There are reports that the Utah Legislature is considering calling itself into a special session to address the current crisis (a power that voters gave them in 2018 through a constitutional amendment). Senate President Stuart Adams even said this may be one of several.
Let's look at the solutions they're proposing. Legislative researchers and attorneys have released a detailed list of action items for the Legislature's consideration. The majority of them are good ideas and the Legislature plans to act on many of them! There are also a few solutions that I'm less fond of. Let's dig in:
-Remote voter registration.
-Temporary suspension or relaxation of work requirements for public assistance programs and remote applications for those programs where possible.
-Increase protections against price-gouging.
-Changes and waivers to education requirements to adapt to the school closure.
-Protections for public utilities and infrastructure employees.
-Protections and updated healthcare standards for people in prisons and jails.
-Attempts to reduce incarcerations by allowing more discretion in mandatory minimum sentencing.
-Assistance and loans to businesses.
-Paid sick leave and other protections for sick employees.
-Take away the ability for counties and municipalities to issue "stay-at-home" orders. Local governments know the needs of their residents better than state governments. I generally oppose attempts to take away powers from local governments.
-Tax deferments. While it would give people more money in pocket, deferring tax payments could have harmful impacts on local government budgets. Any attempt to defer taxes should be accompanied by state relief to local governments for revenue lost.
-No mention of non-profit organizations. These organizations are likely to be hardest hit. Most are not classified as essential businesses and have already had to furlough employees. We don't want to see non-profits shut their doors permanently. Assistance given to for-profit businesses during this crisis should also be available to non-profits.
-Temporary solutions. It's sad that we can often only reach consensus on good policy during a crisis. Many of these solutions (remote voter registration, consumer and employee protections, paid sick leave) should be permanent solutions, not temporary ones.
Sen. Karen Mayne told FOX 13 that "it doesn't matter what party. We're all working together. Everyone has the same goal." I fully support that sentiment! I also wish it were the case all the time, and not just during a crisis. I hope that this sense of unity continues beyond our current situation and I promise to bring that mindset to Capitol Hill when I'm elected to represent you.