March 2017

Dear Friends:

The 2017 Legislative Session has ended. Out of 1200 bill files opened, 535 passed and are either signed, or awaiting Governor Herbert's signature. Personally, I felt it was a productive year on issues I was advocating and/or supporting. Still, in my opinion, there were many unsettling and conflicting bills winning legislative approval.

Highlights at Our Capitol
The Women's March
Opening day was certainly the most memorable in recent history. Over 6,000 women, men and children marched up to the Capitol on a very snowy, cold day to make their voices heard. January 23rd was a day to remember!  

On December 28, 2016, President Barack Obama designated the Bears Ears in San Juan County, a National Monument. Governor Herbert and the Utah legislature, through HCR011 urge President Trump to rescind Bears Ears protection. Efforts to protect the ancestral lands of Bears Ears began many years ago and hold historical, cultural and spiritual significance for Native people.

Willie Grayeyes and Dan Lehi from the Navajo and Ute Mtn Ute Tribes ride across the Bears Ears meadow.  Photo by Gavin Noyes

HCR012 is another concurrent resolution urging federal legislation to reduce or modify the boundaries of the Grand Staircase - Escalante National Monument. This U.S. National Monument protecting 1,880,461 acres of land in southern Utah was designated in 1996 by President Bill Clinton. This is said to be one of the crown jewels of National Monuments.

I voted against both of these resolutions. Constituents in District 4 supported opposition to these resolutions, as well.

Town Hall Meetings

Town Hall Meeting - Holladay City Hall
Holladay Town Hall 
On February 9th, I participated in a legislative town hall meeting at Holladay City Hall with fellow legislators Reps. Patrice Arent (HD 36), Carol Spackman Moss (HD 37) and Marie Poulson (HD 46), and Sen. Brian Shiozawa (SD 8). Despite a nearby town hall meeting with Congressman Jason Chaffetz (much livelier!), we had great attendance. I appreciated the time to listen to your concerns and thoughtful questions in areas such as public lands, clean air and water, and education. Thank you to Mayor Rob Dahle for hosting this event and Doug Wright for being our Master of Ceremonies.

Holladay Town Hall

Town Hall Meeting - Westminster College
On February 11th, I participated in another legislative town hall meeting at Westminster College with Reps. Joel Briscoe (HD 25), Brian King (HD 28), and Lynn Hemingway (HD 40), and Sen. Gene Davis (SD 3). Active attendee participation lent itself to very passionate responses by our legislative team on actions and inactions of our government.
Legislation I Sponsored

Last legislative session, I sponsored SB 140. The heart of the bill was to study and determine the best way to assist those placed in institutional care, to transition to home and community-based care and services. As described in the resultant SB 140 Report on Long Term Services and Supports (2016 General Session): 

"One of the criticisms disabilities advocates have of the New Choices Waiver is that the majority of program participants are served in assisted living facilities. Availability and sustainability of housing options, other than assisted living facilities, is one of the barriers to assist individuals to move out of nursing facilities to live in their own homes or apartments." And "To directly address housing issues faced by those in need of LTSS in the community, subject to availability of funding, changes could be made to support administrative level positions that would be responsible to perform State-Level housing Related Collaborative Activities."

In June 2015, Centers of Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) published an informational bulletin titled, "Coverage of Housing-Related Activities and Services for Individuals with Disabilities" which provides guidance to state Medicaid agencies regarding permissible administrative activities that can be performed at the state level "that support collaborative efforts across public agencies and the private sector that assist a state in identifying and securing housing options for individuals with disabilities, older adults needing LTSS..." This is a relatively new function authorized by federal funds.

SB 88 creates the position of Medicaid long-term support services housing coordinator within the Medicaid program; and specifies the duties of the coordinator. This bill appropriates in fiscal year 2018: to the Department of Health - Medicaid and Health Financing - Medicaid Operations as an ongoing appropriation, with matching federal funds.

Danny Harris, testifying for AARP stated at the committee meeting that it was about $10k annually for an individual to be at home or apartment vs. $60K in a facility. He stated that the cost for this coordinator would be recouped quickly and makes a huge difference in the lives of people to live independently.

