Dear Friends and Neighbors,
You may have heard that Governor Cox called the Utah Legislature into a special session last week. A special session can be called for a variety of reasons, but it is usually to take care of urgent issues that can’t wait for our general session that starts in January. In this case, we had to make budget decisions because of stimulus funding the state has received from the federal government. We also had Covid-19 related legislation as well as minor fixes to laws that were passed in the 2021 General Session. It is usually legislation that was vetted and debated in committee during the general session but, for one reason or another small errors were overlooked and needed to be rectified.
As summer is right around the corner I believe there are reasons for optimism. Covid-19 cases are greatly reduced and our economy is humming. As much as we all enjoy a sunny day, rain is a desperate need. If you pray, remember that our farms are in dire need of water.
Masks in Schools
As our country continues to make great strides in the fight against COVID-19, many states across the nation are beginning to lift mask mandates following updated CDC guidelines. With more and more Utahns getting vaccinated, and with the decrease in cases and hospitalizations in our state, it is important to allow students and families to choose whether or not to wear masks during the 2021-22 school year. The Legislature passed H.B. 1007 Face Covering Amendments, removing the mask requirement in K-12 schools and higher education institutions. These changes came from S.B. 195 to ensure consistent policy regarding oversight for all Utah schools.
Critical Race Theory
American history should be taught in a way that accurately depicts our country’s highs and lows, triumphs and mistakes. Although our nation’s history is complex, we continue to strive to be better. During a Senate-called extraordinary session, the Senate passed S.R. 901 Senate Resolution on Critical Race Theory in Public Schools, encouraging the State Board of Education to review standards for curriculum and ensure no curriculum or instruction materials in our state include the following concepts:
That one race is inherently superior or inferior to another race
That an individual should be discriminated against or receive adverse treatment because of the individual's race
That an individual's moral character is determined by the individual's race
Additionally, during our May interim meetings, the Education Interim Committee voted to study critical race theory throughout the year. Read the Senate Majority Caucus statement here.
Our most important duty as legislators is to preserve Utahns' freedoms, including the freedom to bear arms without government interference. The Senate passed S.R. 902 Senate Resolution Declaring Support for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms and Exploring Sanctuary State Status during a Senate-called extraordinary session. This resolution affirms the right to keep and bear arms as a fundamental right protected by the Bill of Rights and the Utah State Constitution and supports the idea of exploring the possibility of becoming a Second Amendment sanctuary state.
Accepting and Appropriating Federal Funds
This month, we convened in a special session for the primary purpose of accepting the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds Congress allocated to Utah. The ARPA funds total roughly $1.7 billion. To accomplish this, we passed S.J.R. 101 Joint Resolution Approving the Acceptance of Federal Funds and S.B. 1001 Appropriations Adjustments, as a companion bill to S.J.R. 101. Whereas S.J.R. 101 approves acceptance of the federal funds, S.B. 1001 appropriates some of the funds for specific purposes. This bill appropriates $571 million of the roughly $1.7 billion that the state is expected to receive in ARPA funds. Additionally, we made a few adjustments to the budget we passed earlier this year to replace some of the state funding with ARPA funding.
Here are a few of the items we funded with ARPA this month:
$103 million for business and economic development
$100 million for water conservation
$165 million for social services (includes a food bank in San Juan County, mental health services and vaccine distribution)
Our state will receive the funding in two phases – 50 percent this May and the remaining in May 2022. The U.S. Department of the Treasury released additional guidelines on May 10 pertaining to how these funds may be used. There are still questions and clarifications needed on certain guidelines, and there will likely be further updates from the U.S. Treasury.
We are committed to spending the federal stimulus responsibly with a focus on funding items that:
Create generational impact
Provide statewide benefits to citizens
Generate sizable benefits without future liability
Addresses long-term challenges in our state.
Over the interim and during the 2022 General session, we will continue to review how to best appropriate the funds within priorities that fit the guiding principles.
