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Legislative session ends as governor praises many ‘good bills’ that passed and many ‘terrible bills’ that didn’t

Lawmakers passed more than 500 bills and allocated more than $21 billion.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Gov. Spencer Cox steps into the House chamber following Rep. Francis Gibson, R-Mapleton, motion Friday night that the Legislature hear from “Gov. Gary Herbert.” House Speaker Brad Wilson noted that the motion script apparently had the name of the former chief executive, a gaffe that drew laughter from the body. at the Capitol in Salt Lake City on Friday, March 5, 2021, during the final day of the Utah Legislature’s 2021 general session.

This is the final day of Utah’s 45-day annual legislative session and it is sure to be packed with big votes on legislation right up until the clock strikes midnight. You can follow all of the action here as tracked by The Salt Lake Tribune’s team of government reporters.

11:40 p.m.: Gov. Spencer Cox calls legislative session ‘historic,’ even ‘miraculous’

House Majority Leader Francis Gibson, R-Mapleton, made a motion Friday night that the Legislature hear from “Gov. Gary Herbert.”

Speaker Brad Wilson noted that the motion script apparently had the name of the former chief executive, a gaffe that drew laughter from the body.

In addressing lawmakers, Gov. Spencer Cox said he’d planned to prepare his remarks between 11 p.m. and midnight. But since the Legislature had adjourned early, “and I don’t know what to say to you, I’m going to say this: I’m so damn proud of you.”

In his speech to state senators, Cox said this could have been one of the most divisive sessions the Legislature has ever had, but it was relatively “drama-free,” because “we chose a different path, we chose to work together.”

The new governor thanked legislators for being patient with his new team and encouraged House lawmakers to reflect on the “historic” nature of what they’d done with education and transportation and construction funding, as well as with bills that will improve the way government operates. 

The reason the state is where it is, he said, is because lawmakers made budget cuts in the aftermath of the pandemic and the state has made “the right decisions” to keep the economy open and keep people safe.

”And that’s why we have the funds to make historic investments and a tax cut,” he said during his speech in the House.

Cox also reflected on the special challenges that lawmakers faced while gathering during a pandemic and said it was “miraculous” that a COVID-19 outbreak hadn’t shut down proceedings. He credited the health workers who administered rapid tests to legislators and staff with keeping the session going.

”This is one of those sessions that we’re all going to remember forever,” he told state senators.

Taylor Stevens and Bethany Rodgers

11 p.m.: Campaign finance disclosure simplified

Utah Gov. Spencer Cox broke out his pen to sign one bill as the Utah Legislature adjourned on the final day of the session.

SB92 will require Utah’s political candidates to sort their campaign expenses into predetermined categories in an effort to improve transparency around how they’re spending the unlimited sums they can receive from donors.

The bill contains a list of specific expense categories, including advertising; campaign; loan repayments; signature gathering; supplies; contributions to other candidates or political committees; and travel expenses.

Under SB92, the state’s elections office will likely offer candidates a drop-down menu that lists these available classifications and allows them to select one for each expenditure.

The legislation also deletes a requirement to list the person or entity receiving a payment from a campaign and language that directs candidates to disclose the “specific purpose, item or service” that they purchased. Instead, the candidates will only have to report what “goods or services” they bought, under the bill.

A recent Salt Lake Tribune analysis found that, since 2015, lawmakers have collectively spent millions of dollars, often with little or no transparency about where the money is going. They’re also able to pour their excess campaign funds into travel, food and gifts, and some of them do that without explaining how the purchases are connected to their elected offices or campaign.

Taylor Stevens

10:40 p.m.: Out before midnight

More than an hour before the mandatory adjournment deadline of midnight — at 10:38 p.m. — the House moved to adjourn its business, to applause from the body. The Senate followed suit a few minutes later.

— Taylor Stevens and Bethany Rodgers

10:30 p.m.: Governor on session: ‘So many terrible bills that didn’t pass’

Utah Gov. Spencer Cox said during a news conference Friday night that he’d texted House Speaker Brad Wilson earlier asking if there was any chance the Legislature would adjourn before midnight. ”And he just sent back the gif of, it was President Obama saying something like, ‘dreamers will always dream,’” Cox said with a laugh.

“And so I guess that’s a no, but we’re hopeful.”

Jokes aside, Cox praised the session as an “incredible” one, noting that lawmakers have been able to avoid a coronavirus outbreak thanks to frequent testing and to pass a $22 billion budget that he said he was “very, very pleased with.”

