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2024 Legislative Session

2024 Legislation

By 2024 Legislative Session4 Comments

I’m proud of the legislation I sponsored in 2024 to help improve Utah and to keep Utah the best state to live in.

S.B. 16 Motor Vehicle Amendments Act

S.B. 16 amends provisions and definitions related to certain motor vehicles to clarify

titling and registration requirements. It allows the Division of Motor Vehicles to provide title to certain off-highway vehicles, defining the terms and amending the definitions of certain motor vehicles. It also mends a provision to allow certain motor vehicles to emit visible contaminants.

S.B. 19 Utah Communications Authority Modifications

S.B. 19 is a clarifying “clean-up” bill to address the code outlining the independent entity of the Utah Communications Authority (UCA). The bill repeals unnecessary definitions and language while making technical changes to align the code section with current drafting policies. As most independent entity code sections have a provision indicating which aspects of the overall code they are subject to or exempt from, the UCA code had two provisions that needed combining; this bill makes that change. Read the bill here.

S.B. 28 Scenic Byway Program Amendments

This bill extends the sunset date of the Utah Scenic Byway Program for 5 years. A proposed designation, similar to the National Scenic Byway or All-American road, is to be done through review by the interim committee and concurrent resolution. Designation or removal of a byway will require legislative approval.

S.B. 32 Caregiver Compensation Amendments

S.B. 32 makes a small amendment to a previously passed bill. S.B. 106 Caregiver Compensation Amendments, passed in 2023, was a bill I ran that allows parents and caregivers to decide the best care for their dependents – whether that be at home with a caregiver or in an institutional facility. The bill allows the spouse or family member who provides care to receive partial compensation to make up for lost work opportunities. S.B. 32 extends this program to include step-parents as qualifying caregivers to ensure families of all types have the support they need. Read more here.

S.B. 34 Utah State Retirement Systems Revisions

This bill implements necessary administrative cleanup in the retirement and insurance code that had been studied and identified throughout the interim. One change pertains to terminology used in the code, altering the term “public fund” to say “investment fund” to better reflect the overall nature of the Utah State Retirement Investment Fund. Reporting and record keeping requirements are updated in this bill, and duties of the review process of the retirement board are further distinguished. Lastly, another component of the bill clarifies which death benefits are available to a surviving spouse when a member of the URS passes away before retirement but after 15 years of service. Read more here.

S.B. 36 Heber Valley Historic Railroad Authority Amendments

During the interim, we considered research on the ownership and funding of heritage railroads in our state and the broader nation. We considered the Heber Valley Historic Railroad in particular and decided to continue supporting it, as it is the only historic tourist railroad and top tourist attraction in Wasatch County. Thus, S.B. 36 Heber Valley Historic Railroad Authority Amendments will extend the sunset date for the Heber Valley Historic Railroad Authority by five years from July 1, 2024 to July 1, 2029. Read the interim presentation here and read the bill here.

S.B. 76 Evidence Retention Amendments

S.B. 76 refines and simplifies the retention, return and disposal process of evidence and contraband for felony offenses. Evidence may include biological materials, narcotics, personal property and other categories. It has become clear that the retention of these items is often longer than is necessary for case assistance. My bill addresses the documentation, disposal and criteria for retention of evidence related to felony offenses. This bill intends to improve the process for retaining property and to outline the disposal of contraband and other items within a proper time frame. Read the bill here.

S.B. 98 Online Data Security and Privacy Amendments

Over the past few years, there has been an effort by stakeholders, organizations, businesses and national security task forces to review security and privacy to better identify the duties of the state cybersecurity centers and departments. As part of this push, S.B. 98 will ensure more secure domains and information online.

The bill enhances and clarifies the data breach notification responsibility, outlining the reporting process and requirements when these breaches occur. It grants the Utah Cyber Center the rulemaking authority to set a framework for notification responsibilities and reporting requirements for government entities, an industry best practice. The Utah Cyber Center will utilize information technology directors, cybersecurity professionals or equivalent individuals representing political subdivisions to perform necessary duties. Also, the bill requires certain government entities to use authorized domain names and sets a timeline for when they should implement this. Learn more here.

S.B. 99 Public Service Commission Amendments

(aka) Adjusting the Appointment Process for the Public Service Commission

One of the most significant responsibilities of the Senate is advising and confirming appointments made by the governor to fill boards and commissions. I am grateful for the many individuals in our state who are willing to contribute their time, energy and expertise to the community. S.B. 99 Public Service Commission Amendments adjust the appointment process for the Public Service Commission by changing the process of appointing a commission pro tempore if a conflict of interest or disability occurs. With this bill, the governor can select a new commission pro tempore within 60 days of a vacancy.

Utah Firefighter Aircraft Training

The Utah Fire and Rescue Academy (UFRA) trains Utah firefighters, including volunteers, on best fire and rescue practices. I am sponsoring S.B. 119 Fire and Rescue Training Amendments, which clarifies that UFRA must provide Utah firefighters with training on aircraft disasters. Currently, nine Utah fire agencies require their firefighters to be trained in battling airplane fires in the event of a crash or a similar disaster. However, this training is not offered anywhere in Utah, meaning our firefighters must travel to other states to satisfy this requirement. My bill will allow UFRA to offer aircraft training in-state, ensuring our firefighters have the necessary experience and knowledge when responding to airport calls. See the bill here.

S.B. 131 Information Technology Act Amendments

S.B. 131 Information Technology Act Amendments enhances penalties for offenses involving the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI). This bill outlines heightened penalties for offenses and addresses the misuse of AI in various criminal activities, including but not limited to child pornography, fraud, misrepresentation of elected or public officials and theft.

