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Weirdest. Session. Ever. Here’s what the 2021 Utah legislature did to your life.

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Posted at 11:08 PM, Mar 05, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-06 20:48:08-05

SALT LAKE CITY — It was the weirdest session ever.

The Utah State Capitol wasn’t bursting with crowds like previous years. School buses filled with children didn’t pack the Capitol complex like previous years. Handshakes are still banned and masks and physical distancing were mandated. Advocates and lobbyists pivoted to Zoom meetings to push for bills and funding. Protesters had to stay outside.

With the COVID-19 pandemic still going on and the threat of violent protests, the public was banned from the Capitol building the first week of the 2021 session. When that restriction was lifted, people still stayed away and followed along online.

The ability for a virtual public process will likely continue post-pandemic, with House and Senate leaders reporting huge turnout with people commenting on bills in their pajamas at home.

Still, your lawmakers got quite a bit done. They passed a $23.5 billion budget. There were 1,216 bills requested. Of those, 767 were numbered and 502 passed that may become laws. Those bills are now headed to Governor Spencer Cox’s desk for his signature or veto.

Post-legislative session interview with Gov. Cox

Here’s your annual guide to some of the things the Utah State Legislature did to your life. (A caveat: This is not an exhaustive list of all the bills the legislature considered.)

COVID-19 -

Much of the 2021 legislature was reacting to the events of 2020, and lawmakers had feelings about how the COVID-19 pandemic was handled.

After a lot of negotiation between House and Senate leaders and Governor Spencer Cox’s office, lawmakers passed a bill to rein in his powers during a state of emergency. It also sets limits on public health orders. Senate Majority Leader Evan Vickers’ bill allows the legislature to intervene after 30 days, canceling the orders if they want to. Critics, including the Salt Lake County mayor, worry it inserts politics into public health. The House rejected attempts to modify the bill to lift the statewide mask mandate.

Rep. Paul Ray pushed a bill he called the “endgame,” that would lift all COVID-19 health restrictions once Utah hit 1.6 million vaccine doses. The bill became the subject of some intense negotiations between Gov. Cox’s office and the Utah Department of Health. Senate leadership expressed concerns, but then approved the bill and even introduced an amendment to lift the statewide mask mandate on April 10. The governor agreed to it and told FOX 13 he will sign it into law.

COVID-19 "endgame" bill among those discussed on final night of Utah legislative session

A bill that would have prohibited private employers from mandating vaccines (with an exception for health care) never made it out of the Senate. But the legislature did approve a bill that says the government can’t mandate the COVID-19 vaccine, as well as one that said higher education can’t require proof of vaccination to allow a student to enroll.

A bipartisan pair of bills went after the governor’s spending habits in an emergency. FOX 13 first reported last year on Gov. Herbert use of “emergency procurement” to spend $108 million in no-bid contracts for personal protective equipment, tech contracts and other needs. Rep. Candice Pierucci passed a bill to set a 30-day cap on those no-bid contracts.

Lawmakers also passed a resolution thanking all health care workers for their efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sen. Kirk Cullimore passed a bill that allowed government documents to be printed in languages other than English. Voters in 2000 passed a ballot initiative to make English the official language. However, it impacted COVID-19 information reaching minority communities. The governor suspended that part of the law, and Sen. Cullimore’s bill tweaked it to make English not the only language. The legislature did not consider a bill by House Minority Whip Karen Kwan that would have gotten rid of the official language provision.

Following anti-masker protests outside the private homes of state epidemiologist Dr. Angela Dunn, former health department director Dr. Joseph Miner, former Governor Gary Herbert and current Governor Spencer Cox, a bill passed that criminalizes targeted residential picketing and posting their addresses to encourage harassment. The bill also includes provisions against doxxing.

Cannabis -

More tweaks were made to the state’s medical cannabis system. House and Senate leaders personally sponsored the bills, ensuring their passage. Senate Minority Whip Luz Escamilla’s bill solved a problem that FOX 13 reported on in 2019 — qualifying patients struggling to find doctors willing to actually recommend cannabis. The bill lets more medical providers recommend cannabis for up to 15 patients without having to undergo special state certifications.

