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Sandy Journal

Here’s what Sandy’s state legislators are working on this year

Jan 25, 2022 02:06PM ● By Justin Adams

By Justin Adams | [email protected]

The Utah State Legislature began its 2022 legislative session last week, with a number of important issues on its plate, ranging from COVID-19 and housing affordability to air quality and restoring the Great Salt Lake.

Prior to the session starting, Sandy’s state legislators hopped on a virtual call to share what issues they would personally be working on this year.

Rep. Steve Eliason (House District 45)

Eliason said he will be continuing to work on bills related to mental health, an issue he has focused on throughout his time in office. Previously, he helped pass a law to establish crisis receiving centers which act as a “psychiatric emergency room” for individuals having a mental health crisis. This session, Eliason is hoping to secure funding for an additional center for Weber valley. He is also hoping to make changes to the state’s mobile crisis teams (which can be dispatched to help people having mental health crises) that would enhance the availability of the service to Utahns.

Rep. Suzanne Harrison (House District 32)

Harrison, a doctor, is working on a bill that would give more Utahns access to a national diabetes prevention program.

“About 25% of medical dollars in Utah are spent on diabetes care. And yet, for type 2 diabetes, it’s a preventable disease for so many people if we can get them the skills and support they need to either prevent or manage their diabetes,” she said.

She is also working on a bill that would improve the ratio of nurses to students within Utah’s schools. Currently, the ratio is one nurse for every 5,000 students. Harrison would like to see it lowered to one nurse for every 2,000 students.

Rep. Robert Spendlove (House District 49)

Spendlove is tackling Utah’s recent drought conditions with a bill aimed at reducing non-functional turf throughout the state. If passed, the bill would prevent municipalities as well as HOA’s from requiring residents to maintain a traditional lawn. It would also require all new state facilities to have no more than 20% non-functional turf and existing facilities to reduce theirs by 25%.

Spendlove is also working on a bill that would enhance the punishment for attacking healthcare workers.

Sen. Kirk Cullimore (Senate District 9)

Cullimore is collaborating with O2 Utah, a local organization that’s focused on air quality, to work on a bill that would do just that.

“We all care about air quality, we’re all stewards of this land. It’s an important issue,” he said.

Cullimore is also working on a consumer protection bill that would put some limits on how corporations collect consumers’ data.

Sen. Kathleen Riebe (Senate District 8)

Like Harrison, Riebe is working to increase the number of school nurses in Utah schools. She’d also like to see more school psychologists and social workers, and give those positions a yearly stipend similar to what teachers have.

Riebe is also working on a bill for an opt-in sex education program aimed at giving students the tools to identify abuse.

“We have a lot of students who aren’t aware of how to stop abusive behavior that’s happening to them. We have some of the highest rates of child abuse in the country and I think if we help students understand what abuse is, they’ll be able to protect themselves,” she said.

What about Little Cottonwood Canyon?

During a question and answer portion of the virtual meeting, Sandy residents asked their representatives about their thoughts on Little Cottonwood Canyon. More specifically, whether UDOT should pursue an enhanced bus service or the construction of a gondola, in order to address high traffic volumes during the ski season.

“I have not taken a position on it, and I won’t be taking a position on it. I think with issues like this, it’s important for us to listen to the experts and listen to our constituents,” said Spendlove, who noted that no matter what UDOT recommends, it’s not a guarantee that the legislature will actually fund it.

“I would guess that if there’s a strong consensus among the experts and among the constituents, that we may be able to get something done. But it’s going to be tough either way.

If there isn’t clarity, I could easily see us taking the direction of maintaining our current status,” he said. 

“We have a long, long list of societal needs, and a relatively small bank account. As I’ve dove into various transportation issues, the list of projects is lengthy,” Eliason echoed.

Riebe said she is opposed to the gondola, citing a number of reasons.

“My frustration also is that the gondola isn’t going to access any of our hiking,” she said. “I don’t think it’s feasible. I don’t think it’s environmentally friendly.”

Cullimore didn’t take a firm position, but said that there are a number of issues that would play into either option, such as watershed protection and tolling.