Dear Friends and Neighbors,
This last week was our Interim Legislative Session. Even without the pandemic, there is always much to cover, and this month was no exception. We’ve also had a busy couple of weeks on the COVID-19 front. I’ll share summaries of a few of the issues discussed in interim committees as well as some of the developments in our COVID-19 efforts.
During the Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Interim Committee, a bill was discussed that would adjust sentencing requirements for those convicted of Driving Under the Influence. It is considered a consensus bill that has been in the works since the last session. It adjusts sentencing guidelines for a number of DUI offenses, including felony DUI, where somebody has been convicted of three DUI charges in a two-year period. The changes reflect data that indicate the increased risks of fatal accidents correlate directly with higher blood-alcohol levels. To listen to the committee meeting, click here
With the chaos of the pandemic on so many minds, many Utahns have wanted more information about emergency powers in the state. The Government Operations Interim Committee heard a presentation about the law’s history. The Emergency Powers Act was enacted in Utah in 1981, with a few changes made since that time. Its stated purpose was to grant emergency disaster authority to the governor and political subdivisions based on increasing and existing threats of natural and human-caused disasters. The governor was granted authority to use existing state resources as necessary to direct state and local government and the power to recommend and advise evacuations.
The act also authorized governing bodies to carry out measures ordered by the governor as well as additional measures the governing body may deem necessary. Political Subdivisions under the act, granted authority to the chief executive officer to use the resources of the political subdivision, direct local officers and agencies, and some of the same evacuation authority given to the governor. To listen to the presentation, click here.
The Judiciary Interim Committee heard a presentation on draft legislation seen as a small piece of the affordable housing puzzle. There are about 130,000 households in Utah that pay more than 50 percent of their income for housing. One of the state's goals is to have responsible and stable renters, so it is imperative they understand the full cost of renting a unit before signing a lease. The bill provides renters protection and incentivizes landlords to use best practices. To listen to the committee meeting, click here.
The Health and Human Services Interim Committee heard a report related to plans for distributing and implementing COVID-19 vaccinations in Utah. The state has been divided into multiple jurisdictions with a phased approach. There will most likely be limited doses available in the first wave, which will be reserved for those working for healthcare providers, with the general populations receiving vaccinations in later waves as supplies become more available. To listen to the presentation, click here.
Highlights from Governor Hebert during last week’s COVID-19 briefing:
Utah is one week in to the new transmission index. It will take another week to begin to see the effects of the new risk level guidelines.
Many Utahns have been taking this virus seriously and following precautionary measures. We know many are willing to wear a mask and limit their social gatherings to protect the vulnerable. But in order for us to be successful, everyone must buy in.
Wearing a mask is the simplest approach we can take. People need to continue to live life to the fullest, but with an extra measure of caution and awareness.
Dr. Angela Dunn, state epidemiologist, said they have prioritized asking individuals to take proper actions. But our hospitals are getting full and we haven’t had anyone hospitalized for influenza yet.
Dr. Eddie Stenehjem, an infectious disease specialist at Intermountain Healthcare, said Intermountain Healthcare opened a surge ICU in St. George and preparing for another surge and opening up overflow areas.
The graph below shows Utah’s ICU capacity from May 1 through October 22.
State Data (as of October 27th)
Total Cases: 107,228
Total People Tested: 1,044,695
Total Hospitalizations: 5,169
Total Deaths: 578
Estimated Recovered: 107,228
Utah County Dept Health
Total Cases: 28,352
Total Tested: 217,273
Estimated Recovered: 21,376
The new COVID-19 transmission index levels – high, moderate, and low– categorize counties into three levels. These levels correspond to COVID-19 case rates, positivity rates and ICU utilization. Read additional information about levels, counties and requirements for each level here.
Twenty-one counties will be designated as high transmission areas. Last week it was six counties.
Three counties are in the moderate areas of transmission:
Five counties are in the low transmission areas:
There are no limits on the number of attendees at public gatherings for any of the COVID-19 transmission index levels. For example, live events, movies, sporting events, weddings, recreation and entertainment. Requirements in high and moderate counties include:
Casual social gatherings are limited to 10 individuals.
Masks worn in public settings, such as stores, libraries, and restaurants when not eating/drinking (moderate counties remain under a mask requirement until October 29).
Restaurants/bars must have 6 feet of distance between parties.
Good hygiene practices are some of the best ways to fight any illness and stop germs from spreading. These practices include:
Staying home when sick.
Not touching your face with unwashed hands.
Washing hands often with soap and water.
Coughing or sneezing into a tissue.
Avoiding high-contact surfaces.
Utah’s Competitive Edge
Utah ranked third in the 2020 State New Economy Index, which measures the extent to which state economies are knowledge-based, globalized, entrepreneurial, IT-driven and innovation-oriented. Learn more here.
Utah ranked most efficient in Wallethub’s 2020’s Most and Least Energy-Efficient States. Read more here.
The State Business Tax Climate Index ranked Utah’s tax code 8th in the nation. The ranking was based on the competitiveness and efficiency of each state’s tax provisions. More information here.
In the News:
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