Bill lowering bar for agency operating hours moving forward

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Some rural state agencies have consistently gone overtime to keep their offices staffed for the hours required by Utah law — but that overtime may be a thing of the past if SB112 passes.

The original bill was completely substituted at the Senate Government Operations and Political Subdivisions Committee Wednesday afternoon with new text and approved 4-2 to move to the Senate floor.

SB112, which would allow most state agencies an opportunity to offer services online or by telephone instead of having to staff offices for 45 hours a week.

Sen. Aaron Osmond, R-South Jordan, sponsoring the bill said a constituent last session brought up the concern about public employees consistently going overtime just to comply with state requirements. The bill was overridden by a veto, so Osmond brought the plan back this year.

The bill would reduce the minimum hours of operation per week by five hours and allow an agency to provide services in person, by phone or Internet. The only exceptions would be Department of Technology Services, Division of Child and Family Services and the Guardian ad Litem. These offices would have a one office location requirement as needed as well as agencies that provide emergency services or those to the courts.

"We felt these changes were necessary to have a neutral vote by our executive branch," Osmond said.

Four offices with anywhere between 2-5 employees had the biggest problem meeting the requirement. The Office of Indian Health and Office Of Patient Safety continually had one employee each out of compliance. The Office of Health Disparities Reduction had two full-time and two part-time employees frequently asked to work overtime to staff the building.

Sen. Margaret Dayton, R-Orem disagreed with the bill because services would possibly be less accessible to taxpayers.

"We worked very hard to make tax-supported entities available to taxpayers," Dayton said.

A concern was also voiced about services not being available when a person may need them after 5 p.m.

Sen. Brian Shiozawa, R-Cottonwood Heights, likes the bill and thought it allowed flexibility.

"I hope it is effective in increasing efficiency," he said.

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