Opinion: 10 ways Utah lawmakers made life better this year
The Legislature considered over 1,000 bills and passed more than 500 into law. Here is a brief look at how an average Utah family will benefit
In the controlled chaos of the 45-day general legislative session, it is easy for a casual observer to wonder how our work makes a positive impact on their everyday lives. After considering over 1,000 bills and passing more than 500 into law, here is a brief look at how an average Utah family will benefit:
Let’s take the Johnson family as an example. Mr. and Mrs. Johnson had a baby this year and Mrs. Johnson is planning on returning to work. This year, the Legislature passed HB15, Child Care Amendments, which reduces the barriers faced by child care facilities and increases the availability of affordable child care.
Mrs. Johnson is a school teacher. HB386, Education Innovation Program, will allow her more flexibility in her classroom by shifting financial incentives to encourage schools to try innovative methods of teaching. She will also benefit from HB184, Teacher Professional Development Amendments, which provides teachers with additional flexibility to manage challenges in classrooms by using teacher professional development or “catch up” days.
As for Mr. Johnson, he’s a police officer. Thanks to HB23, First Responder Mental Health Services Amendments, he and his family will have access to additional mental health services. These resources help the Johnson family alleviate some of the stresses associated with his job as a first responder.
They also qualify for part of a $5 million grant program for law enforcement employees who are first-time homebuyers.
The Johnsons’ teenage son Jared complains about mowing the lawn every week because it grows so fast. Thanks to HB242, Secondary Water Metering Amendments, the local water district will install a secondary water meter for their yard. This will help the family see that they are overwatering their lawn and can use 20% to 30% less water to keep their lawn green this summer.
Jared also has dreams of earning an advanced manufacturing certificate that will set him up for success in a career working with Utah’s Inland Port. HB443, Utah Inland Port Authority Amendments, creates opportunities for him by adjusting the inland port’s makeup to streamline projects and align with statewide goals.
As the Johnsons file their taxes this year, they will benefit from tax cuts for the second year in a row. SB59, Tax Amendments, reduces the income tax rate for all Utahns, helping the Johnsons keep more of what they earn. Lower-income Utahns also qualify for an earned income tax credit and adjustments to Social Security taxes, meaning more people living on fixed incomes will be eligible for tax relief.
The Johnsons’ daughter, Sophia, has a friend named Kate. Kate has occasionally had to miss school because she doesn’t have access to period products, leaving Sophia to finish her lab assignments on her own. HB162, Period Products in Schools, provides free period products in all public school restrooms, making it easier for Kate to stay in school so Sophia will always have her lab partner.
And this summer, the Johnsons are planning a family trip to visit some of our state parks. Their hiking, fishing and boating this year will be even better because of HB409, Recreation Infrastructure Amendments, which dedicates funding to improve our beloved state parks and keep them accessible.
These are only a handful of bills passed this session that will positively impact Utah families. The Utah Legislature is committed to improving the quality of life for all Utahns — ensuring Utah remains the best place to live, work and play.
Brad Wilson is the speaker of the Utah House of Representatives.