The 2010 General Session of the Utah State Legislature wrapped up with AARP Utah’s priority bills meeting with a mix of success and disappointment, including the following:
- Representative Mascaro’s bill HB 43, the Unemployment Compensation Amendments, which AARP Utah supported strongly passed. It provides that Social Security benefits may not be offset against unemployment weekly compensation benefits. Currently there is a 50% offset which would have become a 100% offset had this bill not passed, as the current law was set to “sunset” next year, meaning the previous law allowing a 100% offset would have gone back into effect. The removal of the offset will start applying to benefits received next year.
- Representative Dunnigan's bill, HB 388, Mobile Home Revisions, passed. It strengthens the ability of mobile home residents to form resident associations, use common areas to hold meetings, distribute materials in the park and be protected against retaliatory evictions.
- Representative Ray’s bill, HB 196 was combined with Senator Christensen’s bill, SB 40 Cigarette and Tobacco Tax Amendments, and passed after significant debate. This legislation will increase the tax on cigarettes by $1 per pack. AARP Utah worked with a coalition that strongly supported this legislation as a means to reduce the huge health care costs from tobacco use by helping to reduce the number of people who currently use tobacco products, and preventing others—especially children—from ever starting to smoke. The savings to public health costs to the state will be in the tens of millions of dollars.
- Representative Newbold’s bill, HB 52, Uniform Electronic Standards, passed. It will amend provisions related to electronic standards for health insurance claims processing and coordination of benefits. It will also help strengthen accuracy of medical records and make transmission of information more accurate and less expensive.
- Representative Poulson's bill, HB 79, the Valid Voter Identification Amendments, that would have allowed voters to use a Medicare card for identification at the polls unfortunately failed, even though citizenship would still be verified through the voter's registration. Arguments were made that this could facilitate voter fraud, even though the number of voters that had even questionable citizenship in previous elections was less than 0.0004 percent.
Senator Liljenquist also pushed through several bills that will require public employees to work up to five more years before they qualify for retirement benefits, which were also reduced. This will make it more difficult for the state to attract employees, who already have had their benefits reduced and typically count on a stable benefit package as a means to balance the low income they receive relative to the private sector.
Become Involved — Make A Difference!
The legislative session has ended, but there are advocacy opportunities with AARP Utah year-round. To become involved, please contact Laura Polacheck at email@example.com.