Legislative Update: July 2017
Addressing Lawlessness in Rio Grande
The crime and drug problems in the Rio Grande area of Salt Lake City have only been growing, despite a greater state focus and massive new resources. The recent attacks and deaths in the area are evidence of increased lawlessness and chaos. Criminals are aggressively taking advantage of the vulnerable population, and sophisticated drug traffickers have moved in to exploit those who are already suffering. Every hour of every day is full of open drug dealing, assaults and crime with few repercussions.
Speaker Greg Hughes, in his remarks at the opening of the 2017 General Session, stated, “there are predators among those in Utah who are the most vulnerable and the most needy. There are people, wolves I would call them, who look to expand dependency, who look to multiply the ranks of those in life’s worst situations, and they profit from it.
“This drug dealing, this human trafficking, the crimes that are going on right now in this state and in our community, go on in broad daylight. They go on with very little consequence and I don’t think we know or appreciate that to the degree that it’s happening.”
These conditions of depravity and lawlessness don’t represent our community and cannot continue to exist. Speaker Hughes, along with Senate President Wayne Niederhauser and many other state and local leaders, have come together to ensure that new actions are taken, once and for all, to begin to turn the tide. A plan will soon be implemented that will allow us to not only identify who it is we’re dealing with, but to begin to seek appropriate help for those who are truly in need. Anonymity has only served to increase and protect the criminal population at the expense of those simply seeking shelter and assistance from the services that can be found in the area.
With the recent upsurge in criminal activity, there is a newfound sense of urgency and a willingness among public officials at all levels to work together to ensure that those who would victimize the most vulnerable are dealt with appropriately and those who need to be protected, are. As Speaker Hughes recently explained, the time to hold meetings and lament the growing problem is over. The time for action is now.
Groundbreaking Self-Driving Vehicles
The Transportation Interim Committee recently visited Utah State University to see the groundbreaking technology being developed for cars and trucks, and to hear from leading experts on autonomous control vehicles.
Autonomous features are already being integrated into vehicles to help drivers avoid or mitigate crashes. Such features include lane and brake assist, forward-collision warning and adaptive cruise control, which automatically maintains a safe following distance.
Utah State University (USU) has a trailblazing Electric Vehicle and Roadway facility. It is the only one like it in the country. Similar research facilities are in development or operation in Sweden, France and South Korea. During the site visit, committee members observed the ‘Aggie Bus, USU’s fully electric 20-passenger bus, drive around the 1⁄4-mile test track at about 30 MPH.
The Aggie Bus is equipped with an autonomous control kit from Autonomous Solutions Inc., a spin-off of USU, and in-motion inductive wireless battery charging, developed at USU. This technology allows wireless power transfer from multiple concrete embedded primary pads/coils in the roadway to vehicle-mounted coils and battery systems to charge the vehicle while driving.
Researchers are aiming for fully electric vehicles, enabled with autonomous control and charged through electric roads. With these technologies, vehicles can charge while in-motion and drive without human control. Drivers also have the ability to take over at any time and operate on standard roads. Autonomous control is a key enabler, and is required to identify inductive power transfer coils embedded in the roadway and to align automatically under various road and weather conditions.
Additional technological development at USU is aiming to advance energy storage in electric vehicles by increasing battery lifetime 30 to 45 percent. The improvements can reduce the cost and weight of vehicle battery systems and improve residual value for second life applications.
Recommendation for New OLRGC Director
The Research and General Counsel Subcommittee recently announced the unanimous recommendation by the hiring subcommittee of the Legislature that John Q. Cannon assume leadership of the Office of Legislative Research and General Counsel (OLRGC).
John Cannon served the Utah State Legislature for over two decades, first as an analyst and then as Managing Policy Analyst for OLRGC. As director, Cannon will succeed Michael Christensen, who has led the award-winning agency since 2000.
The six-member Legislative Research Subcommittee is equally balanced between both political parties and legislative chambers. Their recommendation will now go to the Legislative Management Committee for approval, then ratification by the full Utah State Legislature.
Until recently, public schools did not allow students to possess or use sunscreen while at school, though children were often outside during recess and other activities. In 2017, the Utah Legislature passed H.B. 288, School Sunscreen Provision, that made it legal for kids to bring and use sunscreen at school.
On July 19, 125 people from 38 countries, such as the People’s Republic of China, Mexico and the Philippines, filled the Capitol Rotunda. Though these newly-minted Americans’ paths toward citizenship vary, they were all united as they, together, took an oath of allegiance to the United States of America.
“The American dream isn’t a guarantee of success, but a guarantee of opportunity,” said Attorney General Reyes during the ceremony.
“I can now proudly say ‘hello my fellow Americans,’” said Daniel Souza, a new citizen from Brazil. “We may have taken different paths, but we all get here, we all come with the same purpose – looking for a better life and for being so graciously welcomed by this great country. I’m grateful for the privilege that you and I now have now. May we all, current and new citizens, become one indivisible nation under God.”
Following the ceremony, on-site voter registration was available to encourage these new Americans to become actively engaged in local, state and national matters.
Read more here.
National Heatstroke Awareness Day is July 31, which is a good reminder that we need to be diligent about never leaving a child alone in a vehicle.
In 2011, to help increase awareness concerning the seriousness of this issue, the Utah Legislature made it illegal to leave a child under the age of 9 unattended in a motor vehicle.
Recent events in Utah involving two toddlers left in vehicles and the death of a K9 dog that died after being left in a sweltering patrol car for hours, serve as solemn reminders of just how dangerous summer temperatures can be.
One of the greatest challenges is that most people think this could never happen to them. However, sadly, this kind of tragedy occurs far too often. This year alone, 27 children in the U.S. have already died due to vehicular heatstroke, according to NoHeatStroke.org.
The Utah Health Department provides safety tips to help prevent these tragedies:
- Never leave your child alone in a vehicle, not even for a minute.
- Call 911 immediately if you see a child alone in a vehicle – no matter the outside temperature.
- Leave a purse, left shoe or cellphone in the back seat as a reminder, so you have to open the back door when leaving the vehicle.
- Plan to have a childcare provider contact you if your child does not show up for school by a certain time.