• Conservative Leadership in Senate District 8

Interim Session

Transcript from October Interim Session update:

Well, hi everybody. This is Senator Brian Zehnder. I thought I would try something a little bit different today and tell you a little bit about the recent Interim Session Meeting that we had yesterday and today. Most of you know that we meet once or twice a month to talk about issues between the previous session, from January til March until next year. And so we work on issues during the course of the whole year and I'm very fortunate to be on a few committees, such as a Social Services Committee and the Health Reform Task Force Committee. And I'm also on the Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice...

Interim Committee. So I took some notes. And so I'll be looking back and forth from my notes, as I kinda share a little bit about what we've been working on and have accomplished. And so if you have any questions, I can't respond immediately but I'll answer your questions later. So, our first committee meeting yesterday was with the Social Services Committee. And as I said before they meet at least once a month. And it lasts a full day. 

And so a few of the highlights that we talked about yesterday. First of all, did you know that half of all lifetime mental health illness takes place by the age of 14? Indeed, so mental health problems can start very early on in life. And having mental health support in schools is a priority for me. We heard from the division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health. And last year we set aside 3.2 million dollars to assist and make sure that our children get mental health support at an early age. They find that early age is very important.

 And to get that support before it affects school performance and a chance to graduate from high school. In fact, we learned yesterday that children who receive support when it's needed were able to increase their GPA. And were found less likely to get into trouble with the law. After that we heard from the Department of Health. We were talking about medical and dental clinics. About 10 years ago, give or take, the state decide to actually start medical clinics and a dental clinic for people that were in need of care. And over the last 10 years the investment into those medical clinics and mental health centers, and those are run by the federal government. 

And as a small businessman I know how important it is to watch overhead and payroll costs. And I hope to be able to share that information with my understanding of business and medicine with the Utah Department of Health. So that these clinics can, maybe not necessarily be profitable, but at least be able to stand on their own in terms of ability to take care of people that are in need. So the medical and dental clinics with Department of Health was a very nice presentation. I hope to be more involved with that.

We then heard about the Utah Temporary Assistance for Needy Families or TANF Funding. Did you know that we receive about a 75 million dollar Block Grant every year from the Federal Government that funds programs for those truly in need? You have to have fit into one of four categories. You either need to one, you need to provide assistance to needy families so that children can be cared for in their own homes. Number two, reduce the dependency of needy parents by promoting job preparation, work and marriage. Number three, prevent and reduce the incidence of out of wedlock pregnancies. And number four, encourage the formation and maintenance of two parent families. So if one of those four things is satisfied you may qualify for some funds through the TANF Funding. And we all want to make sure we're helping people and the underserved. 

We wanna give them a hand up, not necessarily a hand out. People do appreciate their support. And we're also looking for a better ways to measure the success of this program. Next, we also learned from the Utah Department of Health. Very, very important in our state. First, we received an evaluation of the Division of Services for people with disabilities. The cost with the program. And we want to make sure our taxpayers are getting good value. In general, the findings show that Utah is paying about the same amount for services such as transportation, personal care and behavioral support, as other states in the west. 

Then we heard from the Juvenile Justice Service. We reviewed the program that the Utah Department of Health and Services has in place for the youth in our society, that for those juveniles that are delinquent. You know, there has been a change in the strategy from the high cost of Residential Treatment Programs to more home programs. We also find that when troubled youth gets the treatment early in the process it costs our state less money. And the youth are better able to get back home and become productive members of society. Utah's Justice System remains one of the best in the Nation due to its willingness to continually improve the system. 

I'm also on the Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Interim Committee. We heard from the JRI, the Justice Reinvestment Initiative. Did you know that in 2013, 40% of inmates were serving time for a nonviolent crime? And back in 2013 they said, you know what, we need to try and change that. Because we're spending almost 300 million dollars on corrections. So since then in the last five years the percentage of people that are serving for a nonviolent crime has gradually decreased. It's now at about 33%. They now intend to work further to strengthen the Parole Supervision Program to further improve this process. This committee also reviewed a bill today, regarding human trafficking. 

With the intent to pass a law next year that creates the added penalty for trafficking a vulnerable adult. And a vulnerable adult treats the crime as if the child, as if a child were being trafficked. And then finally today of a highlight, I'm on the Health and Human Services Committee. And we cover a lot of topics. But one that's probably most pressing that we've reviewed today was Proposition Two. The ballot Initiative for Medical Cannabis and the likely bill that will be drafted after the vote in November. We heard a spirited discussion from people on both sides of the issue searching for common ground. So that a better law would be passed. 

As you know, at the Initiative, can't be changed once its put into place. And so the Initiative as it currently stands, most people feel, yes we do have some troubles with the Initiative. And the people that are in support of Proposition Two say, well let's get the Initiative passed and then we'll fix it. And then on the other hand there are people that are against Proposition Two. And they say it's just not prime time yet. Let's not get it passed. And so it's a position, my personal belief, is that medical cannabis can be helpful for some patients. 

That proper safeguards need to be in place. And that Proposition Two should pass. Knowing that some clean up of the Initiative can take place after passage. So that's just a few of the highlights of things we covered today. I love to hear more about from you if you have certain questions or things you'd like to talk about. I've enjoyed getting on a lot of people's store steps recently. And I just wanna encourage you to do your due diligence. Make sure you talk to your friends and family. And please makes sure you vote before November six. This is Brian Zehnder tuning out for now. 

Thanks for checking in with me. I hope you guys have a great day and a great week. And make sure you bundle up and get your flu shot. Take care. 

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