Presently, 12 states have enacted laws that increase penalties for AI-related crimes, whether enforced through civil penalties or overseen by the Attorney General. Moreover, numerous states have already enacted laws to address enhanced penalties in connection with various crimes and to improve information tracking systems. The collective efforts seek to establish a legal framework that effectively addresses the challenges posed by the misuse of AI in criminal endeavors. Learn more here.

S.B. 134 Child Welfare Amendments

Each year, lawmakers and the Department of Health and Human Services work together to address changes needed in state code. S.B. 134 Child Welfare Amendments extends the sunset date for the Interdisciplinary Parental Representation Pilot Program to Dec. 31, 2026. This bill clarifies the process for filing a complaint for failure to report child abuse or neglect by requiring the Division of Child and Family Services to provide all information necessary. These procedural changes help ensure that a child is placed in the best home with the best care. Learn more here.

S.B. 135 Advanced Air Mobility and Aeronautics Amendments

A bill of mine from the 2023 General Session, S.B. 24 Advanced Air Mobility Amendments, initially set up the framework for advanced air mobility concerning drones, delivery services and air taxi services in the state. It assembled a task force to review these study items and will provide results on their findings this summer. In the meantime, S.B. 135 implements some of the best practices from around the country. The bill adds a new definition of “motor vehicle” to state code to include a roadable aircraft, which must be registered as both a motor vehicle and an aircraft. Once a roadable aircraft is registered, the aircraft is subject to a safety inspection.

S.B. 135 also clarifies that it is lawful for an aircraft to fly over the state so long as it does not fly at an altitude low enough to endanger persons or property or disrupt the use of the land/water below.

Personal Aircraft Tax Revisions

 

Aviation industry members have raised concerns regarding inconsistency in how fees are applied and assessed. Some individuals are charged remit registration fees on their respective aircraft, others are subject to personal property tax and some are required to pay both.

S.B. 148 Aircraft Property Tax Amendments requested by constituents and aviation stakeholders, clarifies individuals must only pay registration fees for personal aircraft and are exempt from property tax assessment, ensuring owners are not overcharged on taxes. Learn more about what the bill does here.

 

S.B. 165 Title Recording Notice Requirements Amendments

(aka) Combating Property Fraud

Constituents have brought forward concerns regarding rising incidents of property fraud, where thieves exploit loopholes to transfer deeds and take out mortgages, causing financial harm to rightful owners. S.B. 165 Title Recording Notice Requirement Amendments require counties to establish a system for property owners to receive electronic alerts when a county recorder records a deed or mortgage on their property. This bill empowers property owners to be aware of any changes and contest them if they are fraudulent.

S.B. 179 Transportation Amendments

The Legislature runs an annual transportation committee clean-up bill which includes technical clean- up on Utah Transit Authority (UTA) code, removes code with outdated language and cross references and makes technical changes. The bill clarifies that UDOT is the transit agency outside of rural Utah and that they can provide transit services if they are requested.

SB 182. Addressing Rising Property Taxes

When tax notices were mailed out last year, several constituents contacted me and other senators, highlighting the drastic rise in property taxes. For one owner, property taxes went up 1500%.

S.B. 182 Property Tax Assessment Amendments is the culmination of efforts between the Utah Association of Counties, the Utah State Tax Commission and our state’s county assessors to address this issue. The bill assists property owners who experience a tax increase of 150% or more by providing them a five-year grace period to pay the taxes. It also requires counties to adopt a statewide property tax system and implement corrective action for county assessors who do not comply with the requirements. Learn more about what the bill does here.

 

Condominium and HOA Policy Updates

S.B. 204 Condominium and Community Association Amendments is our third year of legislative efforts to implement needed clean-up in the HOA and community association code. Specifically, S.B. 204 revises provisions for homeowners’ associations regarding taxation, common areas and lease provisions. This bill modifies the definition of “water-wise landscaping” in state code and requires that multi-unit owners (HOAs) adopt rules allowing for sustainable water management in landscaping. This bill also addresses voting procedure and proper notice timeframes for voting on proposals when a unit owner is absent. Read the other provisions of the bill here.

Expanding Affordable Housing Options

 

To address Utah’s growth and transportation needs, the Legislature is working to expand the state’s housing and transit reinvestment zones (HTRZs). HTRZs are areas designed to support mixed-use, multi-family and affordable housing development around public transportation stations. These zones enhance residents’ access to public transportation, providing convenient and efficient connectivity to employment centers, educational institutions, healthcare facilities and recreational amenities. Additionally, they enable a portion of incremental tax revenue growth to be captured over a period of time to support the costs of enhanced development.

 

S.B. 208 Housing and Transit Reinvestment Zone Amendments modifies various HTRZ provisions, such as increasing the percentage of affordable housing units from 10% to 12%, requiring a distribution of low-income and first-time units throughout developments and encouraging owner-occupied housing within a zone. These changes will help expand affordable housing options for people who would like to live in more densely populated areas that provide nearby public transportation and amenities. Learn more about the bill here.

 

State Boards and Commissions Revisions

The Office of Legislative Research and General Counsel conducted a comprehensive study to identify all boards and commissions that do not currently require governor-appointed members to be confirmed by the Senate. Based on the study’s findings, S.B. 227 Boards and Commissions Revisions specifies that any new appointment, reappointment or filling of a vacancy made by the governor should undergo the Senate’s confirmation proceedings. Additionally, the bill requires that the Utah Association of Counties and the Utah League of Cities and Towns nominate an official within 30 days of a vacancy in local government, further streamlining the appointment process for improved governance. Read the bill here.

