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All the things the 2022 Utah State Legislature did to your life

Posted at 12:16 AM, Mar 05, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-05 23:55:56-05

SALT LAKE CITY — Your elected officers were very busy over the past 45 days. They passed a record-breaking $25 billion budget and hundreds of bills. Here’s a recap of some of the bigger bills that passed, failed and never got off the ground in the 2022 legislative session:

COVID-19 - 

The legislature was clearly done with COVID-19, but the virus wasn’t done with them. The Senate President, House Minority Leader and others tested positive right before and during the session. Cases continued to decline statewide and Governor Spencer Cox announced an easing of the state’s emergency response.

Lawmakers moved quickly to terminate Salt Lake and Summit counties’ mask mandates.

The governor said he’d liked to have seen the legislature be done with COVID bills, but they pursued them anyway. Lawmakers advanced a number of bills to respond to health orders, limiting their power and reach. A bill to exempt Capitol Hill from local emergency orders and block a county mayor from issuing emergency orders or vetoing orders overturning mask mandates in a pandemic passed. So did a bill inserting lawmakers and the governor into decisions about rationing of medical care.

Rep. Walt Brooks proposed a bill to block businesses and employers from requiring proof of vaccination, resulting in a rowdy Senate hearing that had three people removed from the committee room. Governor Spencer Cox signaled he was not a fan of the bill. It didn’t advance on the final night of the session.

Rep. Jefferson Burton’s bill allowing people to get exempted from vaccine requirements if they present a doctor’s note saying they just got over COVID passed the legislature (with exemptions for some employers).

Rep. Robert Spendlove passed a bill to increase the penalties for assaults on health care workers, something that has surged in the pandemic.

Voting - 

Lawmakers considered a lot of bills on election security, vote-by-mail and ballot initiatives. In a bill pushed through quickly, candidate filing dates were shifted to meet caucus and convention dates (they were supported by both the Utah Republican Party and the Utah Democratic Party). More auditing will be done of elections, voter rolls and voter signatures, but they have had the support of state elections officials and county clerks.

Rep. Jon Hawkins passed a bill that requires ID for first-time voters (or if you never showed it when you registered previously), surveillance cameras on ballot drop boxes and other measures. It had the support of Lt. Governor Deidre Henderson, the state’s top elections officer.

Rep. Phil Lyman proposed a bill to make in-person voting the primary method of casting a ballot, making it more difficult to vote-by-mail. It also put in a number of other restrictions that garnered opposition from the League of Women Voters and Lt. Gov. Henderson. The bill failed to pass a House committee.

The legislature passed a bill to remove the recommendation on whether a judge be retained on the ballot. Instead, you’ll just see if a judge meets the minimum performance standards.

The House rejected a bill to allow 16 and 17-year-olds to vote in local school board elections.

Sen. Derek Kitchen tried to reinstate Proposition 4 as passed by voters, creating an independent redistricting commission all over again. It never even got a hearing.

A bill to allow for electronic signatures on ballot initiatives and citizen petitions passed the legislature.

Taxes - 

Lawmakers very quickly moved to pass a small income tax cut, taking advantage of huge revenues that came in. For the average family of four making $72,000 a year? It’s about $98 back. To win support, Republican leaders also included Social Security cuts and an earned income tax credit that won some Democrats’ support.

Bills to remove the state portion of the sales tax on food went nowhere, but House Speaker Brad Wilson signaled he was supportive of the idea — if the state can address tax volatility with the earmark on the income tax for education. That idea was floated in the 2022 session, but faced some opposition from education groups. To remove the earmark, it requires a constitutional amendment (which means you, the voter, gets to ultimately decide). With a waning session and opposition, Republican leadership pumped the brakes on the idea and will try again in 2023.

Lawmakers tweaked some of the incentives the state offers, with many questioning why we offer so many in the first place given our strong economy.

