Utah Legislature - Thursday 01

Rep. Brad Daw speaks during the legislative session held in the House of Representatives Chamber at the Utah State Capitol on Thursday, Jan. 31, 2019, in Salt Lake City. Isaac Hale, Daily Herald

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.

Connor Richards covers government, the environment and south Utah County for the Daily Herald. He can be reached at crichards@heraldextra.com and 801-344-2599.

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