Establishing a Rail Ombudsman

During the last session, the Legislature created the Office of Rail Safety within the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) to regulate, monitor and maintain railroad operations. Following discussions with the UDOT, we have opted to heed their recommendation to defer the implementation of these newly proposed sections for one year, allowing us the necessary time to streamline our rail division within the department.

 

S.B. 235 Railroad Amendments creates a rail ombudsman position to oversee the office. Their duties include:

  • Coordinating and providing essential information to various stakeholders, including private citizens, government entities, rail operators and other interested parties.
  • Offering accessible avenues for public engagement, including a dedicated website featuring a submission form for reports or complaints.
  • Facilitating productive dialogue and meetings between Class I railroad companies and relevant stakeholders.

 

These measures will enhance rail safety, promote transparency and foster constructive dialogue between all parties involved in Utah’s rail transportation system.

Increasing Supply for First-Time Homebuyers

Week 5, 2024 Legislative Update

By 2024 Legislative Session, Legislative UpdateNo Comments

Friends and Neighbors,

Foremost, I wish to thank each of you who have contacted me to express your positions on the various bills and budget items the legislature is addressing.  Likewise, thank you for attending the town hall meetings and visiting with me at the capitol.  And yes, the school groups touring the capitol are wonderful and the Chinese Dragon dancers from Bennion Middle School were excellent!

We have completed the fifth week of the legislative session. As bills progress through the legislative session, we spend more time on the Senate floor, voting on the final passage of both House and Senate bills. Constituents can listen to Senate floor discussions from the Senate gallery, ensuring transparency in the political process by having public access and public votes. I welcome you to join us in the Senate gallery to see how I vote on each bill. If you have the chance to come, please let me know! And please continue to share with me your perspective on legislation.

During the remaining two weeks of the 2024 General Session, I look forward to hearing your thoughts and considerations regarding our work at the Capitol. I will continue to represent the interests of Senate District 16 as we work to keep Utah the best state in the nation.

Sincerely,

Senator Wayne A. Harper

My Sponsored Legislation

Personal Aircraft Tax Revisions

Aviation industry members have raised concerns regarding inconsistency in how fees are applied and assessed. Some individuals are charged remit registration fees on their respective aircraft, others are subject to personal property tax and some are required to pay both.
S.B. 148 Aircraft Property Tax Amendments requested by constituents and aviation stakeholders, clarifies individuals must only pay registration fees for personal aircraft and are exempt from property tax assessment, ensuring owners are not overcharged on taxes. Learn more about what the bill does here.

Combating Property Fraud

Constituents have brought forward concerns regarding rising incidents of property fraud, where thieves exploit loopholes to record fake deeds and then take out mortgages, causing financial harm to the rightful owners. S.B. 165 Title Recording Notice Requirement Amendments mandates counties to establish a system for property owners to receive electronic alerts when a county recorder records a deed or mortgage on their property. This bill empowers property owners to be aware of any changes and contest them if they are fraudulent.

Other Highlighted Legislation

Honoring Utah’s Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Communities

Utah has deep connections to the Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander communities. Much of our culture and history is intertwined with theirs. In the 1880s, many Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders migrated to Utah to assist the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in constructing the Salt Lake City Temple. Many of those migrants then found a permanent home in the Salt Lake Valley. Today, about 59,000 members of the Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander community live in our state, making Utah home to the largest population of Pacific Islanders in the continental United States. Furthermore, Salt Lake City boasts the distinction of hosting the largest Tongan population in the nation, with one-fourth of all Tongans calling Utah home.

Their invaluable contributions to Utah’s rich tapestry of culture and history were celebrated this week on the Senate floor through S.J.R. 9 Joint Resolution Honoring Utah’s Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Cultures and Communities. Unanimously passed in the Senate, this resolution now awaits consideration in the House, a testament to the enduring respect and appreciation for the remarkable legacy of these communities in our state.

Water Week

This week, the Legislature celebrated Water Week, where we focused on legislation aimed at water conservation, agricultural water optimization and water security. Below are some water bill highlights.

Planning for Utah’s Water Security

S.B. 211 Generational Water Infrastructure Amendments addresses Utah’s long-term need for adequate and reliable water by creating the Water District Water Development Council and a Water Project Executive Agent to plan for and develop generational water infrastructure projects that look 50-75 years into the future. This bill enhances coordination for water projects throughout Utah in a significant step toward sustainable water resource management for generations to come.

Together, these entities will work with lawmakers to spearhead proactive measures to ensure a resilient and sustainable water future for all Utahns – integrating foresight, collaboration and strategic resource allocation into a comprehensive statewide water approach.

Water is the lifeline of Utah’s economy, agriculture and communities. The state’s growing population and economy rely on a steady and sustainable water supply. Just as early settlers had the foresight to ingeniously manage water resources to establish thriving communities in an arid climate, today, we are working with the same mindset to ensure Utah has long-term plans for sustainable water access for future generations.

Incentivizing Agricultural Water Optimization

S.B. 18 recognizes the critical role of agriculture in our state, understanding it as the backbone of our economy and livelihoods. It acknowledges the necessity of ensuring farmers have access to the water they require for successful cultivation while simultaneously encouraging them to use it in the most efficient manner possible.

By prioritizing both water availability and efficiency in agricultural practices, the bill aims to sustainably support our agricultural industry, safeguarding its vitality for future generations. Utah must improve its water distribution while also supporting the vital contributions of the state’s agricultural industry. This bill allows the agricultural community to save, monetize and sell their excess water while maintaining their water rights.

Water Efficient Landscaping

S.B. 118 creates a grant program to offset the cost difference between traditional and xeriscape landscaping in new home construction. It is a step toward promoting water conservation and sustainable development. This aims to address water scarcity concerns and reduce environmental impact by encouraging the adoption of drought-resistant plants and efficient irrigation systems.

