Utah politicians passed these laws ‘to make Utah more inclusive’

One of the Cox administration’s priorities is to expand opportunities for the state’s underrepresented and marginalized groups.

(Rachel Rydalch | The Salt Lake Tribune) The Utah State Capitol building is pictured during a rain storm as the last day of the legislative session comes to an end on Friday, March 4, 2022.

As stakeholders representing community-based organizations gathered at the IJ & Jeanné Wagner Jewish Community Center in Salt Lake City on Monday, Utah Gov. Spencer Cox ceremonially signed a package of bills that reflected Utah’s growing diverse populations.

“One of our goals is to make Utah more open, to make Utah more inclusive and to make sure there’s opportunity for everyone,” Cox said during the event. “To have Republicans and Democrats working together on these issues, I think shows very well in a very divisive time. It’s important to highlight the opportunities to come together to support people who maybe don’t feel as included. ”

The Cox administration, as outlined in their list of priorities in the One Utah Roadmap, said it has set a goal to advance opportunities for the state’s underrepresented and marginalized groups.

Nubia Peña, the senior advisor of equity and opportunity for the governor, noted that several of these issues were sponsored by both Democrats and Republicans.

“Today signifies our commitment not only in partnership with the legislators but also with community stakeholders, that we are seeking to make sure that everyone in our state feels like they belong. And that means being able to tackle issues that are important to certain communities, ”she said. “Utah is quickly changing in terms of our demographics, and we want to make room for everyone.”

Here are the bills and measures the governor ceremoniously signed on Monday:

Driver license exams

SB216 allows Utahns with limited English proficiency to take their driver license exam in a language besides English.

The law, sponsored by state Sen. Luz Escamilla, D-Salt Lake City, would require the Utah Department of Public Safety’s Driver License Division to provide driver license tests in the top five languages ​​spoken in the state, other than English.

Under the law, it will be up to the Utah Division of Multicultural Affairs to determine the state’s five other most spoken languages. A 2016 report by the Utah Department of Health listed English, Spanish, Chinese, German and Navajo as Utah’s top most spoken languages.

“We were one of two states in the nation that did not allow people who were linguistically diverse to take their license in a different language,” Peña said. “We’re changing those policies to make sure that we’re thinking about … the people who call Utah home.”

The law also comes nearly a year after Utah removed a provision from state law that required government communications and documents to be only in English.

Juneteenth

A law, HB238, was sponsored by state Rep. Sandra Hollins, D-Salt Lake City, the first African American woman to serve in the Utah Legislature, will recognize Juneteenth National Freedom Day as a state holiday. The day, which is already a national holiday, commemorates the end of slavery in the US

While traditionally celebrated on June 19, if the holiday falls on a Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday or Friday it will be observed on the preceding Monday, according to the law. If the holiday falls on a weekend, it will be observed the following Monday, giving people a three-day weekend.

Accessible health care for American Indians, Alaska Natives

SB28 establishes the Office of American Indian-Alaska Native Health and Family Services under the Utah Department of Health and Human Services.

Sponsored by state Sen. Jani Iwamoto, D-Holladay, the new office seeks to improve health care access and close health disparities of the state’s American Indian-Alaska Native population.

Condemning antisemitism

HCR15, sponsored by state Rep. Doug Owens, denounces antisemitism and deems antisemitic statements as acts of “hateful expressions of intolerance” that is harmful to the state’s Jewish community.

The House concurrent resolution comes as anti-semitism in the US and around the world is on the rise. In a high-profile case, Entrata co-founder Dave Bateman stepped down from his role as the organization’s chairman in January after he sent Utah politicians and leaders an anti-semitic email.

“Unfortunately right here at home in Utah, we have had an … increasingly visible tide of antisemitism,” Owens said. “The vast majority of Utahns need to stand up and take a stand and make clear that this is not going to be tolerated in our state.”

Community health workers

SB104, sponsored by Escamilla, establishes a state certification process for community health workers under the Utah Department of Health. A community health worker is a frontline public health worker that acts as a liaison between members of an underserved community and medical providers.

Escamilla said it has taken several years to seek this specific recognition for community health workers. The pandemic, she said, highlighted the need for trusted messengers to deliver health care information to diverse communities.

Under the bill, certification for community health workers would require 90 hours of “competency-based education” and 300 hours of community involvement. Community health workers with 4,000 hours of experience would not be required to take the training in order to get certified.

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