SIX MORE WEEKS OF WINTER SESSION

Happy Groundhog Day 12! Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow today and predicted 6 more weeks of winter session. (Ok, 34 days… but who’s counting?)


“Each state senator in Utah represents over 100,000 Utahns. We appreciate input and feedback. Please let us know your opinions, feelings, values and beliefs. Your involvement helps improve the legislative process.”
-Senator Todd Weiler

Today concluded week two of the Legislative session. Just over 1/4 of the way through session is a perfect time for a quick reminder about our FacebookTwitterPinterest, Google+, Instagram and two great blogs: Senate Site (you are here) and Utah Senate Democrats. We live stream every minute of Senate Floor debate (check out le.utah.gov for that), and our Daily Media Briefing via FaceBook Live gives you the chance to meet with us in the Senate President’s office every day with your questions.

With all the committee work happening the reading calendars are starting to fill up in both the House and Senate. The end of week one is great time to review how a bill becomes a law and why it seems to take so long to get a law on the books.

BY THE NUMBERS

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Bills Passed by UTLEG
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% of UTLEG Session Completed
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Bill Requests

WEEK 2 TOP ISSUES

Martha Hughes Cannon

Each state in our nation is permitted to send two statues of Utahns to reside in the U.S. Capitol. Currently, Utah has statues of Brigham Young, who lead the early pioneers to settle in Utah and Philo T Farnsworth, who helped further early television technology. SCR 1  seeks to bring our statue of Philo back to Utah and to replace him with a statue of Martha Hughes Cannon, the first female in the country to be elected as a state senator. This resolution sparked a lively debate on the Senate floor this week with supporters of the bill donning yellow flowers, a symbol of the early women’s suffrage movement. The debate focused on the positive influence both Philo and Martha have had on Utahns. Ultimately, the resolution passed on the final reading in the senate 21-7. You can watch the floor debate here.

In the News: KSL | Salt Lake Tribune |

Removal of Elected Officials

After the media brought former Salt Lake County Recorder Gary Ott’s story to light, it became clear that legislative action is needed. Gary was a dedicated and capable public servant but was stricken by dementia towards the end of his tenure. Despite signs that his health had degenerated, Gary remained in office.SB 38 allows a local body to petition the Courts for a mental health evaluation of a local official. If the Court determines the official is no longer competent, the local body can initiate a procedure to remove the official from office. Judges, under this bill, have the discretion to dismiss unreasonable suits. This bill deals primarily with elected county officials, and not city or state leaders. This bill passed through the Senate 27-1 and will now be considered by the House.

In the News: Deseret News | Salt Lake Tribune |

End 90 Day Wait for Divorce

In Utah we value marriage, so when any legislation dealing with marriage or divorce comes up, there is always thorough debate. This week we debated SB 25, Divorce Process Amendments, which eliminates the 90 day waiting period before a couple can divorce. Those in support of this bill noted that there is no statistical significance in divorce rates in states with waiting periods versus states without waiting periods. Currently, the law is ambiguous in when a judge may offer a waiver to the waiting period, which results in inconsistencies in execution of the law. Those against this bill were concerned about the message it sends to make it easier to divorce. This was perhaps our tightest vote of the session, but it did pass out of the Senate 16-10 and will now be considered by the House. You can listen to the floor debate here.

In the News: Salt Lake Tribune |

Road Tolling

 

The Senate is considering a bill (SB71) that would allow the Department of Transportation to implement a toll system in Little Cottonwood Canyon. The guiding principle of the bill, according to President Niederhauser, is that those who use the road will pay for it. President Niederhauser explained that a toll road does not mean toll booths. The technology to electronically scan toll passes has existed for quite some time and has been implemented on our HOV lanes on the interstate highways in our state. This bill also gives the Department of Transportation the ability to monitor toll roads and mail fines to those who do not pay the tolls.  This bill passed favorably out of committee and will be heard next on the Senate Floor.