Medical cannabis and psychedelics - 

This year’s bills on medical cannabis actually earned the support of patients rights groups. Senate Majority Leader Evan Vickers, Senate Minority Whip Luz Escamilla and Rep. Jennifer Dailey-Provost teamed up to run the bills. There were some amendments that didn’t make everyone happy. Synthetic THC (also known as “Delta 8”) is banned, but hemp and CBD manufacturers faced a little less oversight. Police officers remain prohibited from using medical cannabis, but other first responders can. Lawmakers also passed a bill blocking cities from taking action against government employees who are qualified cannabis card holders. Cannabis can be recommended for acute pain and terminal illness.

Rep. Brady Brammer successfully passed a bill to study whether Utah should allow medical-use psychedelics to treat certain mental health conditions. Many lawmakers who used to be very reluctant to support cannabis bills didn’t even flinch at supporting this one.

Transportation - 

Penalties have been enhanced for people who speed over 100 miles per hour under a bill passed by Sen. Jani Iwamoto. It’s designed to crack down on “reckless speeding” which Utah Highway Patrol troopers have seen an increase in recent years.

Vintage vehicles older than 1980 will be exempted from emissions inspections, but those from 1981 on have some new requirements. The move closes a loophole where some people tried to claim a car was “vintage” to skip out on inspections. In negotiations, lawmakers stripped out a provision in the bill to create a new road in eastern Utah to transport fossil fuels that garnered some opposition.

Lawmakers allowed “lane filtering” for motorcycles to move forward and introduced a new method of merging: “the zipper method” that forces you to merge into a single lane right, left, right, left, like a zipper. “Selfies while driving,” filming yourself (or even traffic) while in traffic, will soon be illegal under a bill that passed.

Your vehicle windows can be tinted a little darker. Sen. Dan McCay passed a bill to allow 35% light transmittance.

Penalties were enhanced for driving while under the influence of controlled substances. A bill also passed making it possible for someone to still be cited for DUI in a self-driving car (because someone still has to be in control of the vehicle).

The Utah Department of Transportation will take over some major public transit projects in the state, including double-tracking Frontrunner, and bus rapid transit lines. Lawmakers took those projects from Utah Transit Authority to ensure they’re done quickly and under state oversight. UTA will still run the buses and trains.

A bill to make all public transit free in Utah did not advance in the legislature. Rep. Joel Briscoe told FOX 13 News he will try again next year.

In a close House vote, Rep. Mark Wheatley’s bill to crack down on noisy tailpipes failed to pass (after a somewhat heated debate among lawmakers about loud mufflers).

Afghan refugees who have settled in Utah will be able to use translation assistance in taking driver license exams under a bill passed by Rep. Carol Spackman Moss. Senate Minority Whip Luz Escamilla also passed a bill expanding driver exams to other languages.

LGBTQ rights - 

A pair of controversial bills on transgender children were introduced. Rep. Kera Birkeland’s bill on transgender student athletes had all sides upset. Social conservatives disagreed with it because it didn’t ban trans athletes; LGBTQ rights groups disagreed with it because of the special commission to evaluate students who wanted to play sports. Governor Spencer Cox pushed for a compromise and Rep. Birkeland stripped out the most controversial provisions of the bill. Then, in a late-night surprise, Sen. Dan McCay introduced an all-out ban. It passed the Senate, cleared the House and Governor Spencer Cox immediately said he would veto it. LGBTQ rights groups said they were relieved.

Rep. Rex Shipp’s bill going after physicians who provided transgender health care to children failed to go anywhere in the legislature.

Sen. Derek Kitchen hosted a blood drive on Utah’s Capitol Hill to call attention to his resolution to remove the ban on blood donations from gay and bisexual men. Some lawmakers participated and agreed the ban should be overturned, but the resolution did not advance.

Lawmakers made more minor tweaks to state code, removing the words “husband and wife” in favor of the gender-neutral “spouses.”

