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Happy Thanksgiving (& Interim Session)

Dear Friends and Neighbors,


Thanksgiving is here, and I want to thank you for the opportunity you have given me to serve on your behalf in the Utah Senate. This has been an amazing experience, but I feel the enormous weight of responsibility that comes with a position like this. It is especially true during times of stress and strife. It is why I also greatly appreciate your input and advice. There is only so much experience one person can have, so it is important to hear from you, my constituents, when state laws and policies affect your lives in ways that I may not fully understand.


During the pandemic, our governor has tried to walk a fine line between keeping Utahns safe while also keeping the state running. We haven’t all agreed with him on everything and I’ve appreciated hearing from you about some of your disagreements. We recently had our interim session where we discussed draft legislation. You’ll find a lot of upcoming legislation addresses issues uncovered by the pandemic and civil unrest. I’ve included summaries of a few of these draft bills below.


I wish you all a happy, healthy and safe Thanksgiving. Let’s watch out for those who have been greatly affected by the pandemic, whether it’s their health, lack of employment, or mental and emotional well-being. A little kindness can go a long way at a time like this.


November Interim Session


State Emergency Purchasing


An issue that has come up more than once through the pandemic is the existence of emergency state purchasing contracts that were completed outside of the official state bidding process. A bill heard during the Economic Development and Workforce Services Interim Committee is designed to create more accountability in emergency purchases while leaving the executive branch leeway to act quickly when the situation requires it. This bill places a 30-day cap on the length of an emergency contract with the exception of natural disasters. After the 30-day cap, a state agency will have to follow the normal competitive bid process to select vendors. To listen to the committee meeting, click here.


Roadway Obstruction Amendments


During the Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Interim Committee, the members heard a presentation on draft legislation concerning roadway obstructions. This year, with civil unrest in many cities across the nation, peaceful protests have turned into riots. In some of those riots, participants actively blocked vehicles' paths, and in some cases, they have threatened the occupants. There have also been cases where first responders have been unable to reach injured people because of rioters actively obstructing traffic. This legislation will update Utah’s criminal code to deter these types of activities in the case of rioting. To listen to the bill presentation, click here.


Competency Based Hiring


For over 21 years, the Utah Department of Human Resource Management has had a policy when hiring that if a position advertised has an educational requirement. There needs to be an opportunity for applicants to provide equivalent experience and not be excluded solely on the lack of a degree in a specific field. Recently the department researched the reasons for this policy, and they found that the pool of applicants for many positions was lacking. The research showed that many people had equivalent experience gained in the military or on the job but were not applying because of the advertised educational requirements. This change in policy worked extremely well. A draft bill presented in the Government Operations Interim Committee would make this policy law in local government hiring practices. To listen to the bill presentation, click here.


Additional information about our Interim Session can be found here.


Governor’s Briefing


During Gov. Herbert’s weekly COVID-19 briefing, he shared safety recommendations for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday. His recommendations include:

  • Gather with only members of your own household.

  • Wear a mask and social distance when gathering with people outside your household.

  • Hold shorter Thanksgiving celebrations, giving the virus less time to spread.

  • Gather outside when possible.

  • Ventilate indoor gathering areas by leaving windows open and turning on fans.

  • Limit people in attendance.

See a full list of state recommendations for the holidays here. Watch the briefing here.

Influenza Comparison

There has been a lot of discussion about the comparative effects of Covid-19 with the seasonal Flu in Utah. Here is a simple graph that may be helpful:

Vaccine


The state released information on the COVID-19 vaccine, including the anticipated vaccine approval and distribution timelines. Learn more here.


Unemployment


The number of total new claims filed for unemployment benefits in Utah for the week of November 8-14 was 4,617, with more than $9 million paid in benefits. There were 28,168 continued claims filed during that same week. The number of individuals who have not requested a benefit for two consecutive weeks as of November 7 was 3,264. Read the report here.


Outdoor Recreation


The Utah Office of Outdoor Recreation recently announced the Winter Responsible Recreation campaign with the increased popularity in recreation due to COVID-19 and the easily accessible access to Utah’s outdoors. Read more here.


CDC Thanksgiving Recommendations


The CDC updated health recommendations for the Thanksgiving holiday. Read the recommendations here.


State Data (as of November 24th)

Total Cases: 182,121

Total People Tested: 1,367,935

Total Hospitalizations: 7,702

Total Deaths: 808

Estimated Recovered: 118,773


Utah County Dept Health

Total Cases: 45,902

Total Tested: 283,197

Hospitalizations: 1,368

Deaths: 120

Estimated Recovered: 31,060

Additional information here.

In the News:

Traveling for Thanksgiving? The TSA has travel tips you need to know

Herbert urges Utahns practice caution ahead of Thanksgiving

U.S. official expects quick vaccine distribution

Gephardt: Health insurers refunding premiums during COVID-19 pandemic


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 dmccay@le.utah.gov. 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 jgould@le.utah.gov. 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




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