LUZ'S RECORD: PROGRESS MADE. 

First elected in 2008, Senator Luz Escamilla has been a tireless advocate, an effective Democrat, and a powerful voice making progress for all Utahns.
 
During her time in the legislature, Luz has developed a lengthy record standing up for those historically underserved communities and all Utahns. Her efforts have extended to many areas of policy and has always been focused on the lives of everyday Utahns and their health, safety, and opportunities.

PROGRESS MENU 

HEALTH CARE & THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC

 

As we all adjust to life under the COVID-19 pandemic, it's noteworthy that Luz has a longstanding record making progress on providing health care to all Utahns, particularly children as well as the uninsured and under-insured. With COVID-19, Luz will continue to work ensuring Utahns have access to the care, testing and resources they need. Her focus will remain vulnerable neighborhoods and communities as well as those essential workers on the frontlines of this pandemic.

 

Recent Progress Made:

  • S.B. 165 (2020): Luz sponsored this bill which required the creation of local-level emergency plans to respond to the conditions that pose a risk to the health and safety of individuals and families experiencing homelessness during this pandemic.

  • 2020 General Session: Luz secured over $315,000 in funding for children on Medicaid.

  • 2020 Special Session: Luz and the Utah Senate approved 14 pieces of legislation to address the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on our health care system, our economy, and our communities.

Other Noteworthy Progress Made on Health Care:​

  • Full Medicaid Expansion rolled out in Utah in January 2020. Luz has been a strong advocate for full Medicaid expansion as a co-sponsor of S.B. 77 (2016), her advocacy for Proposition 3, and the fight against GOP efforts to repeal and replace the citizen-led proposition. 

  • Medical Cannabis is available to patients in Utah as of March 2020. Luz has worked to protect the rights of medical cannabis patients, including her S.B. 161 (2019) that paved the way and S.C.R. 11 (2016), which urged Congress to reschedule marijuana.

  • Luz has made progress ensuring prenatal and postnatal care to at-risk, first-time mothers in her S.B. 161 (2018), which built on a study she passed in her S.B. 135 (2017).

  • Luz passed legislation ensuring vision screenings for Utah’s children before entering public schools in her S.B. 143 (2019), which built on her earlier success in ensuring eye exams for public school students in her S.B. 67 (2011)

  • Luz has been a longstanding supporter of reproductive rights and has always fought against efforts to curtail those rights. 

  • Luz passed legislation to include infertility treatment (e.g. in vitro fertilization) in state health care plans - S.B. 181 (2018).

  • Luz has advocated for community health workers, healthcare coverage for legal immigrant children, and long-term nursing care.

  • The Utah Medical Association awarded Luz the "Distinguished Legislative Service Award" in 2019 for her advocacy and progress on healthcare-related issues.

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The disparities facing Utah’s underserved communities pose a threat to all our efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19. Working together, we can make real strides towards ending this crisis.

—Senator Luz Escamilla

Media Statement, April 24, 2020.

SOCIAL JUSTICE & MEANINGFUL REFORMS

 

We are witnessing a moment. While it may have started with George Floyd in Minneapolis, demands for justice and equality have taken hold in Utah. These are not just recent protests, they are the culmination of longstanding concerns over institutional racism, persistent discrimination, and denied opportunity. Luz has been fighting on the frontlines to fulfill America's promises of Equality and Justice for All.

Recent Progress Made:

  • Luz worked alongside Rep. Sandra Hollins—the only black member of the Utah State Legislature—to outlaw "knee on the neck" and other chokeholds by police officers. H.B. 5007 (2020 Special Session) made it illegal for law enforcement to either use such tactics or teach them in their training.

  • S.B. 97 (2020): Allows the DMV to reject personalized license plates with racist, hateful or offensive messages. This was in response to the "DEPORTM" vanity plate (Trib article).

 

  • Luz along with Reps. Sandra Hollins, Angela Romero, Karen Kwan, Mark Wheatley, and Sen. Jani Iwamoto organized the Quad Caucus to stand together on issues affecting the Latinx, Black, American Indian, and Asian/Pacific Islander communities. Together, the Quad Caucus has called for reforms in law enforcement and our criminal justice system; worked on policies to address underlying inequities and institutional racism in Utah; and organized COVID-19 Response for Underserved Communities, a program to combat the pandemic in minority communities where it has had a disproportionately impact.