In the current system, case managers and support coordinators are called upon to assist Medicaid members to identify potential housing options with no formal support related to understanding available housing options in a given geographical area or community. Thus, without these resources, individuals are sent to assisted living facilities. A Medicaid State-level LTSS Housing Coordinator could perform the activities described in the bill and improve housing outcomes for individuals with disabilities and older adults. My house floor sponsor Rep. Stewart Barlow believes this will save the state millions of dollars. For specifics on this bill and the role of this housing coordinator, please see SB088 

This legislation was the product of many people including risk managers, representatives from the Governor's and Attorney General's office, the League of Cities and Towns, Utah Association of Counties (UAC), plaintiff attorneys and others. Although this legislation passed, it was wrought with conflict and drama during the early days of the session. However, the time spent with stakeholders has been productive and I am hopeful for a fair and efficient resolution in the coming legislative sessions.
One of many working group meetings
Utah law authorizes the legislature to review catastrophic injury claims and approve compensation beyond the governmental immunity damage caps for individual and multiple individuals' claims arising from the same occurrence. Such extraordinary relief is rare. However when these claims do arise, we need a system to address them.
The original bill included a streamlined process to provide evidence when there has not been a trial leading to a jury verdict. However, due to concerns of the Governor's office of Fiscal Management and the Attorney General's office, that it would cost them hundreds of thousands of dollars with this new process, despite legislative fiscal analyst determination to the contrary, the process will remain basically the same. 

The bill retained its modification of the indexing process now applicable to the governmental damage ceiling. Presently, the damage ceiling is evaluated every two years and is adjusted consistent with the Consumer Price Index. This legislation would modify that process to include the Consumer Price Index, as well as the medical services index and medical equipment. This new formula will provide a more realistic and fair picture of the medical costs that are often the leading cost of such catastrophic personal injury cases.

Balancing the needs of government with the needs of critically injured Utahans was paramount and this legislation was drafted in an attempt to meet that balance.

SB0128 - Election Day Notification Amendments (Floor Sponsor, Rep. Steve Eliason)
This bill amended notification provisions of the Election Code, and specifically addressed notice of election when there is a bond election. This bill requires the address of a website that lists the location of each polling place, early voting location and election-day voting center, and a phone number that a voter may call to obtain information regarding the location of a polling place. It also
allows the election officer, with notification to the Lieutenant Governor's Office, to change the location of, or designate additional polling places at any time by updating the information on the website. 
This legislation remedies the situation which
occurred, for example, in Salt Lake County where
they had the Parks and Recreation bond issue on the ballot. The election officer was required by the end of September to finalize a Voter Information Pamphlet, listing every vote center location with no ability to account for changes, or for designating additional vote centers. They were also required to publish newspaper notices for 3 consecutive weeks in the newspaper listing all the vote centers for the bond election by the same time.  

With the mail-in ballot turnout less than expected, and early voting totaling approximately 15,000 voters at the 17 locations over a two-week period (compared to approximately 86,000 who voted early in 2012), there was no ability for election officials to add secured vote centers at South Towne Mall and the Maverick Center.

This bill was to remedy the above situation and was supported by county election officers, the Lieutenant Governor's office, Utah Association of Special Districts and other groups and individuals.

This bill allows certain cities to set an alternative election schedule to fill the office of city mayor. State code sets the terms for city mayor for every four years. However, for varying reasons, other municipalities have been operating on an alternate mayoral election cycle - which is not in sync with the other mayoral city election terms, i.e. Ogden, Salt Lake, and Hooper. This bill specifically addresses this issue in Millcreek City and provides that any municipality that held a municipal mayoral election for a term of office for four years in 2015 and is therefore, automatically "off-schedule", will be in compliance under statute and can continue to operate as under that alternate election schedule.
This bill aimed to increase the water that can remain in the natural waterways to protect and enhance the natural stream environment. Current state law dictates only the Utah Divisions of Wildlife Resources and Parks and Recreation, plus recognized non-profit fishing organizations can dedicate water to in-stream flows. This underlying legislation adds public water suppliers (existing water systems) to that list.

Jordan River - photo by Bernshaw Photography, courtesy of Jordan River Commission
Public water suppliers are charged with acquiring and developing water supp lies to serve the public well into the future. The public water suppliers can hold water rights for the future benefit of the public that may not be needed for water supplies until sometime in the future. This underlying legislation would allow public water agencies the ability to keep water in the natural environment until such time as the water is needed for the growing communities they serve.

This holistic approach allows increased stream flow for uses such as public recreation, protecting and growing the fish population, and to improve general condition of Utah's streams. The increased flows will be very beneficial to help maintain healthy stream riparian corridors and stream environments which help protect water quality and fish habitat. It is a powerful tool to protect existing water rights and to protect our natural stream environment.

This new tool will be an important step towards efforts to create an integrated water management plan for Utah. It would authorize public water suppliers to voluntarily assist in stream water management and drought prevention. As the State moves forward with a strategic water plan, this legislation will help address water supply, natural stream environment and water quality issues.

