2021 Legislative Session, Week 3 Update

Week three is done, and the Legislature has passed 50 total bills. We’ve seen some great bills that are the culmination of years of work and negotiation. The great thing about the Utah Legislature is that almost everyone up here tries hard to be open, respectful, and collaborative. Even though we’ve heard a lot about unity in the last few weeks I think that many people get it wrong. Unity is not about getting people to think the way that you do. It is all about people with many different perspectives united in purpose to work toward common goals. Even with all our differences, we all still share some common goals. We all want Utah to have a booming economy, a first-rate education for our kids, clean air, affordable and accessible healthcare, recreational opportunities, and safe communities. 

I appreciate all of you who have taken the time and effort to share your viewpoints so far. Please, keep it up and stay involved.

Watch my Week 3 Video Update

Parole Amendments

Occasionally, the work we do in the legislature directly impacts the lives of our friends and loved ones. 26 years ago, we lost someone dear in our community. Her remains have never been recovered. This is tragic and the pain continues for those impacted.

My bill, S.B. 124Parole Amendments provides that someone who has been convicted of homicide in the State of Utah will not be released on parole if the victim’s remains have not been found or if the offender can’t show by a preponderance of evidence a good-faith effort to cooperate with the recovery of the victim’s remains. So far, S.B. 124 passed unanimously in committee and on its second reading in the full Senate.

Deceased Voters

Although Utah works hard to have accurate and secure elections, ballots occasionally are mailed to deceased voters. This session, I’m the floor sponsor of H.B. 12Deceased Voter Amendments, which creates a more uniform process to rectify this issue. When a Utahn passes away, the bill requires that the death certificate be sent from the state registrar to the Lieutenant Governor’s office within five business days of the certificate’s registration. The certificate will then be sent to the County Clerk’s office where the deceased name will be removed from the voter rolls. Before each election cycle, the Lieutenant Governor’s office will also cross-check each name against United States Social Security Administration data. H.B. 12 passed the Senate and House and will be sent to the governor.  To listen to the bill presentation on the Senate floor, click here

Honoring Officer Nathan Lyday 

The Utah Legislature paid tribute and honored the exemplary life of Officer Nathan Lyday from the Ogden City Police Department. On May 28, 2020, Officer Nathan Lyday made the ultimate sacrifice by laying down his life for the protection of others. That day will remain a date of significance and honor for the city of Ogden and the state of Utah. May we remember and thank our law enforcement officers for protecting our communities. Listen to the floor time presentation here.  Read the full citation here.  

Law Enforcement Weapons Amendments 

Equipping our law enforcement officers with the latest resources to address incidents is critical to protecting the public. S.B. 68 Law Enforcement Weapons Amendments, would create a pilot program that would help the Utah Highway Patrol in purchasing technology to assist law enforcement agencies in police incidents where firearms are involved. This technology would allow firearms to record the number of shots fired and indicate when it was fired. This simple modification would improve the effectiveness of police investigations where firearms are used. This bill passed in the Senate and will now be considered in the House. Listen to the bill’s presentation on the Senate floor here

Conceal Carry Firearm Amendments 

Utah currently has an “open carry” law that allows individuals who are legally able to possess a firearm to open carry in public. H.B.60 Conceal Carry Firearms Amendments, would allow anyone over 21, who is legally allowed to possess a firearm, to carry a concealed weapon in public without a concealed carry permit. Additionally, this bill would establish a Suicide Prevention and Education Fund and a portion of funds collected from the concealed carry permit class will go toward suicide prevention efforts and firearm safety. This bill will not discontinue the concealed carry permit class or change specifications on how firearms can be carried in public. H.B. 60 passed the Senate and will be sent to the House for their consideration. Listen to the bill’s presentation on the Senate floor here.  