There were “so many good bills that have been passed,” he said — “and so many terrible bills that didn’t pass.”

Asked about which bills he would veto, Cox was tight-lipped on details, saying only that his team is watching a few proposals but that some of the ones he was opposed to “went away today.”

“And I think that that’s that’s a good thing. And so they’re making it a little harder for me to veto as many as I’d planned because they’re doing great work and that that’s the way the process should work. You know, the worst stuff should go away.”

Cox said he doesn’t expect to strike down the “pandemic endgame” bill that passed through in the final hours of the session. A change in that bill to end mask mandates April 10 rather than immediately upon the governor’s signature will, he said, give the state enough time to vaccine the most vulnerable.

“By April 1st, we believe that we will be through that population and open up eligibility to any adult in the state of Utah that wants it,” he said. “So we won’t get through everyone before the potential mask mandate can go away. But we’ll get through a lot of people.”

A bill aimed at requiring social media platforms to clearly state their content moderation policy and to inform users in Utah within 24 hours when they run afoul of it has become “less“ of a candidate for a veto, specifically because of the implementation date that was changed to next year.”

Cox also said he feels comfortable with the language in a bill that would curtail the power of the executive branch and the health department during a long-term emergency.

Taylor Stevens

10:15 p.m. Anti-hunger bill dies a quick death, then springs back to life

A proposed task force to address food insecurity died a quick death with no debate on the House floor Friday night after anti-hunger advocates complained the bill had been held all session without a public hearing in the House Rules Committee.

But SB141 from Sen. Luz Escamilla, D-Salt Lake City, soon sprang back to life and passed both houses.

House Majority Leader Francis Gibson, R-Mapleton, said the bill deserved a second chance.

“I received a bilingual chastisement from my Senate colleague,” said Gibson. “This is a good bill.”

The proposed 15-person group would be tasked with developing “an evidence-based plan for establishing food security” in Utah.

“Never say never,” tweeted Utahns Against Hunger.

— Bryan Schott

10:10 p.m.: Cannabis card rules eased

Physicians might soon have the ability to sign off on medical cannabis cards for up to 15 patients without completing the state’s training for recommending the plant-based substance.

Lawmakers have said the legislation, SB170, could help alleviate the challenges some patients experience when trying to find a physician who is qualified and willing to approve them for medical cannabis.

The measure sponsored by Sen. Luz Escamilla, D-Salt Lake City, would also allow licensed podiatrists to recommend medical cannabis. It gained final Senate passage with no debate and will now be considered by Gov. Spencer Cox.

Bethany Rodgers

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) The setting sun casts a golden light as it shines through the doors of the House floor at the Capitol in Salt Lake City on Friday, March 5, 2021, during the final day of the Utah Legislature’s 2021 general session.

9:55 p.m.: Utah’s mask mandate will end April 10 under bill headed to governor

The “pandemic endgame” bill is headed to Gov. Spencer Cox’s desk after winning final approval in the Utah House on Friday night. Cox said he wouldn’t veto the legislation.

Sponsoring Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clearfield, urged his colleagues to vote for HB294, assuring them it would lead to the end of the statewide mask mandate on April 10, which he negotiated with Cox’s office and the health department.

“This would get rid of the mask mandate 30 days earlier. It’s the quickest way to get that done. He was going to veto this bill, so I’m saving us at least 30 days here,” said Ray.

Before winning approval, lawmakers spent some time attacking scientists over the definition of herd immunity. “If you follow the CDC, which I think stands for ‘can’t do crap,’ herd immunity is a moving target,” said Ray. “We know the state is going to be at or near herd immunity by April 10.”

”People tell us to follow the science when it comes to herd immunity,” said Rep. Brady Brammer, R-Highland. “But they never say anything definitive. It’s always a moving target.”

Rep. Suzanne Harrison, D-Draper, who is a physician, urged her colleagues to slow down and be patient as the current restrictions are the reason the state is seemingly turning the corner on the pandemic.

“I know everyone wants to get back to normal. But, we need a little bit of humility as legislators that we don’t know everything,” she said. “The science is irrefutable: [masks have] saved lives.”

”Our job is to balance policy with the advice of experts,” responded Ray. “This is the result of weeks of careful negotiation, and it’s science-based. These are numbers I got from the health department.”

— Bryan Schott

9:40 p.m.: Parole denial for killers who won’t disclose victims’ bodies whereabouts

The House gave final approval to HB379, which denies parole for anyone convicted of homicide unless the victim’s remains have been recovered or the offender has demonstrated “good faith” efforts to locate those remains.

Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clearfield, said the bill will help in several cases that are pending.

“If you want to be paroled, you need to show some remorse. If you don’t show remorse, that’s not going to happen,” he said bluntly. Ray explained the bill cleans up a similar bill passed previously. That piece of legislation imposed the same restrictions on homicide cases but neglected to apply the standard retroactively.

— Bryan Schott

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) The clock winds down at the Capitol in Salt Lake City on Friday, March 5, 2021, during the final day of the Utah Legislature’s 2021 general session.

9:15 p.m.: Cycling through stop sign intersections

A bill allowing bicyclists to treat stop signs like yield signs — slowing without stopping, then looking and proceeding through if traffic is clear — flew through the Senate with a near-unanimous vote.

The sponsor, Rep. Carol Spackman Moss, D-Holladay, has said it would improve safety by allowing cyclists to maintain their momentum and proceed quickly through intersections.

The proposal, HB142, already passed the House and will become law if signed by Gov. Spencer Cox.

Bethany Rodgers

9:10 p.m.: Law officer could be punished for dishonesty or discrimination

Under a bill that has won final legislative approval and now heads to the governor, the Peace Officers Standards and Training (POST) Council would be able to take action against an officer for “dishonesty or deception” in violation of agency policy or the law.

The Council could also revoke a certification or suspend officers who have “knowingly engaged in biased or prejudicial conduct” against someone based on race, sex, age, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity or other protected status.

Sen. Luz Escamilla, D-Salt Lake City, said HB62 is a “consensus bill” developed in conjunction with law enforcement representatives and mirrors existing policy in many agencies.

Bethany Rodgers

9 p.m.: Lawmakers honor former Jazz coach Jerry Sloan

The Utah House unanimously approved a resolution Friday that would honor “the life and achievements” of longtime Utah Jazz coach Jerry Sloan, who died last year.

SCR7 notes many of the Hall of Fame-enshrined coach’s accomplishments, including serving as head coach of the Jazz for 23 seasons, leading the franchise “to 1,223 wins, 19 trips to the NBA Playoffs, seven division titles, and two NBA Finals appearances.” And it also makes mention of his renowned work ethic and lasting legacy.

A copy of the resolution, which expresses “sincerest condolences to the family and loved ones of Jerry Sloan for their great loss,” will be sent to Sloan’s wife, Tammy Jessop, and to his children, Kathy Wood, Brian Sloan, and Harry Parrish, and his stepson Rhett Jessop.

— Taylor Stevens

8:50 p.m.: Final budget items clear Legislature

State lawmakers approved a $145.5 million list of final budget items — colloquially known as the “bill of bills — after celebrating Utah’s relative financial strength in emerging from the pandemic. Senate budget chairman Jerry Stevenson called the measure, SB3, the “culmination of the legislative session.”

”We go through lots and lots of gyrations to get to this point,” Stevenson, R-Layton, said.

The spending package wouldn’t have been possible, he said, without steady budgetary management through the coronavirus crisis — and for many years before that. Because of that, Stevenson said, Utah was able to increase education funding by about $475 million this year, provide a $100 million tax cut and direct funds toward housing and homelessness initiatives. “When we stepped out of here a year ago, we faced a pandemic and a very unknown future,” he said. “Because we’ve been involved in careful planning for a long while … our budget did not pose the risk they were facing in other states.”

The bill unanimously passed in the Senate. The House voted 67-4 in favor of the bill later that evening, after Rep. Brad Last, R-Hurricane, took a similar victory lap in praise of the state’s budget and said lawmakers had “been able to do amazing things with the taxpayers’ money” during the 45-day session.

— Bethany Rodgers and Taylor Stevens

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) House Speaker Brad R. Wilson, R-Kaysville, conducts business on the House floor at the Capitol in Salt Lake City on Friday, March 5, 2021, alongside a Utahraptor skull reconstruction. HB 322 creates a sixth state park in Utah that would protect the dinosaur quarry in the Dalton Wells area near Moab.

8:20 p.m.: Pandemic ‘endgame’ bill moves toward final passage

The state’s mask mandate would end April 10 under the latest version of a pandemic “endgame” bill that has won approval from the Utah Senate.

Supporters of the proposal, HB294, have said it would give Utahns a light at the end of the tunnel by laying out when public health orders would vanish and restrictions would ease.

