Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Fall in Utah is beautiful and like always, the leaves changing colors is a can’t miss event. I hope all of you have been able to take advantage of the beautiful fall we are experiencing. Hopefully, next up: plenty of snow to fill our mountains and ski slopes.
This last week we had a very productive interim session, meeting in committee to discuss possible solutions to issues that face our state.
Speaking of solutions, monoclonal antibody treatments are showing extremely promising results. Intermountain Healthcare’s study indicates with the treatment, Utah could see a 57% reduction in hospitalizations a day of those who would otherwise be hospitalized. The treatment is free to Utahns and paid for by the federal government.
The Utah Department of Health testified before the Health and Human Services Interim Committee meeting regarding Utah’s monoclonal antibody treatment progress. Currently, Utah is administering 450-550 doses weekly, but has 2,000 doses available. We need to be administering all 2,000 doses weekly to prevent as many Utahns as possible from getting hospitalized. By removing obstacles to allow more individuals to administer the treatment, we can save more lives. Listen to the meeting here.
I appreciate the UDOH’s work on getting this life-saving treatment to Utahns who need it most, but we need to eliminate barriers. We need to be administering all 2,000 doses weekly to prevent as many Utahns as possible from getting hospitalized. By removing obstacles to allow more individuals to administer the treatment, we can save more lives.
School Curriculum Transparency
The Education Interim Committee voted to create a working group to study school curriculum transparency. The working group’s goal is to explore how to build a better process for parents to observe and provide feedback on what is taught in classrooms, creating a more open approach to education. The intent is for school districts to receive input from parents on supplemental materials and controversial issues before it reaches the point of contention. Some Utah schools already practice this, but possible legislation could expand the practice to a statewide expectation. The working group will report back to the Education Interim Committee in November with their findings and recommendation. Listen to the discussion here.
Infrastructure and Earthquakes
A civil engineering professor at Utah State University presented to the Infrastructure and General Government Appropriations Subcommittee on earthquake engineering and seismic activity. In Utah, we face significant seismic hazards. Nearly 80% of our state’s population lives within 15 miles of the Wasatch Fault Line, the area with the greatest earthquake hazards. During an earthquake, dangers include loss of drinking water, home displacement and economic turmoil. The professor proposed creating an earthquake engineering research center to train engineers and improve Utah's response to seismic activity. Listen to the presentation here.
State Water Policy and Drought Conditions
Utah has moved from an "exceptional" drought category to an "extreme" drought category, which is a slight improvement. Utah's Department of Natural Resources Director, Brian Steed, presented this update to the Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environment Interim Committee along with news that state soil this year has a much higher moisture level than last year. This means snowpack should reach reservoirs before it is absorbed during runoff.
While the news is positive, we all still need to continue to conserve water as we recover from this historic drought. Our state's expected population growth heightens the need to conserve water. As we strive to provide adequate water supplies, the state has created several relevant government programs. Including an expanded turf buyback program, an integrated land use and water use program, an agricultural optimization program and a program to install secondary water meters. You can learn more here.
Law Enforcement and Mental Health
The Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Interim Committee heard presentations on the need for mental health services in law enforcement. PTSD is a widely recognized problem, and many strategies utilized in our nation’s military are making their way to law enforcement agencies around the country. Law enforcement officers face many stressful situations daily and dealing with that stress can significantly affect everyone around them. The committee voted unanimously to create a committee bill exploring options for mental health services for our law enforcement community. Listen to the committee discussion here.
The Judiciary Interim Committee heard a presentation proposing an audit on the 2020 general election. As a Legislature, we continually work to keep our election laws accurate to ensure election integrity is upheld. While improvements can always be made, Utah has been lauded as the gold standard for elections across the nation for years. Listen to the presentation here.
The Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Interim Committee heard a presentation calling for additional clarity with Utah laws regarding DUI offenders who cause serious injury or death. Often the penalties for these offenses are severe but can vary depending on the section of code used in charging the defendant, causing inconsistencies in charges and sentencing. Legislation was proposed to clarify, though not lessen, penalties resulting in more consistent outcomes for DUI offenders who seriously injure or cause death. Listen to the presentation here.
Business and Labor
The Business and Labor Interim Committee held a public hearing to gather input and feedback on the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration vaccine announcement. According to the announcement, the department is developing a rule to require all businesses with 100 or more employees to mandate vaccines or submit to weekly COVID-19 testing as a condition of employment. The committee heard from over 800 Utahns, the largest legislative hearing in the state’s history. Read more about the meeting here.
The Utah Senate and House Republican caucuses are taking the following actions:
Supporting Attorney General Sean Reyes as he works with other states to pursue legal action against the federal government.
Encouraging Governor Spencer Cox to reject these new Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requirements as allowed under the emergency temporary standard process.
Preparing to respond quickly with legislation once an official rule is released.
I want to reaffirm my continued support for the vaccination effort. However, requiring employers to force these decisions upon their employees is not the proper role of government and should not become the new precedent.
I want to thank everyone who took the time to share their thoughts, concerns and experiences, whether at the public hearing or through emails, calls or texts.
Life Science Caucus
Utah is a world leader in genetic research and in the manufacture of medical devices, such as replacement heart valves, catheter and imaging and stroke intervention technologies. In addition, the life sciences industry, which includes medical device manufacturing, diagnostics, biotechnology and biopharmaceuticals, contributes to over 130,000 jobs and accounts for over 8% of Utah’s annual GDP. Utah’s life sciences industry is one of the fastest-growing segments of our state’s economy and contributes significantly to our economic diversity.
This month, we held the first ever Utah Life Sciences Innovation Caucus. The legislative caucus aims to raise the visibility of Utah’s life sciences industry, educate lawmakers on issues important to this growing sector of the state’s economy and provide a platform for discussion that will lead to more informed public policy decisions. We are excited to bring members of the Legislature together to help support the industry’s expansion in our state and look forward to the innovation that will drive solutions to some of our most pressing healthcare challenges.
During the 2021 General Session and First Special Session, the Legislature appropriated funds to start double tracking the Utah Transit Authority’s FrontRunner commuter rail system between Ogden and Provo. Double tracking will minimize delays and improve accessibility for passengers. Last week, Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) informed the Infrastructure and General Government Appropriations Subcommittee that, among other developments, they have begun preliminary engineering designs for certain double track segments. Early next year, UDOT will gather public input on this new system and how it can best serve our communities. You can learn more about the project’s progress here.
This interim, the Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS) updated the Public Utilities, Energy and Technology Interim Committee on its carbon free technologies project. Right now, 41% of UAMPS energy is derived from zero-emission resources and is expected to grow to 61% by 2030 with help from the project. Listen to the update here.
Additionally, Utah Clean Cities came to the Capitol to update the committee on advanced fuels projects across the state. These projects include advanced clean energy storage, an advanced fuel station, Bayview Landfill RNG project and more. You can learn about these projects here.
Utah’s Legislative Redistricting Committee recently concluded its statewide public hearing tour. The committee held over a dozen meetings across the state, gathering feedback, reviewing maps and listening to Utahns’ concerns. Hundreds of Utahns attended the public hearings in person and online, and nearly 100 maps were shared with the committee.
The Independent Redistricting Commission will present maps to the Legislative Committee on Monday, November 1 and the full Legislature plans to adopt maps in mid-to-late November. For the most updated information, visit redistricting.utah.gov.
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