LOCAL NEWS

Here’s what you may have missed during week 3 of the Utah Legislature 

Feb 2, 2024, 6:51 PM | Updated: Feb 3, 2024, 10:56 am

SALT LAKE CITY — Week three of the Utah Legislature is in the books and as of Friday evening, at least 50 bills have been passed. Eleven of those have been signed into law by Gov. Spencer Cox. 

The week started with a lot of chatter about bringing professional hockey to Utah, and a resolution supporting Major League Baseball in the state passed. Cox also signed a big bill allowing Utah to ignore some federal directives, and two other controversial laws relating to transgender bathroom access and diversity, equity and inclusion.

The Legislature passed several base budgets that tell each state agency how much money they have to work with. 

A bill requiring cell phone companies to turn on filters for minors before they’re sold here is moving forward, while a bill that would have expanded Utah’s earned income tax credit by making it refundable failed to pass out of a committee. 

Signed bills 

Cox signed SB57, called The Constitutional Sovereignty Act. It allows Utah to opt out of some federal directives like air quality rules or public lands issues if a supermajority of the Legislature agrees. There are carveouts for deploying the National Guard and informing Native tribes. 

“We agreed that we would give (tribes) notification when a resolution was opened,” said Sen. Scott Sandall, R-Treamonton, as the bill passed on the Senate floor.  

On Tuesday, Cox signed two of the biggest talkers of the session thus far: a bill dealing with bathroom privacy that restricts transgender people from using the bathroom of their gender identity in government buildings and a bill replacing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion offices and programs.  

Lawmakers also dubbed this week energy week. Where Republican leaders say they need an “all of the above” approach to producing energy because of the federal government. 

“They’ve been trying to force us to shut down our most reliable power sources in the state of Utah over the next nine years and not having anything to replace that. And so we need to focus on that,” said House Speaker Mike Schultz, R-Hooper. 


 Education was another big topic in week three where lawmakers say they’re trying to incentivize teachers by allowing high-performing ones to get a pay raise, more days for prep and more money for supplies. 

“We have some of the best…we have the best group of teachers than any other state in the nation,” Schultz said. 

Other education bills have teachers’ groups leery of the state’s role in policing what local school districts do, including a clean-up bill on the bill to remove sensitive materials from school libraries.  


 

Pushback from citizens’ groups 

There was no shortage of criticisms of the Legislature in week three either. A coalition of citizens’ groups blasted the Legislature for a bill that proposes changing Utah’s constitution so when voters tried to run an initiative for a new law dealing with, taxes the threshold would be 60% approval instead of 50%. 

Those groups say the Legislature is trying to make it too hard for the citizens to change laws.   

Sponsors of the bill say a 60% threshold is not insurmountable.   

One bill that is moving on, requires cell phone companies to turn on content-filtering for minors before they activate a phone in Utah. 

“I mean, parents should be (not letting their kids use) tobacco and alcohol, and yet we still have a law that says you have to be a certain age to buy those. I don’t think this is any different,” said the bill’s sponsor Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross.   

Another notable bill moving forward would allow teen drivers to have one friend in the car in their first six months of driving, which changes a longstanding law of no passengers in the car besides family. 

Another significant bill was introduced allowing clergy the option to report abuse or neglect even if the perpetrator told them during confession. Notably, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints does not oppose the current version of the bill. 

What will the state pay for? 

Week three also saw the Legislature pass and the governor sign several base budgets that tell each state agency how much money they have to work with. Later in the session, when revenue projections come back, the budget will be finalized, allowing time for additional funding requests.  

Senate Pres. Stuart Adams, R-Kaysville, touted the base budget process as one of the most important things the Legislature has done thus far, saying that their process of asking agencies to trim is what keeps Utah’s budget well-managed. 

We go back and ask the agency if you’re seeing some cuts, you’re seeing some reprioritization, you’re seeing money that maybe isn’t as well used to another spot which should be changed or reappropriate it to another line item. And that is what I think makes Utah great,” Adams said.

This week, we saw funding requests for earthquake preparedness, major league and Olympic sports upgrades, managing the shores of the Great Salt Lake, bringing a presidential debate to Utah, and many more. 

So far, all of Utah’s base budgets have passed. 

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Here’s what you may have missed during week 3 of the Utah Legislature