One of the most debated issues during the 2021 General Session was bail reform. A bill from the 2020 General Session, H.B. 206 Bail and Pretrial Release Amendments, was partially repealed and a working group convened with the express intent of studying the issue and recommending future legislation. One of those bills, H.B. 1006 Sheriff Release Amendments, creates a process for counties to post a written policy that authorizes county sheriffs to release an individual on their own recognizance in specific circumstances and regardless of jail capacity. H.B. 1006 passed both the Senate and House unanimously.
Adjustments to 2021 General Session Bills
Utah is famous for its 45-day legislative session. As part-time legislators, we pass legislation and balance a budget in a fraction of the time that other states require, and as a result of our efficient work, we have been voted one of the best run states in the country for many years. Occasionally, errors and omissions are found after we complete our work and during a special session is a good time to make adjustments.
H.B. 1001 Peace Officer Training Amendments creates a new effective date of July 1, 2021 for the law created in H.B. 162 from the 2021 General Session. The bill required law enforcement officers to receive additional training in methods of restraint and intervention responses for people suffering a mental health crisis.
H.B. 98 Local Government Building Regulation Amendments from the 2021 General Session passed and was vetoed by Gov. Cox over concerns from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Minor changes were made to satisfy FEMA’s concerns and the updated bill, H.B. 1003 Government Building Regulation Amendments, passed in the Senate and House.
H.B. 1004 COVID-19 Grant Program Amendments modifies an existing grant program for institutions of higher education that is administered by the Governor’s Office of Economic Development (GOED). It also creates a matching grant program for local governments, local districts and special service districts administered by the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget (GOMB).
H.B. 1005 Redistricting Amendments changes the existing timeline of the Independent Redistricting Commission to account for the pandemic-related delay in receiving data from the U.S. Census Bureau.
H.B. 433 Amendments Related to Infrastructure Funding from the 2021 General Session, funded state infrastructure projects through a combination of appropriations and bond authorizations. The new bill, H.B. 1008 changes the funding sources by swapping appropriations and bond authorizations on some transit projects.
H.B. 1009 Health Spa Services Protection Act Amendments makes some modifications to the law that was changed in H.B. 321 Division of Consumer Protection Amendments during the 2021 General Session. H.B. 1009 delays the effective date of one provision of the original bill to July 1, 2021, which will allow health spas to secure financing when they move to a new location.
S.B. 1003 Electronic Cigarette Product and Nicotine Product Amendments closes some unintended loopholes created by previous e-cigarette and vaping related legislation.
S.B. 1004 Peace Officer Training Qualifications Amendments makes changes to the law created in S.B. 102 Peace Officer Training Qualifications Amendments during the 2021 General Session. S.B. 1004 amends the eligibility requirement for non-citizens who receive POST training and specifies that the five years of U.S. residency required needs to be immediately prior to the application date.
S.B. 1005 Upstart Amendments expands the scope of the UPSTART program. UPSTART is an online tool that prepares preschool age children for kindergarten. S.B. 1005 allows kindergarten students in the 2021-2022 school year to enroll in UPSTART to remedy missed educational opportunities during the pandemic.
S.B. 1007 Public Notice Amendments changes the state’s public notice requirements by allowing limits to the number of physical notices required.
One of the most uplifting events during the special session was the unanimous passage of S.C.R. 101, Concurrent Resolution Honoring Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Communities. This resolution was passed during Asian Pacific American Heritage Month and is a powerful reminder that we all must condemn bias and discrimination.
In Utah, Asian Americans are the fastest-growing minority population in the state, with over 50 percent growth in the past decade. This group includes more than 60 ethnic groups and over 100 languages spoken. Thanks to this diverse tapestry of culture and tradition, the AAPI community in Utah has made numerous meaningful contributions to the state. Their involvement in Utah’s history spans over 150 years, and includes laying railroad tracks, starting businesses and serving the nation in uniform, amongst many others.
With the unanimous passage of this resolution, the Legislature sent an important message: that we respect our diverse communities; that we acknowledge their cultural and economic contributions to Utah; and that we take pride in affirming the concept alongside the AAPI community that race and ethnicity should not determine or limit value and opportunity.
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