The two dozen representatives and senators in districts that cover Utah County have been busy preparing for the 2020 legislative session, which begins on Jan. 27.
In total, Utah County’s lawmakers have filed 281 bills or resolutions on topics ranging from affordable housing to industrial hemp production.
Sen. Jacob Anderegg, R-Lehi, has filed 38 bills so far, by far the most of any lawmaker in the state. Some of these bills include homeless shelter amendments, jail contracting amendments and updates to the Clean Energy Act.
Rep. Marc Roberts, R-Santaquin, and Utah Senate Majority Whip Dan Hemmert, R-Orem, have each filed 25 bills, tied for the second most in the state. Roberts’ bills focus on cosmetology licensing, poultry and workers compensation while Hemmert’s deal with personal property tax exemptions and yurt camping amendments.
Here is a preview of some of the bills that Utah County’s representatives and senators are sponsoring in the 2020 legislative session.
House Bill 38 Substance Use and Health Care Amendments: Rep. Brad Daw, R-Orem, is sponsoring a bill that would provide health care resources for jail and prison inmates suffering from drug addiction.
Daw’s bill would put a tax credit in place to incentivize health care workers, like nurses and doctors, to work in a jail setting.
“If we don’t have the right personnel in the jail, then nothing else (we do there) really matters,” Daw said.
The bill would also create a telehealth pilot program to psychologically screen county jail inmates so they can get adequate medical need. Daw said this is done regularly in the state’s biggest counties but less so in rural county jails that lack resources.
Finally, the bill would ask the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) for a Medicare waiver that would give some inmates health care 30 days prior to their release from prison or jail. Similar waivers have been granted in other states, said Daw.
H.B. 18 Industrial Hemp Program Amendments: Another one of Daw’s bills would amend the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food’s industrial hemp production plan. The bill would adjust the fee schedule and otherwise fine-tune the state’s industrial hemp program to ensure that it is appropriately overseen and regulated.
“People are growing hemp a lot in Utah,” Daw said. “If you don’t watch industrial hemp … it can turn into marijuana.”
H.B. 52 Intergenerational Poverty Solution: Rep. Norm Thurston, R-Provo, is sponsoring legislation that would create an “Earned Income and Education Savings Incentive Program” for those the Department of Workforce Services identifies as experiencing intergenerational poverty.
Under the program, qualifying families would receive a state match for any money deposited into a 529 college savings plan.
Thurston said those who qualify for a federal earned income tax would be urged to put this money aside for their child’s education.
If the state can help kids in poverty get a college education or learn technical skills, “then they’re going to have a much better opportunity and chance of being an adult who isn’t in poverty,” Thurston said. “And that’s going to be good for everybody.”
H.B. 116 Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women, Girls and LGBTQ+ Task Force: Sen. David Hinkins, R-Orangeville, will be the floor sponsor of a bill by Rep. Angela Romero, D-Salt Lake City, that would create a 15-member task force to address the epidemic of violence experienced Native American women, as well as members of the LGBTQ+ community.
The task force would be made up of state lawmakers, a representative of a Native American tribe, a victim advocate, a county sheriff, a survivor of gender violence and a researcher from the University of Utah.
If passed, the bill would appropriate $40,000 in one-time funds to the task force.
“It’s a big issue,” Hinkins said about domestic violence experienced by Native American women. His district covers part of the Navajo Nation in southeastern Utah.
The representative said the task force would act as a liaison between county law enforcement agencies and the Navajo Nation police.
Senate Bill 39 Affordable Housing Amendments: Sen. Jacob Anderegg, R-Lehi, is sponsoring a bill that would authorize the Housing and Community Development division of the Department of Workforce Services to partner with housing authorities to provide rental assistance for low-income Utahns.
It would also authorize the division to partner with the Utah State Board of Education and give rental assistance to families with children who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.
S.B. 20 Hazardous Substances Mitigation Act Sunset Extension: Sen. Ralph Okerlund, R-Monroe, is sponsoring a bill to extend the repeal date of the Hazardous Substances Mitigation Act, which is scheduled to be repealed in July. If S.B. 20 passes, the repeal date will be moved back to July 2030.
Rep. Keven Stratton, R-Orem, will sponsor the bill in the House of Representatives.
Not numbered: Law Enforcement Use of Biometric Information: Rep. Adam Robertson, R-Provo, is drafting a bill regarding police use of biometric information, such as facial recognition, fingerprints and DNA. A file for the bill has been created but its text has yet to be drafted.
