• Tax Restructuring Proposals — This month, the Tax Restructuring and Equalization Task Force began the recommendation phase of their work. This involved reviewing six different proposals and resuming public comment. This proposal seeks a balancing-act approach to tax restructuring, which includes a cut to the state income tax rate, the full restoration of the sales tax on food, a food tax credit to offset the negative impact on low-income households, a tax exemption for Social Security Income and a proposal to remove the state constitutional earmark to use income tax exclusively for education. In addition to these ideas from the co-chair’s proposal, the task force also voted to include ideas from other proposals, including a feminine hygiene tax exemption and to include an Earned Income Tax Credit. This proposal would result in an overall tax cut for all households. A rough draft of the bill will be presented today Nov. 7 at the Task Force meeting.

• Vaping — Vaping-related illness continues to be an alarming problem in our state, and in the nation, with the number of cases continuing to rise. We have multiple committees studying this issue, each from different perspectives. This month, two different committees discussed different legislation we could consider in the upcoming session. The Education Interim Committee discussed draft legislation, “Electronic Cigarettes in Schools Amendments,” which addresses student use of alcohol, tobacco, electronic cigarettes products and other substances through education and prevention programs and discipline policies. Additionally, the Judiciary Interim Committee adopted, as a committee bill, draft legislation, “Tobacco Retailer Amendments,” which modifies the definition of a retail tobacco specialty business, amends the number of times a peace officer may conduct an investigation of a retail shop for underage tobacco sales and amends permit violations for tobacco retailers. 

• Intergenerational Poverty Efforts — In 2012, the Utah Legislature established the Intergenerational Welfare Reform Commission to delve into the influences on families experiencing poverty. Every year, the commission reports on challenges and effective initiatives based on statewide programs and public, private and community efforts. The 2019 report demonstrates significant progress among those first identified as experiencing intergenerational poverty with students graduating high school, adults experiencing higher rates of employment and increasing wages and counties implementing positive outcomes through resources. 

With nearly seven years of data, Utah is working to address and reduce the number of children experiencing intergenerational poverty. 

In addition, the Intergenerational Poverty Plan (IGP) Implementation Program Extension Action bill draft was approved during October interim to extend its sunset date to Jan. 1, 2023. 

• Fall Back — Daylight Saving was Nov. 3 this year. So, Sunday, at 2 a.m., we turned the clocks back one hour to 1 a.m. For those Utahns who are tired of doing this every year, stay tuned for the 2020 General Legislative Session, where we are likely to see legislation addressing Daylight Saving. In 2019, the Utah Legislature passed a resolution urging U.S. Congress to pass the Daylight Act.

Ralph Okerlund

Utah State Senate, 

District 24

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