Xeriscaping not only conserves water but also minimizes maintenance requirements and supports biodiversity, offering long-term cost savings for homeowners and developers. Through this program, individuals are empowered to make environmentally conscious choices while contributing to the resilience of ecosystems and communities in the face of water challenges.

Condemning Oppressive Communist Regimes

The Senate unanimously passed S.J.R. 5 Joint Resolution Condemning Communism and Socialism this past week, reaffirming our commitment to the fundamental principles of life and liberty enshrined in our U.S. Constitution. This bipartisan effort underscores the critical importance of maintaining a free market, which allows individuals in Utah the autonomy to shape their lives and engage in economic activities as they see fit.

During the debates on this bill, we heard many stories from survivors of oppressive communist and socialist regimes from across the world. These first-hand accounts of abuse, despotism and repression proved to my colleagues and me that we must condemn this form of government in the strongest of terms. In Utah, we cherish the freedoms that define our way of life, standing firm against any ideology that stifles individual liberties. As stewards of freedom, we remain steadfast in our commitment to preserving and defending the principles that make our state strong.

Learn more about the bill and watch the debate here.

Creating Spaces for AI Development

As generative AI becomes a part of our everyday lives, the Legislature has been deliberating how to protect consumers from deceptive AI tools while still promoting innovation over the last year.

Utah historically takes a free market approach to innovation, allowing technology and business to thrive in our state. S.B. 149 Artificial Intelligence Amendments proposes creating an AI laboratory for regulators and businesses to find best practices for using and regulating AI. By creating a laboratory with appropriate safeguards and space for technological advancement, Utah will be better prepared for AI in future years.

Protecting Children from Abuse

In Utah, 1 in 7 children experience sexual abuse before age 18. Children ages 7 to 13 are most vulnerable to abuse, with 91% of cases involving perpetrators known and trusted by the child. We are working to better educate our communities on recognizing the signs of abuse and implement more preventative measures to ensure the end of sexual abuse of children. S.B. 205 Child Sexual Abuse Prevention Amendments, known as the “Safe Child Project,” seeks to address the issue.

This bill requests $1.5 million in ongoing funding for prevention education in Utah elementary classrooms. It creates a state contract with a primary prevention education provider responsible for state-wide outreach, tracking, reporting and education. S.B. 205 further ensures the prevention curriculum is age-appropriate and understandable for elementary school students while helping them recognize abusive behaviors and actions.

Other Events

Springville Art Contest

We hosted young artists participating in the Senate Art Contest, held in collaboration with the Springville Art Contest. This annual event showcases the exceptional talents of high school students statewide. The winners, selected by a panel of judges, receive scholarship money and are recognized on the Senate floor. This year, we commended ten students out of over 1,000 submissions with awards for their beautiful, original art pieces. This incredible program encourages young artists to showcase their skills and awards their outstanding creativity.

International Visitors

Utah frequently hosts groups from the Department of State’s International Visitor Leadership Program. This program brings leaders from other countries to the United States to learn about democracy and governance before taking what they learn back to their home country. This week, we hosted a group that came to Utah to understand how we promote cybersecurity, specifically regarding AI visitors from Argentina, Jordan, Sri Lanka and more. During the visit, we discussed Utah’s work to ensure online safety and security. Utah is an example to the world in many areas; We enjoyed discussing our best practices in AI and hope it will help other countries adjust to this new technology.

UVU Day on the Hill

Utah Valley University (UVU) Day on the Hill brought staff, faculty and students together to share the best parts of UVU with Capitol Hill. These bright and kind individuals represent Utah and UVU well. As Utah’s largest institution of higher education with a record of over 44,000 students enrolled last semester, UVU does an excellent job training and preparing the next generation of Utahns to enter the workforce. I am grateful for the opportunities and experiences that UVU provides, and it was a privilege to host them at the Capitol. Go Wolverines!

Chinese New Year 

We welcomed the Chinese New Year on Saturday, February 10th. Also known as the Spring Festival, Chinese New Year marks the beginning of the lunar new year and is rich in cultural traditions and customs. Families gather to enjoy sumptuous feasts, exchange gifts and partake in colorful festivities that symbolize good fortune, prosperity and happiness for the year ahead. Each year is associated with one of the twelve zodiac animals, and 2024 heralds the Year of the Dragon, representing strength, courage and good luck. Let’s celebrate this joyous occasion and wish everyone a happy and prosperous Chinese New Year!

Week 4, 2024 Legislative Update

By 2024 Legislative Session, Legislative UpdateNo Comments

Greetings Friends and Neighbors,

 

We are more than halfway through the 2024 General Legislative Session and time is certainly moving quickly. In the coming weeks, we will continue to focus on passing bills that will have a local, regional and statewide impact and benefits. These bills, some of which are described below, will seek to improve our state and enhance Utahns’ quality of life.

 

Though the bills, budget allocation and resolutions keep us very busy, we always appreciate recognizing honorable and inspiring people across the state. This week, we honored small businesses, firefighters, Asian American and Pacific Islanders and university student groups. In each recognition, I was impressed by our state’s phenomenal strength, resilience, and talent. I am humbled to be surrounded by such excellence and proud to call myself a Utahn!

 

As I continue to work hard to represent you, I want to keep you updated on our progress in the Legislature. Below is information on several bills we are currently considering.

 

Sincerely,

 

Senator Wayne A. Harper

 

 

Special Note:

I appreciate all those who attended my previous town hall meetings.  Likewise, I enjoyed meeting with several schools including Bennion Middle School and Westland Elementary, plus PTA members and School Board members from Granite and Jordan Districts.  Several constituents also came for the Pacific Island Commemoration, and I had two sit with me on the Dias as I presided over the Senate on Thursday.

