By Representative Christine Watkins
The legislative session has been moving along, although a bit slowly. Bills have been slow to come out of the rules committee to be assigned to standing committees. The heavy lifts have been voted on and signed by the governor. We still have some hot topics, but not of the intensity of the ones we have passed.
The sub-appropriation committees are winding up this week. In my Business, Economic Development and Labor Committee, we listened to 60+ appropriation financial requests. We have many requests from groups requesting money for local interests, such as remodeling old buildings, restoring museums, etc. As chairs, we have been told to focus on statewide or regional requests. There will be many disappointed entities this year and from now on. Committee chairs are meeting together with committee members to prioritize our list of who gets the grants. Then, our recommendations go to the Executive Appropriations Committee to be finalized.
We have passed 55 bills and continue to work on other bills. We have also killed several bills, so nothing is guaranteed on the hill. Here are some bills that have passed that may be of interest to you.
SB100 School Gender Identity Policies is a bill ensuring the rights of parents to view the education files on their child. This guarantees the rights of parents to see their child’s record and know if the child has requested a name change or anything that they may not have told their parents.
HB111 Inmate Treatment Amendments has passed the house and is on its way to the Senate. This is one of my bills and it requires all county and municipal jails to allow Medical Assistance Programs to work with the sheriff and continue to treat a current patient with normal medications until the inmate is released. Or, if they are in jail for a lengthy period, their treatment would be turned over to the jail’s medical personnel. We have several bills this session dealing with the treatment of inmates in jails.
The proposed new flag has passed the Senate (not by a huge margin) and it is up in a house committee for a vote. I am against the new flag and so are many others, so it will not have an easy time in the House. There is an amendment that is floating around, which a combination of the new look and the old. We will wait and see how this goes.
House majority and Senate majority leaders are discussing the many ways to cut taxes. We have discussed them in our caucus meetings and are waiting to see how things come out. A few of the ways to give tax cuts are to increase the income level to not have to pay Social Security taxes, cut tax on food, and send a check to people who pay taxes based on income levels.The bigger your tax liability, the bigger your rebate check would be.
The week of Feb. 20, we will find out the exact amount of extra money the state will have to spend. We always put money into our rainy-day funds, pay down bonds and then look at what we can do to help citizens. We always pass a base budget bill early in the session. which guarantees that if something happens to the process. the state can continue to function.
We have not finished the education budget, so there are still many funding issues not addressed in education, like the WPU amount districts will get and other critical issues. Thanks for all your emails, text messages and phone calls. Remember you can check information on bills on le.utah.gov. You can look up any bill and see what it does and where it is in the process.Thanks for your support and input.
Phone: (435) 650-1969
Facebook: Representative Christine Watkins