“I have many times during the pandemic over the last year that constituents would send me messages or call and say, ‘What’s the path out of the pandemic?’” said Sen. Derrin Owens, R-Fountain Green, as he presented the bill. “The purpose of the bill is to define the endpoint of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

A prior version of the bill would’ve terminated the statewide mask mandate as soon as the governor signs the legislation — but the Senate amended the language to lift the order April 10.

Critics say the legislation puts politicians in charge of determining when it’s safe to lift pandemic-driven restrictions rather than public health officials.

The proposal, which passed the Senate over opposition from the chamber’s six Democrats, will now go back to the House for a final vote on the amendment.

Local health departments could still require face coverings with approval from their county commissions or councils, under the bill, and officials could also continue requiring them for gatherings of 50 or more people who can’t physically distance. However, these orders and other restrictions applying to businesses and events would expire as soon as the state meets several conditions described by the bill:

  • The state’s 14-day case rate falls below 191 per 100,000 people;

  • Intensive care units are no more than 15% filled with COVID-19 patients over a seven-day average; and

  • The federal government has allocated 1,633,000 first doses of the coronavirus vaccine to Utah.

School-based face mask directives could also stay in place under HB294 but would expire on July 1.

Bethany Rodgers

6 p.m.: Surrendering gun rights during mental health crisis

A bill enabling Utahns to relinquish their gun rights if they’re at risk of self-harm has gained final approval from the state Senate. The proposal, HB267, would allow people at risk of injuring themselves to put their names on a “no gun” list to block them from buying a firearm while they’re in the middle of a mental health crisis.

With the bill, anyone who wants to join the firearm restricted list would fill out a form posted on the Utah Bureau of Criminal Identification website and turn the document in to a local law enforcement agency.

The person would stay on that temporary restricted list for at least 30 days but could request removal after that point. During that period, the individual wouldn’t be eligible to buy a gun and would have his or her concealed carry permit temporarily suspended.

The restrictions would lapse automatically after six months, unless the person requested an extension, according to HB267. The Senate passed the bill 17-9.

Bethany Rodgers

5:50 p.m.: Sharing campus crime data

The Utah House voted unanimously Friday afternoon in favor of a bill that seeks to improve safety at Utah’s colleges by requiring publicly-funded universities to share more data about crimes that occur at student housing, either on or off campus.

Colleges are already required to release a report each year that totals the crimes that occurred on or near campus. But they don’t have to pinpoint where they occurred, as would be required under this proposal.

Rep. Karianne Lisonbee, R-Clearfield, said Friday that the bill would “help our college students have the data they need to make wise decisions while they’re choosing their housing options.”

SB163 would also require campus law enforcement agencies to coordinate with local police and to share any complaints and reports that fall into their jurisdiction.

Rep. Lowry Snow, R-Santa Clara and the bill’s House sponsor, said that comes after “we’ve seen in some cases some consequences of not having that free flow of information.”

The measure previously included a provision that would have created a commission of students to look at security on campus and make recommendations to the state on how to fix ongoing issues they see. But that portion of the bill was gutted in the Senate, as several Republicans worried the student group would be “too liberal” and would shut out conservative voices.

The version of the bill that passed Friday must move back to the Senate for a final procedural vote. If it passes there, it will head to the governor’s desk for his signature or veto.

— Taylor Stevens

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) The sun sets on the last day of the Legislature’s 2021 general session at the Utah Capitol in Salt Lake City on Friday, March 5, 2021.

5:45 p.m.: House OKs state funded ‘bank’ for inland port, other projects

The Utah House of Representatives signed off Friday on a bill that would create an “infrastructure bank” designed to loan cash to three state land-use authorities: the Point of the Mountain, inland port and Military Installation Development Authority (MIDA).

The funds would be used to help those entities get roads, water, sewage and power — which can cost millions of dollars to get off the ground. SB243 would create several committees to approve the lending of funds from the new “infrastructure bank.” Membership would be made up by appointments from the governor, lawmakers and other community groups.

Any money allocated through that process “is not a grant, and it would be paid back,” noted Rep. Francis Gibson, R-Mapleton.

Sen. Jerry Stevenson, R-Layton, has said he expects one of the first loans would be used to create run power lines through the inland port area. And in conjunction with the bill, some $75 million would be set aside specifically for port authority projects.

Gibson said no money has been put into the fund for MIDA or the Point of the Mountain.