In the News: Salt Lake Tribune |

Transportation Governance

Utah is expected to double in population within the next 50 years. This knowledge and a desire to plan for our future is motivating many of our bills this year. SB 136, Transportation Governance, seeks to create foundational changes to better prepare for the future growth in our state as it relates to transit. Notably this bill will restructure the governance of the Utah Transit Authority (UTA), enhance the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) governance, create a new fund for transportation and modify some of the funding sources, as well as allow for statewide planning for transportation through UDOT. This bill is assigned to the Senate Transportation, Public Utilities, Energy and Technology Committee.

In the News: Salt Lake Tribune |

Legally Changing Gender

When state law does not adequately spell out legal processes currently taking place in our court system, it leaves judges no option but to legislate from the bench. Senator Todd Weiler said that is what is taking place right now when Utahns petition to legally change their gender. Weiler’s bill, SB138 Gender Change Amendments is designed to create a court process for a gender change petition.

There has been a law on the books in Utah since the 1950s that allows judges to grant petitions to change both name and gender. But those petitions are not always granted and the Utah Supreme Court is currently deciding what to do with cases where judges refuse to grant gender changes. SB138 is currently in the Senate Rules Committee after being introduced on the Senate Floor Thursday.

In the News: Deseret News | US News | Fox13

Pre-Marital Counselling

Senator Allen Christensen has spent many years working on social service issues in his legislative career. He said that one of the most expensive things that the state deals with is broken families and the results of those broken families. So, when people say to him that the state should not get involved with marriage, he doesn’t agree. The cost to the state and community is too high not to be involved. His bill, SB54 Marriage and Premarital Counseling and Education Amendments encourages marriage by doing a couple of things. First, it provides a solid funding source for the Utah Marriage Commission by authorizing county clerks to increase the marriage license fee by $20. Second, the bill also provides for a $20 rebate on a marriage license fee for couples who invest in pre-marital education or counselling.

SB54 passed out of the Senate Business and Labor Committee unanimously with a favorable recommendation. Listen to the committee meeting here.

In the News: The Daily Universe

Women’s Suffrage Commemorative License Plate

Utah has a special chapter in the history of Women’s Suffrage.  In 1870, fifty years before the ratification of the 19th Amendment, the Territory of Utah became the second jurisdiction in the entire country behind Wyoming to give women the right to vote. Then, In 1896, Martha Hughes Cannon, a  physician and mother, ran against her husband of all people to become the first female  state Senator in the nation.  Senator Henderson’s bill, SB119,  creates a license plate to commemorate Utah’s special place in the history of women’s suffrage.  If this bill passes, you can see these license plates as soon as 2019.  This bill has passed favorably out of committee and will be heard on the Senate floor next.

Streamlined Voter Registration

The right to vote is a Constitutional Right but the voter registration process can be burdensome and bureaucratic.  In the state of Utah, to register by mail, voter registration forms must be postmarked at least 30 days before an election in order to be eligible to vote in the upcoming election. To register in person, a voter must register to vote at least one full week before the election. The voter registration process can be simpler. It can be more convenient. It can be less bureaucratic.  Senator Henderson’s, SB112, registers everyone to vote when the apply for or renew their driver’s license, unless they select the opt option on the driver’s license form.  So far, nine states throughout the county have implemented laws like this including Alaska, Alabama, West Virginia, and Oregon, and thirty-two are considering them this year.  Oregon saw their number of registered voters increase by 400,000 since they moved to a simpler, more efficient voter registration system.

In the News: Salt Lake Tribune |

Strategic Workforce Investments

SB 103, Strategic Workforce Investments, created regional workforce program planning by requiring partnerships and stackable credentials that are aligned to the regional workforce needs. Those who meet these criteria are awarded state funding. These stackable credentials allow students to build upon their education in meaningful ways without having to start from scratch each time they seek a new degree by using clearly defined “on-ramps” and “off-ramps” for participating students.  We currently have 11 stackable credential partnership programs operating in the State. This year SB 103 makes 3 changes to the original bill: enables statewide stackable credentials, clarifies how funding may be spent (only for the program—not administration), and clarifies criteria for evaluation. This bill passed unanimously through committee and through the Senate and is now awaiting consideration by the House. You can listen to committee debate here.

FOR THE RECORD


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