Authored by Lee Sands, Local Government Policy Analyst
Increased demand coupled with insufficient supply have made homes in Utah worth $250,000 in 2015 now cost $500,000 or more. At these inflated prices, the American dream of owning property and a home is on life support for too many of our children, employees, and neighbors.
It doesn’t have to be this way. Attractive, affordable starter homes can exist if city councils, planning commissions, staff, and other stakeholders work together to pass the Small Lot and Cottage Court ordinances described in this policy brief. Luckily, these proposals do not require government subsidy, mandate small lots, or burden the taxpayers of Utah.
The key component to starter home legalization is to allow them to be built on smaller lots that homeowners can afford. For context, the price of a half-acre of land in Utah commonly exceeds $300,000. This alone necessitates reforms that allow more flexibility in lot size, shape, and home placement requirements.Read the brief
Authored by Ben Shelton, Policy Associate
Nearly a third of American adults are arrested by the age of twenty-three. This record and its consequences will follow these people for life. Such consequences remain present even if an offender has paid their dues to society, is qualified for the job, and has proven they will not reoffend.
The difficulty ex-offenders experience finding employment is harmful to communities, as the ability to secure gainful employment is an important predictor of an ex-offender’s successful reentry into society and distance from crime. The harder it is to find employment, the more recidivism increases, and community safety suffers as individuals may return to criminal activities out of desperation.
State governments have struggled to address this growing issue. Instead of making it easier for this population to find work, and thus have a chance at bettering society, state governments have allowed barriers to employment for this group to persist.Read the brief
It’s no secret that consumer data is collected by various private companies. Google, Instagram, and others routinely collect information about our locations, preferences, and habits. The databases that store this information are a valuable resource with many applications.
But private companies and consumers are not the only entities interested in leveraging this information. Governments have an interest in obtaining this data fulfill various government policy goals.
One example are reports that document social media companies collaborating with the U.S. government to craft policies and censor information. Government entities work with these companies to advance administrative goals.
This is one of many examples of a broader trend. Across all governmental sectors, state actors seek to either compel corporate entities to provide consumer information to the government or agents contract with companies whose main function is to utilize highly invasive technologies to serve government functions.Read the brief
Authored by Jon England, Education Policy Analyst
The shockwaves created by COVID-19 shutdowns continue to be felt throughout the education system. During school closures, parents were able to view firsthand the quality and content of their child’s education as it happened. Many walked away disappointed.
Parents began searching for viable alternatives to what they were witnessing. Withdrawal numbers skyrocketed. Homeschool pods and microschools increased in popularity. Parents were able to creatively find and provide these educational opportunities, but as Utah returned to normal, parents have found this more difficult.
Rising inflation, coupled with an already high cost of living and skyrocketing housing prices in Utah, has put a strain on every family’s budget and limited the educational opportunities of most families.
In 2021, Utah’s Opportunity Scholarship came online, providing an education spending account for families of students with special needs. However, we can do more. Providing a universal education spending account through the UT-Fits Scholarship is the next logical step to empowering parents in education.Read the brief
Authored by Caden Rosenbaum, Tech and Innovation Policy Analyst
One such solution, portable benefits plans, could close the gap without needing to tinker with the decades-old employee vs. independent contractor classification problem.
Rather than focusing on the legal status of workers in the gig economy, employer contributions for gig workers to portable benefits plans should be exempted from the legal employment test instead.
With access to some of the basic benefits and coverage options of a traditional employee, working in the gig economy as a professional choice would be more feasible.
That means the gig economy as a whole could grow to be more sustainable with the retention of skilled workers and an influx of new full-time gig workers.Read the brief
Authored by Amy Pomeroy, Criminal Justice Policy Analyst
Traditional mental illness medications are not effective for many people, carry the risk of serious side effects, and, at best, only address symptoms. However, a renaissance of psychotherapeutic research demonstrates that psychotherapeutic substances like psilocybin and MDMA may actually modify the course of illnesses and offer long-term or permanent relief.
Currently, psychotherapeutics are classified as Schedule I substances under federal and Utah law, making it illegal for people to access them, even under medical supervision. Utahns using them risk criminal punishment and also their health as the purity and potency of psychotherapeutics purchased on the black market is difficult to determine.
Utah should strongly consider establishing a legal framework for practitioners to administer psychotherapeutics to patients in a safe, supervised setting. Their use will give patients greater freedom to find options that work.Read the brief