Unless we address the myriad of issues brought on by stream diversions, drought and diminished riparian function, the environmental water quality challenges and endangered fish species issues, we risk the threat of mandated federal action. This gives us a market-driven, locally developed solution to our own water concerns.

Because of some concerns, and more importantly, interest by other stakeholders to be included in this legislation, I introduced a substitute bill to task the Executive Water Task Force and State Water Commission, of which I am a member, to provide further input in hopes of drafting a win-win piece of legislation on this important area of law.

This concurrent resolution urges the Postmaster General of the United States to issue a commemorative postage stamp telling the story of the patriotic service of Japanese Americans during WWII.

Over 33,000 Nisei (second-generation Japanese Americans), including citizens of Utah, served with honor in the United States Army during World War II. As described in the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, "race prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of political leadership" led to over 120,000 Japanese Americans being forced from their homes in west coast states and placed in concentration camps such as the Topaz Relocation Center near Delta, Utah.
The 100th Infantry Battalion and the 442nd Regimental Combat Team fought nobly at Monte Cassino, broke the German "Gothic Line," liberated French towns, and helped to liberate and aid Holocaust survivors at Dachau. Nisei also served in the United States Army's Military Intelligence Service (MIS) as military linguists in the war with Japan and Pacific Theater, and was credited with shortening the war with Japan by two years and saving countless lives as the "eyes and ears" of American and Allied forces in the Pacific. The MIS also served in key roles following the war during the Allied occupation of Japan and helped establish close relations between Japan and the United States that have lasted ever since. These men and women were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in 2011 for their exemplary service and patriotism.
The United States Postal Service is considering a commemorative stamp proposal that would tell the inspiring story of the patriotic service of Japanese Americans during World War II through a stamp featuring the Japanese American Memorial to Patriotism, located in Washington, D.C. This national effort was supported locally through letters of support from Governor Gary Herbert, Attorney General Sean Reyes, all members of the Utah delegation to the United States House of Representatives, and United States Senators Orrin Hatch and Mike Lee.
This bill directs the Department of Health to convene a multi-stakeholder workgroup to develop recommendations for reducing fall-related injuries among Utahans. Aging services has been very important to me. During my time on the Salt Lake County Council I chaired the Human Service committee and was a member of the county's aging commission. The Millcreek Community Center was completed during my term - a first of its kind because it included the senior center, along with a recreation center, library and a café - a place where our seniors could congregate with our entire community. Our district encompasses the 2nd largest aging community in the state. And, my personal experiences with my father and elderly, including veterans - it seems that the downward spiral often begins with a tragic fall.
Every day, an average of eight Utahans age 65 and older will be hospitalized for fall-related injuries. In 2014, Utahans were hospitalized 5,300 times for the treatment of fall-related injuries. In Utah, injuries due to fall are the leading cause of injury-related death among older adults and the cause of 50% of traumatic brain injuries in Utah annually, the majority of which occur to adults 65 and older. Tragically, from 2013 to 2015, 655 Utahans died as a result of fall-related injuries. In 2012, the 3,183 fall-related hospitalizations among older Utahans cost more than $95 million in hospital charges. In 2014, more than $186 million was spent on treating Utahans for fall-related injuries.
The present and future statistics are even more staggering with the aging Baby Boomer generation. In Utah, the next quarter-century brings a 165 percent increase in the 65-plus crowd, to more than 480,000, according to the Utah Association of Area Agencies on Aging. By 2030, Utah will house an estimated 43,500-plus people who are 85 and older.
But more importantly than the physical and economic impact, is the quality of life, and the personal emotional toll on our community and those we love. Anything we can do to help prevent falls, by making it easier at home, aiding caregivers, for example, is an endeavor our state should seriously undertake. It is my hope that by bringing a multi-stakeholder workgroup together, we can determine what we can do together to address this public health crisis.

I sponsored a resolution to recognize the benefits of speech and debate education for students, and to acknowledge the hard work and dedication of educators and their positive impact on students. This bill also designates March 3, 2017, as "National Speech and Debate Education Day" in Utah.
Ceremonial signing of the resolution with the Governor's Office and Debate Students  
Utah has a strong tradition of speech and debate as nearly every high school offers a program. Each year, a state champion is recognized in every classification and students represent Utah at national tournaments. Utah hosted Nationals in 2004 and 2016, bringing almost 10,000 people to our state! Often times, student-debaters do not get the same recognition in their own communities as the more visible and popular athletic teams do. They learn the value of argumentation, critical thinking, and effective communication and research. They also learn about local, state and national policies. In today's political climate, we should be encouraging students to deliberate and debate effectively - and I especially appreciated their members' honor society's Code of Honor where they pledge to uphold, "the highest standards of integrity, humility, respect, leadership, and service".

