Dear Friends and Neighbors,
We finished our 6th week of session, a week we celebrate as “Utah Saves Week.” We encourage Utahns to learn about saving strategies, building wealth, and connecting with free resources to achieve financial goals. State Treasurer Marlo Oaks and “Bill” joined us on the Senate floor to encourage Utahns to be financially responsible. I encourage you to pledge to save online at utahsaves.org to receive savings advice tailored specifically to your savings goals. Watch the recognition on the Senate floor here.
The last two weeks are hectic. We’ve spent over a month listening to bill presentations, meeting with constituents and talking to our colleagues about changes to legislation that will enable bills to move forward. It is a collaborative process that I wish every Utahn could see up close. Of course, you can follow along by listening to committee meetings and watching floor time debates daily. Go to our legislative website here to learn more about these bills and others.
Russian/Ukrainian Conflict Discussion
As most are aware, earlier this week, Russia invaded Ukraine in an unprovoked and unjustified attack. Bombs are currently dropping across the country, and I condemn Russia’s use of military force against the Ukrainian people. This event has been tragic and traumatizing for innocent civilians, many of whom are fleeing their homes. I also recognize the strains most European countries face in this situation. Like the United States, our allies have implemented sanctions to economically punish the Russian government for its actions. However, many of these countries are dependent on Russian oil and natural gas for their energy sources, creating additional difficulties. While we will continue to make thoughtful moves to more sustainable energy sources here and abroad, I am hopeful that this situation will spark a conversation about utilizing Utah’s and the US’ natural resources to eliminate the financial ties between Russia and their European consumers. In the meantime, I continue to pray for Ukraine and that peace and freedom will prevail.
You can watch Senate leadership discuss the topic here.
Supporting Services for Veterans
The Salt Lake Veterans Home is Utah's oldest and smallest veteran nursing home, but it also serves the largest veteran community in the state. As we worked to keep these veterans safe and healthy during the pandemic, we saw a need to update the facility. H.J.R. 11 Joint Resolution Supporting Services for Veterans encourages the Utah Department of Veterans and Military Affairs to submit a federal grant application for replacement and expansion of the Salt Lake Veterans Home. Once the home is developed, it will become state property. We appreciate this opportunity to help just a few of the Utahns who selflessly sacrificed for our country. H.J.R. 11 passed in both the Senate and House and will be sent to the governor for his consideration.
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 and make informed decisions by creating an online school comparison tool. This tool, which has proven successful in other states, will compare relevant factors between public schools near a family's home. H.B. 270 passed in both the Senate and House and will be sent to the governor for his consideration.
University of Utah Football
This week, we honored athletes, coaches and staff on the University of Utah football team for their outstanding performance during the 2021 season. Despite a restricted 2020 season, the challenges of participating in team athletics during a pandemic and the painful loss of two beloved teammates, these student-athletes united and became the first team in program history to win a Pac-12 championship and earn a place in the Rose Bowl. It was an honor to recognize this team for their extraordinary success. Watch the recognition here.
Hill Air Force Base Families
On Thursday, we honored all Airmen, Guardians, Department of Defense civilians, and their families assigned to Hill Air Force Base. Military families selflessly sacrifice to support their loved ones as they defend our liberties at home and abroad. They are resilient in adapting to ever-changing circumstances, and Utah is a stronger, safer and more vibrant state because of their service. I want to thank all military service members for their sacrifice to the peace we all enjoy in this country. Watch the recognition on the Senate floor here.
Sexual Exploitation Amendments
The increasing demand for child pornography is alarming. The surge in the market have 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, they 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, and the process as it is lacking 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 would 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. S.B.167 is a result of the efforts of lawmakers, stakeholders, law enforcement and government agencies This bill passed in the Senate and will now be considered in the House. Watch the Senate discussion here.
Firearm Preemption Amendments
As highlighted a few weeks ago, we value protecting our freedoms, including the right to bear arms without unnecessary government interference. Current Utah code prohibits cities and counties from imposing regulations on the ownership, possession, purchase, transfer or transport of a gun. But in some recent cases, local governments have attempted to exploit loopholes in state law to regulate firearms. S.B.115 Firearm Preemption Amendments, which has passed the Senate and House, clarifies local governments do not have the authority to regulate firearms and protects citizens from local government gun regulations that contradict state law. Listen to the Senate discussion here.
Water Conservation Modifications Amendments
H.B. 121 Water Conservation Modifications Amendments implements key changes for state entities to encourage conservation, which includes:
Limiting lawn and turf in new state facilities
Reducing outdoor water usage by 5% by 2023, and 25% by 2026
Not watering outdoors from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
In addition to these new guidelines for state entities, homeowners may also be offered incentives to “flip the strip,” which means installing drought-resistant landscaping. The bill also instructs the Water Development Commission to study water conservation on public and private lands and make reports on potential improvements. The goal is to improve conservation in Utah by offering incentives to Utahns, increasing research on the subject and setting an example at the state level. The bill has passed the Senate on the second reading. You can listen to the Senate discussion here.