Driver License Changes 

This week, we considered legislation that would make changes to the driver’s license requirements for new drivers. H.B. 18Driver Education Amendments, would extend the term of a learner permit from one year to 18 months. This change does not prevent youth from getting their license upon turning 16. In addition, this bill would remove the required six observation hours for driver education observation for 15-17-year-olds. This bill passed with unanimous support in the Senate. To listen to the bill presentation on the Senate floor, click here

Holocaust Education

Many adults learned about the Holocaust during their K-12 years; however, it seems this important, historic lesson is slowly diminishing in our children’s education. S.C.R. 1Concurrent Resolution on Holocaust Education, highlights the importance of Holocaust and genocide education for students and encourages the State Board of Education and local education agencies to provide Holocaust and genocide content for schools. This bill passed with unanimous support in the Senate and will now be considered by the House. You can watch the bill presentation on the Senate floor here.  

Recognizing COVID-19 Efforts

The last year has been hard on everyone as we’ve learned to live life during a pandemic. Many have been sick or lost loved ones. Thousands lost jobs and some lost businesses. Students, teachers and families had to adapt to a new style of teaching. During this challenging time, many individuals in our state and local health departments worked tirelessly to produce, publish and promote accurate information to help us navigate this pandemic. This week, the Senate passed H.C.R. 6Concurrent Resolution Recognizing COVID-19 Efforts, to recognize and express our appreciation for these individuals. You can watch the bill presentation on the Senate floor here

Financial Relief for Businesses Harmed by COVID-19

Over the last year, we made significant efforts to provide economic support to businesses negatively impacted by COVID-19. S.B. 25Corporate Tax Amendments, provides more targeted relief to businesses by allowing them to carry back a Utah net loss realized during 2020 for up to three years. The idea is if a business was profitable in the three years leading up to 2020, but then suffered a loss in 2020, the loss is very likely to have been caused by the economic hardship brought about by the pandemic. This bill passed in the Senate and will now be considered in the House. You can watch the bill presentation on the Senate floor here.  

Covid Data
State Data (as of February 5th)
Total Cases:                           352,489
Total People Tested:               2,061,926
Total Hospitalizations:            13,755
Total Deaths:                          1,728  
Estimated Recovered:            318,034
Vaccines Administered:          382,881

Utah County Dept of Health
Total Cases:                            85,826
Current Cases                         3,697
Total Tested:                            411,054
Deaths:                                    295
        1st Dose:    48,849 
         2nd Dose:   12,102 
         Total:          60,951


Week 2 Update, 2021 Session

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

After two weeks of session, we’re hitting our stride and getting a lot done. One comment I hear quite often from constituents is that we are just passing way too many laws. There is some truth to that. What Utahns may not know, is that many, if not most bills make very small changes to Utah law. In fact, quite often, bills repeal laws that were passed years ago. So, it is not all about adding more laws, it’s also about fixing what is already on the books. The last few years have seen more of a push to remove burdensome regulations that don’t improve the lives of Utahns or make us any safer.

Occasionally, a law is passed and months later, it is found that there are unintended consequences to that law. It can be something as simple as replacing the word “shall” for the word “may.” It is important that we fix mistakes and do everything we can to get government out of people’s lives while also protecting their rights. Of course, we’re all imperfect and we need your help to get things done. For years, Utah has been ranked the most well-run state in the nation because we have an intelligent, educated, hard-working citizenry that are engaged in the process. Please, continue to be involved in this process. We can’t do it without you.

Watch my Video Recap

As always, I’ve provided some summaries of bills that we are considering. You’ll find links to the bill text, to video of debates, and occasionally, news coverage of the issues involved.

Free Speech

I am working on a bill that protects the free speech rights of Utahns from threats made by private corporations or people who may want to restrict free expression. I’ll let you know when this legislation is available and ready for consideration.

Human Services Oversight

Some of you may have seen recent media attention about residential treatment centers for youths in Utah. This industry and other similar human services businesses have operated in Utah for years without much oversight. Unfortunately, I’ve seen some examples of questionable practices in my work as an attorney. Teenagers can be drugged, physically held down, locked in rooms for hours on end and quite often these punishments are not a part of any record or documentation.

My bill, S.B. 127Human Services Program Amendments has the support of stakeholders in the industry and has been in the works for some time. It’s designed to limit the punishments allowed under law and increase reporting, inspections and general oversight, especially the use of physical restraints and seclusion. S.B. 127 was introduced in the Senate this week and will be considered in a Senate standing committee soon. Read more about it here: Salt Lake Tribune

Mental Health Treatment

The nationwide push for a mental health crisis hotline began here in Utah. It has become increasingly clear that mental health services need to be improved, and first responders are often not trained to help people experiencing a mental health crisis. This session, more is being done to put trained professionals in positions to help people in crisis.