Senate Majority Leader Evan Vickers had more changes to the program, including adding another medical cannabis “pharmacy” in an under-served area, specifically trying to get it in rural Utah. He also gave an extension to existing dispensaries to get off the ground and allowed more time for qualifying patients to purchase out-of-state and bring it back into Utah.

Technology -

Utah passed a first-of-its-kind bill creating a “regulatory sandbox.” It allows startups to apply through the Governor’s Office of Economic Development to participate in a program that removes some regulatory roadblocks that might impact their business.

Data privacy was a big issue in the legislature. Following the scandal surrounding the artificial intelligence and data collection company Banjo, House Majority Leader Francis Gibson advanced a bill that creates a “privacy office” in state government. It looks at government and contractor use of people’s personal information and pushes changes in laws to guard privacy.

Sen. Daniel Thatcher passed a bill that sets some guardrails around the Utah Department of Public Safety’s use of facial recognition technology. Civil liberties groups have complained it does not go far enough.

A bill that criminalizes “catfishing” has passed the legislature. Rep. Karianne Lisonbee’s legislation makes online impersonation a crime if it’s for purposes of harassment and fraud. Rep. Walt Brooks passed a bill allowing companies to have some immunity from data breach lawsuits, so long as they ensure their data security is up to date.

Police are required to get a warrant for electronic communications, under a bill passed by Rep. Craig Hall and Sen. Todd Weiler.

Rep. Jennifer Dailey-Provost has been pushing for years to expand statewide internet access, especially for under-served areas. The bill, which creates an office in government to identify those places and get private/public partnerships going to expand broadband, failed in a close 13-15 vote in the Senate.

Lawmakers approved a bill that could get Utah sued over social media terms of service. Sen. Mike McKell’s bill requires social media companies to clearly state their terms of service and notify users when their post is taken down. It also allows Utahns to sue if they don’t abide by it. During debate, it was disclosed that legislative legal counsel raised concerns it violates the First Amendment.

Rep. Susan Pulsipher’s bill to require every phone, tablet and computer sold in Utah to come with pre-installed porn blocking software passed the legislature. The bill does have a delayed effective date, only taking effect if five other states pass similar bills.

The legislature passed a first of its kind bill on genetic privacy. It requires companies to notify consumers who give their DNA to find out their ancestry how that data is used and who it’s shared with.

LGBTQ issues -

LGBTQ rights groups fought a pair of bills on transgender youth and Gov. Cox threatened to veto them. Rep. Kera Birkeland’s bill banning transgender girls from participating in K-12 sports had strong support in the House of Representatives. But when it got to the Senate, Sen. Jake Anderegg bluntly told her: “I hate your bill.” A Senate committee adjourned without taking action, letting the bill die for this year.

Another bill blocking transgender youth from hormone treatment didn’t get that far. It was sent back to the House Rules Committee, another procedural move to reject a bill without a vote.

The legislature did give $660,000 to the LGBTQ advocacy group Encircle.

Elections -

Lawmakers passed a bill to do more to ensure dead voters are removed from the rolls. They also passed new residency requirements for political candidates.

After the 2020 gubernatorial race saw a number of people join the GOP (in some cases switching parties) to vote in the primary election, Rep. Jordan Teuscher passed a bill to limit when people can do that, arguing it allows people to game the system. The cutoff would be three months before the primary election.

Rep. Craig Hall passed a bill that has county clerks report to the public how many more ballots they have to count when waiting for election results that can take weeks. Rep. Dan Johnson passed a bill that creates a way for you to get text or email alerts on the status of your ballot.

Judicial performance evaluations will get a little more notice on ballots with a reference to a website where you can look up more information on judges up for a retention election. But lawmakers rejected a bill to require impartial statements about the effect of an initiative or referenda.

Rep. Norm Thurston passed a bill that requires a warning label on ballot initiative and citizen referendum signature packets. It warns that it’s a misdemeanor crime to sign for someone else, or sign if you’re not a registered voter. Rep. Jordan Teuscher passed a bill requiring paid signature-gatherers to wear special badges and to instruct people they can change their mind to remove signatures (something some Senators warned could get Utah sued over).

A bill to allow 16 and 17 year-olds to vote in local school board elections failed to pass.