 

Remaining Town Hall Meeting

We have one more town hall opportunity this week in Taylorsville. This will be a great setting to forecast and discuss the remainder of the session. I hope to see you there:

 

February 15, 2024

Taylorsville City Hall

6:00 – 7:30 pm

2600 w 5400 s

Taylorsville, Utah

 

My Sponsored Legislation

 

NCSL 50th Anniversary Resolution

The Senate and House passed a joint resolution this week recognizing the 50th Anniversary of the creation of the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). NCSL is a bipartisan organization with three objectives: to advance the effectiveness, independence and integrity of state legislatures; to foster interstate communication and cooperation; and to ensure states have a strong, cohesive voice in the federal system. Founded in 1975, NCSL has evolved during the past half-century to become the premier organization solely dedicated to serving state and territorial legislators and legislative staff. I sincerely commend NCSL and their support committees and staff for providing state legislatures an opportunity to civilly share ideas and perspectives, all for the greater goal of enhancing the American experience. See the resolution here.

 

Utah Firefighter Aircraft Training

The Utah Fire and Rescue Academy (UFRA) trains Utah firefighters, including volunteers, on best fire and rescue practices. I am sponsoring S.B. 119 Fire and Rescue Training Amendments, which clarifies that UFRA must provide Utah firefighters with training on aircraft disasters. Currently, nine Utah fire agencies require their firefighters to be trained in battling airplane fires in the event of a crash or a similar disaster. However, this training is not offered anywhere in Utah, meaning our firefighters must travel to other states to satisfy this requirement. My bill will allow UFRA to offer aircraft training in-state, ensuring our firefighters have the necessary experience and knowledge when responding to airport calls. The Senate passed S.B. 119 this week, and now it will be sent to the House for their consideration. You can track the progress of the bill here.

 

S.B. 135 Advanced Air Mobility and Aeronautics Amendments

S.B. 24 Advanced Air Mobility Amendments, a bill of mine from the 2023 General Session, initially set up the framework for advanced air mobility concerning drones, delivery services and air taxi services in the state. It assembled a task force to review these study items and will provide results on their findings this summer. In the meantime, S.B. 135 implements some of the best practices from around the country. The bill adds a new definition of “motor vehicle” to state code to include a roadable aircraft, which must be registered as both a motor vehicle and an aircraft. Once a roadable aircraft is registered, the aircraft is subject to a safety inspection.

S.B. 135 also clarifies that it is lawful for an aircraft to fly over the state so long as it does not fly at an altitude low enough to endanger persons or property or disrupt the use of the land/water below.

 

Budget Process

Week four marks the last time appropriation subcommittees will meet this session. Over the past three weeks, we have heard funding requests from constituents, organizations and stakeholders. This week, we met as subcommittees and ranked all funding items in a master list. These lists will now be sent to the Executive Appropriations Committee for a final ranking. As the end of the session nears, these lists, along with the fiscal notes from all bills passed, will be consolidated into the final budget bill – known as the “Bill of Bills.”

 

You can learn more about the budget process and see what funding requests have been submitted here.

 

Other Highlighted Legislation

 

Protecting Youth from the Harms of Social Media

Utah is leading the nation with landmark legislation that helps safeguard kids and teens from the growing mental health crisis tied to the rise in social media addiction. In our state, 88% of parents believe social media has a detrimental impact on children and youth, and nearly half of teens nationwide, ages 13 to 17, said using social media makes them feel worse. A staggering 53% of teen girls in Utah have persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness, a 61% increase since the invention of social media.

 

The goal of S.B. 194 and H.B. 464 is to protect minors from harmful product features of social media while empowering parents. These bills continue the work of Utah’s previous landmark legislation to provide parents with enhanced tools and resources, including strict age-verification processes, default privacy settings and tools for overseeing minor accounts.

 

It also requires social media companies to offer parents and legal guardians tools to oversee minor accounts, including setting time limits, scheduling mandatory breaks, viewing total and daily average use time and seeing connected accounts. Read more here.

 

 

Addressing Behavioral Health in Utah

With the recent trend of increasing mental health conditions throughout the nation, government organizations are finding ways to address behavioral health concerns. Behavioral health encompasses conditions related to mental health and substance use disorders, such as depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and more.

 

To increase the efficiency of Utah’s behavioral health system, the Legislature is considering S.B. 27 Behavioral Health System Amendments. S.B. 27 creates a behavioral health commission within the Department of Health and Human Services. The commission combines several existing behavioral health entities under a single umbrella. By creating a centralized entity, behavioral health organizations will more effectively and efficiently address behavioral health concerns in the state. You can track the progress of the bill here.

 

​​S.B. 92 Student Communication Methods

Our society increasingly relies on the internet and smartphones, and this is no different in the classroom. Schools are turning heavily to smartphone apps to help distribute information, sell event tickets and make announcements. Partnerships with schools are essential to mitigating the harmful impacts of social media.

 

S.B. 92 Student Communication Methods addresses how notifications should be delivered to students in school. It mandates a non-electronic communication method be distributed in addition to any electronic methods. Notably, the bill does not preclude schools from utilizing electronic means as long as they provide a non-electronic alternative. Learn more here.

 

Citation Honoring Utah Firefighter Crews

Our Forestry, Fire and State Lands’ Fire Program and its wildland firefighting crews had a busy year in 2023. They spent over 100 days assigned to wildfire incidents, assisting in

completing 25 hazardous fuels projects across the state and providing crucial support on over 30 fires across the country. It was our privilege to issue them an honorary citation on the chamber floor for their dedication to protecting our communities, enhancing our state’s resilience against wildfires and educating Utahns on proactive wildfire prevention. We are deeply indebted to the remarkable men and women who selflessly risk their lives to protect our state. Watch the citation here.

