Local legislators work on topics ranging from children on ATVs to rural economy and mental health
By Rhett Wilkinson
SALT LAKE CITY—From a bill about children riding ATVs in state parks to bills related to mental health, Utah legislators representing Sanpete are busy with various types of legislation on Utah’s Capitol Hill.
Current state law permits children 8 years and older to operate ATVs, under adult supervision, on public lands.
Rep. Carl Albrecht, R-Richfield, who represents the south end of Sanpete County, is working with Utah State Parks on a measure to allow children younger than 8 to operate the machines so long a they can reach the controls and pedals, and are supervised by an adult.
Albrecht is also sponsoring a bill to bill amend the transient room tax. The amendments would allow counties to take some of the money they receive from taxes on hotel and motel rooms and put it into infrastructure needs as county commissioners see fit.
Albrecht has found that “all kinds of people” have come to rural Utah to recreate. In the process, areas of rural Utah have been “kind of overran” and infrastructure has taken a hit.
Albrecht is also going to run a bill for advocated by Gov. Spencer Cox called “rural economic development tax increment finance.”
It’s like the investment tax credit given to companies that want to locate to the Wasatch Front, “but this will be a rural investment tax credit.” Albrecht said the legislation is part of Cox’s rural emphasis.
Albrecht is also representing grazers and sportsmen in rural Utah to appropriate special funding of $1 million to the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food.
The funding will subsidize ongoing funding for the Utah Grazing Improvement Program, an initiative of the Utah Department of Agriculture and Foods, to improve the health of range lands for agriculture and wildlife. \
“Utah is experiencing an intense drought period, which has been a great setback for rural grazers. The Grazing Improvement Program will help tremendously during this drought period,” Albrecht sasy
As a former high school counselor, the topic of mental health “rings near and dear” to Sen. Derrin Owens who represents Sanpete and Juab counties. That’s especially true as we chart a course through the pandemic, Owens said.
“I understand the need to prioritize mental health in our schools to ensure our youth feel that they belong, let alone all Utahns,” Owens said in a newsletter. “It has become increasingly clear that mental health services need to be improved, and first responders are often not trained to help people experiencing a mental health crisis.”
So in this session, “more is being done to put trained professionals in positions to help people in crisis,” Owens said.
Owens supported three bills related to mental health and crisis services. All three have passed the Senate.
The first is Senate Bill 53, Behavioral Emergency Services Amendments, which makes crisis training available for emergency services professionals.
Agencies throughout Utah can create teams of appropriately trained professionals to respond to mental health emergencies. These professionals will be licensed to triage people and get them the resources they need, Owens said.
Senate Bill 47, Mental Health Crisis, Intervention Council, creates a council of stakeholders from various agencies to design the statewide training offered to these emergency services professionals, Owens said.
Furthermore, Senate Bill 41, Mental Health Access Amendments, requires health benefit plans to cover telehealth services for mental health if the plan also covers in-person treatment of the same mental health conditions. All three bills passed the Senate, Owens said.
Another bill mentioned in Owens’ newsletter is Senate Bill 50, Juvenile Offender Penalty Amendments. The measure grew out of a case where someone, as a 14 year old, committed a sex offense.
Later, the crime came to light and the person, now an adult, was charged with it. The bill establishes that the sentence must consider the age of the person when he committed the offense and must not be more severe than the person would have received if he or she had been prosecuted years earlier with the crime occurred.