The Great Salt Lake, Utah Lake and water conservation - 

Faced with a dramatically shrinking Great Salt Lake, the legislature advanced a number of bills to try to save it. The biggest was House Speaker Brad Wilson’s bill spending $40 million to try to get more water into the lake, including leasing water rights for it and watershed habitat restoration. It won support from a lot of environmental groups.

A big bill expanding secondary water metering passed the legislature. It requires cities to implement outdoor water monitoring devices by 2030. For cities exempted, they have to impose water conservation plans.

Lawmakers took helicopter rides over the lake to see firsthand the magnitude of the problem. It convinced them to support other bills including incentives to get agriculture (a big water user) to switch to water-wise technologies. Rep. Robert Spendlove passed a bill to incentivize you to ditch unnecessary grasses in your lawn, and a bill was passed to block cities and HOAs from banning xeriscaping or other water-wise landscaping.

Bills on the future of Utah Lake were also advanced. One creates a lake authority to oversee environmental restoration. One makes it a little trickier for a controversial proposition to put islands on the lake to happen, but don’t completely close the door on the idea.

The House rejected a bill that sought to publish water loss data. Lawmakers did advance a bill that publishes land use permits that affect wetlands. A bill to create a watershed restoration initiative inside Utah’s Department of Natural Resources passed.

Rep. Carl Albrecht passed a bill requiring a study on water shortages and who gets preference. The bill expresses a desire to have agriculture get the top preference, but that could change and water rights holders would be compensated.

A bill passed modifying the membership of the Colorado River Authority, a group that will advocate for a bigger share of river water for Utah. It also requires tribal consultation.

Housing and homelessness - 

Lawmakers pushed a number of bills on housing and homelessness, most with big price tags attached for affordable housing. In the budget, they didn’t get all of what they wanted. Bills were also passed requiring cities to make plans for shelters in the extremes of winter and summer, in addition to offering funding to offset the impact of homeless shelters.

Rep. Marsha Judkins pushed a bill on eviction expungements that cleared the legislature. Lawmakers also tweaked deductions for renters in utilities.

A bill to prompt HOAs to modernize rules to allow things like political signs and holiday displays passed. A big bill going after HOAs by expanding the Property Rights Ombudsman’s duties to handle complaints did not advance but may return in the 2023 session.

Lawmakers advanced bills on intergenerational poverty, including more reporting on state efforts to break the cycle of poverty.

Government - 

Bills restricting some police interviews with internal investigators from Utah’s Government Records Access Management Act (GRAMA) passed. A bill cracking down on “vexatious” requesters advanced, adding some new fees. Lawmakers agreed to carve out news media requests.

The Senate rejected a bill that required every public meeting to have a public comment period. But public meetings must do better at recording votes, under a bill passed by Rep. Cheryl Acton.

Rep. Sandra Hollins passed a bill making Juneteenth an official state holiday. In an unusual moment on the Senate floor, an amendment was introduced to also recognize Halloween in Utah on the last Friday in October. It was quickly withdrawn.

If you’ve ever had a dream to have the attorney general, state treasurer or state auditor perform your marriage ceremony, they can under a bill that passed from Sen. Daniel Thatcher.

Bereavement leave has been expanded for state employees to include stillbirths and miscarriages. A second bill expanding it for counties and cities.

Sen. Todd Weiler passed a bill expanding paid parental leave for government employees.

Diacritical marks will be allowed on vital records (those are accents, tildes, umlauts and other marks) under a bill passed by Rep. Andrew Stoddard.

It’s bizarrely one of the most controversial issues but always the lowest priority in the face of multi-billion dollar budgets and other weighty issues. Once again, a bill was introduced to end the back-and-forth of Daylight Saving Time. Once again, it went nowhere.

