A Drug-free Workplace is a Safe Workplace

by Senator Karen Mayne
Assistant Senate Minority Whip
Senate District 5

With the signing of Senate Bill 13, our State projects will have a safe environment for our Utah workers.  SB 13 provides that random drug testing will be used on all our state construction projects.  The problem of drug use in our society and in the workplace poses a threat to us all.  The legislation mandates that workers in safety-sensitive areas submit to random drug testing.  All workers should have a safe place to work and be protected from harm.  The State of Utah has set the standard for responsible hiring and health of our citizens.  Many organizations came together to sponsor this bill, all with the desire to keep our sites accident-free.

I would like to thank Workers Compensation Fund of Utah, Associated General Contractors, UDOT, Operating Engineers Local No. 3, AFL-CIO, Utah Manufacturers Association, Drug-Free Workplace Committee, and the many, many contractors who supported this legislation.

Gov. Herbert Signs SB 13

 

Habitat for Humanity-Making Houses into Homes

by Senator Karen Mayne
Assistant Senate Minority Whip
Senate District 5

Methamphetamine houses have been an “eye sore” in our neighborhoods and a health issue for all of us.  People have “cooked” drugs in their homes and poisoned the property.  The dangerous fumes contaminate wood, carpets, walls–everything.  Usually, the house is abandoned, and because of the cost of clean-up, the house sits empty.

This is where Habitat for Humanity comes in.  Habitat has the ability to rebuild a clean and healthy home for a new family.  Senate Bill 12 gives our citizens the option for a check-off on their state tax return.  This donation is in a restricted fund for restoration of meth houses.

Habitat for Humanity is in the business of making houses into homes.

Be sure to donate on your 2010 tax return.

Senate Sponsor Mayne & House Sponsor Seelig
SB 12 Sponsor Senator Karen Mayne (left)
House Floor Sponsor Rep. Jen Seelig (right)

Gov. Herbert Signs SB 12
Governor Herbert Signs SB 12

 Southgate Ribbon Cutting
Habitiat for Humanity–Southgate Ribbon Cutting

 Southgate Ground Breaking
Habitat for Humanity–Southgate Ground Breaking

 

Utah’s Legislature Addresses Gang Activity

by Senator Luz Robles
Senate Minority Caucus Manager
Senate District One

In a ceremony Monday, April 19, Governor Gary Herbert signed ceremonial copies of SJR 2, Joint Resolution on Combating and Reducing Gang Activity, and SB 59, At-risk Student Provisions, which I sponsored during the 2010 Legislative Session.

Senator Luz RoblesGangs are a problem affecting all Utahns.  We can no longer ignore their presence and actions against our communities, and more importantly, their actions against our children who have become prey for many of these groups.  Our children are the future of this state and our nation, and we cannot lose them to this type of activity.

For the past two years, I have been working with various partners and stakeholders in the community to bring solutions to this problem.  Prevention and intervention, not just suppression, are my priorities.

Senate Joint Resolution 2 is a resolution that urges state and local governments to take a comprehensive, collaborative, and communitywide approach to combat and reduce gang activity.  The resolution acknowledges sports, arts, academic, targeted counseling, and employment programs as vehicles to counter gang recruitment.  It is a call to action where all can be involved and ask for collaborative efforts amongst all levels and branches of government to stop gang activity.

Senate Bill 59 requires the State Board of Education to adopt rules that require a local school board or governing board of a charter school to enact gang prevention and intervention policies.

The effort to prevent, intervene, and eliminate gang-related activity in our community is a bipartisan effort.  I want to personally thank the House sponsors of these pieces of legislation, my colleagues from the majority party Representative Ryan Wilcox for SJR 2 and Representative Paul Ray for SB 59.  Without their leadership and commitment, these bills will not be law today.

It is going to require a more comprehensive and holistic effort to reduce the crime and the involvement of our youth in these activities and more awareness from all of us.  I am looking forward to continuing our work toward the ultimate goal of having a community free of gangs.

I want to thank the members of the state Gang Task Force for their work and support.

Dental Health Care for Children of Working Families

Senator Pat JonesThis past legislative session, Senator Pat Jones sponsored SCR 4, Dental Health Care Concurrent Resolution.  In a ceremony earlier this week, Governor Gary R. Herbert signed the resolution in the company of Senator Jones, Scott Ideson, president of Regence BlueCross BlueShield, and a young couple whose four children have received dental care via the Regence Caring Foundation for Children.