Although gaining a great deal of interest and support since last session, I ran out of time and was unable to finalize and bring this legislation forward. I will look to pursuing this legislation in the future. Thank you to Liam Lamalfa, a student who worked hard to help on what he felt was an important piece of environmental legislation. He inspired me.  

Co-Sponsored Bills

I was honored to co-sponsor this resolution honoring Colonel Gail Seymour "Hal" Halverson who is best known as the "Berlin Candy Bomber" who dropped candy to children during the Berlin airlift from 1948 to 1949. I appreciated Sen. Deidre Henderson bringing this resolution honoring such an inspiring person.

Senate Floor Sponsored Bills
I was the floor sponsor for this bill which was sponsored by Rep. Sandra Hollins. This bill provides that a public employer may not require an applicant to disclose a past criminal conviction before an initial interview for employment. There are many outcomes for supporting this effort including reducing prison recidivism, addressing inter-generational poverty, and also, bringing more revenue to our state instead of costs which burden our state. This bill seeks to support those who have served their time, in having a fair chance when they apply to work.
34 states and 150 cities across the United States have implemented similar policies to help applicants with convictions to find gainful employment after being discharged from corrections facilities. After passing similar legislation in Durham County, North Carolina, the number of applicants with criminal records who were hired nearly tripled in two years.
This bill in no way limits the public employer from considering past criminal convictions as part of the hiring process. By waiting past the application, we are looking at the person's background and the person can discuss the details of their background along with the progress they have made to become a productive member of society. The bill provides certain exemptions for public employers. Criminal convictions can include any misdemeanor conviction such as graffiti, marijuana possession, odometer violation, failure to file tax return, for example.
There have been many positive studies on increased productivity and decrease in additional crimes. Also, the economic value with boosted sales tax revenue and savings by reducing criminal justice costs associated with recidivism.  

This is a small, but very important step to removing barriers. It's humane and also a positive step for our communities and state. Although it passed narrowly in the House (Yeas-40, Nays-32, absent or not voting-3), it passed unanimously in the senate!
I was the senate floor sponsor of the bill which was sponsored by Rep. Michael Noel. This bill was supported by the Native American Liaison committee which we are both members. This bill creates the Native American Repatriation Restricted Account, including making appropriations from it non-lapsing, and providing for grants, and requiring a study of whether, and if so, how, to bury ancient Native American remains in state parks.
Celebrating Chinese New Year at Cottonwood Highschool
HJR005 - Joint Resolution Recognizing the Lunar New Year
I was the senate floor sponsor of the bill which was sponsored by Rep. Karen Kwan to recognize the 2017 Lunar New Year Holiday, also known as Chinese New Year and Tet (Vietnamese New Year). Over 45,000 citizens in Utah celebrate the 15-day holiday, and is celebrated by millions all over the world. It is the most important holiday in many Asian and Southwest Asian Cultures. This resolution passed in time for the January 28th Lunar New Year.
Legislation of Concern

Although there were many good bills and appropriations, in my view, there were many bills of concern, including:
  • HB0011 - State Boards and Commissions Amendments (Rep. Norman Thurston) HB11 removes the political party affiliation requirement for certain boards and commission and requires certain board appointments to be made without considering political affiliation. In my opinion this is not about removing partisanship, but can be all about partisanship.  Critical boards and commissions are included in this bill, such as the Public Service Commission (determining solar net metering issues, rates for electricity, natural gas), Quality Growth Commission (in the news), Drinking Water Board, Water Quality Board, Waste Management and Radiation Control Board, Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission, Workforce Appeals Board, Board of Oil, Gas, and Mining, Utah State Scenic Byway Committee, Board of Water Resources, and others. These boards and commissions relate to all areas of our lives and having diverse perspectives and opinions are critical in making decisions for all Utahans. Particularly unsettling was that boards agreed to be excluded in the House were brought back in, prior to final passage.
  • HB 265-Safety Inspection Amendments (Sponsor, Rep. Daniel McCay) This bill repeals the requirement that certain vehicles obtain a safety inspection certificate in order to be registered and to operate on a highway, increases registration fees for certain vehicles, repeals a provision making a seat belt violation a secondary offense, and creates a restricted account and allows expenditure of the funds by the Utah Highway Patrol to hire new Highway Patrol troopers. Personally, unsettling.
  • HB 442 - Alcohol Amendments (Sponsor, Rep. Brad Wilson)  Although there will be alternatives to the Zion Curtain, this bill will now allow a bar (in a restaurant) to be 300 feet (as opposed to 600 feet) from churches, schools and parks - and without the ability to oppose this from a church, school, park, or municipality. I attempted to amend this back to the 600 feet but was unsuccessful.
  • HB 82 - Street-Legal All-Terrain Vehicle Amendments (Sponsor, Michael Noel)         I opposed this bill. This bill allows for an ATV to be driven on a street or highway (not interstate freeway) in a county of the first class (that's only Salt Lake County) with a posted speed limit of less than 50 mph. Although some constituents were pleased, it was difficult to imagine this would be safe, especially for a 16 year old on 1300 East, south of Sugarhouse Park, for example. Thank goodness that Sen. Shiozawa's helmet law (SB0159 - Helmet Requirement Amendments) passed extending usage to 21 years of age citing emerging science about brain development (critical parts of the brain involved in decision-making) suggest most people do not reach full maturity until age 25!

