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Utah children win gains in health care and other top stories of the week (March 12-17)

Published: Sunday, March 17 2013 8:00 a.m. MDT

Dennis Kasprzak holds wrist bands in honor of his daughter Anne Grace Kasprzak in Salt Lake City Wednesday, March 6, 2013. The teen was found dead one year ago on the Jordan River Parkway .

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Editor's note: The Deseret News' six areas of editorial emphasis reflect our distinctive mission to deliver quality news and analysis with an eye toward faith, family and community:

Care for the poor

Excellence in education

Faith in the community

Family life

Financial responsibility

Values in the media

The following stories from the past week exemplify this unique coverage. Catch any you missed, along with additional exclusive web content, at deseretnews.com.

FAMILY LIFE

Utah children win gains in health care, but Medicaid expansion still undecided

The Utah Legislature made headway in protecting children and families from various perceived harms, including secondhand smoke in enclosed spaces.

HB13, sponsored by Rep. Patrice Arent, D-Millcreek, makes it a misdemeanor to smoke with anyone 15 and under in a vehicle, but fines can be waived for first-time offenders with participation in a smoking cessation course.

Lawmakers, via HB165, also made sure that applicants for child care positions throughout the state will now be subject to federal background checks in addition to statewide criminal reports, to ensure children are not being cared for by someone who has committed a serious crime.

EXCELLENCE IN EDUCATION

Legislature approves more than $150M extra to public education budget

Utah's public schools will see the largest funding increase in years under the terms of a revised budget that unanimously passed the House and Senate on Wednesday.

HB2 adds nearly $140 million of ongoing funding and $17 million in one-time dollars to the roughly $3.7 billion base education budget for the 2013-14 academic year, which was passed early in the session and signed by Gov. Gary Herbert last month.

The supplemental bill debated Wednesday includes an additional $68.5 million for growth in enrollment and a $47.7 million increase, or 2 percent, to the weighted pupil unit, the basic funding unit for public education.

The bill establishes ongoing funding for several programs that are typically funded on a one-year basis, such as optional extended-day kindergarten and dual immersion, and appropriates one-time funding toward fine arts and science programs, computer adaptive testing and professional development.

Utah Legislature adopts '66 by 2020' education goal

An eight-year goal to increase the number of adults in the state with a postsecondary education was officially adopted Tuesday by the Utah Legislature.

Lawmakers join Gov. Gary Herbert, the Governor's Education Excellence Commission, public and higher education officials and members of Prosperity 2020 — a public-private education advocacy group — in supporting the goal, which seeks to have 66 percent of Utah's adult workforce holding a postsecondary degree or certificate by the year 2020.

Roughly 43 percent of adults in Utah currently hold a postsecondary degree or certificate.

SCR5, sponsored by Sen. Jerry Stevenson, R-Layton, was substituted Tuesday morning in the House by Brad Last, R-Hurricane, to include the goal that 90 percent of students score proficiently in reading by the end of the third grade.

FINANCIAL RESPONSIBILITY

Privatizing Utah prison system an option as relocation bill passes

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