In a provision not directly related to the fund, the bill would also change the conflict of interest requirements for the inland port authority board. Members are currently not allowed to own or acquire an interest in land on or within five miles of the authority’s jurisdictional land — a provision that disqualified former House Speaker Greg Hughes from serving on the board in 2018.

SB243 would remove that five-mile requirement but would retain the mandate that an individual not own property in the jurisdiction. And it would keep the prohibition an individual not have a stake in a business that would profit from the development of land within the port’s jurisdiction.

“I’ve always found it amazing that if you were at 4.9 miles you were conflicted and evil and looking to take advantage of something but at 5.1 miles you were somehow innocent, pure and would never do that,” Gibson said.

Opponents of the inland port came out against the bill during committee hearings, expressing frustration that the legislation was made public only days before the March 5 end of the legislative session and that taxpayer dollars would go toward a project that’s yet to be fully defined. The bill passed with a 57-13 vote and now moves back to the Senate for consent with amendments made on the House floor.

Taylor Stevens

5:20 p.m.: Two police reforms clear final hurdle, but a third falls short

State senators passed a duo of police reform bills that — among other things — would require officers to submit a report when they point a gun at a person and would bar police from shooting at suicidal individuals who aren’t threatening anyone else.

Those proposals passed even though senators described a growing frustration about the number of law enforcement proposals under consideration this session, which has taken place following nationwide protests calling for racial justice and fair policing.

One additional law enforcement reform measure failed after senators cited concerns about overregulating police.

Sen. Daniel Thatcher told his colleagues that police representatives have been asking him to support HB237, which would clarify that police should not shoot someone who is a danger only to themselves.

”Senators, I understand that we want to take a stand. We want to say there are too many law enforcement bills this year,” the West Valley City Republican said. “But we need to listen to them [police]. When they tell us they need help, we need to listen.”

That bill ultimately cleared the Senate by a vote of 16-11.

HB264, a proposal requiring an officer to file a report after they point a gun or taser at someone, cleared the chamber shortly thereafter by a 20-7 vote. Both bills will head to Gov. Spencer Cox’s desk.

But senators rejected a third proposal, HB154, which states that officers must, if feasible, identify themselves and “give a clear oral warning” before using a firearm or other deadly force. It also states that use of force investigative reports should be published on a county or district attorney’s website. And if the investigation isn’t finished within 120 days, the county or district attorney must give a public explanation for the delay and time estimate for completion, under the bill.

Speaking to that bill, Sen. Derrin Owens said he was concerned about the number of restrictions that police officers face. “I don’t know how many regulations we can put on them before we swing the pendulum so far, that there’s just nobody left in this profession that would put on that suit and badge with honor,” Owens, R-Fountain Green, said.

Sen. Derek Kitchen, D-Salt Lake City, said law enforcement representatives were involved in shaping the bill, but the legislation still fell two votes short of getting the minimum 15 votes.

Bethany Rodgers

5 p.m.: Supporting Israel

The Utah House of Representatives voted 48-16 Friday in favor of a bill that would prohibit a government entity from entering into a contract with a company that’s boycotting the state of Israel.

If signed by the governor, Utah would join at least 32 other states — including Florida, New York, New Jersey, Texas and California — that have adopted similar legislation or executive orders, according to Rep. Francis Gibson, R-Mapleton.

Under the bill, SB186, a company would need to sign a written certification that it is not currently engaged in a boycott and that it agrees not to boycott Israel for the duration of the contract. The requirement wouldn’t apply to a contract with a total value of less than $100,000 or to a contract with a company that has fewer than 10 full-time employees.

In explaining the rationale for the bill, Gibson noted that “Utah companies in the last 25 years have done just under $1 billion of business with the state of Israel.”

— Taylor Stevens

4:15 p.m.: Bill pushes for opening of cannabis pharmacies, one in rural Utah

The state is one step closer to getting a 15th cannabis pharmacy, with state senators on Friday passing a sweeping, 99-page bill on medical marijuana.

Utah lawmakers say the additional pharmacy license is needed to serve patients who don’t live along the Interstate 15 corridor, where most of the existing retailers are situated. The new pharmacy would have to be located in Dagget, Duchesne, Uintah, Carbon, Sevier, Emery, Grand, or San Juan counties, under the proposal, SB192.

The bill sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Evan Vickers would also put pressure on the existing pharmacy operators to open the doors of their establishments.

Only eight of the state’s 14 approved marijuana pharmacies have opened in the year since legal cannabis sales began in Utah, and his legislation would require these retailers to get up and running by June 1 or risk forfeiting their license.