Events

Culture Industry Report

On Friday, the Capitol Rotunda was filled with art, science experiments, museums and animals as we welcomed Utah’s cultural industry. Many of the entertainment, economic prosperity and learning opportunities we enjoy in Utah are thanks to these businesses. Over 100,000 individuals are involved in the arts, humanities and cultural sectors. The industry also contributes $17.8 billion in sales and $309 million in tax revenue. We congratulate them on their great work for the betterment of our state.

Career and Technical Education Day

Career and Technical Education (CTE) in Utah focuses on providing rigorous, high-quality education that is career-focused and helps students graduate and enter the workforce as soon as possible. In the 2022-23 school year, over 180,000 students enrolled in CTE classes with a 97% graduation rate. These classes offer students a leg up in business, trade and other industries.

Utah Life Sciences Day on Capitol Hill

Life Sciences Day on the Hill brought an impressive array of science, technology and healthcare displays to the Rotunda. Utah’s life sciences industry has seen a surge in growth and become a staple of our economy. With 1,600 companies and over 180,000 jobs, our life science sector is one of the fastest-growing in the nation.

Utah Tourism Day on the Hill

Tourism is thriving in Utah, with dozens of beautiful natural landscapes to explore and small towns full of rich history. In 2022, the tourism industry in Utah brought our state nearly $12 billion in direct visitor spending, $2.1 billion in tax revenue and over 150,000 travel and tourism jobs. Our five National Parks, 44 State Parks and world-class ski resorts are some of the best the West has to offer. Because of our tourism industry, Utah will continue to be a place for all to recreate and enjoy.

Snow College Day

Snow College stands as a pillar in Central Utah’s educational community. This year, the college celebrates its 135th Anniversary. To honor Snow and all its contributions to Utah, we welcomed many faculty, staff, alums and students to the Senate for a glimpse of the legislative process.

Being one of the oldest colleges in the West, Snow’s history is deeply intertwined with Utah’s. The college currently boasts around 6,000 students and offers certificates, associate degrees and, as of 2018, two bachelor’s degrees.

I am grateful for all Snow College is doing for our state. Universities help train the future of Utah, and it is always a privilege to host them at the Capitol. Go Badgers!

Week 3, 2024 Legislative Session

By 2024 Legislative Session, Legislative UpdateNo Comments

Friends and Neighbors,

 

After completing the third week of the session, a total of 707 bills have been numbered, and 44 of them have passed in both the House and Senate. Five of my sponsored bills have passed so far, and I am continuing to diligently tackle the issues important to District 16. With only four weeks remaining, there’s still a substantial workload ahead, but significant progress has been made. I admire the deliberative legislative process, which ensures each proposal is thoroughly vetted before becoming law. I especially appreciate how the public has multiple opportunities to voice their opinions on proposed laws as they progress through the session. Listening to public comment affords legislators valuable insight into how laws will impact a given demographic and is crucial for crafting meaningful and effective legislation.

 

We also had a busy week of events and community recognitions on Capitol Hill. We were visited by members of our state’s military installations, local organizations, school groups and state university affiliates all here for a glimpse of what we do during the session.

 

Below are some of these event highlights and an update on a handful of bills we considered last week. Thank you for following along this session, and I will continue to send weekly updates as the session goes on.

 

Sincerely,

 

Senator Wayne A. Harper

 

 

Remaining Town Hall Meetings

 

We had a productive night at Brigham Creek Library for my first town hall of the year last week. I have two more town halls coming up this month for you to attend. I look forward to seeing you there!

 

February 8, 2024

Thomas M. Rees Justice Center

6:30-8:00

8040 South Redwood Road

West Jordan, Utah

 

February 15, 2024

Taylorsville City Hall

6:30-8:30

2600 w 5400 s

Taylorsville, Utah

 

My Legislation

 

ADA Website Accessibility

S.C.R. 4 Concurrent Resolution Urging Changes to ADA Website Accessibility urges Congress to change public accommodation laws regarding website accessibility. Small businesses don’t always have the resources readily available to design a website that fits all of the specific criteria outlined in the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). These businesses are required to address components of their website that are deemed non-compliant in an unreasonably short period of time with no grace period. With roughly 46% of Americans working for small businesses,  extending the window would allow them time to meet requirements while supporting small businesses.

 

This resolution calls on Congress and the Department of Justice to allow small businesses time to respond to allegations and make corrections to comply with ADA accessibility before punitive action is taken.

 

Additionally, I’m running a bill, S.B. 82, to clarify that Utah is not a regulatory entity for the ADA provisions on website compliance under state and federal code. Learn more here.

 

AI and S.B. 131 Information Technology Act Amendments

 

S.B. 131 Information Technology Act Amendments enhances penalties for offenses involving the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI). This bill directs the courts to consider heightened penalties for offenses and addresses the misuse of AI in various criminal activities, including but not limited to child pornography, fraud, misrepresentation of elected or public officials and theft.

Presently, 12 states have enacted laws that increase penalties for AI-related crimes, whether enforced through civil penalties or overseen by the Attorney General. Moreover, numerous states have already enacted laws to address enhanced penalties in connection with various crimes and to improve information tracking systems. The collective efforts seek to establish a legal framework that effectively addresses the challenges posed by the misuse of AI in criminal endeavors. Learn more here.

 

S.B. 134 Child Welfare Amendments

 

Each year, lawmakers and the Department of Health and Human Services work together to address changes needed in state code. S.B. 134 Child Welfare Amendments extends the sunset date for the Interdisciplinary Parental Representation Pilot Program to Dec. 31, 2026. This bill clarifies the process for filing a complaint for failure to report child abuse or neglect by requiring the Division of Child and Family Services to provide all information necessary. These procedural changes help ensure that a child is placed in the best home with the best care. Learn more here.

