The Utah State Legislature opened their 2021 general session at 10 a.m. today.
Legislative leaders and local representatives discuss their priorities and expectations for the 2021 session.
House Speaker Brad Wilson, R-Kaysville, outlined the House Republican caucus’ priorities for the 2021 session during a Zoom conference with media representatives on Friday.
Wilson’s priorities included broadening the state’s economic success; investment in infrastructure including roads, rail, water, technology and recreation; extending health opportunities — including mental health, education, and housing opportunities; and balancing the state’s emergency powers to be prepared for long term emergencies.
In his opening remarks on Tuesday morning, Senate President Stuart Adams, R-Layton, mentioned reinvigorating mental health efforts; transportation infrastructure including roads, rail, fiber optics and water; improving trails and parks; education funding; economic development including rural economic development and family-sustaining jobs as priorities of the Senate in 2021.
Heading into the session, revenue projections for the state show an expected surplus in revenues.
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Utah’s economy is still going strong. Unemployment is lower than other states and efforts to keep businesses and the economy open, while protecting the health of the people, have paid off for Utah, according to Adams.
Legislative leadership,along with our local representatives, are supporting the governor’s budget proposal calling for returning $80 million of tax dollars to taxpayers.
Transportation infrastructure, especially roads to help the people of Tooele County move around, are at the top of Reps. Doug Sagers, R-Tooele, and Merrill Nelson, R-Granstville, list for the 2021 session.
According to Sagers, while the Utah Department of Transportation will finish up the first phase of the Midvalley HIghway in 2021, the plans for the second leg — from state Route 138 to state Route 112, is well underway.
Local government leaders have agreed on a route and funding is in place for the environmental impact statement, according to Sagers.
The extension of the MIdvalley HIghway will open up areas along the route for industry. Sagers said he is working on legislation to include Tooele County as a satellite of the inland port.
“This will open the way for warehouse and industrial jobs in the mid valley area and reduce the need for our residents to commute into Salt Lake County,” Sagers said.
Sagers also noted that a $6.5 million budget allocation for expansion of Tooele Technology College that was sidelined last year due to COVID-19 has been restored in the 2021 proposed budget.
Education is a priority, with both Sagers and Nelson pointing out the teacher bonus, funding of enrollment increase, and funding of an increase in the state’s per pupil funding to local school districts.
Sagers is sponsoring legislation providing incentives for hydrogen fuel and energy production. He also said that he is working with Grantsville City on legislation regarding annexation issues.
Nelson has two bills drafted and ready to be introduced.
One bill will require the medical examiner to investigate all deaths resulting from law enforcement action.
This bill is a part of the social justice and law enforcement reform bills that will be part of the 2021 session, according to Nelson.
The other bill clarifies that a rezone of a parcel or multiple parcels of property is included in the definition of a land use law in reference to determining the number of signatures required for a referendum petition and determining when an election on a referendum can be held.
Nelson was recently appointed chairman of the House Health and Human Services. Legislation involving COVID-19 response, Medicaid, mental health reform, and homeless issues pass through the HHS committee.
The state Capitol building is currently closed to the public due to safety concerns. Legislators hope to have the building reopened, but with COVID-19 health guidelines in effect. In the meantime, during the closure and throughout the session, the public can view, participate in and testify in public hearings at le.utah.gov.
The 45 day general session will end on March 5.