Legislative update from Rep. Watson
The 2012 Legislature has begun and things have been moving along nicely. I presented in committee a bill that would require the University Hospital and Miners Hospital to present an annual accounting of money the hospital receives to the Natural Resources Sub-appropriation Committee. The Miners Hospital is required to serve disabled miners from anywhere in the state of Utah. The bill passed out of committee and is on the board waiting to be heard on the House Floor. I also presented three bills dealing with family rights and DCFS. One passed out of committee and is headed to the House Floor. I am working to strengthen families and parental rights. I will say that after a year and a half of working with families and DCFS and the Juvenile Courts I urge everyone to steer clear of illegal drugs, prescription drug abuse, and domestic violence. Not one of those activities has a positive outcome for children and parents.
Friday was the Annual Rural Legislative Day on the hill. I was privileged to be asked to speak to the leaders and citizens of rural Utah. Did you know that more than three out of every four Utahns live in the four most populous counties? These counties are Salt Lake, Utah, Weber, and Davis. That means we in the rural counties are greatly outnumbered. We are all going to have to fight to have our share of state revenues to educate our children and grandchildren and keep our economic development progressing. I believe that as rural Utahns we are living the American Dream. We breathe clear air, we have free spaces to live, work, and enjoy recreational activities, and a less stressful lifestyle.
I told the rural leaders that the ads on TV are deceiving; wilderness is not readily accessible, close to amenities, or someplace to which all children are going to hike. If all of the urban people who feel like they need to get away would travel to one or more of our Utah State Parks, it would solve their anxiety problems and help solve one of our state problems. I will continue to fight to keep our parks open. My new legislative email is email@example.com. I appreciate hearing from you about the legislative bills that you are concerned about. The first law of the 2012 is Rep. Marie Poulson's (D-HD46) HB 21. This bill will create a system for emergency responders to access emergency-contact information. At the interim Committee Hearing for HB 21, the Cottonwood Heights Assistant Chief of Police described a situation where police responded to a car accident, and the driver involved was elderly and so shaken he couldn't answer questions. It took several hours for the police to find the name and contact information for the man's wife. Other first responders have described situations where victims have lived for several hours after accidents, but because they were unable to speak, their loved ones were unable to join them in their final moments. This bill will create a database of emergency contact information with the DMV and any Utahn will have the option to provide that information if they wish. This information will be accessible by the police and emergency responders. This law will provide the option when people apply for a new driver's license or renew an old one.
HB 263 will provide unemployment benefits to the spouses of active military personnel. Utah is only one of 10 states which do not do it already. HB 65 creates a pilot program to place counselors in high schools that will specialize in helping students with applications, scholarships and financial aid to post-secondary programs. It has passed committee resoundingly and awaits debate on the house floor.
One bill that is particularly troubling is first Sub. S. B. 15. This bill in its original form would have increased off-highway vehicles (ATV's and snowmobiles) registration fees to help fund badly needed snowmobile trail grooming. Rep. Brad Dee substituted the bill and included the Aero Bureau, a bureau that is in charge of rescue helicopters. This Aero Bureau also needs money and they attached an additional fee that would help pay for the helicopter rescue of stranded and injured people in remote areas. It caught everyone off guard, it did pass, but I know there is going to be a lot of debate on the floor about the issue of one or two organizations footing the bill to rescue injured people.
I would really appreciate hearing from ATV and snowmobile owners about this issue. firstname.lastname@example.org.