Winner • Women senators united to make a powerful statement by walking out in protest during the vote on a bill mandating an ultrasound be shown to a woman seeking an abortion.
While the Utah Legislature has seen walkout protests before, they are extremely rare and this was the first time in memory — perhaps ever — that one was bipartisan.
The photo of the six women — two Republicans and four Democrats — embracing in the hallway and declaring their sisterhood provided a dramatic and unifying message on social media.
The ultrasound bill, HB364, still passed the Senate 16-7 but the rare bipartisan protest sapped its momentum and it died on the final night of the session.
Loser • Health advocates championing a bill to ban flavored e-cigarettes. After the powerful vaping lobby worked its magic a much-amended HB23 allowed the sale of mint and menthol flavors — said to be the most popular among vaping consumers, including minors.
A majority of Utahns support a ban on flavored e-cigarettes, a recent Salt Lake Tribune/Suffolk University poll found.
A stalemate between the House and Senate broke Thursday night and the amended version allowing mint and menthol flavoring won final passage.
Winner • Hundreds of schoolchildren will have access to school breakfast because of HB222.
The measure’s estimated $2.1 million cost is entirely covered by the federal government. More than 1,000 Utah schools already offer the program but about 90, mostly in rural areas, don’t currently do so.
Utahns Against Hunger estimates that about 146,000 children in the state struggle with hunger and the group advocated for expanding the breakfast program.
The bill’s path to passage wasn’t an easy one. After passing the House it was voted down in a Senate committee with one member complaining that it was parents’ responsibility to feed kids. But widespread condemnation of the defeat led to the bill’s revival.
Loser • As many as 4,000 low-income families who might have hoped for rent assistance from a proposed $15 million appropriation.
The money, about a third of it targeted to households with school-aged children teetering on the brink of homelessness, was lost in the legislative scrum over general fund money.
Instead, lawmakers approved $10 million for affordable housing — a much-needed infusion but a far cry from the $35 million requested. The money allocated from SB39 will be split between gap financing loans to developers and preservation of existing affordable homes.
Winner: Utah cannabis patients will be able to have their prescriptions filled with a letter from their physician.
Lawmakers passed HB425 to address problems with patients being able to get state medical marijuana cards because of difficulty using an online portal to apply for them. The state’s first cannabis pharmacy opened in early March but quickly cut back its business hours because so few patients had been able to get the required cards.
Loser: An estimated 10,000 Utahns who would have qualified for Medicaid coverage of birth control under a proposed expansion of the program to people earning 250% of the poverty level. SB74 was praised by supporters as a different approach to curbing abortions in the state.
It passed the Senate only to die in the House, largely based on its price tag of some $685,000. Most of the program’s cost would have been covered by federal funds.