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 taken in the middle of the night by an employee and threatened, leaving them with long term trauma. The bill aims to prevent this sort of situation from happening and promotes 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. This bill was heard and passed favorably by the Senate Business and Labor Committee. You can listen to the committee hearing here.
Navajo Nation Leadership Recognition
We were grateful to have leaders from the Navajo Nation join us in the Senate on Wednesday. Navajo Nation Council Delegate Pernell Halona and others were recognized for their contributions and accomplishments. The Navajo Nation contributes to our state in meaningful ways, and we were grateful for the opportunity to highlight their community and strengths. Watch the recognition here.
Association of General Contractors Recognition
We were able to recognize 100 years of work by the Associated General Contractors of America, Utah Chapter. Founded in 1922, this group represents over 600 members that lend a hand in creating and maintaining an impressive group of contractors in Utah. They lead the industry in workforce development, skills training, safety training, apprenticeship, leadership training for project managers and project superintendents while emphasizing integrity and responsibility. We were excited to have them join us on the Senate floor. You can watch the recognition here.
USU Football Season Recognition
It was a delight to have the Utah State University football come to the Capitol to recognize them for their amazing season. They performed well on the field and in the classroom, demonstrating great character and hard work. They ended the season as Mountain West Champions and winner of the Jimmy Kimmel Bowl! As a legislature, we were so excited to celebrate their successes with them! You can watch the recognition here.
Honoring the Work of Primary Care Providers to the Citizens of Utah
Utah has top-notch healthcare providers who deliver exceptional healthcare, resulting from dedicated medical professionals and staff. The health of Utahns is paramount, and these individuals devote countless hours to improving the health and wellbeing of those in our state. H.C.R. 11 Honoring the Work of Primary Care Providers to the Citizens of Utah recognizes their efforts and expresses our immense gratitude passed in the Senate and House. You can listen to the Senate presentation here.
When a violent criminal is charged and convicted, the perpetrator of that crime is often 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. H.B. 134 passed in the Senate and House and now goes to the Governor’s office for his consideration. Watch the bill presentation on the Senate floor here.
Organizations, nonprofits or individuals sometimes offer grants to fund election programs or pilot programs. 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. S.B. 219 ensures that Utah’s elections are fair by prohibiting undue influence from outside entities or individuals. S.B. 219 passed in the Senate Government Operations and Political Subdivisions Committee and will now be considered on the Senate floor. Listen to the committee meeting here.
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. H.B. 171 passed in the Senate and House and will now go to the governor for his consideration. Watch the bill presentation on the Senate floor here.
Law Enforcement Recording Release
When a firearm is discharged by law enforcement, and someone is injured, some individuals want to see the body cam or car footage. H.B. 260 Law Enforcement Recording Release Amendments aims to balance all interests by allowing an individual to request law enforcement video recordings if the prosecutor has declined to file any charges. The recordings may also be released if criminal charges are filed, as long as the judge determines it wouldn’t influence a potential jury. The bill also prohibits the release of a video recording if an individual injured in the incident or an immediate family member requests it. H.B. 260 passed in the House and the Senate Government Operations and Political Subdivisions Committee. It will now be considered on the full Senate. Listen to the committee bill presentation here.
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 helps support refugee students throughout the school enrollment process. The bill addresses three challenges refugee students may experience, including:
Age Recognition – Occasionally, the age of refugee students is inaccurately documented on their paperwork. The bill provides a remedial procedure for students who don’t have documentation or if the documentation is inaccurate.
Transcript Repository – The bill creates a space for collaboration between schools receiving students from the same region. For example, if two Afghan students attended the same school in Kabul but are enrolled in different schools in Utah.
Conditional Enrollment – When immigrants and refugees first come to the United States, they go through medical screening for communicable diseases and quite often receive a number of vaccinations. The first doses of some vaccines are administered between 3-6 months before arrival and the second doses 1-2 months after arrival. H.B. 230 standardizes a conditional enrollment period which allows these students to attend school while finalizing their vaccinations.
H.B. 230 passed in the Senate and House and will now go to the Governor for his consideration. Watch the bill presentation on the Senate floor here.
Higher Education Data Privacy and Governance
In 2018, a bill passed that protected public school student data and made 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 those 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. S.B. 226 passed in the Senate and will now be up for consideration in the House. Watch the bill presentation on the Senate floor 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 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