Policy Matters–End of Session Wrap Up!

by Elizabeth Garbe

Public Policy Director

The 2012 General Session came to a close at midnight on March 8. After 45 fast and furious days, United Way has emerged with many great wins for Utah’s children, families, and communities. Below is a list of bills that United Way prioritized this year and where they ended up at the close of the session.

EDUCATION

  • Optional Extended Day Kindergarten was funded with $10 million one-time dollars. The funds will ensure that schools can continue to provide optional extended-day kindergarten and begin to integrate technology in kindergarten and first grade. The State Office of Education will report on the impact of utilizing technology in the classroom to assess whether this is an appropriate intervention.
  • New money was appropriated to implement computer adaptive testing in schools, which will help better assess where children’s strengths and weaknesses are in real time.
  • SB226 High Quality Preschool Project unanimously passed out of Senate Education Committee. The program was not prioritized for funding, so Senator Osmond asked that it be studied over the interim. The summer will be devoted to meeting with legislators to garner their support for this evidenced-based program that closes the achievement gap for at-risk students while saving tax payer dollars through a reduction in special education use.

INCOME

  • An additional $50,000 was appropriated to the volunteer income tax assistance (VITA) program. These additional funds will be utilized to help better coordinate volunteers in some of Utah’s rural communities and to assist 2-1-1 in scheduling VITA appointments statewide. (Last year this program brought $2.4 million back into the pockets of working Utah families through income tax returns.)
  • Senator McAdams ran SB211 Earned Income Tax Credit and Related Funding to create a state earned income tax credit (EITC). The bill passed second reading in the Senate, but was not funded–so the bill did not make it all the way through the process. This is a huge win because we were able to gain a lot of support for the bill. Next year we will pick the bill up and ensure it is funded.

HEALTH

  • HB98 Continuous Eligibility for Medicaid passed into law and will allow Medicaid enrollees to maintain health coverage for up to 12 months even if the family experiences a change in income. This is important in guaranteeing better continuity of care, which can decrease health costs and improve health outcomes.
  • The legislature also passed HB144 Health System Reform Amendments to continue to improve upon and implement new components of Utah’s health reform.

IMMIGRANT AND REFUGEE INTEGRATION

  • SB144 Immigration Consultants sponsored by Senator Luz Robles. This bill requires that people who provide non-legal assistance on immigration matters (including providing legal references, translation services, and helping to gather documents and submit them on a person’s behalf) apply to become registered Immigration Consultants with the State Department of Consumer Protection.

You can view all the bills United Way prioritized this year and where they ended up in the process by viewing the last bill tracker of 2012. Also, please remember to thank your elected officials for representing you up on the Hill!

Thank you for being an advocate for United Way! We look forward to engaging you over the interim as we plan and get ready for next year on the Hill.

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