Judiciary and Public Safety in Utah

I have had the privilege of serving on the committee that oversees the budget for the judiciary and public safety in the Utah Legislature for 14 years. Over that time I’ve witnessed repeated failed attempts to reform and improve our criminal justice system — changes known to improve public safety and positively impact lives.
For the first time in nearly a generation, all the key players have come to the table and put forward what I believe will be the greatest reform we have ever seen. With these changes, I honestly believe the state of Utah will become a model for the nation.
Most of us agree the state has an important role in keeping our society safe by removing criminals from our communities. We also recognize the vast majority will eventually be released back into our neighborhoods, and we must demand that they re-enter as better people, less likely to break the law.
Over the years the Legislature has implemented stiffer penalties and longer incarceration times, with worsening results. We’ve seen more and more offenders failing and returning to prison. In 2013, two-thirds of those incarcerated in Utah had already served time and been released on probation or parole, nearly half of whom had committed no new crimes but had simply failed to get their lives in order.
Under the current system there are few options but to drop the hammer and send them back to lockup. It’s as though we’ve designed a corrections system that makes it incredibly difficult to get out of the cycle of lawbreaking and incarceration.
This year, thanks to the decision already made to move the Utah State Prison and the cost savings and tax generation that will come from that move, the stars are aligning for real criminal justice reform. A necessary catalyst is the building of a new prison to state-of-the-art standards, capable of supporting evidence-based programs. This will allow us to separate people who really are criminals at heart from those who got sideways with the law, and treat each of those groups in the right way.
Treating a drug addict or someone with mental illness the same as a hard-core criminal has proven over time to do nothing to break the cycle. Our own data proves that when you put an addict and a real criminal in the same prison space together, all you get is a criminally-minded addict. We can no longer afford to run the system this way. It does not work.
I, along with Sen. Stuart Adams, have introduced legislation, HB348, which will make landmark changes to our current criminal justice process. One of the most important proposed reforms will be a thorough inmate assessment upon entry into the criminal justice system for placement on a track.

Even the all-powerful Pointing has no control about the blind texts it is an almost unorthographic life One day however a small line of blind text by the name of Lorem Ipsum decided to leave for the far World of Grammar. The Big Oxmox advised her not to do so, because there were thousands of bad Commas, wild Question Marks and devious Semikoli.

There are four general tracks into which offenders could potentially be placed:

  • 1. The criminally minded who show little propensity to respond to treatment. They want to act like criminals and will be treated that way, with plenty of prison space to keep them off the streets.
  • 2. People who have broken the law to support a drug addiction. They will be separated from the criminals, serve their time and given a rigorous supervision plan of treatment and monitoring after release.
  • 3. Those who have committed crimes and suffer from mental illness. They will be separated from the criminals, serve their time and also given a rigorous supervision plan of treatment and monitoring after release.
  • 4. Those who have no criminal tendencies but struggle with addiction or mental illness. They will be placed into a therapeutic setting, in or out of incarceration, and will receive treatment and close monitoring upon release.

This type of program is currently impossible at the Draper facility, where the mentally ill and addicted too often must be placed in the same general areas with hardened criminals because of poor prison design. A new prison is a necessary part of this transformation.
In a state that already has one of the lowest incarceration rates in the country, if we can push forward and institute meaningful reform, we will become a model for the rest of the nation.

Fighting for Public Education

Fighting for public education is a top priority for me. We must ensure that our teachers have what they need to be successful and that parents are engaged and involved in order to provide opportunities for our students to grow and succeed. I’m proud to say that over the past few legislative sessions we have been able to increase funding for public education at historic levels.
Funding for Utah’s school children and college students once more dominates the $14.5 billion budget for 2016. The total increase for both higher and public education was $445 million – over $20 million more than originally sought by the governor.
The legislature is appropriating $94 million to accommodate growth for a projected 9,700 new public school students this fall, as well as a nearly $74 million expenditure representing a 3% increase to the Weighted Pupil Unit, (WPU). Monies headed to public education also include $20.4 million in ongoing funding for Charter School equalization and almost $17 million, $10 million of that ongoing, targeted to improve technology in our schools.
Construction on Utah’s college and university campuses is another big-ticket budgetary item, including more than $113 million approved for new buildings at Utah State and Utah Valley Universities and the West Point campus of Salt Lake Community College.
In 2015, the Legislature took a major step toward equity in public education by bringing up districts with a lower property tax base in line with others around the state having a much higher property tax base, with the passage of S.B. 97. This legislation sought to make the school funding formula more fair and provide greater opportunity for all children, wherever they might live throughout the State of Utah. Charter schools were left out of that.
Last year the Legislature established the Charter School Funding Task Force to look at this issue and investigate possible solutions. The task force was given the responsibility of studying charter school funding provisions and the method for determining their enrollment for funding purposes.
The culmination of the research and review of the task force has come in the form of S.B. 38, which includes a number of the task force recommendations including: continuation of grade-level weighting, changes to school district allocations for students enrolled in charter schools and the inclusion of recreational facilities in the local replacement formula for those schools.
The State of Utah is constitutionally mandated to provide a free education for all of its children, and it has chosen to do so through both traditional and charter schools. It is incumbent upon the Legislature to ensure that all of these students are given an equal opportunity for success.
Additional education-related bills include SB 101, High Quality School Readiness Program Expansion, which establishes a school readiness program for students deemed eligible for an Intergenerational Poverty program and creates the Intergenerational Poverty School Readiness Scholarship Program. HB 201, removes SAGE scores from teacher evaluations.

