to successfully navigate economic uncertainties, provide a $193 million tax cut and continue to fund education and social services at historic levels.
Updated budget estimates are $617 million in one-time and $429 million in ongoing money in the general fund, and $1.68 billion one-time and $1.07 billion ongoing in the education fund. Our strong economy is the reason for the increase in revenue though there is still economic uncertainty. As we work to balance the budget, I am committed to making smart financial decisions for our state that will benefit Utahns long-term.
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 email@example.com. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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