The Issues


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2017 Legislative Session

Weeks 1 and 2

Monday January 23 marked the beginning of yet another Utah Legislative session and big things are happening this year. Already both the Senate and the House have heard over 30 bills each and so far 11 have passed through both houses. These passed bills range from a resolution recognizing the Lunar New Year to motor vehicle accident cost recoveries.  For more information on passed bills go to

Along with working on bills, we have been hard at work in subcommittees creating a base budget for the state. Creating the budget is one of the most important responsibilities that the legislature has. The state constitution in Utah dictates that we are required to have a “balanced budget” meaning that the state cannot spend more than they will earn. The hard part is getting all of the subcommittees and state agencies working together to make necessary cuts to their budgets so that we do not overspend, but while also maintaining critical programs. This last Friday we finished listening and approving each committee’s base budget and will now look at new “building blocks” for various programs.  Around the second week in February we’ll have the final revenue estimates for the year and we’ll then know definitively what the state budget total will have to be.    

It has already been a privilege to hear from many in the community regarding issues facing the legislature this year and I look forward to continuing to hear from you.  Please let me know if you have any questions, comments, or concerns. This is going to be a great session!

Week 3

The third week of the 2017 legislative session is coming to a close and things are really flying here at the Capitol. Activities have ranged from celebrating college days to listening to famed English Tenor and Actor Alfie Boe (who is a Utah resident) sing “Oh Danny Boy” when he visited the House Chamber. Of course it isn’t all fun and games, there has been a lot of work getting done this week. Due to the increased amount of bills flowing in, floor time has increased to over 2 hours each day. Therefore, we saw over 50 bills get passed and become ready to be signed by the Governor with many more expected in the coming week.

Tuesday February 7th was the last day for the base budgets, which we have been working on for the past two weeks, to be passed by both the House and the Senate.  Current revenue estimates suggest we have approximately $280 million in new revenue.  While that is a lot of money it represents less than 2% on a $15 billion budget – in the coming weeks we will start working towards using our limited funds to help fund the most critical projects across the state. It is going to take a lot of time and work, but in the end I expect we will have increased our reserves, increased our support of education and above all – balanced the budget.

Week 4

With week 4 wrapping up we are officially over halfway through the session. It has been a flurry of excitement as bills have been heard and budgets are created.  Some highlighted bills and events from the week:

H.B .202, Trespass Amendments

During the interim a member of law enforcement who lives in our district brought a surprising issue to my attention.  It was created due to what he referred to as “squatter’s rights.”  The concept was that if a person was invited to stay as a guest, but then would not leave after a period of time the “squatter” actually had rights to the residence where they were staying.  The House recently passed H.B. 202, Trespass Amendments, with just one dissenting vote. This bill creates a new definition under the trespass statute called “long-term guest.” It would make it easier for an individual who invites someone into his or her home temporarily to rescind that invitation without being forced to go through the eviction process.

A long-term guest is defined in this bill as someone who is not a tenant but who is given permission by a resident to stay in his or her home for a period longer than 48 hours. There have been circumstances where, upon refusal to leave when asked, guests have attempted to establish rights to remain on the premises. Under this law, that guest would be guilty of criminal trespass and law enforcement action could be taken.

H.B. 146, Partially Filled Prescriptions

Utah, like many states, is facing an opioid epidemic that has led to hundreds of deaths. Seventy percent of those who misuse narcotics report obtaining the drugs from family, friends or off the street. The practice of illegally obtaining narcotics is commonly referred to as diversion.

H.B. 146, Partial Filling of a Schedule II Controlled Substance Prescription, would help reduce diversion by allowing a partial prescription to be filled instead of the full amount, upon request of the prescriber or patient. A partial fill is considered anything less than the initially prescribed quantity.

If a patient chooses multiple partial fills, the total amount allocated cannot exceed the total quantity prescribed and the cost cannot exceed the original cost of the full prescription.  

H.B. 146 will empower patients and prescribers with the ability to request a partial fill of a Scheduled II drug, rather than depending on efforts to safely dispose of unused medication in the case that only a portion of the original prescription is needed.

Aerospace Day on the Hill

Aerospace Day took over the Capitol rotunda on Wednesday morning. Exhibitors like Boeing, Hill Air Force Base and Utah Advanced Materials and Manufacturing Initiative (UAMMI) set up booths and gave presentations to legislators and citizens alike. The children loved the small planes and drones on display.

Did you know sunscreen was illegal in school?