Following Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes signing the state on to lawsuits challenging the results of the 2020 presidential election, House Minority Leader Brian King and Rep. Andrew Stoddard ran bills to limit the attorney general’s powers and investigate him. Neither bill went anywhere in the GOP supermajority legislature.

Lawmakers introduced bills to expand ranked choice voting in Utah, but they didn’t get very far this session, but a bill did pass to allow more cities to experiment with it.

Education -

This was arguably the biggest winner in the 2021 session. Lawmakers made a strategic decision to fund education needs early before other budget battles — giving schools $475 million in new money. It was part of a deal with education groups who backed a constitutional amendment to change how education is funded. Voters approved it last year.

Dixie State University will be undergoing a name change process. University leaders advanced a plan to change the name of the school, arguing the name “Dixie” with its ties to the Civil War Confederacy is hurting recruitment and retention. Following protests for and against the name change, lawmakers passed a compromise bill that begins a long public process about changing the name (and a slight chance that “Dixie” stays) with a new name submitted to the legislature by 2022.

Sen. Todd Weiler waded into controversy when he ran a bill targeting the Salt Lake City School District that could have yanked funding from them for being the only district online-only in COVID-19. After a lot of negotiating, the bill was rewritten to require in-person classroom instruction across the state at least four days a week, and expanding COVID-19 testing in schools.

On the last night of the session, the House budget chief introduced a bill to give $1,500 bonuses for teachers (and $1,000 for staffers) as a “thank you” for working during COVID-19. The bill stripped out a provision that would have denied it to Salt Lake City teachers who, until recently, were “online only.”

A bill that would have required more discussion of consent and sexual violence in sex ed curriculum failed to pass the House.

Colleges can’t take action against certain forms of speech under a bill passed by Rep. Jordan Teuscher. The bill also requires “free expression” policies to be published in a student handbook.

Senate Majority Whip Ann Milner passed a bill that expanded opportunities for children of military members to enroll in Utah’s public schools.

Students can take a “mental health day” as an excused absence under a bill passed by Rep. Mike Winder. It doesn’t get students out of work, but recognizes some days kids just need a break. Another bill says doctor’s notes are no longer required for absences. Rep. Adam Robertson argued it was expensive for families.

A resolution passed encouraging more education in Utah schools about the Holocaust. Meanwhile, lawmakers rejected a resolution to encourage schools to retire mascots that are offensive to Native Americans.

Veterans can now audit classes to take for free under a bil passed by Sen. Todd Weiler.

Lawmakers passed a bill allowing incarcerated youth to be able to take college courses.

Rep. Candice Pierucci ran a resolution to call on Utah schools to close Confucius Institutes due to their close ties to China. Rep. Brady Brammer had a resolution condemning the killings of the Uyghur ethnic group. But the Senate refused to consider them. The Senate President signaled he was uneasy with them (as Utah does have some trade ties to China). When it became clear they weren’t going to consider the resolutions, Rep. Pierucci ran a specific House-only resolution.

Rep. Rex Shipp proposed a bill to teach firearm safety courses in schools. The bill did not advance in the legislature.

Lawmakers granted a moratorium on certain truancy offenses until 2022. They also agreed to back off of the letter grades assigned to a school’s performance for a year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Criminal Justice and Courts -

Dozens of bills were introduced in the 2021 legislative session that dealt with police reforms in response to protests last year against racism and police brutality. The majority of them added more training, reporting and data collection about use of force.

Sen. Jani Iwamoto passed a bill to let police agencies talk with one another about hiring officers to weed out problematic candidates who are leaving one agency under a cloud. It also expands the ability for officers to be investigated by Peace Officer Standards & Training.

A bill requiring police K-9 handlers to be certified every year passed. It also requires police agencies to have K-9 policies in place.

Rep. Craig Hall had a bill that restricted “no knock” warrants that failed to pass out of a House committee.

A bill that tells police officers “do not engage” with force when they find someone in crisis, but not a danger to others. Rep. Jennifer Dailey-Provost’s bill had the support of both police officers unions and Black Lives Matter Utah.

Police officers will undergo more training on de-escalation and mental health issues under a bill passed by Rep. Angela Romero and Senate Minority Whip Luz Escamilla. Another bill requires more reporting when an officer points a weapon at someone.