Additionally, SB192 would cap at four the number of licenses the state can issue for independent cannabis testing laboratories. It would institute an oversight board for cannabis growers, putting this panel in charge of reviewing cultivation license applications and holding a public hearing if a marijuana farm moves to a new location, changes ownership or undergoes other major shifts.

That provision, Vickers has said, addresses some of the issues raised in a recent state audit, which identified concerns with the way the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food awarded the eight current cultivation licenses.

Now that it’s gained final passage in the Legislature, the bill will go to Gov. Spencer Cox for consideration.

Bethany Rodgers

4 p.m.: Lawmakers rein in governor’s emergency powers

The Utah Senate gave a final nod to a bill that would curb the emergency powers of the governor and health department during a long-term health crisis, such as the COVID-19 pandemic.

The legislation, SB195, will head now to the governor, who has expressed concerns with prior versions of the proposal but hasn’t said whether he’d consider a veto.

Bill sponsor, Senate Majority Leader Evan Vickers, told reporters on Friday that he’s confident Gov. Spencer Cox will sign the legislation into law and said members of the new governor’s administration have been “active participants in the negotiations” on the bill.

“Great bill,” Senate President Stuart Adams said Friday as his chamber unanimously voted to give it final passage.

Under the proposal, if the governor wants a state of emergency to last beyond 30 days, the Legislature would have the power to weigh in with an emergency response committee made up of current legislative leadership and other lawmakers who have experience relevant to the situation. If appropriate, that committee would solicit public input on what comes next.

The Legislature or a county council or commission would also have the ability under SB195 to terminate “at any time” an “order of constraint” — such as a stay at home mandate or a mask mandate — that’s issued by a local health department. And it would cap fines for individuals violating public health orders at $5,000 per violation, down from a $10,000 maximum currently.

The bill would also prohibit any restrictions on a religious gathering during an emergency that is harsher than on any “relevantly similar” gathering.

Bethany Rodgers

3:50 p.m. Cage-free laying hens

A bill that would require farmers to transition to cage-free housing for their egg-laying hens by 2025 gained final passage through the Legislature on Friday.

The measure, SB147, contains an exemption for smaller farms that have fewer than 3,000 egg-laying hens and tasks the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food with enforcing the cage-free provisions.

Without debate, the Utah Senate gave the bill a final procedural vote of approval and sent it to the governor’s desk.

Bethany Rodgers

3 p.m.: Utah resolution tells feds to butt out of criminal justice policy

The Utah House approved a resolution Friday that basically tells the federal government to stay out of criminal justice policy.

This nonbinding statement came up the day after the U. S. House passed the sweeping George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which would ban chokeholds and “qualified immunity” for law enforcement.

Utah’s resolution — which is meant to send a message but doesn’t affect any policy — calls on Congress and the president to “avoid federalizing crime policy and substituting national laws for state and local policy decisions affecting criminal and juvenile justice.”

“This resolution reminds each of us, those listening on the Internet and hopefully someone in Washington, D.C., that that is the purview of the states,” Rep. Ryan Wilcox, R-Ogden, said in explaining the bill on Friday.

The state has considered more than 40 bills this session related to policing on issues ranging from data management to training and sentencing, he noted. And the resolution states that federal action should be reserved for instances when “a national problem has been identified and states are unable to adequately provide solutions due to the scope, or where federal jurisdiction is required to protect federal constitutional rights.”

SJR13, which previously passed in the Senate with a unanimous vote, also notes the state’s opposition to congressional proposals or federal regulations that withhold funding as penalty for noncompliance. Rep. Phil Lyman, R-Blanding, ran a substitute on the floor that would change the request that the federal government “allow” states to shape criminal justice policy to a statement that they “must respect” that power of the states.

“‘Allowed’ seems like we’re asking permission to do something that we have a right to do,” he said. “It’s not a big deal to me, but I’d rather assert our authority.” Wilcox said he hasn’t spoken directly with law enforcement groups about the resolution but that those he has spoken to are “very supportive” of it.

The resolution passed unanimously after several lawmakers spoke in support of it.

Later in the day, the Senate concurred with amendments made to the bill, and it now heads to the governor for his signature or veto.

Taylor Stevens

1 p.m.: Anti-hunger measure locked up in House Rules Committee

After passing through the Senate earlier this week, a bill that would create a task force to address the issue of food insecurity in Utah and ensure minority families have access to healthy food looks like it may not get a hearing in the House.

