Gov. Cox still sees the transgender sports bill as a veto since it will ‘invite a lawsuit’
On Thursday, Gov. Spencer Cox held his first monthly press conference since the end of the Utah Legislature’s 2022 General Session. He touched on bills he has yet to sign — or veto — as well as inflation, the war in Ukraine and more.
Bills, bills, bills
The legislative session ended March 4, and Cox said he’s still reviewing bills in the order they arrive at his desk.
One that’s top of mind is HB 11, which bans transgender girls from competing in school sports. It was introduced on the last night of the session, replacing another piece of legislation that stemmed from a year of negotiations between LGBTQ advocates and conservative groups.
At the time, Cox said he would veto the new bill. As of Thursday, he hasn’t — but he said his position remains unchanged.
“All this bill does is invite a lawsuit,” he said. “As conservatives, it doesn't make any sense for us to just buy a lawsuit.”
Still, he said he wants to try to find common ground on the issue.
Other than that, Cox said he hasn’t received many veto requests. One bill he said he does support is HB 440. It forces city mayors in Salt Lake County to come up with a plan for an emergency overflow shelter to house unsheltered people during the winter.
If the Utah Office of Homeless Services doesn’t approve that plan, though, current homeless resource centers in the county could expand their capacity to shelter more people.
Some city leaders, including Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall, have said they’re concerned about how increasing capacity could impact residents in the neighborhood and people seeking shelter services.
“We have to take care of people, and we have to take care of people in the worst of times,” Cox said. “So, we're going to do whatever it takes to make sure that we can keep people safe, keep people alive and get people off the streets during those worst times.”
Cox said Utahns are feeling the effects of inflation in many ways, and state leaders are looking at options for alleviating the pain people feel at the gas pump.
He said he’s been meeting with legislative leaders and plans to talk with representatives from the petroleum industry in Utah because the price of gas also impacts the cost of other goods as well.
“When you combine that total inflation, I believe the pressure on families right now is as high as it's probably ever been,” Cox said. “People will have to change their habits. That family vacation that people were planning on taking may not happen. In the worst-case scenarios, it means that families will have to choose between a tank of gas and food at the store. And that just can't be a choice.”
The governor also has concerns about Utah’s housing market. A recent report from the Utah Association of Realtors shows the median sales price for a home is up nearly 30% from the past year.
Cox said it was clear the market was getting out of hand.
“There’s no question about it,” he said. “As market corrections come, hopefully, we will see housing prices come down.”
Russian invasion of Ukraine
Outside of the state, Cox addressed the war in Ukraine. The governor and community leaders announced a fundraiser and donation drive earlier in March to support Ukrainian refugees.
He said his administration is also trying to apply pressure to the federal government to bring Ukrainians to Utah. Cox said it typically takes a long time to get refugees here, but he would support waiving “some of those long-standing rules around processing refugees.”
“The world needs to open their doors to these refugees, and Utah's doors are wide open,” he said.