What Happened On Day 39 Of The Utah Legislature, As Lawmakers Enter Final Sprint
With less than a week left in the Utah legislative session, lawmakers are busy prioritizing and passing bills. So far, they’ve introduced 830 pieces of legislation and 267 have passed both chambers.
Here’s a look at some of Friday’s movement:
- Sex Ed: A bill to clarify that teachers are allowed to talk about contraceptives in the classroom cleared both chambers and is on its way to Gov. Gary Herbert’s desk. Rep. Ray Ward, R-Bountiful, says the law is vague and some health teachers are afraid to broach the subject with students. His bill was previously killed in a committee but after Ward added language about contraceptive risks, it has sailed through the legislature.
- Hate Crimes: A bill to strengthen Utah’s hate crimes statute is on its way to the House floor after passing the House Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice committee 8-2. Sponsor Sen. Daniel Thatcher, R-West Valley City, said he “feels good” about its chances of getting to Herbert’s desk.
- Inland Port: Lawmakers approved a measure that could expand the reach of Utah’s planned inland port. Rep. Francis Gibson said setting up “satellite offices” in rural areas could keep shipping costs low and reduce poor air quality in Salt Lake County. Some Democrats voted “no,” like Rep. Jen Dailey-Provost. She said Gibson’s bill doesn’t go far enough to fix some of the “fatal flaws” of the port—namely, concerns about transparency and the environment.
- New Flag: Utah is closer to the possibility of getting a new state flag after the House approved a bill creating a “State Flag Review Commission.” Rep. Steve Handy, R-Layton, says Utah’s current flag could use an update. During the floor debate he noted the commission would not necessarily lead to a new state flag, only review some options. Handy ran his bill up the House’s flagpole—lawmakers passed it 46-26 and sent it to the Senate.
- County Split: Lawmakers in the House voted down a controversial proposal by Rep. Kim Coleman, R-West Jordan, that would have paved the way for Salt Lake County to split in two. She argued that when governments like Salt Lake County “grow in population and frankly, away from the ability to be responsive, the people need to have a way.” Coleman said recently there is “palpable” disenfranchisement in the county, where Democrats picked up more seats in 2018. Coleman carved out San Juan County from the bill, but it failed in the House with a vote of 29-40.
- Bump Stocks: A House committee shelved a proposal to ban the sale and possession of bump stocks in Utah. Sponsor Rep. Patrice Arent, D-Millcreek, said several states and the federal government have moved to restrict the devices since one was used in the 2017 Las Vegas massacre. But facing resistance from the gun lobby, several Republican members of the House Law Enforcement Committee voted to hold the bill for further study.