H.B. 288, School Sunscreen Provision, hopes to make right a surprising wrong. Currently, public schools do not allow students to possess and use sunscreen while at school, but this bill will change that. This legislation also permits a school employee to apply sunscreen to students. H.B. 288 passed the House of Representatives with a vote of 68 - 1 and is now in the Senate Rules Committee.

Week 5

This week was packed with federal delegation visits, floor time, and budgeting meetings. Senator Orrin Hatch, Congressman Mike Lee, and Congresswoman Mia Love all came to speak to the House. Sen. Hatch explained the work being done on the federal level to rescind the Bears Ears National Monument and asked the body to give President Trump a chance. Sen. Lee spoke to the House members about federalism, executive power, and returning power to the people. Rep. Love recognized that many people are nervous about the changes in Washington, and tried to alleviate some of the fears by discussing the good that is occurring regarding transparency and healthcare.

The House passed over 60 bills off the floor this week. The budget continues to be formed as we began prioritizing House and Senate lists for what they feel needs to be funded. Getting everyone to agree can be difficult, but this year we are seeing a lot of consensus in major projects that need funding, which has helped the process immensely.

Thank you for all of the support! We will continue to work hard in the last 2 weeks of the session cleaning up bills and most importantly shaping the budget for the state. 

Week 6

It is hard to believe that the session is almost over. A lot has gone on this week in preparation for March 9th. The House leadership and joint leadership have finished creating their priority lists for the state budget and have taken the combined list to their individual caucuses. Once the caucuses have approved of the budget it will be taken to the Executive Appropriation Committee to be voted on. It is a long continuous process but we are confident that it will all be wrapped up by the end of the session.

This week also marked the beginning of the sifting process for bills. This is the process when the Whip and Assistant Whip go through all of the bills on the 3rd reading calendar and create a priority list that will be heard on the floor. Thus all of the bills that were previously on the calendar get taken off and a new calendar list is created with all the bills that need to be heard.  There is not enough time for every single bill to get heard so this process will allow the most important pieces of legislation to be dealt with and allow us to finish within the 45-day time frame. 

Week 7 - Concluding Session Highlights 

Education funding

  • About 60% of new revenue this year went to public education, the largest share in recent memory

  • 4% increase in WPU, putting money where it can allow for greater flexibility and local control

  • Fully funded enrollment growth, approximately $70 million

  • 6.7% funding increase over last year

  • Funding for Schools for the Deaf and Blind to build a new campus in Utah County

  • $5 million teacher supplies and materials reimbursement, shifted from one-time to ongoing funding

  • $2.6 million appropriation for educator licensing fees

  • HB 212 gives bonuses up to $5,000 to highly effective teachers in schools in high poverty areas

Higher Education

  • About 25% of new revenue

    • $62 million for operations

    • $13 million for buildings

Poverty, Homelessness and JRI

  • We reinvested more than $40 million of Medicaid and CHIP savings into homelessness initiatives, justice reform and a new juvenile justice reform.

  • $1 million Employability to Careers Program (HB 240)


  • $1,178,200 appropriated for juvenile justice system reform (HB 239)

  • $1,560,000 for Indigent Defense Commission

  • $654,700 for electronic records system

    • Provides data connection among all involved agencies

    • Ensures judges have access to screenings when making decision (screens now the responsibility of counties in order to receive state mental health/substance abuse dollars)

    • Allows for analysis of application of JRI to ensure the processes is being followed and offenders are sent to appropriate programs

  • $1 million for a vivitrol (substance abuse) pilot program

  • $11.4 million for mental health treatment

  • $6 million for behavioral health treatment (mental health and substance abuse)

  • $3 million appropriated for jail-based substance abuse programs

  • If fully funded and combined with a small county match, the 3 programs above will draw down an additional $32 million in federal funds

Homelessness and Public Safety

  • $35 million this year to battle homelessness

  • $9.85 million for new homeless resource centers (HB 441)

  • $3,250,000 for affordable housing (HB 36)

  • HB 283 authorizes the use of funds from the Family Employment Program to help prevent families with children from becoming homeless.  

