Final day of Utah’s 2024 legislative session saw billions in funding and a move to ban pride flags

Mar 1, 2024, 10:51 PM | Updated: Mar 20, 2024, 8:04 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — The final day of Utah’s 2024 Legislature saw over 100 bills passed, leading the Legislature to break an overall record for bills passed in a single session — a total of 591.

The final day’s slate of bills included finalizing a massive deal to fund a revitalized downtown and NHL stadium, finalized restrictions on social media for minors, and passed a $29.4 billion budget in what’s called the bill of bills.

But the day also brought a bit of drama when a bill on the Senate floor was swapped from being about teacher conduct to a bill that would have only allowed certain flags in classrooms as an attempt to prohibit pride flags in schools.

The substitute bill was brought forward by Dan McCay, R-Riverton, who argued that political flags had no place in classrooms. During floor debate, he accused teachers of indoctrinating students.

Many senators took issue with this major swap with no discussion at the late hour of the session.

Ultimately, many Republicans in the Senate helped the measure fail. But Senate President Stuart Adams argued it’s the sponsor’s right to bring the idea forward.

“I don’t think [it was] anything sneaky. I think you’ve got 104 legislators that will, no matter what idea comes up, they’ll deal with the idea. They’ll try to assess where they’re at on it. They’ll vote it up or down. Whether it passes or not. That’s up to the legislators. That’s a good process still,” Adams said.

Equality Utah, Utah’s most prominent LGBTQ advocacy group, said they were surprised by the move.

“I really give credit to the Senate for flagging that this was a problem with the process up here. You know, there were a couple of senators who stood up and especially made that point,” Marina Lowe, policy director for Equality Utah said. “I think that is evidence of a problem with the procedure.”

As for the issue of banning certain flags in schools, specifically pride flags, Lowe said that should not be political.

“Being LGBTQ is not a political position or beliefs. You know, there are people who are LGBTQ, and that is just a fact. It’s not a political ideology. And in fact, many LGBTQ individuals are Republicans, others are Democrats, others are independent. So I think that’s a mistake to sort of conflate those two issues,” Lowe said.

Then, in in the final 20 minutes of the session, lawmakers again attempted to resurrect the bill. Sen. Don Ipson made a motion to reconsider the Legislatures actions, something that is allowed so long as someone on the prevailing side of an issue makes that motion.

Ultimately not enough senators supported that effort.

$ 29.4 billion funding bill

Known as the “bill of bills,” a massive bill to allocate Utahns tax dollars to programs throughout the state is being voted on.

Leaders who worked on the budget have routinely called it a “sock and underwear” type of budget year – referring to less revenue than in years past.

“That doesn’t mean that we’ve been skimpy,” said Sen. Jerry Stevenson, R-Layton.

Adams said he felt the legislature had met the priorities they set out to accomplish this session. He listed those as being energy, water, education funding, affordable housing, homelessness, criminal justice, infrastructure, fiscal responsibility, and social media.

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Final day of Utah’s 2024 legislative session saw billions in funding and a move to ban pride flags