Legislature is Almost Halfway Done


By Representative Christine Watkins, District 67

Last week was particularly busy. All the Sub Appropriation Committees were hearing all of the Request for Appropriations (RFAs) from organizations all over the state. My Business Economic Development and Labor Committee ended up hearing around 50 RFAs. In the past, we have had as many as 90+.

This week, all the committees prioritize the requests in order of most important. Some requests are easy to drop off, but many others are tough to decide who gets what amount of money.

An RFA (Request for Appropriation) must have a sponsor, either a senator or representative. I have one that went through the Higher Education Committee for USU Eastern. This proposal will expand the business and entrepreneurship ecosystem in Southeast Utah.

This will allow students to complete associate and bachelors degrees in Price, which facilitates the transition to a bachelor’s degree program in Logan or through an HSB statewide offering in accounting, data analytics, management or marketing. Career pathways created include marketing professionals for small businesses, data analytics for rural utilities, and routes to self-employed business ownership. Additionally, funding will expand services to support the new community resource center for entrepreneurialism. We will learn if we receive the funding this week.

My HB 410 San Rafael State Energy Lab was passed through the Natural Resources Committee with a unanimous vote Thursday. The next step is to get it passed on the House Floor. Senator David Hinkins is the senate sponsor of this bill.

I am presenting another bill in Health and Human Services on Monday. It is HB 194 Child Placement Amendments. The bill directs Department of Child and Family Services (DCFS) to look for second and third cousins when looking for kin to place a child who has been removed from their home and to also allow these cousins to adopt these children. It also directs the Family Court judges to allow these extended kin the right to petition the court for the right to adopt.

Another bill, HB 286 by Representative Karen Peterson, will do away with alumni scholarships for nonresident students at all state universities. She has another bill, HB 221, which would give education students (future teachers) a $6,000 stipend to help them during student teaching. Obviously, this one could have a big fiscal budget, so we will see what happens with this one.

We voted on a bill Friday night that deals with the Clean Slate Law that passed five years ago. The bill directed law enforcement to expunge the criminal records of people with misdemeanors and lower level felonies after a certain time. The system is behind hundreds of thousands of records. The proposal is to put a three-year hold on some of the criminal records and to clean up the records to exclude people who have died and allow people to petition to have their record expunged sooner. They also told us that at least one in three Utahns has a criminal record! Who knew?

We are doing more floor time to be able to pass the bills that are coming out of committee. Thank you for your communications. Last week was incredibly busy for me. I am always glad to come home, even if it is not for long. Thanks for your interest and support.

Email: christinewatkins@le.utah.gov
Cell: 435- 650-1969

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