This concurrent resolution of the Legislature and the Governor expresses support for the efforts of the Regence Caring Foundation for Children to provide dental care to children from low-income families who earn too much to qualify for public assistance.  The Regence Caring Foundation for Children began in 1992, and since then, has provided more than 27,000 children with free oral and medical care and has received donations of more than $5.9 million in cash and in-kind services to the Foundation.

Studies show that good dental health and overall general health are inseparable.  Poor dental care leaves children susceptible to infection and disease that affects their ability to sleep, study, and play.  Serious dental disorders can negatively affect self-image and potentially lead to kidney, liver, and cardiovascular diseases and diabetes.

The Regence Caring Foundation for Children’s comprehensive dental plan includes exams, x-rays, fillings, root canals, crowns, and oral surgeries.  Workshops are also conducted to educate parents and children on oral hygiene techniques and good eating habits.

The Foundation donates ALL its administrative duties, allowing 100% of fundraising proceeds to be used for free dental services to children.  Senator Jones thanks her colleagues in the Legislature and the Governor for recognizing the noble efforts of the Regence Caring Foundation for Children.

Governor Herbert Signs SCR 4

Protecting the Public and Creating Jobs

Brent GoodfellowYesterday Senator Goodfellow and Waste Management VIPs were honored to have Governor Gary Herbert sign a ceremonial copy of SCR6, Concurrent Resolution Approving Classification of Solid Waste Facility Solid Waste Permit, passed in the 2010 General Legislative Session.

Waste Management currently operates a landfill in Salt Lake County that accepts industrial and construction waste.  Waste Management is contracted with Salt Lake County and accepts all of the construction and industrial waste from the county.

This bill will allow Waste Management to designate a portion of its landfill to accept asbestos waste.  Our current asbestos waste landfill is filling up, and therefore, Waste Management’s landfill will be the only landfill in the county where there will be a place to dispose of asbestos waste.

The permitting process requires Waste Management to meet all of the conditions through the Utah Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), but DEQ cannot issue a permit without approval from the Legislature and the Governor.  This resolution gives DEQ authority to issue the necessary permit for disposal of asbestos waste.

Governor Herbert signs SCR6
A Signature

 Sen. Goodfellow with Waste Management Group
and

 Governor Herbert shakes hands with Sen. Goodfellow
a handshake.

 

Reading Achievement Requirements

Senator Karen MorganSenator Karen Morgan is sponsoring Senate Bill 150, “Reading Requirements for Student Advancement.”  She presented her bill this morning in the Senate Education Committee where it passed unanimously.  Startling statistics emphasize the need for a minimum standard for reading achievement in the early elementary grades.  Twenty percent of students cannot read at grade level by the end of third grade.  More than 15% of students drop out of school between the 9th and 12th grades.

Morgan’s bill requires students in first, second and third grades to read at or above grade level prior to advancing to the next grade, with certain exceptions.  She stated, “Children learn to read in first, second and third grades.  After third grade, they read to learn.  A child must have basic reading skills in order to be successful as they move into the upper grades, and this bill will help to ensure that each child receives the help necessary to develop this vital skill.”

SB 150 requires schools to provide information to parents at the beginning of the school regarding this standard for grade advancement, to notify a student and the student’s parent or guardian before the middle of the school year if there is any possibility the student may not qualify for promotion, and to provide focused remediation to provide the help the student needs to achieve grade level.

SB 150 includes exceptions for students with disabilities and also allows a principal to provide an exemption and advance a student if the principal deems it to be in the best interest of the student.  A child has until August 15th to meet the standard and qualify for advancement to the next grade.

Helping Keep our Youth Safe

Senator Ross Romeroby Senator Ross Romero
Senate Minority Whip

There is an ongoing debate about restricting cell phone use while driving and efforts in the past for a total ban.  This year in the Judiciary, Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Interim Committee, we have heard testimony from young drivers who support a complete ban because their friends were injured or killed in accidents involving cell phone use.

Based upon this testimony, I decided to sponsor Senate Bill 113, Wireless Telephone Use Restriction for Minors in Vehicles, which restricts cell phone use by persons younger than 18 years of age.  This bill highlights the need for young drivers to acquire experience behind the wheel before introducing distractions to the mix.