The rainbow of fruits and vegetables underneath a tin foil cover initially received mixed reactions. The strawberries were good, the students unanimously agreed. But others, like the bell peppers, would need to first be put to the test.
Monday was the first time many students at Manila Elementary School in Pleasant Grove had sunk their teeth into different plant-based foods.
“The main takeaway is the more foods that are close to a plant, the better,” said Elcio Zanatta, who owns Aubergine Kitchen with his wife, Mirian.
The Zanattas have traveled to a handful of Utah County schools over the last few months to teach students about plant-based foods, introduce them to fruits and vegetables and explain the importance of eating healthy, non-processed foods.
Third and fifth graders sat in Manila Elementary School’s cafeteria as they filled out diagrams showing different parts of a plant, drank a smoothie and then learned about the benefits of specific fruits and vegetables. The students tasted foods like cucumbers, tomatoes and sweet potatoes in order to give their review.
The cafeteria was split between students who were eager to reach in and try new things, and those who needed a little bit of coaxing from their classmates.
Principal Paul Finlayson said that encouragement was a way that peer pressure could be put to a positive use. He said the school offers fruits and vegetables to students at lunch, and that staff encourage students to grab a plant-based food before sitting down to eat.
“Our district has pushed for better nutrition,” he said.
Elcio and Mirian Zanatta opened Aubergine Kitchen in Orem six years ago after moving to Vineyard from Brazil. The business has since expanded to Lehi and Sugar House in Salt Lake City.
Elcio Zanatta said the nutrition presentations are a way for them to give back to the communities that have embraced them.
The couple became passionate about clean, healthy eating after Elcio Zanatta got sick 13 years ago. After getting colds, headaches and experiencing a loss of energy, he attended a seminar on healthy eating.
“We have seen the consequence of disease,” Mirian Zanatta said.
After switching to eating more fruits and vegetables, Elicio Zanatta said he felt his energy levels rise.
Elcio Zanatta explained the importance of nutrition to the students by using the analogy of caring for a goose in order to get an egg.
“The egg is important, but to take care of the goose is crucial,” he told the students.
He encouraged the students to take care of their bodies and teach their families to do it, too.
The amount of time it takes for emergency responders to assist a victim or for police to find an abducted child could soon drastically reduce in Springville as the city’s police department considers partnering with an artificial intelligence company aimed at helping law enforcement work more efficiently.
Banjo, a technology company based in Park City, gathers real-time data from various sources — 911 dispatch calls, traffic cameras, emergency alarms, social media posts — and synthesizes the information in a way that lets police respond to emergencies significantly more quickly than they would otherwise be able to.
“Live (information) makes a difference,” CEO Damien Patton said at the 2019 Silicon Slopes Tech Summit.
Last July, Banjo entered a cooperation agreement with the Utah Attorney General’s Office and the Utah Department of Public Safety (UDOT) that lets the agencies use Banjo’s technology to “reduce time and resources typically required to generate leads, and instead focus their efforts on incident response,” according to a report given to the state legislature’s Executive Appropriations Committee. The agreement will cost the state $2.2 million a year.
“Reduced response times, with accurate information and locations, saves lives,” the report said.
Now, some cities, including Springville, are considering partnering with Banjo so that their police departments can respond to emergencies more effectively.
In its Jan. 7 meeting, the Springville City Council heard from a Banjo representative who explained how the artificial intelligence technology worked and how local law enforcement could benefit from it, Springville Police Chief Craig Martinez said.
Martinez said he first heard about Banjo when Patton spoke at last year’s Governor’s Public Safety Summit. The police chief was impressed with the technology and thought it could enable his department “to do our job more effectively and quicker.”
Martinez gave the example of a child abduction case. Normally, police would get a 911 call informing them of a kidnapping and wait for leads to develop, which could take hours. Using Banjo, however, police would get real-time data from UDOT cameras, social media and sex offender registries and be able to develop leads within minutes.
If someone reported the suspect as being a white male in a red car, then Banjo would send police a push notification of registered sex offenders who are white males and who own red cars, said Martinez.
“So it basically takes things and speeds them up a lot quicker than things we’d have to manually search on our own,” he said.
The city council did not make a decision during the Jan. 7 meeting, but attitudes toward the partnership seemed “pretty positive,” Martinez said.
Some lawmakers have criticized the technology, arguing that its application in police departments could undermine civil liberties and pose a serious threat to privacy.
