Ravell Call, KSL, File

Social Security tax, medical marijuana and more: Week 4 at the legislative session

By Graham Dudley, KSL.com | Posted - Feb. 17, 2020 at 6:32 p.m.



Editor's note: This is part of a series at KSL.com focusing on bills during the 2020 general session that could have an impact on your money and health. In our weekly legislative roundup, we let you know the status of some noteworthy bills being considered.

SALT LAKE CITY — It can be hard to keep track of the comings and goings at the Utah State Capitol during the annual legislative session. Most Utahns just want to know one thing: How could lawmakers’ decisions affect me?

During the 2020 general session, KSL.com will be keeping an eye on bills that could someday make an impact on Utahns’ money and health. In our weekly legislative roundup, we let you know the status of some noteworthy bills being considered.

It's time for Week 4 up at the Capitol. Here are some bills to keep an eye on:

Bill that could affect your money

SB116

What it says: This bill would establish a tax credit for certain Social Security benefits, allowing seniors to keep more of their Social Security payments.

The big picture: This provision was part of the tax reform bill that legislators passed in December, but that bill was quickly repealed when the 2020 general session began. Senate Minority Leader Karen Mayne, D-West Valley City, says she believes the tax on Social Security "shouldn't be there."

"People have earned that money, and they should be able to keep it," she said. She argues that seniors are more likely to inject their incomes back into the economy, as well.

SB117

What it says: This bill would allow Regents' scholarships to be used at private and nonprofit colleges or universities in Utah, like Brigham Young University, the LDS Business College and Western Governors University.

2019's HB260 made the scholarship available only for schools in the Utah System of Higher Education or Utah System of Technical Colleges, like the University of Utah.

The big picture: Senate Majority Whip Dan Hemmert, R-Orem, said this bill will keep some provisions of HB260 but expand again the number of schools where the scholarship can be used. The scholarship will still be dedicated to tuition and fees, he said, and will still be for only "last dollars in" — that is, applied if necessary after all other scholarships and student aid.

Bills that could affect your health

SB121

What it says: As medical cannabis prepares for its Utah debut, this bill aims to tweak some provisions of the Utah law to facilitate a better experience for growers and buyers. It would allow growers to stack their plants, so they can grow more in the same square footage; allow growers to have two sites, to facilitate both their temporary and long-term operations; expand acceptable packaging beyond blister packs; and raise the caps on how many prescriptions physicians can write.

The big picture: Sen. Evan Vickers, R-Cedar City, said he hopes to get the bill through both houses of the Legislature with two-thirds majorities by March 1, so it can be signed and go into effect faster. "There are some components in it that are time-sensitive," he said.

Vickers said these changes are the result of feedback and discussion with stakeholders as the state rolls out medical marijuana.

HB313

What it says: This bill would require insurance providers to allow doctors to perform telehealth, or remote care, services.

The bill would also create new reporting requirements, so primary care physicians know what telehealth services their patients have received and require that doctors be paid competitive rates for telehealth services.

The big picture: Bill sponsor Rep. Melissa Ballard, R-North Salt Lake, said right now many companies only offer physician assistants and nurse practitioners to treat a limited number of ailments using telehealth. Telehealth will likely become a growing sector of the health care industry in the years to come. This bill would help facilitate that expansion.

Checking In

HB69, which would allow employees to use their own sick days to care for immediate relatives, failed in the House Business and Labor Committee by an 8-6 vote.

HB244, which aims to reduce the abuse of drugs and alcohol by pregnant women, has passed the House and is moving on to the state Senate.

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