The 2022 General Session has been off to a great start! Over 300 bills have been filed with many more to come. We are here to keep you informed on bills that fall within YWCA Utah’s policy priority areas: child care, domestic & sexual violence, housing, mental health, racial & gender equity, and reproductive health. Here’s a recap of January highlights on the Hill.
- Strong Support: HB 175 Protection of Animals Amendments (Rep. Romero) This bill allows pets to be included in a protective order. It is critical to the safety of survivors, 75% of whom report history of their pet being threatened or harmed by an abusive partner. Passed unanimously out of the House Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Committee after an emotional public comment where survivors showed up to share their stories.
- Support: SB 87 Court Fee Waiver Amendments (Sen. Iwamoto, Rep. Snow). This bill makes is easier for a judge to approve a fee waiver for custody, divorce and parentage cases. This will help survivors of domestic violence who are facing economic instability. We testified in support of this bill. You can listen to the committee hearing where it passed unanimously here.
This week, YWCA Utah, along with a coalition of nonprofit organizations met with House Speaker Brad Wilson. Our request was this: oppose tax cuts at a time when our state has many unmet needs including: domestic violence services, food security, housing, education, services for people with disabilities, among others. Read more about this at https://www.investinutahsfuture.org/ where you can also check out the press conference we held.
Additionally, the Social Services Appropriations Subcommittee dedicated over an hour to learn about how the state is responding to domestic violence and the unmet needs for service providers. Jen Campbell, Executive Director of the Utah Domestic Violence Coalition, Margaret Rose, Executive Director of YCC in Ogden, and Jill Anderson from CAPSA in Logan gave a compelling presentation.
- PRIORITY SUPPORT: SB 117 Utah Antidiscrimination Act Amendments (Sen. Kitchen). This is the Utah Version of the Crown Act. Crown stands for Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair. This bill would allow Utah to become the 14th state to protect people from hair discrimination. This is a serious issue that impacts the black, indigenous and other folks who have been long discriminated against based on a trait historically associated with race, including protective hairstyles like braids, locks, afros, curls, and twists. This bill was introduced last year but did not get far. The bill has been reintroduced and was assigned to the Senate Business and Labor Committee. Let’s rally support for this bill! Please sign and share the petition. For more information visit https://www.thecrownact.com/.
- Support: HB 162 Period Products in Schools (Rep. Lisonbee). This bill is meant to address period poverty that many girls and women in our state experience, and that disproportionately impacts girls and women of color, by providing period products in all public schools in Utah. Bottom line is, many people cannot afford to buy pads, tampons or other feminine hygiene products that are essential to ensuring women and girls can continue to go about their daily lives. In fact, the Period Project found that nearly 1 in 5 girls cannot afford period products and 46% of women in poverty have been in the position where they have to choose affording to buy food over purchasing period products. This bill passed unanimously out of the House Education Committee was sent to the House floor for a full vote.
- Support: SB 104 Community Health Worker Certification Process (Sen. Escamilla). This bill creates state certification for community health workers (or promotoras in Spanish) and allows them to access Medicaid reimbursement for their critical role in improving community health.Wednesday was Community Health Worker Day on the Hill, where CHWs from all over Utah gathered, met with legislators, and testified in the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, where the bill was held at the request of Sen. Escamilla in order to make minor amendments.
- Priority Support: Domestic Violence Shelter Services Appropriations Request (Rep. Ward) This funding request seeks $4.24 million in ongoing state funds to support core domestic violence services in the 15 licensed, private nonprofit shelters in Utah, including YWCA Utah. This increase in funding will help us to keep up with the growing demand for services, support the Utah Domestic Violence Coalition’s crisis line (1-800-897-5465), and would establish a new support and referral hotline, hosted by Restoring Ancestral Winds, to serve domestic violence victims who are part of Utah’s eight Federally Recognized Tribes. The request was presented in the Social Services Appropriations Subcommittee on February 3rd and received a positive reception from the committee.
- Priority Support: HB 193 Full-Day Kindergarten (Rep. Waldrip) This bill requires Utah schools to offer full-day kindergarten options to all students. Full-day kindergarten is proven to better prepare students for first grade, increase school performance outcomes, and would make access to education more equitable by ensuring all Utah children have access to early childhood education. The bill was presented to the Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee on January 27th. See the one-pager here. Take Action! You can support this bill by asking the committee members to prioritize this funding request, signing this petition created by United Today, Stronger Tomorrow, and visiting this website to learn more: https://www.utahfulldayk.today/take-action.
Priority Support: HB 220 Pregnancy and Postpartum Medicaid Coverage Amendments (Rep. Lesser) This bill increases the income threshold for pregnancy Medicaid coverage and extends post-partum coverage from 60 days to one year. With thousands of low-income pregnant people still uninsured in Utah, this bill provides the first step in closing this gap. Extended coverage would also help new parents have improved access to mental health services post-partum, as more than 1/3 of Utah’s new mothers report pregnancy-related mental health challenges. The bill was presented to the Social Services Appropriations Subcommittee on February 3rd and has been assigned to the House Business and Labor Committee. Physicians, mental health providers, and organizations can sign on to support the bill here.
There are many ways for you to get involved!
- Visit our online bill tracker
- Share action alerts with your network
- Attend committee and floor hearings in person or virtually by checking out the legislative calendar
- Reach out to your senator or representative (text works well!) to provide public comment on bills
- Follow us on social media (@ywcautah) for the latest updates
If you have any questions about getting involved, reach out to Gabe Archuleta, our Public Policy Director, at firstname.lastname@example.org.