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Critical race theory, 2nd Amendment sanctuary back in Utah legislature — as resolutions

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Posted at 3:24 PM, May 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-18 20:43:08-04

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah State Legislature will take up a ban on discussion of critical race theory and declaring the state a "Second Amendment Sanctuary."

But they won't be bills. Instead, Republican lawmakers on Capitol Hill will push them in the special session as resolutions, which are statements by the legislature that are not legally binding.

The move came a day after Governor Spencer Cox declined to include them as bills (which have the force of law) in Wednesday's special session.

"They’re simply our positions," Senate President J. Stuart Adams, R-Layton, told FOX 13 late Tuesday. "And especially with critical race theory, we hope the school districts, school boards pays attention and they’re really the ones that ought to deal with the issue."

Gov. Cox's office referred FOX 13 to a letter he issued on Monday where he said the issues were worth discussing but he did not feel they merited consideration with the urgency of a special session. That left both issues to percolate until the 2022 legislative session in January.

But House and Senate Republican leaders apparently were not inclined to wait. After meeting in their closed-door caucuses on Tuesday, the topics were advanced as resolutions.

"Citizens across the state have expressed concerns to their Representatives about federal policies in these two areas that contradict the principles and values that a majority of Utahns hold. In our federalist system, it is our role and duty as a state to be a counterweight to the federal government and protect the rights and promote the interests of our citizens. We are determined to take action to benefit the people of Utah," House Speaker Brad Wilson, R-Kaysville, said in a statement Tuesday.

Because of the rules surrounding special sessions and what can be considered, the House and Senate will each run their own resolutions. The language in both will be identical.

"Critical race theory" is the idea that racism is systemically built into American society. It is not currently taught in Utah schools, and GOP lawmakers want to keep it that way. On Monday, Democrats on Capitol Hill applauded the governor's decision not to consider the topics.

In a statement, the House Minority Caucus pointed out that many of these same lawmakers were championing the Utah Compact on Racial Equity, Diversity and Inclusion.

"Now, Republican legislative leaders want to ban 'critical race theory' from schools — an action that ignores the wishes of the Governor and the majority of Utahns, ignores the reality of racism in American history and society, ignores the fact that it is not in any Utah public school curriculum, and ignores even the actual definition of critical race theory. This compounds confusion and moves Utah backwards," the Democratic lawmakers wrote.

"We also reject the urgency of considering a symbolic action on firearms. While we also sometimes disagree with the Federal government, the United States Constitution includes a Supremacy Clause that restrains our state from overstepping our bounds."

Both issues are likely to come back in bill form in the legislative session that starts in January. The Education Interim Committee voted to add a ban on critical race theory to its list of study items.