Utah governor calls on Legislature to hold special session to address flooding, amend gun bill

As Utah’s snowpack continues to melt, Gov. Spencer Cox is asking lawmakers to extend a state of emergency.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) The sun sets on the Utah Capitol on Wednesday, Feb. 9, 2022.

Utah lawmakers will return to the Capitol on May 17 at the request of Gov. Spencer Cox to discuss two issues related to the ongoing flooding as a result of the state’s historically high snowpack, and also to consider whether to amend a firearm restrictions bill passed earlier this year.

Cox is asking lawmakers to extend a state of emergency declaration, initially issued April 18, to allow Utah to access funds reserved for emergencies as it responds to flooding throughout the state.

He’s also urging the Legislature to allocate more money “to address the costs of snow removal, flooding, flood response and mitigation.” The state has already depleted $5 million the Legislature set aside for the same purpose.

“We don’t get to play hindsight with these things,” Cox said at his monthly PBS Utah news conference in April. “We just move forward, and we do have plenty of money in reserves. You know, those rainy day funds aren’t just for economic downturns. They’re also for major emergencies.”

The governor is also requesting that lawmakers consider amending HB225, titled “Firearm Possession Amendments,” from this past session.

A spokesperson for the Legislature explained that “unintended consequences” of the new law had been identified (lawmakers will often file “clean up” bills in later legislative sessions), and that a portion of HB225 as currently written is more restrictive than federal rules for “alien, non-resident” gun owners.

Rep. Ryan Wilcox, R-Ogden, the sponsor of Firearms Possession Amendments, did not respond to a request to comment on the governor’s request.