Legislative Update: Week #1
Suicides are on the rise nationwide, and our state is no exception. The Utah State Legislature has made addressing suicide a priority for years, and we continue to strive to make resources available in every community across the state.
An individual can live for days without food and water, a few minutes without oxygen but almost no time without hope. At the Legislature, we are aiming to bring attention to our friends, families and neighbors, young and old, who are struggling with depression or anxiety that there are people who will stand with you and fight for you.
Over the past seven years, the Legislature has worked on over 15 bills addressing suicide prevention. Suicide prevention training has been required for behavioral health professionals and some school staff, and suicide prevention strategies have been implemented in schools. The Legislature has appropriated funds for three new statewide employees working to help prevent suicide and has passed legislation to study issues surrounding suicide and the implementation of a mental health crisis hotline.
The state has been highly successful with its SafeUT app. This app and other crisis services have enabled over 65,000 individuals in Utah to seek help in times of crisis over the past 18 months.
The state also recently assembled a Teen Suicide Prevention Task Force comprised of stakeholders from business, education, local churches and healthcare, led by Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox and Representative Steve Eliason. The task force has been assigned to bring a suicide prevention plan to the Legislature by February of this year.
During the 2018 General Session, the Legislature will be considering a number of bills that build on those passed over recent years, including H.B. 41 Mental Health Crisis Line Amendments which creates 24/7 state-wide crisis line staffed by specially trained first responders for mental and behavioral health for anyone in need of assistance to ensure that crisis calls never go unanswered, and H.B. 42 Medicaid Waiver for Mental Health Crisis Services which seeks a Medicaid waiver for certain mental health crisis resources, including intervention by a mobile crisis outreach team.
The Legislature will continue to work to ensure that those battling hopelessness don’t have to do it alone.
Air quality is an important issue in our state, especially along the Wasatch Front. Since 2014, the Utah Legislature has successfully passed almost 40 air quality bills, which is more than the previous 100 years combined. The impact of this work can be seen in the fact that year over year our air is consistently cleaner, even while our population continues to grow.
Ninety-five percent of the time our air quality is very good according to Bryce Bird, Director of the Utah Division of Air Quality; however, we are hit hard when natural inversions occur, trapping all of our pollution in the valley. While we have worked diligently as a Legislature to institute policies that will help clean the air, vehicle emissions are by far the leading contributor, at nearly 50 percent. Industry accounts for only 13 percent of the pollutants in our valley, so the bulk of the problem will need to be solved by each of us, as individuals. The best way for us to help combat this problem is for each of us to choose to drive less when our valley is experiencing an inversion.
We continue to make more progress on this issue every year and this year will be no exception.
Congressman Stewart Visits the Utah House
During the Majority Caucus meeting on January 23, Congressman Chris Stewart gave an update on what he is working on in Washington. He mentioned that he is concerned that the American people are not aware of the meaningful work that the U.S. Congress contributes to the political system because of the media’s deceptive reporting. He also commended Utah legislators for the work that they do in just 45 days.
2018 State of the Judiciary
Chief Justice Matthew Durrant spoke to House members about how proud he is of the fact that justice in Utah is not hidden away, but “shines as a bright beacon.” He mentioned how court participants recognize that they are treated with respect and fairness. He thanked the Legislature for their efforts to address homelessness, and Speaker Hughes specifically for his work on Operation Rio Grande.
He also noted that the justices respect legislators and the laws they implement. “We understand our role, which is to interpret and enforce the law that you write, as you write it,” said Justice Durrant.
The Utah House of Representatives offers access to live and previous coverage of House Floor proceedings and committee hearings from the legislative website. You can view the current session, search the archive of past sessions, track bills, read proposed legislation and more at le.utah.gov.
Follow the Utah Reps on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to stay connected to what is happening, get a behind the scenes look and receive daily updates. You can also contact your representative at house.utah.gov.