Rep. Sandra Hollins introduced a resolution to declare racism a “moral and public health crisis,” but decided to not pursue it toward the end of the session. Still, she said it sparked valuable conversations with her House colleagues about racism in Utah.

Rep. Angela Romero proposed a bill that would ban “DIY rape kits.” The tests, sold over the internet, are inadmissible in court and give false hope to rape victims. The bill stalled in a Senate committee.

A bill to require affirmative consent in sexual activity also failed to pass the legislature. Advocates argued it filled a gap in Utah law. Rep. Romero said she will bring the bill back next year.

Brigham Young University’s police force will fall under more state oversight under a bill pushed by Sen. Curt Bramble. It follows a battle between Utah’s Department of Public Safety and school owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Juveniles have a right to have a lawyer or an adult present when they are being interrogated under a bill passed by Rep. Marsha Judkins. School resource officers will get more training about the legal parameters of searching and questioning students under a bill passed by Rep. Sandra Hollins.

A bill that blocks bail for people arrested for rioting until they appear before a judge passed. But another one that increased penalties and offer protections from drivers who hit someone in a riot while "the injury or death occurs while the motor vehicle operator is fleeing" (that critics claimed was a license to hurt someone) failed to get through the legislature.

Lawmakers also passed a bill that revises who gets charged with gang enhancements. It happened after protesters who put red paint all over the Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Office found themselves charged with first-degree felony gang enhancements. Now, the bill raises the number of people considered in a gang to three or more and only in concert with certain crimes.

Rep. Christine Watkins passed a bill that prohibits DCFS from doing hair or fingernail drug testing in child abuse and dependency proceedings. She argued that it created a “gotcha” for people in recovery for something that may have happened months ago and was generally unreliable.

A bill that prohibits the release of jail booking mugshots has passed the legislature. Rep. Keven Stratton argued it was a “virtual scarlet letter” in the internet age. News media organizations (including FOX 13) lobbied against the bill, arguing it was anti-transparency and possibly unconstitutional. The bill passed both chambers unanimously.

A bill that blocks parole for convicted killers who don’t cooperate with authorities in locating their victims’ bodies passed.

Following the murder of University of Utah student Lauren McCluskey, lawmakers passed a number of bills, including a $13.5 million settlement with her family. Another bill modifies Utah’s revenge porn law to allow for action to be taken to prosecute someone for distributing intimate images, even if the victim is deceased (the law previously said victims have to prove emotional distress). Colleges must also come up with campus safety plans.

If your dog bits another dog in your yard, you may not be liable under a bill passed by Rep. Steve Christiansen.

More people can become police officers under a bill passed by Senate Minority Leader Karen Mayne. She proposed allowing permanent lawful residents to apply to be officers and dispatchers.

Lawmakers fixed a loophole that allowed the teens convicted in the death of West Valley City Police Officer Cody Brotherson to be released from custody after they were kicked out of juvenile detention for committing assaults, and sent to jail for adults where they were released. The new law would now have juveniles in those circumstances remain in custody until age 21.

Utah State Capitol security will be increased, including more protection for lawmakers and executive branch members under a bill that passed.

The penalties for human smuggling have been increased.

The Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls Task Force got extended, dealing with a problem of under-reported and under-investigated crimes involving Native Americans.

“Porch pirates” can face charges under a bill that adds UPS, Amazon and other private delivery services to the crime of mail theft.

Lawmakers passed a bill that allows inmates in Utah jails and prisons to have access to contraceptives for medical purposes.

The Utah State Legislature unwound a big bill they passed last year on bail reform. The original reforms re-worked the cash bail system, which critics say keeps poor people in jail longer while rich people walk out the door. The system was based on risk factors. But many sheriffs argued it was confusing, imperfect, and they didn’t have the resources to implement it. Lawmakers passed the bill to walk back their reforms but promised to keep negotiating it.

Alcohol policy -

Lawmakers passed a large-scale bill that addressed some issues with licensing and brewing, but did not increase the number of bar licenses. Initially, Rep. Timothy Hawkes proposed to allow “click and collect,” where people could order online from a DABC store and go pick it up. But it was removed to be considered another year.

