Dear Friends and Neighbors,
It’s hard to believe we are more than halfway through the session! This week, an additional 33 bills passed in both the House and the Senate. These bills, some of which are described below, will improve our healthcare, transportation and education systems and will improve Utahn’s way of life in many ways.
Though the 622 bills and resolutions keep us very busy, we always appreciate taking time to recognize honorable and inspiring people across the state. This week, we recognized world-renowned Olympic athletes, the 2022 Utah youth of the year, and reformed former prisoners who embraced a second chance. In each recognition, I was taken back by the phenomenal strength, resilience and talent that is present in so many forms in our state. I am humbled to be surrounded by such excellence and am proud to call myself a Utahn!
This week the Senate honored the Utahns who bravely carried freedom’s banner at home and in foreign lands, paying the ultimate price defending our country.
As I continue to work hard to represent you, I want to keep you updated on our progress in the Legislature. Below is an update on a few bills we are currently considering.
We unanimously gave final approval to S.B 59 State Income Tax Rate Reduction, which reduces taxes for Utahns by $192.9 million. S.B. 59:
- Reduces the individual and corporate income tax rate for all Utahns from 4.95% to 4.85%. A $163.7 million reduction in taxes.
- Increases the eligibility for a social security tax credit for seniors. A $15.4 million reduction in taxes.
- Establishes an earned income tax credit (EITC). A $16.1 million reduction in taxes.
Utah’s booming economy and fiscally sound tax policy provide us with the opportunity to reduce taxes for Utahns while increasing funding in education, infrastructure and social services. The Senate concurred unanimously with the House’s proposed changes to S.B 59, and the bill was signed by the governor. Listen to the latest bill presentation on the Senate floor here.
Helping our students read is a foundational task that sets the trajectory for the rest of their lives. Students who cannot read proficiently by the end of 3rd grade are less likely to graduate and more likely to be on public assistance long-term. Currently, half of Utah students are not reading at grade level by the 3rd grade.
S.B. 127 Early Literacy Outcomes Improvement addresses this issue by aligning existing literacy programs toward a common goal, equipping teachers and administrators with evidence-based methods, placing literacy coaches in lower performing schools, and providing resources to support parent, family and community efforts. S.B. 127 passed in the Senate and will now be considered in the House. Listen to the bill presentation on the Senate floor here.
Special Education Amendments
As we continue to study how to better serve special education students, we have found that some students perform best when they are included in general education classrooms. However, local education agencies can run into an accounting issue when special education funding follows students into general education classrooms.
S.B. 134 Special Education Amendments requires a local education agency to provide special education in the least restrictive environment, regardless of whether the other students in the classroom are students without a disability. The bill also permits local education agencies to use state special education funds on special education students, even if doing so provides an incidental benefit to students without a disability. This bill clarifies state law to ensure special education students can learn in the environment that is most beneficial to them. S.B. 134 passed in the Senate and will now be considered in the House. Listen to the bill presentation on the Senate floor here.
Division of Consumer Protection Amendments
Fraudulent business opportunities harm our economy by discouraging individuals from participating in commercial activities. S.B. 26 Division of Consumer Protection Amendments will strengthen Utahn’s trust in commercial activities by requiring sellers to disclose certain information to protect consumers from fraudulent businesses or bad actors. This bill was drafted in response to recommended changes from an audit of certain provisions of the Business Opportunity Disclosure Act. S.B. 26 passed in the Senate and will now be considered in the House. Listen to the bill presentation on the Senate floor here.
Prescription Cost Amendments
Expensive medication can place extreme financial burdens on patients with medical conditions. To combat this financial burden, many drug manufacturers offer financial assistance through coupons or copay assistance. S.B. 139 Prescription Cost Amendments would financially benefit patients and their families by allowing financial assistance from a medication’s manufacturer to be counted against a patient’s deductible or out-of-pocket expenses. S.B. 139 passed in the Senate Business and Labor Committee and will now be considered by the full Senate. Listen to the committee presentation here.
Citizen Digital Portal
The state of Utah has over 400 websites. Many of the websites are controlled and administered by different state offices and agencies and have varying levels of usability. S.B. 169 Citizen Digital Portal Amendments is one of a series of bills run over the last few years that move Utah closer to achieving data integration between all agencies. The goal is for Utahns to be able to buy a fishing license, renew their driver’s license or pay their taxes from a centralized digital portal website. It would be designed to provide the highest level of customer experience while protecting the data and privacy of users. S.B. 169 passed in the Senate Transportation, Public Utilities, Energy and Technology Committee and will now be considered on the Senate floor. Listen to the committee presentation here.
Protection Against Extortion Amendments
There is a current gap in Utah law that allows certain acts of sexual extortion to go unpunished. Right now, a person can only be charged with sexual extortion by coercing someone else into producing intimate images. S.B. 156 Protection Against Extortion Amendments changes the law to also allow for sexual extortion charges if a person threatens to distribute existing intimate images to extort money or other items of value from someone. S.B. 156 passed in the Senate Judiciary, Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Committee and will now be considered on the Senate floor. Listen to the committee presentation here.
Limitations on Employer Liability
Formerly incarcerated individuals in Utah face many barriers when searching for employment. One of these barriers is employers often worry that hiring these individuals could result in legal action taken against them. S.B. 95 Limitations on Employer Liability resolves this concern by ensuring certain legal actions may not be brought against an employer simply for hiring a person previously convicted of an offense. This bill does not prevent legal action against an employer when there is cause to believe the employer negligently hired or failed to adequately supervise an employee. S.B. 95 passed in the Senate and will now be considered by the House. Listen to the Senate floor discussion here.
In conjunction with this bill, on Thursday, we were joined by 16 former inmates who turned their life around and rejoined society. It was incredible to see the work these reformed individuals have put into improving themselves and becoming productive members of their communities. You can watch their recognition here. Learn more about the bill here.
I’ll 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. My mobile phone number is (801) 319-0170. You’re also welcome to join me at the Capitol any time.
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 Keith Grover