New state senator describes
issues that came up
in first week of session
By Derrin Owens, Senator District 24
I’m so thrilled to have finished my first session in the Utah Senate. While my memories at the House are bittersweet, I am grateful for the opportunity to be in this position and continue to represent you.
For week one, we were addressed by the executive branch and Utah Courts to update Utahns on the successes and challenges of our state.
Gov. Spencer Cox held his first State of the State address where he encouraged Utahns to read the One Utah Roadmap, “a plan for the first 500 days of the Cox-Henderson Administration with detailed goals and initiatives to strengthen our foundation.”
Chief Justice Matthew Durrant gave the State of the Judiciary addressing how COVID-19 impacted our judicial system. He also stated the need to identify biases in the process, resume in-person jury trials and increase internet bandwidth in rural courthouses.
As a Legislature, our Constitutional responsibility is to pass a balanced budget before the close of the General Legislative Session. It is a responsibility we take seriously. As such, we spend the first few weeks of the session meeting in appropriations subcommittees to consider how we allocate money in each area, such as public education, social services and transportation.
Eight appropriations subcommittees prepare base budgets for their assigned subject area over the first couple of weeks of the session. These subcommittee base budgets are passed in the early weeks of the session, which allows the state to continue functioning at a basic level. This prevents the state government from shutting down. Then, typically during the final week of the session, we pass what is known as the “Bill of Bills,” which is the comprehensive budget bill that includes additional appropriations not included in the base budgets.
Here are some bills we discussed:
$43 Million Tax Cut Proposed
The first bill debated in the Senate on the first day of the session was S.B. 11, Retirement Income Tax Requirements, which seeks to remove the tax on military retirement income and reduces the tax on Social Security Income. This bill would create a $43 million tax cut. The bill passed unanimously in the Senate and will now be considered in the House.
HOAs can currently prohibit an individual from installing security cameras at their residence. S.B. 31, Condominium and Community Association Regulation Amendments, prohibits an HOA from disallowing owners to install security cameras on their own units or lots. This bill passed in the Senate with unanimous support and will now be considered in the House.
Last summer, Sarah, a Utah high schooler, and her three friends were hit by a drunk driver. The accident paralyzed Sarah from the waist down and resulted in the loss of her legs. As she was still receiving urgent medical care just hours after the accident, the man who hit her was already released on bail. Sarah’s bill, or H.B. 47, DUI Revisions, would allow a judge to deny bail to drunk drivers who have injured or killed someone if the court has sufficient evidence to support the charge. These individuals would be held in custody until their trial. This bill passed in the House with unanimous support and will be considered in the Senate next week.
The bill, S.B. 107, In-person Instruction Prioritization, gives parents the option of taking their students out of online-only schools and moving them to another school that offers in-person instruction. Funding would then follow the student to the new school. The bill does not force any student to return to in-person learning, it simply gives parents options if their students are struggling under the online format. The bill passed its second reading in the Senate.
K-9 Policy in Law Enforcement
The bill, S.B. 38, K-9 Policy Requirements, requires that police dogs and handlers in the state of Utah undergo an annual certification process. It also amends Utah law to provide liability protection for officers and agencies if the dog acts in a way contrary to the officer’s commands. The bill passed unanimously in the Senate and will now be considered by the House.
College for Veterans
For years, senior citizens in Utah have been able to audit courses offered at state institutions of higher education. This means that seniors can attend and participate in classes for a small fee. They don’t have to take tests, write papers, or do any homework, and they won’t receive any college credit. S.B. 45, Higher Education Classes for Veterans, gives Utah veterans the same opportunity. The bill passed unanimously on its second reading in the Senate.
Due to public safety and COVID-19 concerns, adjustments have been implemented to ensure public participation options are available during the legislative session. Committee meetings now have audio and video, making it easier to view presentations and know who is speaking. Here’s how you can be involved during the session.
- You can virtually attend committee meetings and provide public input.
- The Utah Senate holds daily press availability where the media can ask Senate leadership and bill sponsors questions. This takes place every weekday during the legislative session.
I will be sending a weekly newsletter update during the session. I have also been assigned my legislative intern, Chris Vazquez, who will help me stay organized and ensure you’re being heard. Chris can be reached via phone/text at 385-441-0600 or email@example.com
Thank you for allowing me to represent you in the Utah Senate.