SB141 from Sen. Luz Escamilla, D-Salt Lake City, is currently stuck in the House Rules Committee, sometimes regarded as a holding cell for bills that legislative leaders don’t want to be heard.

Utahns Against Hunger, a nonprofit that works to increase access to food across the state, said in a news release Friday that the organization has worked with Escamilla over the last year to craft the bill and was “deeply disappointed that the House isn’t interested in addressing the issue of food security through data-driven solutions.”

Over the past year, food insecurity rates have more than doubled in Utah, the organization noted, climbing from 8.2% in February 2020 to 19.3% in December 2020. The American Academy of Family Physicians has identified food insecurity as a public health problem associated with poor cognitive and emotional development in children, and depression and poor health in adults.

Utahns Against Hunger said the “lack of action in the House in the face of such a major crisis is failure of leadership” and called lawmakers to lift the bill out of the House Rules Committee and put it up for a vote.

Taylor Stevens

Noon: Legislature breaks for lunch

House Republicans poked some fun at their Democratic counterparts on Friday just before leaving for lunch.

Usually, the majority and minority leaders make an announcement about their lunchtime plans prior to leaving the floor, but House Speaker Brad Wilson noticed something was amiss.

“We’re going to finish up a little early, but the Democrats have already left for lunch, or at least their leadership has,” said Wilson.

House Majority Leader Francis Gibson, R-Mapleton, stepped to the microphone to try to fill the void left by the minority leadership team’s absence.

“The Democrats are going to caucus, they’re going to have a great lunch, it will be open to the public,” deadpanned Gibson, parroting the usual pre-lunch announcement from House Minority Leader Brian King, D-Salt Lake City.

“Did I do that right?” added Gibson as Wilson chuckled.

— Bryan Schott

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Rep. Francis Gibson, R-Mapleton, left, and Rep. James Dunnigan, R-Taylorsville, speak on the house floor at the Capitol in Salt Lake City on Friday, March 5, 2021, during the final day of the Utah Legislature’s 2021 general session.

11 a.m.: Bill weakens Utah’s law that English is the official language

The House approved SB214, which allows government agencies to translate documents into other languages. The pandemic highlighted a problem with Utah’s “official English” law, which was approved by voters in 2000.

“One of the most glaring problems faced by state and local governments was the inability to communicate with Utah’s multicultural communities,” said House Majority Whip Mike Schultz, R-Hooper. “Those disparities were stark and alarming.”

There was some confusion that the bill would overturn Utah’s official English policy, but that’s not the case.

Rep. Karen Kwan, D-Salt Lake City, gave an emotional speech on the House floor, breaking into tears as she argued the state should ditch having an official language altogether.

“When we were young, my mom and dad only spoke Chinese. When my oldest sister went to kindergarten, she was bilingual. The teacher said to my parents, ‘you must stop speaking Chinese to these kids or they’ll never learn English.’

“I want you to know how hurtful the words English as an official language has been to my family,” she concluded.

The bill passed 55-17.

— Bryan Schott

10:50 a.m.: Legislature votes to require tracking when police use force

In a 18-6 vote, the Senate has approved use of force reporting requirements for local law enforcement agencies.

The bill, HB 84, is a response to the high-profile deaths of Black Americans at the hands of police last year, which prompted numerous protests and calls for law enforcement reform throughout the nation.

Sen. Jacob Anderegg, the floor sponsor, said the Department of Public Safety has held discussions with stakeholders since June to come up with ideas on how to address those concerns in Utah. HB84, Anderegg said, “was one of the low-hanging fruit.”

The legislation will require the state’s police and law enforcement departments to collect data on scenarios where officers use force and report those statistics back to the Bureau of Criminal Identification each year.

“All it does is put forth an annual reporting requirement so we … [can ask] ‘Hey, how are we doing? Let’s keep our finger on the pulse of things,’” Anderegg said.

The bill now goes to the governor for his signature.

— Leia Larsen

10:30 a.m.: Bill will make it easier for home food businesses

People looking to sell food cooked in their home kitchens just received a thumbs-up from the Senate, 25 to 2.

HB94 creates guidelines and regulations for “microkitchen” enterprises. Home-based culinary entrepreneurs will be able to obtain a permit from their local health department and receive inspections for food safety before selling their goods to the public.

The bill’s sponsor worked with Utah’s restaurant lobby to enact some limitations. In the state’s larger counties, regulators will limit microkitchen permits to 15% of the total food service licenses issued. For small counties, health departments will cap the number of microkitchens at 70% of all approved food service establishments.