A bill to expand Utah’s digital driver license program (putting the state-issued ID on your phone) was yanked mid-session when it became the subject of conspiracy theories about it leading to concentration camps and was “the mark of the beast.” The bill was resurrected on the final night of the legislative session, then sent back to not be considered.

Alcohol - 

The omnibus alcohol bill did not make everyone happy. A large chunk of the very popular “hard seltzers” will be yanked from grocery and convenience store shelves because they do not meet Utah’s unique legal definition of “beer.” Depending on the flavor and how it’s made, some will be moved to state-run liquor stores after anti-alcohol activists and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints lobbied for it. There will also be no new bar licenses, a longstanding gripe of the Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission. Instead, hotel and resort licenses were “re-worked” freeing up about 10 bar licenses. The DABC got money for an online ordering system for consumers and it will soon change its name to the “Department of Alcoholic Beverage Services” (or “DABS”).

A separate bill to ease into “Wine of the Month” clubs passed, but you still have to have it delivered to the DABC (and pay the legally-mandated cost plus 88% markup). It also expands special ordering of wine. A bill for beer delivery went nowhere. Neither did a bill requiring bars and restaurants to come up with glass recycling programs.

Air quality - 

Senate Minority Whip Luz Escamilla successfully passed a bill to increase air quality monitoring, including around the inland port. House Majority Leader Mike Schultz pushed through a bill requiring railroad companies to start switching to clean-energy burning freight switchers, then pulled it when Union Pacific agreed to work with lawmakers on it.

There are still some incentives to purchase electric vehicles, but owners will soon have to start paying for the roads they drive on. The legislature approved a penny a mile “road user fee” for them (with a $180 cap) to help offset declines in the gas tax which helps pay for road repairs.

A bill to block HOAs from prohibiting electric vehicle charging stations from being installed failed in the House on a close vote. Rep. Jeff Stenquist’s bill to offer help for lower-income people to purchase fuel-efficient vehicles failed on a tie vote in a House committee.

Sen. Kirk Cullimore passed a bill to expand grants and incentives for people to get help with cleaner energy needs and energy efficiency in their homes.

Inland Port - 

A major bill by House Majority Leader Mike Shultz re-works the port authority board stripped Salt Lake City of its voting power, but also gave them a huge chunk of the tax money from the port’s impact. Environmental groups still hated the bill, but Mayor Erin Mendenhall gave her support (while still holding out for a Utah Supreme Court ruling on the issue).

Tech - 

Sen. Chris Wilson successfully passed a bill that lays the ground to expand broadband internet access, particularly in rural areas of the state.

Sen. Kirk Cullimore ran a bill on consumer data privacy, allowing consumers the ability to opt out and delete certain data maintained by businesses, mirroring other states’ consumer privacy laws.

A bill stalled that would have allowed law enforcement to have more access to genealogical DNA databases had opposition from, which warned it could lead to police “phishing expeditions” with millions of people’s DNA info.

A bill cracking down on telephone solicitors also passed the legislature. Lawmakers also passed a bill making it a criminal offense to use a drone in the commission of another crime.

Rep. Clare Collard passed a bill enhancing the crime of counterfeit intimate images.

Online dating apps and sites must post safety warnings about sexual assault and scams if they don’t do background checks on people who sign up looking for love. The bill cleared the House but didn’t get considered in the final hours of the session.

Sen. Mike Kennedy successfully passed a bill on “genetic privacy,” blocking employers and insurers from requesting blood samples for genetic testing.

A bill to create a cybersecurity commission passed the legislature, designed to ensure government systems are protected against hacking. Lawmakers will also create a commission to ensure the electric grid doesn’t go down.

Education - 

Education bills were a big thing this year. Lawmakers did increase funding for schools, per-pupil spending and expanding paid professional hours for teachers. A bill also passed offering incentives for teachers in high-poverty schools.

School fees were going to be eliminated (with an exception for extra-curricular activities) under a bill proposed by Rep. Adam Robertson. He told FOX 13 News on the last night of the session that the bill faced too much opposition as it moved forward so it would not pass this year. He plans to bring it back in the 2023 session.