  • ​Luz sponsored H.C.R. 6 (2019), designating May 5 as "Missing Indigenous Women, Girls and LGBT+ Awareness Day."

Other Noteworthy Progress Made on Social Justice:​

  • Immigrant & Refugee Community. An immigrant herself, Luz has been at the forefront on various issues affecting immigrants and refugees. Among the the battles won and lost, Luz has always sought to build bridges and has made some notable progress, including:

    • Luz was instrumental in finding common ground on the value-defining Utah Compact and later reaffirmed civil liberties and dignity of immigrants and refugees in S.C.R. 6 (2017), which she co-sponsored.

    • Luz has fought against anti-immigrant legislation and for the rights of the undocumented. Most notably, Luz's S.B. 144 (2012) created a registration process for immigration consultants to protect immigrants from predatory notarios.

    • She has worked to ensure that the children of immigrants and refugees still have access to the same health care and educational opportunities as their American-born classmates.

    • Luz has worked to ensure that professional licensing exams are available in various languages, such as in her S.B. 74 (2017). 

  • Women's Rights & Equality. When women are elected, the conversation changes. Luz, along with her fellow women in the Utah State Legislature have made those conversations include issues concerning women, including:

    • Prior to the #MeToo Movement, Luz had been working on reforms to ensure justice for victims of sexual assault and harassment.

    • Luz has faced the gender pay gap and the glass ceiling in her professional career and has sought meaningful reforms to address these persistent barriers for women in the workplace, such as her efforts to eliminate gender-based wage discrimination and require paid family leave for state employees.

    • Luz has advocated for childcare, pre-kindergarten and after school programs to provide opportunities to children while empowering working mothers.

    • Luz has been a champion for reproductive rights and healthcare issues for women and families, most notably Luz's S.B. 161 (2018) provided prenatal and postnatal care to at-risk, first-time mothers.

  • LGBTQ+ Community. Luz has been a strong ally to the LGBTQ+ community and has worked to make several strides forward for equality, including her efforts and voting record on:

    • The landmark S.B. 296 (2015) anti-discrimination bill, protecting the LGBTQ+ community from employment and housing decisions based on their gender identity or sexual orientation.

    • S.B. 103  (2019) provides greater enforcement of Hate Crimes, or victim targeting, directed toward any protected class, notably including members of the LGBTQ+ community.

    • Long supportive of removing Utah's criminal penalties for sodomy, the U.S. Supreme Court made the decriminalization possible in Utah and Luz proudly voted for H.B. 40 (2019).

    • Luz introduced S.B. 161 (2017), a comprehensive bill to require schools to report, collect data, and train staff on bullying, cyber-bullying, hazing and retaliation, which included emotional harm for the first time.

    • H.B. 393 (2019), which required suicide prevention programs in secondary schools, specifically aimed at LGBTQ+ youth.

    • Luz cosponsored H.B. 371 (2019), which allows homeless youth, including LGBTQ+ youth, access to temporary shelters, care, or services without parental consent.  

  • Homelessness. While the individual causes of homelessness differ from person to person, Luz believes we must focus on our common humanity and address homelessness in a way that respects the dignity of those individuals experiencing homelessness. These efforts have included:

    • Luz sponsored​ ​S.B. 165 (2020), which requires local officials to develop an emergency response plan to address conditions that pose a risk to the health or safety of homeless individuals and families, such as the current pandemic.

    • ​Luz sponsored S.B. 225 (2019), which allows funds from the Homeless to Housing Reform Restricted Account to be used for providing medical respite care for those experiencing homelessness.
    • Luz sought to empower county governments to levy a property tax to fund poverty mitigation efforts in S.B. 164 (2020).

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Is the bill the entire solution to 400 years of oppression and racism in our system?

No.

Is it addressing one very critical issue that for many communities means an entirely different way of interacting with law enforcement?

Yes. It is that meaningful.

For the many moms out there who heard the voice of Mr. George Floyd calling for his mom, and for the many moms of brown and black children, this is a really big first step. We will continue to fight going forward.

—Senator Luz Escamilla

Media Statement on H.B. 5007, outlawing "knee on the neck" chokeholds by police, June 13, 2020.