 

Events

 

Receiving the Cultural Champion Award

 

I was honored to receive the Utah Cultural Alliance Cultural Champion of the Year Award for my efforts and support of arts, culture and humanities in the state. I have long admired and been impressed by the range and quality of our arts industry, and I understand the deep impact it has in our communities. I am in awe of the countless artists, musicians, writers and cultural advocates who have contributed to the flourishing artistic scene in Utah. Together, we have witnessed how art and culture have the extraordinary ability to bridge gaps, celebrate diversity and stimulate conversations that shape the very fabric of our society. May arts, culture, and humanities thrive and continue to be a source of joy, enlightenment and unity for generations to come.

 

 

Recognizing Utah’s Service Members of the Year

 

The Utah Service Member of the Year award recognizes outstanding performers from the state’s major military entities, including the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Space Force. The Senate honored these fine service members and their families for their ongoing service and sacrifice. Our thanks are the least we can offer for their dedicated efforts, ensuring continued readiness during challenging times.

 

These service members represent the best of the military in Utah. They remind us of the true meaning of service and sacrifice. Their dedication and commitment to excellence inspire us all. We will always value those who wear the uniform and their families. Watch the recognition here.

 

Awarding Barbara Riddle

 

Joining the service members for recognition was Barbara Riddle. She is the President and CEO of Chamber West which serves the businesses in Taylorsville, West Jordan, Kearns and West Valley City.  Barbara was recently named Defense Community Champion of the Year in recognition of her many years of service to servicemembers and their families in Utah. Barbara went on to compete at the national level in the Association of Defense Communities’ Community Champion competition where she was selected as one of 15 national level semifinalists.

 

This recognition was well deserved and long overdue for the many years and countless hours Barbara has devoted to strengthening our communities and supporting military families. I was overjoyed to join in applauding her efforts with my fellow senators.

 

Other Highlighted Legislation

Tax Cuts

 

For the past three years, the Legislature has cut taxes by over $1 billion while ensuring funding for the most vital parts of our society, including historic funding for education and social services. S.B. 69 continues this effort by reducing the state income tax again. If it passes, it will mark four consecutive years the Senate voted to reduce taxes so Utahns can keep more of their hard-earned money.

 

S.B. 69 passed the Senate and will now be considered by the House.

 

Energy Independence

 

Investing in the state’s energy capabilities is a top priority this session. Utah is making considerable progress toward energy independence and a secure energy future.

 

Securing Utah’s energy future is about more than keeping the lights on – it’s about ensuring we have reliable energy resources for generations to come that will provide fuel for our vehicles, keep us warm during cold winters and cool during the hot summers and power our cities and businesses.

 

When it comes to energy, we’re applying an “all of the above” approach. We cannot rely on one energy source alone. We’re looking at any and all energy resources to ensure power remains affordable and reliable for generations to come.

Week 2, 2024 Legislative Session

By 2024 Legislative Session, Legislative UpdateNo Comments

Dear friends and neighbors,

As the legislature concludes Week Two of the General Session, I wish to thank the hundreds of you who continue to contact meet on a variety of issues and bills..Our past week was very intense and consisted of many hours spent on the floor and in different committees listening to bill presentations and appropriation requests. It is fascinating to hear of the numerous projects across the state that have been envisioned and planned throughout the interim, well before the 2024 General Session began. The continual preparation and discussions leading up to the session leaves me with a profound appreciation for citizen input and for the legislative process.

I am currently working on getting several bills through the legislative process, the vast majority of my bills result from you, my constituents. My bills address topics such as cybersecurity, retirement code, transportation issues, tax reductions, families and more. If you would like to learn more about the legislation I am sponsoring this session, you can find a list of bills here. Below I have also detailed some of my bills that were heard in committee and on the floor this week.

Below, I have provided an overview of this week’s important events and bills in various stages of the legislative process, including the budget appropriations process and my own legislation. I will continue to send regular updates during the remaining five weeks of the session. Please reach out with any questions, comments or recommendations you may have!

And to clarify a common question and misunderstanding: Dual Language Immersion will be fully funded and will continue. 

Sincerely,

Senator Wayne A. Harper

Town Hall Reminder

As a reminder, I am hosting three town halls in the coming weeks. I hope these settings will be a convenient opportunity for you to come, ask questions and learn a little bit more about our efforts this session. I have also invited the Representative in that area to join me in the town halls.

 

Option 1
January 31, 2024
Brigham Creek Library
6:30-8:30
4834 w 9000 s
West Jordan, Utah

Option 2
February 8, 2024
Thomas M. Rees Justice Center
6:30-8:00
8040 South Redwood Road
West Jordan, Utah

Option 3
February 15, 2024
Taylorsville City Hall
6:30-8:30
2600 w 5400 s
Taylorsville, Utah

Base Budget Bills

As the 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 considering how we allocate money for public education, social services, transportation and more.

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, allowing the state to continue functioning at a basic level and preventing 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. Learn more here.

My Sponsored Legislation

S.B. 32 Caregiver Compensation Amendments
S.B. 32 makes a small amendment to a previously passed bill. S.B. 106 Caregiver Compensation Amendments, passed in 2023, was a bill I ran that allows parents and caregivers to decide the best care for their dependents – whether that be at home with a caregiver or in an institutional facility. The bill allows the spouse or family member who provides care to receive partial compensation to make up for lost work opportunities. S.B. 32 extends this program to include step-parents as qualifying caregivers to ensure families of all types have the support they need. Read more here.

