The Utah Legislature wrapped up the 2019 session at 11 p.m. Thursday night, one hour ahead of the midnight deadline. During the 45 days, state lawmakers passed 573 pieces of legislation.
Utah Senator Lyle Hillyard, who represents Cache and Rich counties, is happy with how the session turned out. He said that even though some might scoff at the record number of bills passed, many are not new laws.
“Most of the bills we do are just fine-tuning current law,” he explained. “So when people say, ‘oh…you’ve passed five-hundred-and-something new laws,’ I say we have probably passed a hundred new laws. Most of the rest of them were fine-tuning what we already had on the books.”
One of the bills that Hillyard worked to clear through the legislature, helps residents claim money that is turned over to the state and is sometimes not known about. It’s part of a law he’s been working on for three years. The money comes from places like dormant bank accounts, old stock certificates, and uncollected insurance checks. This year’s adjustment added small life insurance policies to that list.
Hillyard said they also decided to postpone action on a sweeping tax reform policy. The law would have taxed services like haircuts, piano lessons, and advertising. It stalled after big push back from small business owners, self-employed citizens and the public at large.
“The issue was, it was done under wraps and not a lot of people knew about it. Then the approach was, tax everything and make citizens come up and fight why they should not be included. That was a mess.”
Legislative leaders have said they are planning to push forward with tax reform over the next few months. They’ll hold public hearings and ask for feedback. Utah Governor Gary Herbert has said he will call legislators back for a special session to address the issue.
One of this year’s highlights for Hillyard, who sits on several education committees, was allocating more money to schools. He said lawmakers budgeted $128 million more in per-pupil education funding this year. He was really happy with the increase, even though he would have like to have done more.
“We gave more money to fund councilors for the kids at risk, especially kids who English is not their main language and kids who come from broken homes.”
Hillyard explained that he is already looking forward to next year’s session. He wants to see how schools perform with the extra money allocated to them, and work on counseling to prevent youth suicides.