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Winterton's Bills Aim For School Mask Policies, Bringing Hollywood Back to Utah and More

Utah State Legislature

State Sen. Ron Winterton, who represents Park City and Wasatch County in the Utah state Senate, provided KPCW with an update on the status of the legislation he’s sponsored in the ongoing 2021 General Session, which runs through March 5.

One of the bills that the Republican who represents the 26th District, sponsored was Senate Bill 186, which would give local education agencies (LEAs) control over whether to enforce mask-wearing on school campuses. The bill passed through committee with a favorable recommendation after it was amended to require the LEAs to consult with the governor, the Department of Health or a local health agency before deciding to enforce masks or not.

Winterton said he first heard of the bill in November and that it is not an attempt to sidetrack the progress the state is making in reducing COVID-19 transmission rates.

"If there's an executive order or a public health order that is issued, they need to consult with those being affected,” Winterton said. “Most of the time, I get a phone call, and somebody would tell me about an executive order which I had not a clue had happened. And that's not right. I'm here to represent the people, and if we don't have input in it, I don't think that's fair representation."

Winterton said the Utah Medical Association supports the bill. He said he has not talked to Wasatch or Summit county school district officials since the bill moved out of committee, however, he has consulted with other school districts he represents.

"I did talk to a couple of small school districts in the Senate district,” he said. “I talked to Tabiona School. And I talked to Daggett Superintendent, and you know, they have a hard time wondering why they have to be so strict with it when they have not been affected as drastically as the big school districts."

Senate Bill 167, another of Winterton’s proposals that is aimed at maintaining Utah’s attractiveness to movie studios, received a favorable recommendation from the Senate Economic Development and Workforce Services Committee. If approved, it would raise the state tax incentives from $6.8 million to $15 million. State Rep. Mike Kohler, the House District 24 representative of Park City and Heber, co-sponsored the bill alongside Winterton.

Winterton said he had received opposition when he presented the bill on the Senate floor from skeptics claiming that the state does not have money to support ongoing projects.

"We've got a lot of naysayers out there,” he said. “I thought it was a no-brainer too. So, I've got it circled. We met in the caucus yesterday. I asked the Senate members who were there, ‘what can I do to this bill that you'll accept it.’ So, I've got a substitute to introduce which will drop that $15 million down to $10 million."

Winterton said that if the bill passes, the Office of Economic Development is poised to approach the producers of the popular “Yellowstone” TV series, which had been filmed in Summit County for several seasons before moving to Montana, about possibly returning,

Meanwhile, House Concurrent Resolution 03, a resolution regarding Native American-themed sports mascots that Winterton had co-sponsored alongside House Rep. Elizabeth Weight (D–Salt Lake) failed in the House. Winterton had agreed to sponsor the resolution endorsing the elimination of American Indians as school mascots. He is neutral on eliminating First Nation Mascots because he reached out to Ute leaders who he said were not taking a position on the issue. Much of the Uintah and Ouray Reservation lies within the boundaries of District 26. 

"I'm going to stay neutral on this,” he said. “They said that, you know, they hate people putting words into their mouth or thinking that they can't stand up for themselves. The bill on itself had good intentions, and that I guess we'll see if it moves forward next year, and I'll reach back out to the tribe for further clarification, but they were not involved in this resolution, nor consulted so." 

The eastern half of Winterton's district includes the oil shale and mineral extraction industry of the Uintah Basin as well. He doesn't think that S.B. 129, concerning Real Property Recording Amendments, has time to be considered this session. Winterton said that county recorders asked him to clarify surface and mineral lease filings and property ownership.

"The minerals that these companies are leasing and that, and they just go and put a blanket filing on it,” he said. “It clouds the rest of the section of minerals." 

Winterton said that lawmakers might address the issue in an interim session. There has been a lot of interest from those who deal with deeds, and he thinks there should be legal clarification. 

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