S.B. 98 Online Data Security and Privacy Amendments
Over the past few years, there has been an effort by stakeholders, organizations, businesses and national security task forces to review security and privacy to better identify the duties of the state cybersecurity centers and departments. As part of this push, S.B. 98 will ensure more secure domains and information online.

The bill enhances and clarifies the data breach notification responsibility, outlining the reporting process and requirements when these breaches occur. It grants the Utah Cyber Center the rulemaking authority to set a framework for notification responsibilities and reporting requirements for government entities, an industry best practice. The Utah Cyber Center will utilize information technology directors, cybersecurity professionals or equivalent individuals representing political subdivisions to perform necessary duties. Also, the bill requires certain government entities to use authorized domain names and sets a timeline for when they should implement this. Learn more here.

S.B. 99 Public Service Commission Amendments
S.B. 99 changes the appointment process and period for the Public Service Commission, improving the functionality and indicating vacancies for the commission are to be filled by a Gubernatorial nomination subject to the consent of the Senate. This bill changes the process of appointing a commission pro tempore due to conflicts of interest or disability by allowing the Governor to select a new commission pro tempore within 60 days. The time period for an application for appointment shall last 30 days for an expiring term and 14 days for a vacancy. These changes will help strengthen the efficiency and effectiveness of our institutions.

Other Legislation

S.C.R. 2 Utah Association of Counties Resolution
The Utah Association of Counties (UAC) plays a pivotal role in Utah’s track record of good governance. With a crucial role in supporting the 29 counties across our state, UAC enables counties to offer the best possible services to their citizens. They represent the counties in the Legislature, advocate for their needs, provide training to county officials and work to improve county government outcomes. As the government entities closest to the people, counties benefit significantly from UAC’s vital services.

This month marks the 100th anniversary of UAC. Here at the Legislature, we honored their timeless contributions to Utah by passing a resolution in support of their organization while welcoming numerous county commissioners onto the Senate floor. UAC’s tireless efforts contribute significantly to Utah’s standing as one of the best places to live in America, which we acknowledge with deep gratitude. For more insights into UAC and to read the resolution, click here.

S.C.R. 3 Concurrent Resolution Supporting Major League Baseball in Utah
Baseball is truly America’s pastime. Its history, deeply rooted in American culture, has brought countless contributions to our society and generational connections. It is only fitting that one of the greatest sports comes to the greatest state in the nation. My colleagues and I are working hard to bring a Major League Baseball franchise to the Beehive State. This week we passed S.C.R. 3 Concurrent Resolution Supporting Major League Baseball in Utah. Recognizing Utah as a prime location, the resolution highlights our advantageous geographic position, proven track record in hosting successful sports events, community-centric values and robust economy.

Beyond the thrill of the game, the resolution emphasizes the significant economic and cultural benefits a professional baseball team and ballpark would bring to Utah. Enabling greater accessibility and affordability for Utahns to enjoy sporting events, this decision will have a positive impact for generations. Utah is poised and eager to become the permanent home of a professional baseball franchise, further enriching our state’s cultural and sporting legacy.

Great Salt Lake Update

Great Salt Lake Commissioner Brian Steed provided a status update on the Great Salt Lake. He shared some of the goals for the lake, including land use planning, developing a long-term funding plan, exploring potential water supply augmentation and developing a split season lease program to acquire the water the lake needs.

One of the main concerns is dust pollution. Dust mitigation could require high upfront and ongoing costs. Thankfully, the lakebed has a thick crust that will keep the dust down; however, mitigating it is a long-term goal.

Additionally, the lake’s south arm has seen a notable increase, with healthier salinity and higher water levels than in 2022. While it is still a work in progress, there has been an increased understanding of the costs associated with a drying lake.

Events

Visit from Consulate General of Canada

I had the pleasure of welcoming Canadian Consul General Sylvain Fabi, who represents Canada in the U.S. Mountain West Region, to the Senate. Utah has a strong relationship with Canada, with $2.75 million exported to Utah annually and 77 Canadian-owned businesses employing 2,473 workers in Utah. During a meeting with Senate majority leadership, we shared our priorities with the Consul General and discussed opportunities for continued collaboration on future projects. We will continue to develop good relationships with international partners, allowing Utah’s influence to expand worldwide.

Small Business Coalition Meeting

I was pleased to participated in a meeting of entrepreneurs and small business owners to better understand their needs and status heading into a new year. Our state’s dedication to fostering small businesses is not just a commitment but a testament to the thriving entrepreneurial spirit that defines Utah. Our business-friendly policies serve as a catalyst for innovation and growth, providing a supportive environment for startups and owner-operated companies to flourish. With our welcoming business climate, robust tech ecosystem, and diverse economy, we cultivate an ecosystem where businesses can thrive, evolve, and make lasting contributions to our state’s prosperity. It’s not just about building profitable businesses; it’s about creating a legacy of innovation, resilience, and community that defines the entrepreneurial spirit of Utah.

Recognition of Uzbekistan Representative to the United Nations

This week we also recognized the Permanent Representative of the Republic of Uzbekistan to the United Nations, Mr. Ulugbek Lapasov, on the Senate floor. Since its founding, Utah is known as the crossroads of the West. Likewise, Uzbekistan was the crossroads of the world for hundreds of years as trade flowed along the Silk Road. Ambassador Lapasov came to Utah to build partnerships with Utah organizations. He is committed to helping Uzbekistan teach its people English instead of Russian, increasing digital literacy in Uzbekistan, and providing support as the country works to modernize its mining industry. Additionally, he wants to increase tourism and develop a strong tech industry—all things we know that Utah excels in. It was an honor to be joined by representatives of Uzbekistan.