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Legislative session concluding next week

 

By Ralph Okerlund

Senator District 24

Mar. 8, 2018

 

We have concluded week six of the 2018 Legislative General Session, which means we only have one week left to consider bills.

There are more bills to consider this year than ever before, but to match this increase in bills, we are spending more time than usual in our committee meetings to ensure that the bills have proper hearings before coming to the floor for a vote.

Our last day for committee meetings will be Monday, March 5, which means Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday will be entirely dedicated to floor time debate.

We live stream our floor time as well as the audio for our committee meetings, so tune in and follow along during the process!

Here are some of the highlights from week six.

 

Budget

This week each caucus (Senate Majority, Senate Minority, House Majority, House Minority) have each worked to prepare their proposed budgets. Now that everyone has worked to prioritize how they think the budget should look, the Senate and House will work to reconcile their proposed budgets and ultimately pass a full budget next week. I will still be involved in the budget discussion this coming week.

News coverage of this topic is in Utah Policy (http://utahpolicy.com/index.php/features/today-at-utah-policy/15955-legislative-budget-negotiators-targeting-school-funding-and-state-employee-increases).

 

Honoring Jon Huntsman Sr.

Jon Huntsman Sr. recently passed away, and as he has made a tremendous impact on Utah and on the world, we passed a resolution, HCR 20 (https://le.utah.gov/~2018/bills/static/HCR020.html) honoring him and his legacy.

Huntsman lost his mother to breast cancer when she was just 58 years old, and he was determined to do something to help find a cure for the disease. He began his efforts by donating money to the University of Utah cancer research and eventually began the Huntsman Cancer Institute. The Huntsman Cancer Institute is one of the world’s most renowned cancer institutes. His influence will continue to be felt in our state.

News coverage of this topic is in the Salt Lake Tribune (https://www.sltrib.com/news/politics/2018/02/26/utah-legislature-honors-jon-huntsman-sr-who-refused-to-retreat-in-the-face-of-adversity/).

 

Earned Income Tax Credit Intergenerational poverty is a growing concern for the state.

Children from low income families have lower life expectancy, greater health problems and lower educational attainment. This happens in large part because of the environment in which children are raised. If a child does not have access to proper nutrition and sufficient parental care, the effects can be devastating, and in some cases, irreversible.

HB 57 (https://le.utah.gov/~2018/bills/static/HB0057.html) creates a tax credit for low income individuals and families.

The eligibility for the tax credit is tied to the federal tax credit. If a person is eligible for a federal Earned Income Tax Credit, they can be eligible for state tax credit. Larger families, who have been disadvantaged by recent federal tax changes, will not be penalized under this new system because of the size of their family.

This bill has passed the House and passed its first reading in the Senate. It will be heard one more time in the Senate.

News coverage of this topic is in the Deseret News (https://www.deseretnews.com/article/900011669/heres-why-the-utah-legislature-should-pass-an-earned-income-tax-credit.html).

 

School Safety

After the most recent mass school shooting in Florida, elected officials have been asked if there is more that can be done to protect school children.

The answer, in most cases, has been unequivocally “YES!”

Senate President Wayne Niederhauser, in one of the Senate’s Daily Media Briefings, said that this is an issue that needs to be addressed immediately and that it was time to start engaging with the stakeholders that are most heavily affected.

We will be considering this issue in the coming weeks and months.

 

What do you think?

Thanks for following me along in my legislative journey. I hope to 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 also be reached by email at rokerlund@le.utah.gov.

I’m 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,

 

Ralph Okerlund Utah State Senate, District 24