Legislative Update: Week #4
Over the past two years, stakeholders from all sectors — public, private and nonprofit — have been working to responsibly address the homelessness crisis we face in our state. The Speaker of the House, state leadership and the mayors of Salt Lake County and City announced the next steps to address the crisis in Utah. The plan includes a new direction, in breaking up the “one-size-fits-all” shelter model into three resource centers— two in Salt Lake City and one located outside the city but remaining in Salt Lake County.
This plan has four primary components:
- A redesigned shelter model with three new resource centers, tailoring services to population needs, in addition to the existing family resource center in Midvale. The two facilities in Salt Lake City will each be capped at 200 beds. These resource centers will serve distinct populations: adult women, adult men and a gender-segregated facility serving both adult men and women.
- Alternatives to shelter will continue to be pursued to draw down demand for emergency shelter. Efforts include Salt Lake County’s Pay for Success initiative which targets persistently homeless individuals, more affordable housing, behavioral healthcare treatment facilities, increased diversion, additional efforts to reduce length of stay at a shelter and prevent repeat stays, motel vouchers and other alternatives to meet shelter demand.
- System improvements that more efficiently coordinate resources across the housing and homelessness delivery system, including a coordinated entry and assessment system.
- A public safety and treatment initiative, similar to Operation Diversion launched last fall, to ensure neighborhoods are safe and individuals have access to treatment. This will include two more police officers at the Midvale Center and the opening of an additional 300 jail beds to allow for sufficient enforcement in and around these facilities.
At the request of the state, through a process facilitated by Salt Lake County, stakeholders will identify possible sites for a resource center located in an area outside Salt Lake City for consideration and approval by the State Homeless Coordinating Committee by March 30, 2017. The target date for the closure of the downtown emergency shelter is June 30, 2019.
Public Land Management
A bill was recently introduced in the Utah State Legislature which would put in place a new process for the sale or exchange of public lands in the state, emphasizing exchanges over sales.
H.B. 407, Utah Public Land Management Act Amendments, declares that the state should retain lands in state ownership “for the enjoyment and betterment of the public and state,” and that if any lands are to be sold, a super-majority support of two-thirds of the Legislature would be required. Any sales must be for fair market value, and the proceeds must be used to improve existing public land, acquire additional public land or increase utilization of the land by the public.
Under this bill, if Utah were to gain the ability to oversee and control at least 250,000 acres of public lands currently managed by the federal government, they would be placed under the purview of a new Department of Land Management. The director of that department would be elected by county commissions and councils, putting much more control in the hands of local governments, closer to the people.
The bill adds to language from last year’s H.B. 276 requiring management for multiple use, adding hunting. That same bill created a Public Land Management Fund which would be used for costs associated with managing public lands if and when they are returned to the State of Utah.
Concealed Carry Amendments
This week the House passed H.B. 198, Concealed Carry Amendments, that will lower the minimum age to obtain a concealed carry permit to 18 if all other eligibility requirements are met. Currently, Utah law already allows those 18-20 to carry openly.
With increased concern about sexual assault on college campuses, it only makes sense that those most at risk be permitted options giving them the ability to protect themselves.
A total of 16 states, in some way or another, allow those 18 and older to carry a concealed firearm.
This week, Senator Orrin Hatch, Congressman Mike Lee and Congresswoman Mia Love all came to speak to the House. Sen. Hatch explained the work being done on the federal level to rescind the Bears Ears National Monument and asked the body to give President Trump a chance. Sen. Lee spoke to the House members about federalism, executive power and returning power to the people. Rep. Love recognized that many people are nervous about the environment in Washington, and soothed these fears by discussing the good she’s personally doing to improve immigration, transparency and healthcare.
A press conference was held on the Capitol steps to raise awareness about military and civilian suicide. A display of combat boots from the National Guard and shoes from Deseret Industries lined the south steps to represent the 613 lives lost to suicide in Utah last year. Of those, 466 were male and 147 were female. Thirty-three were youth, between the ages of 10 and 18, and 74 were Veterans.