Even the all-powerful Pointing has no control about the blind texts it is an almost unorthographic life One day however a small line of blind text by the name of Lorem Ipsum decided to leave for the far World of Grammar. The Big Oxmox advised her not to do so, because there were thousands of bad Commas, wild Question Marks and devious Semikoli.

Charting Healthcare to Achieve Greater Access

Stimulus, Growth, and Support

The best way to grow an economy is for government to give businesses the tools to succeed and then get out of their way. Businesses who are free from government over-regulation are able to thrive, create jobs and contribute to our communities.
Free enterprise has created more jobs and improved the quality of life more than any UN, US, state or local program or tax combined.
In this country, we believe in and fight for equal opportunity, not equal outcomes. We should spend our best efforts keeping government out of the way of those trying to work and build businesses, and allow them the opportunity to achieve and grow without unnecessary government intervention.
Ronald Reagan once said, “Government’s view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it.” This is not the way to build a dynamic economy that can provide well for the needs of a growing, innovative populace.

Utah has one of the most pro-business climates in the nation and has consistently found itself at or near the top of the list of the best states for doing business. As a lawmaker, I have tried to be very circumspect as I’ve made decisions regarding what legislation to oppose or support, in order to allow for the greatest expansion of free enterprise and continued economic mobility for the citizens of this state.

Charting Healthcare to Achieve Greater Access

Years before the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), the state of Utah established a small-business health exchange that allowed small employers and their employees to shop for private health insurance.
We are in a unique position to lead the nation in modernizing our healthcare system and addressing the needs of our citizens.

As healthcare spending becomes a larger part of our nation’s GDP, our state budget, and individuals’ spending, it is essential for us to chart the right course. To do this we must focus on lowering costs, increasing quality, and achieving greater access to the healthcare system.
I will continue advocating for state-driven healthcare solutions and reforms and work to bring about lasting solutions for substance abuse and mental health issues.

Military Men and Women

I have spent my years in the legislature supporting bills that reflect the gratitude and respect that we, as citizens, feel for our military men and women. They give so much to protect our freedoms and we should do all that we can to provide opportunity for them and their families when they return home, as well as take care of them when they are in need of assistance. Below I have outlined just a few of the bills that I’ve supported to show my gratitude for the service of our men and women in the military:

  • Veterans affairs in the state of Utah used to be under the National guard. This legislation changed that, making Veterans Affairs a cabinet level department in the state.
  • The Department of Veterans’ Affairs was changed to the Department of Veterans’ and Military Affairs, allowing for more involvement and interaction from Hill Air Force Base.
  • tuition waiver to any state institution of higher learning was instituted for anyone who has received a purple heart as a result of military service.
  • The Scott B. Lundell Tuition Waiver for National Guard Members’ Surviving Dependents provides free college tuition at any state institution of higher learning for Utah resident dependents of a Guard member killed on active duty.
  • Property tax exemption for disabled veterans, or the dependents of military members killed while serving our country, was instituted.
  • An adjustment was made to the disabled veterans’ property tax deduction, which allows the amount of the deduction to increase as property values and inflation increase. This bill also creates an assumption of citizenship for all military veterans, leading to a decrease in the amount of paperwork needed in order to take advantage of this deduction.
  • The Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children, which allows for a more seamless school transition for military children as they move from state to state.
  • A requirement that Utah National Guard pay be on par with their federal counterparts.
  • A resolution supporting a veteran’s freedom memorial in the state.
  • Three veterans nursing homes were built using a method never before utilized. At the time Utah was in need of a veterans nursing home and had surplus finances to build one, the line for matching federal funding was long. I was able to work with Rob Bishop to get the VA to agree that if Utah were to build the facility with all of its own money, we would be reimbursed the federal portion at the time our turn came up. This strategy allowed us to build a home in Ogden. When the federal money was refunded to the state, we were able to use those funds to build in Provo and then St. George, at a time when the state wouldn’t have had the additional money otherwise.Click here for HB 492Click here for HB 493.