Legislative Update week three

From Rep. John R. Westwood

Week three is coming to an end, and it was a busy and productive week. I had a young woman job shadow me on Monday morning as part of the American Indian Caucus Day. We had a good time going to meetings and sitting on the floor of the House. My son and his family came, and I got to bring my grandkids down on the floor as well.

SUU Day on the hill was a big success, 60 students came up for the day and got to meet with legislators and take a tour of the Capitol. The theme of the day was “Bright Future” because with these students, our future truly is bright. While here, President Wyatt, Donna Law, and I got to meet with several representatives about the new Sorenson Legacy Foundation & Family Development Center building. There was a very positive response, and we have high hopes for this building being funded and built soon.

High schools from all over the state came to the Capitol for Arts Day on the Hill. Students and administrators met with representatives to discuss the importance of teaching humanities and the arts. Music from choirs, bands, and orchestras filled the Capitol Rotunda as audiences took in the beautiful performances.

Rural counties from all over Utah came to showcase the unique attributes and concerns of their respective areas on February 2. Individuals were able to discuss policies with legislators that directly affect their rural communities. We were glad to have them join us and enjoy the incredible diversity of the various areas of our state.

The bills I am running have been staring to pick up, just this week HB 141 Early Voting Amendments passed through committee and is now waiting for consideration on the House floor. Early voting is an important way to help those who have trouble getting to a polling place on election day. However, in Utah if a county primarily uses vote by mail, like Iron county, early voting is not a requirement. Iron County has opted to offer early voting in addition to vote by mail.  Early voting comes with some drawbacks in this instance.

Keeping the polls staffed for all 14 days costs close to $45 per vote according to Iron county. This high cost has driven many counties to end early voting. In the last election, 18 counties with mail in ballots did not offer early voting, while only three vote by mail counties offered it. My bill proposes that vote by mail counties could have the option of shortening the early voting period to as low at two days. Hopefully, this will encourage counties that have stopped offering early voting due to the high cost to reconsider. HB 141 would make voting more efficient for the county and hopefully more widely available.

Other interesting bills came through the house and passed this week.

HB 205 from Representative Lisonbee seeks to prevent unborn children from being aborted for the sole reason of a positive Down Syndrome test result, which is not always accurate. It would also require the mother who received their child’s diagnosis to be referred to support groups and other resources to help them during their pregnancy and child’s life. After a passionate debate, the bill passed and is now waiting for consideration by the Senate.

There is now a new way to dispose of the deceased other than cremation and burial. HB 121 deals with an idea called Alkaline Hydrolysis, or water cremation, which is a way to process human remains through increasing the PH of the body until it is dissolved. This process is considered a greener way to care for the dead, and may soon become legal in Utah, but only when performed by a licensed funeral director.

It’s been a good week, and I am grateful for your support and for your help filling out those surveys.


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