Lawmakers also approved a bill to give the DABC more control over its budget. The agency makes over $500 million a year for the state, but still has to ask the legislature to give employees who make $10 an hour a raise. The bill lets the DABC take care of it internally.

Lawmakers passed “Sarah’s Law,” which gives a judge the ability to hold a DUI suspect in jail longer if it’s necessary. It follows advocacy by Sarah Frei, who was among four students hit by a suspected drunk driver in Logan Canyon last year. The suspect posted bail while she was still in the emergency room.

A bill that increases penalties for “extreme DUI” (a blood alcohol level of .16 or greater) passed the legislature. The 24/7 Sobriety program got made permanent.

Guns -

One of the most controversial bills passed early in the session. The so-called “constitutional carry” or “permitless carry” bill allows people over 21 to conceal a firearm without a permit. Governor Spencer Cox signed it into law over the objections of gun control advocates.

A bill that would have had a firearm use and safety class taught in Utah schools failed to pass.

The legislature approved a bill that notifies someone whether they are prohibited from possessing a firearm as a result of a criminal conviction for certain offenses.

Health care -

A bill that regulates the so-called “troubled teen” industry had star power behind it when celebrity Paris Hilton showed up to support Sen. Mike McKell’s bill. She gave powerful testimony about the abuses she suffered at the Provo Canyon School in the 1990s. It helped push the bill through the legislature.

Medicaid saw some expansion in the Utah State Legislature, with lawmakers applying for more waivers.

Senate Minority Whip Luz Escamilla passed a big bill that requires insurance to cover telehealth mental health visits. She argued the bill has become increasingly necessary in the COVID-19 pandemic as people need therapy and it provides an online option.

Rep. Steve Eliason passed a bill to expand mental health treatment options for children. Youth suicide prevention efforts will also be expanded in the state, including better data tracking of the problem. House Minority Leader Brian King passed a bill that also increases youth suicide prevention and mental health awareness work in elementary and middle schools.

Certain prescription drugs can be recycled through qualifying pharmacies, going to people in need. Rep. Suzanne Harrison passed a bill to expand access to epinephrine auto-injectors.

Utah will soon have the number 988 for mental health crisis needs. After years of pushing for it, Sen. Daniel Thatcher’s bill finally passed the legislature. It coordinates with 911 to help people who are in crisis and rapidly deliver resources.

A bill to expand the Children’s Health Insurance Program passed, expanding Medicaid eligibility and launching a campaign to get uninsured children signed up. The bill was championed by advocates for children and low-income Utahns.

Lawmakers passed a bill that allows vape shops to move into strip malls near residential areas (if they’re moving away from schools). It also requires employees to be over 21. Rep. Paul Ray said on the House floor he’d prefer to put vape shops out of business entirely, but this was a compromise.

Taxes and Economy -

Despite the economic uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic, Utah lawmakers found ways to pass roughly $100 million in targeted tax cuts. The cuts didn’t face opposition like lawmakers saw in 2019 when they pushed through a major tax package that led to a citizen referendum in 2020. This year, lawmakers restored the dependent exemption for families on state taxes, as well as removed state income taxes on Social Security and military retirement pay. But legislative leaders would not consider an income tax rate cut this year. Nor would lawmakers consider Rep. Suzanne Harrison’s last-minute bill to remove the state tax on PPP loans.

A bill passed that overhauls how Utah’s economic development machine works. Rep. Timothy Hawkes’ bill changes some of the structure, but also includes a review of all the perks and incentives the state hands out.

The legislature gave raises to DABC employees, corrections officers and DCFS caseworkers. It follows reports that some DCFS employees are working multiple jobs and, in some cases, on welfare. They also restored money to DCFS that was cut during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The amount of tax incentives for motion pictures and TV productions in Utah has been increased.

Agriculture and Environment -

House Speaker Brad Wilson and Senate President J. Stuart Adams personally ran a bill that stakes a claim to precious Colorado River water in Utah. It creates a new authority that will be involved in negotiations for the Colorado River Compact with six other states. Water will be an increasingly big issue as Utah grows.

Lawmakers also passed a $75 million spending bill for the inland port project. It would help facilitate a “hub and spoke” model that allows rural communities to get in on the massive project.