Sen. Derek Kitchen, a Salt Lake City restaurant owner, threw his support behind the bill and offered a confession.

“In 2012 … I started illegally in my kitchen,” he said. “We just started selling to friends and family, it wasn’t anything major. But this is where a lot of businesses get their start. We need to give them a pathway.”

— Leia Larsen

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Representatives break for dinner as the light natural light dims at the Capitol in Salt Lake City on Friday, March 5, 2021, during the final day of the Utah Legislature’s 2021 general session.


10:20 a.m.: Legislature passes bill to ease homebuilding inspections

Invoking Utah’s need for more affordable homes, state lawmakers have given final approval for a bill that eases a host of city restrictions.

Sponsoring Sen. Scott Sandall, R-Tremonton, said the final version of HB98 curtails the ability of cities to regulate cosmetic features on homes, including what materials are used, roof designs, placement of doors and windows and front yard fencing.

If city officials go past state-set deadlines on building inspections or reviewing new development plans, this bill lets homebuilders hire their own experts. It also suspends city review for building repairs done in response to natural emergencies.

HB98 adds to other efforts from the Utah Legislature to address an ongoing shortage of affordable homes and rentals being felt across the state. Other bills allow basement apartments in most residential areas, creates a new system for city land grants for housing and puts new money toward rural housing development.

HB98′s main sponsor, Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clearfield and CEO of the Northern Wasatch Home Builders Association, said it had potential to shave tens of thousands of dollars for the average price of a home. Lobbyists for cities and counties in Utah initially warned the measure threatened their ability to ensure new home construction would be safe and compatible with existing neighborhoods.

After four revisions to assuage some of those concerns, HB98 has now passed.

— Tony Semerad

10 a.m.: Police can get punished for sharing explicit images

The Senate has approved HB59 without opposition. The bill is one of many spurred by the murder of Lauren McCluskey and the University of Utah officer who shared intimate photos of the student with coworkers. McCluskey submitted the images to police as evidence that an ex-boyfriend was stalking and extorting her.

This bill, if signed by Gov. Spencer Cox, will add criminal penalties for law enforcement and prosecutors who share explicit images obtained as evidence for non-work purposes.

“This is good policy, because it protects victims,” said Sen. Jani Iwamoto, the floor sponsor.

— Leia Larsen

9:50 a.m.: Bill will help the homeless

The Senate unanimously passed HB352, which will help people experiencing homelessness get state identification.

“Without a state ID, it’s impossible to get a job, open a bank account, sometimes cash a check,” said Sen. Todd Weiler, the bill’s floor sponsor.

The legislation waives the application fee for unsheltered people seeking an ID and allows them to use the address of a homeless services provider. The bill now returns to the House.

— Leia Larsen

9:20 a.m.: The House gavels in

And we’re underway on the final day.

“Good morning Representatives and welcome to Day 45 of the 2021 session,” said House Speaker Brad Wilson, R-Kaysville, as he gaveled the body to order.

Members applauded and several loudly whooped.

“Apparently, we’re at a rodeo,” quipped Wilson before getting down to business.

— Bryan Schott

8:30 a.m.: ‘Never been under so much pressure,’: Senate President Stuart Adams reflects on the difficult session

As lawmakers prepare to tackle the final day of the 2021 Utah Legislature, Senate President Stuart Adams said he’s grateful the state appears to have mostly weathered the economic storm caused by the pandemic, but that recovery was tenuous at several points.

“I’ve never been under so much pressure in my entire life because we were trying to balance lives and livelihoods,” said Adams, R-Layton, on the most recent episode of the “Utah Politics” podcast. “I felt like I was walking on thin ice.”

Utah’s economy is bouncing back faster than many of the experts predicted. The state’s unemployment rate is one of the lowest in the nation, and the state’s budget is in far better shape than anyone expected.

But, Adams says there were times when they nearly had to reverse course.

“We didn’t know whether to shut down restaurants again in the fall. There was an effort to do it,” he said. “A lot of people wanted to shut down our economy again, and there was a fear if we didn’t do it, we were going to cause a lot of fatalities.”

Adams says the converse was true, too, as many times state officials questioned whether they had been too aggressive with the response.

“When we look back on it, we’ll probably find things we could have done better,” he said. “But in the middle of not knowing what the future was, I think we handled it very well.”

— Bryan Schott

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