Republicans tout legislative successes while Democrats criticize polarization

Mar 1, 2024, 4:58 PM | Updated: 5:34 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Legislature adjourns Friday night after a 45-day session that was jam-packed with hundreds of bills on various issues.

Some of those bills were controversial, while others were not. But they ultimately have a big impact on the lives of people who live and work in the Beehive state.

While Republicans are touting the accomplishments of the last few weeks, Democrats are less enthusiastic. Leaders on the House side told the Deseret News it was one of the most politically polarizing sessions they’ve seen.

Rep. Angela Romero talks to KSL News Friday. (Istvan Bartos, KSL News)

Rep. Angela Romero, D-Salt Lake City, talks to KSL News Friday. (Istvan Bartos, KSL News)

“This has been a tougher session,” Rep. Angela Romero, D-Salt Lake City, the House minority leader, told KSL TV in an interview Friday. “But that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been a good session. I just didn’t necessarily agree with the policy, many of the policy pieces that we pushed out.”

Romero said she felt “culture wars in particular were alive and well here in Utah.”

Republicans, who hold a supermajority in the Legislature, passed some controversial bills this session addressing bathroom access for transgender people, and removing diversity, equity, and inclusion offices from public institutions.

House Speaker Mike Schultz, R-Hooper, defended what the GOP pushed this year – and their work with the other side.

House Speaker Mike Schultz, R-Hooper, talks to KSL News on Friday. (Istvan Bartos, KSL News)

House Speaker Mike Schultz, R-Hooper, talks to KSL News on Friday. (Istvan Bartos, KSL News)

“I understand and recognize that they represent a different constituency, and it was hard for them,” Schultz said, “but I still believe that it was the right thing to do moving forward, and I appreciate their willingness to continue to still work together with us despite those tough disagreements.”

Schultz said he’s proud of a nearly $170 million income tax cut the Legislature enacted this year. He also highlighted a bill to help the Great Salt Lake and a plan to try to attract professional hockey and baseball teams to the state of Utah.

Part of that plan includes steps to revitalize downtown Salt Lake City and ensure the city’s longtime NBA team stays put.

“I can tell you that there was grave concern going into this session losing the Jazz out of downtown Salt Lake and maybe even out of the state of Utah down the road,” Schultz said. “That would have been detrimental, in my opinion, to Utah as a whole, including downtown Salt Lake, and so I’m really excited about the pathway forward.”

The Legislature must adjourn by midnight Friday.

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Republicans tout legislative successes while Democrats criticize polarization