The “Hope Scholarship” bill (aka the voucher bill) failed after a big debate in the House on a 53-22 vote . Governor Spencer Cox said he would veto the bill because he worried it drained money from public education.

A bill requiring school districts to come up with anti-bullying and harassment plans and track demographic data of kids who are bullied passed the legislature. It was run in the aftermath of the tragic death of Izzy Tichenor, a bullied student who died by suicide.

Most of the session, teachers unions and other education groups spent their time fighting off “curriculum transparency” bills that were unveiled throughout the session. Some went so far as to offer parents an avenue to sue if they didn’t like what was taught in a classroom, but none really advanced.

A bill that emerged late in the session by Sen. Kirk Cullimore and Rep. Sandra Hollins creates curriculum in Utah to teach the contributions of minority communities to state history. It had broad support across the legislature.

A bill to allow Native American students to wear tribal regalia with their high school graduation cap and gown passed.

Rep. Ken Ivory’s bill on “sensitive materials” that creates a more uniform policy on books that may be deemed pornographic and unfit for school libraries passed, over the objections of some education groups.

Sexual assault and sexual violence prevention were proposed to be taught in Utah’s sex education curriculum under a bipartisan bill passed by Rep. Carol Spackman Moss and Sen. Kirk Cullimore. It made it through the House, but failed to pass in the Senate.

Rep. Suzanne Harrison passed a bill urging school districts to hire more school nurses, bringing down the ratio from one nurse per 5,000 students to one nurse per 2,000.

Child care services got a boost from Rep. Susan Pulsipher’s bill to increase funding, accessibility and the number of providers in the state.

The Student Early Intervention Warning System went from a pilot program to a permanent one. Lawmakers passed “all-day kindergarten” expanding it. School districts must come up with plans to prevent students from dropping out or getting them to return if they do.

Rep. Karen Peterson passed a bill to have the Utah State Board of Education come up with an online school performance comparison tool.

Charter schools must consider a foster child in the same household as a current student for admission and can give preference to siblings and those who withdrew in COVID-19. A bill expanding a special needs scholarship program passed, extending the invitation to a child’s siblings.

School districts will evaluate how many sports they offer to girls to ensure parity under a bill passed by Rep. Kera Birkeland.

School districts, cities and youth sports leagues were put on notice to be more accommodating to students’ religious freedom when it comes to athletic uniforms. Rep. Candice Pierucci passed a resolution calling for them to allow students to modify uniforms when it comes to modesty and religious beliefs.

Health care - 

Period products will be put in every Utah school and available for free under a bill passed by Rep. Karianne Lisonbee. Supporters argue it will help keep students in school when they can’t afford menstruation products and funding was secured through a private-public partnership.

House Minority Leader Brian King passed a bill expanding public employer health care coverage for mental health and substance abuse treatment. First responders and their families will have more access to mental health care under another bill the legislature approved.

Contraception medication (which is used for more than just birth control) will continue to be offered to people incarcerated under a bill passed by Rep. Jennifer Dailey-Provost. She also passed a bill creating an ombudsman program in the state to investigate complaints and promote rights for people with disabilities.

Rep. Phil Lyman passed a bill to allow physician assistants and nurse practitioners to civilly commit someone in cases of mental health crisis. Accupuncturists now have some liability immunity under a bill passed.

Economy - 

Senate Majority Whip Ann Millner passed a big bill offering incentives to manufacturing companies to set up in Utah, reducing the need for overseas goods. Money will be offered through the Governor’s Office of Economic Opportunity.

Senate Minority Whip Luz Escamilla passed a bill creating a council at Utah State University to address statewide food insecurity, which surged in the COVID-19 pandemic.

A bill to block businesses from using “911” in their name, to avoid confusion with actual emergency services, passed the legislature under a bill by Senate Minority Leader Karen Mayne.