OUR CHILDREN, SCHOOLS & TEACHERS

 

As a mother, Luz has worked to improve the lives of children and their educational opportunities. That priority has also led her to advocate for our teachers and schools. The progress Luz has made for our children, schools and teachers includes:

  • Since her first session in the Utah State Senate, Luz has worked to provide quality after school programs for students. Examples include: S.B. 125 (2016), S.B. 66 (2010), and S.B. 202 (2018).

  • Luz has also worked on providing better educational opportunities and social programs geared toward at-risk students and reducing gang activity and ending the school-to-prison pipeline. Examples include: S.B. 74 (2009), S.J.R. 2 (2010), and S.B. 59 (2010).

  • Most recently, in the 2020 special session (H.B. 5012), Luz along with her colleagues worked to secure a $110 million increase in the education budget (a 2.2 percent increase) and acquired $125 million in federal funds to increase connectivity and technology in schools amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • ​Luz has also focused on student safety, notably requiring parental notification when students threaten suicide or experience bullying, cyber-bullying, harassment, hazing, or retaliation in her S.B. 134 (2013).

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AN EMPOWERING ECONOMY FOR WORKING FAMILIES & ESSENTIAL WORKERS

 

Much of Luz's professional work has been assisting entrepreneurs and businesses of all sizes startup, expand and develop. In the Utah State Senate, Luz has always balanced the needs of business and those of workers to drive a thriving economy that provides opportunities and benefits for her constituents.

 

During this pandemic, the role of essential workers has only underscored the importance of making our economy work for everyday Utahns. Here are some examples of the progress Luz has made in ensuring Utah's economy empowers our working families and essential workers:

  • In the most recent 2020 Special Session, the Utah State Legislature passed 14 pieces of legislation to address the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on our health care system, our economy, and our communities. In particular, H.B. 5010 provided $62 million for unemployed individuals and businesses, which included:

    • $9 million in workplace training to ensure the health and safety of employees and the public;

    • $9 million for the Cultural Assistance Grant Program "Create in Utah," which will assist cultural, zoological and botanical organizations;

    • $5 million for a Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Grant for businesses to provide PPE to their employees; and

    • $25 million in grant money to assist businesses devastated by the pandemic.

  • By striking a deal to fund an open air stadium, Luz along with Rep. Sandra Hollins passed H.B. 3002 (2016 Special Session), which saved the Utah State Fair Park.

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ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP ON AIR QUALITY, THE PRISON & THE INLAND PORT.

 

As a person who suffers from asthma and a mother whose daughter also suffers from asthma, air quality is a personal issue for Luz. She considers stewardship of our environment to be a key responsibility each generation has to the next generation. Luz has been a leader on issues of air quality and our environment, notably involving the negative effects of the State Prison and Inland Port developments, such as the following examples:

  • Luz sponsored and passed legislation to penalize those who fail to meet car emission standards in H.B. 139 (2019). 

 

  • On the Inland Port, Luz sponsored and passed S.B. 144 (2019) to establish and maintain monitoring facilities to measure and report the environmental impact of the development. She also established a community enhancement program to address the impacts of development and Inland Port uses on nearby communities in her S.B. 112 (2020).

  • Luz also negotiated the ongoing appropriation of $100,000 in S.B. 3 (2018) to fund the air quality observation project, which places monitoring systems on TRAX so air quality data can be gathered across the Salt Lake Valley.

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SUPPORTING OUR VETERANS

Those men and women who serve our country in the armed forces deserve not only our praise and appreciation, they deserve the attention and consideration of our policymakers. Sadly, our veterans are often overlooked and underserved in matters of public policy. While much of Luz's legislative work impacts veterans and their families along with many other Utahns, Luz has also advanced legislation focused on supporting our veterans. Examples include:

  • Starting in 2012, Luz began working to provide veterans the a gap in  financial assistance needed for veterans to complete a bachelor's degree from the G.I. Bill. This tuition gap coverage program was passed in her S.B. 16 (2014) and was expanded most recently in Luz's S.B. 35 (2017). 

  • Luz led efforts in the State Senate to amend Utah's Constitution to allow a property tax exemption for certain military personnel and their spouses in her S.J.R. 8 (2012) and in the House's H.J.R. 12 (2012). 

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© 2020 by Luz Escamilla for Utah State Senate. Paid for and Authorized by Luz Escamilla for Utah.