Note: To find out specifics regarding legislation, what bills passed or failed, appropriations, etc., please see our Legislature's award-winning and interactive website.
Senate Art Contest

This is my second year I was asked to judge the senate art contest. What an honor-and what gifted students! This year's theme was "Utah Landscapes", with pieces depicting everything from Arches, to the Bear Lake Monster. Students in 9-12 grade throughout Utah were invited to submit artwork. We received over 200 submissions from the following school districts: Alpine, Cache, Canyons, Daggett, Davis, Duchesne, Provo, Grand, Granite, Iron, Jordan, Juab, Logan, Nebo, North Sanpete, Ogden, Salt Lake City, San Juan, Sevier, Tooele, Uintah, Wasatch, Washington, and Weber. Four judges selected the top 27 works for exhibition on the 3rd floor of the Capitol. These 27 students received scholarship awards deposited in the acclaimed Utah Educational Savings Plan (UESP) account. Thank you to sponsors Key Bank, Art Works for Kids, Zions Bank and Comcast, and the Utah Division of Arts and Museums and UESP who helped makes this contest a success!

The first-place artwork was an oil painting entitled "Dead Horse Point" by Cadence Peterson of Maple Mountain High school in Nebo School District which will remain permanently in the Senate office.

Congratulations also to Eliza Anderson from Olympus High School for her "Bryce's Beauty" (8th place, below left), and Samantha Dunaway from Highland High School for her "Wavy" (9th place, below right)! Visit the Capitol to view these incredible pieces of art which will be on display until sometime in April.

My Session Intern
I was extremely fortunate to have Naomi Dorsey as my
intern for the 2017 legislative session. She was invaluable, a pleasure to work with, and I was able to accomplish a great deal due to her positive attitude, work ethic and grasp of all that needed to be done each day. Below is her introduction:
"Hello! I'm Naomi, an undergraduate studying Political Science, International Development, and Spanish at Brigham Young University in Provo. I'm originally from the D.C. area in northern Virginia. Other than my work on the Utah Colleges Exit Poll last semester, this internship, while not my first exposure to politics broadly, was my first real exposure to Utah politics specifically. I was beyond excited to be interning for the Senate Minority Leadership Office with Caucus Manager Senator Iwamoto this session. I learned an incredible amount and was able to meet and interact with many of you during this session!"  
Although the session has ended, I will
continue to work on issues and legislation. We will be going on site visits as a legislative body, and with our various committees. Monthly interim meetings will begin after a brief hiatus. I work very hard for my constituency and our state. However, I've not found that balance with my time to write as often as I'd like - I will keep trying!

Please refer to our award-winning legislative website to find out about upcoming interim committee meetings, budget information, legislators, legislation, and much more.

As always, I appreciate your input. Your voice is critical. If you would like to volunteer, please contact me, I can be reached at (legislative matters), (personal matters), by mail to 4760 S. Highland Drive, #427, Salt Lake City, Utah 84117, or by phone at (801)580-8414. Check out my website here, or you can interact with me on my Facebook! 

I appreciate your continual support!

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This Senate seat includes the following house districts: District 36 (Rep. Patrice Arent), District 37 (Rep. Carol Spackman Moss), District 40 (Rep. Lynn Hemingway), District 46 (Rep. Marie Poulson) and District 28 (Rep. Brian King). To see who your Representative is click here!
Jani Iwamoto
Senate District 4

To visit my website, click here. To visit my facebook page, click here.