  • Funding for Salt Lake County to clean up crime around homeless shelters and protect the vulnerable

    • $264,400 for increased policing around the Midvale Shelter

    • Nearly $3 million for county jail beds

    • $427,000 in jail contract treatment

  • Nearly $5,854,200 to raise pay and establish a career ladder for corrections officers

  • $860,000 to complete implementation of UHP career ladder


  • Approximately $6 million ($22 million with federal match) in approved portion of expansion for lowest-income adults with children (HB 437, 2016)

  • $1.4 million ($5.5 million with federal match) for dental services for disabled adults

  • Disability services

    • $4.1 million for additional needs for disabled individuals

    • $2 million this year ($4.7 million including federal match), in addition to $10 million the past two years ($5M/$5M), to offer a competitive wage reimbursement to companies to hire workers to begin clearing out DSPD waiting list

    • $570,000 ($1.6 million,including federal match) for state worker wage increases to clear out waiting list

    • $750,000 ($2,538,000 including federal match) for services for those on the DSPD waiting list

HB 442, Alcohol Amendments

HB 442 streamlines and standardizes Utah’s liquor laws by improving prevention measures, updating restaurant and retailer operations, clarifying licensing regulations and modifying the makeup of the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (DABC) Advisory Board.

  • Prevention Measures

    • New underage drinking prevention programs, 8th & 10th grades

    • Marks up alcohol price by 2% to fund school lunch program, underage drinking prevention efforts and DABC operations

  • Improved training requirements for new licensees every three years, focusing on:

    • Statute awareness

    • Operating requirements

    • Prevention of over-consumption

    • Prevention of selling to minors

    • Implementation of age verification tools

  • On-premise - restaurants and bars that prepare and serve alcohol directly

    • Responsible Alcohol Service Plan, RASP

      • Measures to prevent employees from over-serving & serving to minors

    • Dispensing options:

      • Leave “Zion Curtain” in place

      • Install a 42” barrier between dining area and dispensing area

      • Create a 10’ buffer for minors from dispensing area without any barrier

  • Off-Premise - retail establishments selling for off-premise consumption

    • All beer and like products moved to two locations, beer separated from other drinks

    • Department approval of labeling and packaging if it looks like a nonalcoholic product or could be misleading; approval falls on manufacturer

    • Gives DABC authority in issuance of licenses to off-premise retailers

  • Licensing

    • New flat license fee for full-service restaurants, $1650

    • Updates distance from community location - church, school, park, etc.

      • Restaurant - 250’ walking distance or 200’ straight line

      • Bar - 600’ walking distance or 200’ straight line

      • Commission can no longer grant variances

      • Does not affect existing licensees

    • Standardizes licensees, creates distinction between bars & restaurants

      • Removes all club licenses

      • Requires all grandfathered restaurants to comply

      • Dining clubs must migrate to either a bar or restaurant

      • Licensees given until July 1, 2018

  • DABC Advisory Board – 9 members: 8 voting, 1 non-voting

    • Four voting members, representing: retail, wholesale, manufacturing and restaurants

    • Two voting members representing organizations addressing alcohol or drug abuse prevention, enforcement or education

    • Director of the Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health, voting member

    • Chair of the Utah Substance Use and Mental Health Advisory Council, voting member

    • Chair of the Commission, non-voting member

Many states have restrictions of some sort regarding children near bar areas, including: Washington, Michigan, Wyoming, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Arizona, New Hampshire, Indiana, Idaho, Rhode Island, North Dakota, Oregon, Minnesota, Arkansas and Alaska.

Clean Air

The Legislature just passed one of the most significant pieces of legislation for clean air in years. With SB 197, refineries in the state are incentivized to switch over to the production of Tier 3 fuels which have a lower sulfur content and provide for much cleaner burning.

If everyone in the state were to use Tier 3 fuels and cars, it would have the equivalent effect of removing four of every five vehicles on the road. The investment of producers to change from Tier 2 to Tier 3 fuels will be significant, in the tens of millions of dollars, and this bill provides a sales tax exemption on certain products needed for that transition.


  • $1.45 million for air monitoring equipment

  • $200,000 for Uinta Basin Storage Tank Emission Pilot Project (air quality research)

  • $2.5 million to help UTA build Depot District Clean Fuel Tech Center to expand CNG bus fleet and battery electric buses

Bills include:

  • HCR 5, concurrent resolution to support the dedication of a portion of the state funds from the Volkswagen settlement to replace a portion of our dirty diesel school buses with clean fuel buses.

  • HB 96, creating a requirement for operators of gasoline cargo trucks to prevent the release of petroleum vapors into the air.

  • HB 104, which allows counties to use revenue from emissions fees to maintain a national ambient air quality standard.

  • SB 24, extending the heavy duty vehicle tax credit to include heavy duty vehicles with hydrogen-electric and electric drivetrains.