More tax incentives were shifted to rural Utah under a bill passed in the legislature. There were also incentives offered for companies seeking to relocate to rural areas, which still continue to perform less economically than the Wasatch Front.

Rural areas could see more benefits from “transient room taxes” collected from hotels under bills the legislature passed.

After a lot of debate, lawmakers approved a bill offering incentives for film productions in rural Utah. The actor Kevin Costner had pushed for it, promising to film more movies here.

Olympics - 

Resolutions were run commemorating the anniversary of the 2002 Winter Olympics and stating our willingness to host another Olympic games in Utah.

Law, crime and punishment - 

A bill that seemed to have momentum going into the 2022 session — repealing the death penalty in Utah and replacing it with a 45-to-life sentence — failed to pass a House committee after a heated debate.

Lawmakers approved a bill creating a “missing child identification program” allowing parents to collect kits with DNA and fingerprint samples of their children, should the worst happen.

There will be timelines for completing use of force investigations into police conduct, and police have new deadlines for releasing body camera video.

If local prosecutors don’t bring charges in a case, the Utah Attorney General’s Office can intervene and launch its own prosecution.

Pets can be added to stalking and protective orders under a bill passed by lawmakers.

Rep. Matthew Gwynn passed a major bill that reins in “no-knock” search warrants. It pushes them to be done in the daytime, bans them for misdemeanors and requires police to clearly identify themselves.

“John School” can be offered for people arrested for soliciting a prostitute under a bill that passed this year. Traffic tickets could also have more deferred prosecutions.

The term “illegitimate” when talking about children will be dropped in policy and code.

Prosecutors must give notice to a crime victim or their family if a plea deal is offered to a criminal defendant.

Juveniles who are convicted of crimes and sentenced to prison will remain in juvenile detention until 25. Children who are interviewed as part of welfare investigations will have more support under a new law passed this year. Police also cannot lie to juveniles being interrogated under a law passed by Rep. Ryan Wilcox.

A major bill by Rep. Lowry Snow requires juveniles to be repeatedly advised of their rights when arrested and in the court system, offering bail in some circumstances and addressing restitution and how long the courts have oversight of children who complete their sentences.

Lawmakers made it a little easier for people who have served their prison time to find better employment, removing some barriers for employers when making hiring decisions.

More regulations were put on “troubled teen” facilities under a bill passed by Sen. Mike McKell.

Environment - 

A major bill on outdoor recreation infrastructure (with a lot of money attached) passed the legislature. Rep. Casey Snider’s bill is designed to help provide more resources as more people are taking advantage of Utah’s spectacular outdoors, sometimes overwhelming them.

The state will be able to close certain areas to target shooting in extreme wildfire risk.

People who want to drive off-highway vehicles must take a safety course under a bill passed by Rep. Carl Albrecht. Hunters and off-highway vehicle users will also be required to learn about closing agriculture gates under a bill passed by Rep. Scott Chew. A bill about food truck licensing turned into a battle over ATVs and OHVs in the Moab area. Grand County and Moab have noise ordinances on the outdoor vehicles, but the bill blocks enforcement of that ordinance tied to rental businesses. It was amended to not overturn Moab’s overall noise ordinance.

Cities are encouraged to create “multi-use” trails after a bill on electric bicycles on trails was significantly watered down.

Hunters can donate wild game meat to local food pantries, provided it meets certain quality control criteria.

Bridal Veil Falls will become an official state monument under a resolution that passed the legislature.

Resolutions - 

A resolution is typically a non-binding statement by the legislature about a particular topic. Some do have the force of law (like the one that lifted the mask mandates). This year, the legislature passed one condemning Venezuela’s government; encouraging zero-emission rail; creating an interlocal agreement for the Jordan River Commission; honored primary care health workers; the protection of archaeological sites; condemning antisemitism.