State lawmakers vote for more control over session schedule

(Rick Egan | Tribune file photo) State Capitol workers head back to work on Capitol Hill, after waiting outside with their emergency back packs, during the annual Great Utah ShakeOut earthquake drill, Thursday, April 18, 2019.

The start and end dates for Utah’s annual legislative session would be easier to shift under a proposed constitutional change approved in the House on Wednesday

The passage of the joint resolution puts before voters the question of whether lawmakers should enjoy a bit more flexibility with the scheduling of their 45 days on Capitol Hill. The additional control is being requested by legislators who want to convene and adjourn a little bit earlier in the year, a calendar shift proposed by a companion bill.

“When we come out of Christmas, we come out of the New Year, we instantly get bombarded with legislative work,” Rep. Mike McKell told his colleagues.

The Spanish Fork Republican said he’d rather tackle this workload right away rather than putting it off.

But other lawmakers said they like the constitutional scheduling mandate.

“I really love having the certainty of having it in the constitution so we can’t fuss with it,” Rep. Jim Dunnigan, R-Taylorsville, said.

The state’s constitution currently directs the Legislature to convene on the fourth Monday of the year, while the amendment suggested by SJR3 would let legislators designate any day in January for the start of session. Another bill, SB156, calls for beginning session the day after the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, which falls on the third Monday of January.

Utah’s Legislature for years started the annual session on Martin Luther King Jr. Day but in 2008 lawmakers and voters finally changed that after persistent complaints that it did not pay proper respect to the holiday’s namesake.

SJR3 squeaked through the House, just earning the 50 votes needed to advance an amendment to the state’s constitution. SB156 has passed in the Senate but is awaiting a final vote in the House.

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