Legislative Update—Week 4

By Rep. John R. Westwood

We’re halfway there, and we’re going to make it, I swear! Week four was busy, lots of debate and interesting bills heard on the floor. Utah Film Day proved interesting, we have a lot of excellent companies working in the film industry and they showed off their skills and advanced tech. Other exciting events on the Hill included Aerospace day, with local companies showing of their programs off to lawmakers, and Pharmacy Day.

A new member joined the House of Representatives this week after the resignation of Jon Stannard. Travis Seegmiller joined our ranks after being sworn in on  the 14th. It’s good to have him here. Let’s hope he does well.

HB 57 Update

The Utah Poverty and Work Self-sufficiency Earned Income Tax Credit has finally been heard in a senate committee. It passed unanimously and should be heard on the Senate Floor soon. It’s exciting to see this bill moving forward. It will do a lot of good for the people of Utah.

Other bills from this week.

H.B. 177 Trauma-Informed Justice Provisions, would enable and assist victims of crime. Under the current system, victims are often re-traumatized by their experiences with the criminal justice system.

The goal of this proposed legislation is to reduce the likelihood of re-victimization, leading to fewer accumulative adverse childhood experiences, less behavioral risk-taking, fewer negative health impacts and a reduction in state spending on healthcare. This increases the likelihood that victims will engage with the criminal justice system in the future and in turn, enables improved healing and coping skills by connecting victims with available resources.

Each state is represented by two historical figures in the National Statuary Hall in Washington D.C., with ours being Brigham Young and Philo T. Farnsworth. SCR1 proposes to replace Farnsworth’s statue, which has been there for 32 years, with one of Martha Hughes Cannon.

Dr. Martha Hughes Cannon was the first female senator in the United States, beating out several candidates including her own husband in 1895, years before most women would be granted the right to vote. The resolution to send Martha to Washington came forward due to it 2020 being the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment. Utah was a leader in the rights for women, and we continue to honor the women in our lives.

Many people have come forward in support of keeping Farnsworth, and others for bringing in Canon. Both are worthy of memorialization, Utah is lucky to have had them both. While I am sad that Farnsworth might go he will be remembered and his statue will be persevered. There is talk of loaning Farnsworth to the Smithsonian so that the world will still be able to learn of his amazing technological achievements.

State dollars dedicated to education have grown at historic levels, since 2015. Education clearly is and has been a priority for the Utah State Legislature, so much so that in the past three years, K-12 funding has increased by more than $800 million – nearly 20 percent. In addition, the past two years, education spending accounted for the most significant portion of new money appropriated by the Utah Legislature.

This year is no exception; we will continue to prioritize education funding and aspire to do it without increasing the taxes of hard-working Utahns. HB299 aims to dedicate approximately $700 million to public schools over the next three to four years, and do it in a way that directly and positively impacts teacher pay. This legislation would also prioritize funding for improved teacher training, metrics to ensure children meet reading standards by third grade and technology in the classroom.

Finally, I want to thank you all for your support. I am working hard to be an accurate representation for Iron County. Hope you had a good three-day weekend and Happy Valentines Day.

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