The bill provides for an infraction if a person under 18 uses a cell phone while driving.  If a person violates the law and is involved in a motor vehicle accident, the penalty is a class C misdemeanor.  Thirteen states have passed the same provision restricting young drivers.

Below are statistics for Utah Teenage Distracted Driving Crashes for 2006 (new information for 2007 will be available shortly).  Source: University of Utah Applied Cognition Lab

In crashes where cell phone and other electronic devices were the distraction:

1 person was killed
3 people had incapacitating injuries
27 people had non-incapacitating injuries
48 people had possible injuries
42 people had ER visits and 2 people had hospital visits
$240,000 was charged by the ER or hospital

It bothers me when I read the obituaries and see young people dying of suicide, accidents, etc.  I chose age 18 as the cutoff because at that age, most young people have completed high school, are more experienced behind the wheel, and have demonstrated a higher level of maturity.

While I know some are for a complete cell phone ban while driving, this bill is meant to safeguard the younger drivers in our community.

Finally, Representative Phil Riesen is carrying this bill in the Utah House of Representatives.

Fighting for Salt Lake County’s Schools

Senator Gene Davisby Senator Gene Davis
Senate District 3

The Deseret News featured Senate Bill 87, sponsored by Senator Gene Davis of Salt Lake County, in an article Tuesday, January 26, 2010.

SB 87 calls for the end of taking local school taxes and giving them to another district in Salt Lake County.  Senator Davis’ Senate District currently represents 4 out of the 5 school districts in Salt Lake County.  The equalization bill that was passed a few years ago has taken much needed money away from schools who need it the most.  While Jordan School District has continued growth and expenses, the other districts here in Salt Lake County need the money in order to keep schools safe and up-to-date.  Salt Lake City School District alone lost $6.6 million to the new Jordan School District.

The debate on equalization of school funding is not over.  We need a statewide solution to improve the overall value of education in our state.  Senator Davis is building consensus on how to achieve this end.

Off and running…

A few photos from our first day of session, January 25, 2010. 

Pledge of Allegiance
The Pledge of Allegiance

Taylorsville High School Madrigals
Taylorsville High School Madrigals

Elise Jorgensen
Senator Romero’s Intern Elise Jorgensen (center in pink)

 Kira Hansen
Senator Robles’ Intern Kira Hansen (center in gold)

Sara Muse
Senator Mayne’s Intern Sara Muse (center)

Shidasha Holmstead
Senator Morgan’s Intern Shidasha Holmstead (center in gray)

 Nick Daskalas & Cody Bradford
Senator Jones’ Intern Nick Daskalas (tallest)
Senators Davis and Goodfellow’s Intern Cody Bradford (third from right)

Resolution to Address Gang-related Activity

Senator Luz Roblesby Senator Luz Robles
Senate Minority Caucus Manager

I was very pleased with the positive response yesterday from the Judiciary, Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Interim Committee members with regards to my presentation on my proposed resolution for the State Legislature to act on an interagency coordination of Gang Activity.  Last year I introduced SJR 21, and due to the lack of time, there was no vote in the House of Representatives.  At today’s interim committee meeting, I asked for the Gang Task Force headed by CCJJ and Salt Lake District Attorney Lohra Miller as well as the co-chair of the Gang Reduction Project from Salt Lake City (Leticia Medina) to present on the efforts taking place at their respective groups.  It was refreshing to hear how when we all come together, we can be more proactive in finding aggressive solutions to serious problems. 

My resolution will urge state and local governments to work in collaboration with the federal government in combating and reducing gang activity, focusing on prevention, intervention and suppression.  Working together with law enforcement, community and religious-based organizations as well with the community in general will make this endeavor possible.

This is not an issue that only impacts a specific geographic area of our state, even though it’s true that some areas are seeing more violent crimes due to gang-related activity.  This type of violent and disruptive activity is being seen all over the state.

It is time the State Legislature takes a proactive approach and commits to work with all the other stakeholders in finding real and comprehensive solutions.  I was pleased to see a true bipartisan support for this idea and hope to get a recommendation for this resolution in the next interim committee meeting.

Please take a minute to read the story in the Salt Lake Tribune.