Working for County Residents at the Utah Legislature
Posted by Ben McAdams
April 3, 2014
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The 2014 session of the Utah legislature is now in the history books. I’m happy to report that some issues I cared strongly about ‑on behalf of Salt Lake County residents‑ moved forward. Here’s a progress report:
- Preschool for economically-disadvantaged children ‑Salt Lake County is currently providing $350,000 for a one-year demonstration project. It gives 600 additional children the opportunity to attend high-quality preschool. Numerous studies show that preschool is an investment that pays rich dividends for kids, families, and taxpayers. The legislature passed a bill that is based on the county’s public/private partnership model. Next year, Utah will have $3 million so that eligible 3 and 4-year-old children statewide will be able to enroll. The private sector provides the money up front in the form of a loan, which Utah only has to pay back if the children succeed academically and don’t require special education.
- Insurance coverage for children with autism ‑ I’ve implemented insurance coverage at Salt Lake County for employees whose children have autism. It’s not only the right thing to do for the families of county employees; it will also save the county money in the long run, as employees miss fewer work days and are able to be more productive. The cost is modest, but for the families, the benefit is huge. Utah legislators were able to take a look at Salt Lake County’s model and pass—for the first time—a requirement that Utah insurers offer autism coverage. Advocates tell us that 80 to 90 percent of children who receive early treatment improve significantly
- 9‑1‑1 emergency dispatch regional coordination ‑ Salt Lake Valley’s population growth, as well as increased cell phone usage-- has made our patchwork 9‑1‑1 dispatch system vulnerable to misrouted calls and precious seconds lost by emergency responders. I offered a solution—funding to enable everyone in the valley to operate on a single computer-aided dispatch software platform—that has been stymied by some turf battles. Rep. Brad Dee passed a bill that requires that action, or forces local entities to forgo federal and state funding for 9‑1‑1 emergency. That provides both a carrot and a stick to move forward with a solution. In the long run, it will save both lives and taxpayer dollars.
- Community preservation ‑ After much listening and collaboration with communities throughout unincorporated county, I scaled back the bill providing a new option of governance. Sen. Karen Mayne’s bill evolved to ensure that boundaries are frozen through Nov. 2015. That gives everyone time for a thoughtful discussion on how we move forward. I’ve heard loud and clear that communities want to have more local control over planning and zoning and other local issues, while keeping the option of affordable, high-quality municipal services such as snow removal. I look forward to the next phase that will ultimately resolve decades of contentious and expensive fights dividing neighborhoods and communities, while eliminating the threat of “land grabs” by neighboring cities.
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