“I just see us asking for $2.2 million a year to be Big Brother,” Rep. Francis Gibson, R-Mapleton, said during a committee meeting on Aug. 20. “It’s a slippery slope.”
Martinez said Utahns don’t need to worry about their privacy being invaded. The program strips social media posts of any personal information, and therefore what police see is anonymous.
Additionally, it only gives police access to information that is already public, like UDOT camera feeds.
“And we don’t sit and watch them” all day, Martinez said, adding that police typically only check those cameras when there is a crime or emergency that may have been caught on film.
Patton, Banjo’s founder, agrees that individual rights need to be taken into account when working with artificial intelligence. During his talk at the Silicon Slopes Tech Summit, he said the company only uses anonymized information “to make sure that people’s data is used in a responsible way.”
A Monday afternoon fire in Orem left four cars and 10 storage units completely destroyed.
The call came in to Orem Fire Department at 4:10 p.m. according to Battalion Chief Shaun Hirst.
The cars were parked under a carport at the apartment complex located at 1492 S. 175 East. The one-alarm fire took about 20 minutes to get under control.
“Flames impinged the building but it did not catch on fire,” Hirst said. “It has heat damage, but it didn’t burn.”
No one was injured in the incident or displaced, according to Hirst.
As of Monday evening, the fire was still being investigated. The cause is still not known and the damage cost has not been calculated, according to Hirst.
More information will be known Tuesday following the investigation.
Utah County’s first Waldorf charter school is starting to become a reality.
Mountain Sunrise Academy’s leaders celebrated the future Saratoga Springs school’s groundbreaking Saturday several months before the school is scheduled to open this fall, and a couple of weeks before it will hold an enrollment lottery.
“A lot of people who are being drawn to the school are excited about Waldorf education and are excited it is here,” said Tim McGaughy, the chair of the school’s governing board.
Mountain Sunrise Academy will undergo a multiyear accreditation process to become recognized as a Waldolf school, utilizing a century-old educational model that embraces experiential learning, movement and a focus on nature and arts integration.
When complete, the school will sit at 1802 E. 145 North in Saratoga Springs and include features like a garden and a culinary kitchen.
The school received approval from the Utah State Charter School board last year to open. It will become the second public Waldorf school in Utah, following Wasatch Charter School in Holladay, and will join Treeside Charter School in Provo, which is Waldorf-inspired.
The school’s leaders were optimistic about finding available and affordable land to build on in northern Utah County.
“It is very hard to find land nowadays, and we were fortunate,” said Krystelle Rose, the school’s executive director. “I felt like this piece of property was reserved.”
Rose said the land was chosen because it is near the border of Lehi and Saratoga Springs and has quick access to Interstate 15.
The school will open with an enrollment of about 400 students spanning kindergarten through sixth grade before adding the seventh grade during its second year and eighth grade in its third year for a total cap of about 500 students. Students will stay with the same teacher as they move through the grades.
Rose said the school wants to keep its enrollment steady and isn’t looking for growth.
“We want to build a quality school instead of quantity,” Rose said.
The school will hold an enrollment lottery on Jan. 21. Rose said that enough students have applied to fill about 70% of its enrollment so far.
Mountain Sunrise Academy will be the first public charter school to open in Utah County since Ignite Entrepreneurship Academy began seeing students in Lehi in 2018. It will join dozens of other charter schools throughout the county.
Rose said Mountain Sunrise Academy has heard from parents who are looking to enroll their students in charter schools and have been on wait lists for four years.
McGaughy is a strong believer in the model after watching his own family receive a Waldorf-style education.
“It is just an incredible difference in their lives,” McGaughy said.
He said the school will hold ongoing trainings to educate teachers on the learning model.
For Emma James, the school is about finding what she sees to be a holistic approach to education.
“I am so in love with the Waldorf model,” James said.
James is on the school’s governing board and will have a kindergartener and a second grade student attending in the fall.
She said her first grade son brings home about an hour of homework every night from a public district school, which she doesn’t believe is the right approach to education.
“He needs that creative play that every kid has,” James said. “I feel like it is being stamped out, and it is frustrating.”
Movement and dance, she said, is more natural for students than sitting at a desk all day. She’s seen parents interested in the school’s model of nature-based play and arts integration.
James said obtaining Waldorf accreditation is important for the school instead of only being modeled or inspired by the educational model.
“We want it to be a comprehensive Waldorf experience,” James said.