 S.B. 53Behavioral Emergency Services Amendments, make additional mental health crisis training available for emergency services professionals. Agencies throughout Utah can create teams of appropriately trained professionals to respond specifically to mental health emergencies. These professionals will be licensed to triage people and get them the resources they need. S.B. 47 Mental Health Crisis, Intervention Council creates a council of stakeholders from various agencies to design the statewide training offered to these emergency services professionals.   

Additionally, S.B. 41Mental Health Access Amendments, require health benefit plans to cover telehealth services for mental health treatment if the plan also covers in-person treatment of the same mental health conditions. All three bills passed in the Senate and are now in the House for consideration.  

To view the bill presentations on the Senate floor, click here: S.B. 41S.B. 47 and S.B. 53

Criminal Penalties

The Utah Sentencing Commission is responsible for advising the Legislature, governor and judicial council regarding sentencing and releasing policies for those who have committed crimes. Last year, the Commission reviewed S.B. 50Juvenile Offender Penalty Amendments and recommended its passage in the Legislature. The bill came from an issue where a young adult was charged as an adult for a crime committed as a 14-year-old. As a result, they served 10 years in state prison and were put on the sex offender registry. The bill would help ensure that if individuals commit a crime, they face the appropriate level of punishment based on their age when the crime was committed. Currently, if a crime report is delayed until after the perpetrator is an adult, they are tried as an adult. 

In Utah criminal law, gang enhancement provisions were applied to help alleviate issues with street gangs or organized criminal enterprises. Since the provisions were originally created, the requirements for applying the enhancements have been considerably loosened. The enhancement was recently used against protesters who committed acts of vandalism. The broad nature of the provisions allowed vandalism to be raised to the level of a first-degree felony, punishable by a maximum life sentence. S.B. 51 Group Gang Enhancement Amendments, raises the bar so that the enhancements are only used in violent offenses and increases the requirement for the number of assailants involved. 

S.B. 64 Domestic Violence Amendments, proposes to change Utah law to make domestic violence a third-degree felony in certain situations. If it is a third-time offense in a 10-year window, it will be charged as a third-degree felony. 
All these bills passed in the Senate and will now be considered in the House. 

To view the bill presentations on the Senate floor, click here: S.B. 50S.B. 51 and S.B. 64

In the News: KUTV | Salt Lake Tribune

Sales Tax

Double taxation is an issue brought forth by the Utah Tax Commission in which a tax is being paid twice on the same source of income. S.B. 95Sales Tax Revisions, creates a one-time tax collection for services, a tax break that already exists for retail. Currently, when a business owner needs to purchase items in order to provide a service, the business owner is taxed for the items needed and then the consumer is taxed again for the cost of the service. This bill makes retail and service tax equal by taxing goods and services only once. S.B. 95 passed in Senate Revenue and Taxation committee and is currently placed on the second reading calendar. 

Price Controls

Since 2005, the Price Controls During Emergencies Act was not used or modified until the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020. S.B. 86 Amendments to the Price Controls During Emergencies Act, makes necessary changes to the act to ensure consumers are not price gouged and protects Utahns from false claims during an emergency. S.B. 86 targets four changes to the act, including checkpoints before an investigation, transparency in changes to the cost of items, privacy protection for those accused until after adjudication and higher evidentiary standards. This bill passed in Senate Business and Labor committee. 


This week we passed our base budget bills. These bills traditionally use the previous year’s ongoing appropriations as a starting point. This was the first year we included $95 million in new money for education growth and inflation in the base budgets, making it the first year we have included these items in our base budgets. In addition, we also included an increase in per-pupil spending to restore last year’s 6 percent WPU increase. Overall, our base budgets we passed this week they also include over half a billion dollars in new state spending for high priority items such as education, Medicaid and COVID-19 response.

I Look Forward to Hearing From You!

I can be reached by email at My mobile phone number is 801-210-1495.

Thank you for all you do to make Utah the best state in the nation – and thanks for paying attention.

Until next time,

Senator Mike McKell