Lawmakers passed a bill to create two new state parks: Utahraptor State Park outside Moab and Lost Creek State Park at Lost Creek Reservoir.

A bill on the Bears Ears National Monument raised eyebrows. Not because of what it did, but because of who sponsored it. Rep. Doug Owens and Rep. Phil Lyman could not be any more different in politics and philosophy about the monument. Still, they worked together to create a commission for a visitor’s center at the monument. Both insisted that all tribes with a stake in Bears Ears participate in the creation of it.

Lawmakers passed a resolution to have presidential executive orders reviewed and Utah’s attorney general could potentially sue over them. It covers a lot, but lawmakers pointed to federal land issues as a reason for it.

Following a failed ballot initiative to ban a large-scale hog farm in Millard County, lawmakers passed a bill requiring counties to come up with some zoning locations where such agricultural operations could be placed.

Lawmakers passed a bill that begins the process of changing the names of landmarks deemed offensive to Native Americans. Senator Jani Iwamoto’s bill could potentially change the names of dozens of places across Utah.

Killing a livestock dog is now a crime under a bill passed by Rep. Casey Snider.

The state has to come up with an invasive aquatic species plan, which would deal with things like toxic algae or quagga mussels. They’ll report back with ideas and how much it will cost.

Secondary water metering will start to be phased in, billing you for what you use to water your lawn.

Rep. Ashlee Matthews passed a bill to offer grants to get more “bee friendly” pollinator plants in the Beehive state in an effort to save declining bee populations.

Chickens that lay eggs in Utah for consumers will be cage-free by 2025 under a bill passed by Sen. Scott Sandall.

Family matters -

Biological fathers will have to pay 50% of the pregnancy-related health care costs for a mother, under Rep. Brady Brammer’s bill that passed the legislature.

A bill that started out assigning custody 50/50 (dubbed a “father’s rights” bill) was watered down to leave things pretty much as they were — up to the discretion of judges.

If you want to get married by a member of the Utah State Legislature, that’s legal now.

Child care options got a boost with lawmakers approving subsidies and grants, particularly for low-income families. House Democrats called it a vitally important bill for Utah families.

In last minute drama, a bill to create a food insecurity task force failed to pass the House on a 36-36 vote. Then, Senate Minority Whip Luz Escamilla and Rep. Melissa Ballard resurrected it and passed it.

Homelessness and Housing -

Lawmakers spent $50 million for homelessness and affordable housing needs, a significant boost in funding. Rep. Steve Eliason also passed a bill to create a statewide office dealing with homelessness issues.

The legislature passed Rep. Ray Ward’s bill to expand “mother-in-law” apartments across the state. He proposed changes to regulations, which would allow more people to rent out basements and “accessory dwelling units,” as a solution to Utah’s affordable housing problems. Another bill allows cities to utilize property for affordable housing needs easier.

Condo associations can no longer prohibit homeowners from installing security cameras on the entrances to their dwelling. Lawmakers also passed a bill to ensure HOA rules don’t discriminate against people.

Rep. Elizabeth Weight passed a bill that allows people to refer homeless youth to temporary or permanent housing, removing a barrier to children getting services.

Air quality -

Sen. Dan McCay passed a bill to have every state government employee classified based on whether their job allows them to telework. He ran it as an air quality bill, but COVID-19 showed that the teleworking experiment has been working. Sen. McCay has said he would like to see private industry follow the state’s example.

The House killed a bill that would have hiked the fees on electric and hybrid vehicles. Supports of the legislation have argued that gas taxes, which are declining, pay for roads. But electric and hybrid vehicles don’t pay that same tax. But critics say it removes an incentive for people to purchase cleaner cars for better air.

Sen. Curt Bramble and Rep. Suzanne Harrison passed a bill to make permanent a program to do emissions inspections for diesel powered vehicles.

State facilities will evaluate their utility costs and use for efficiency. The legislature also funded more for air quality monitoring stations and efforts to replace polluting machinery across the state.

Transportation -

House Republican leaders introduced a stunning $2.2 billion infrastructure bill that funded road, rail and state parks improvements. Senate GOP leaders were nervous about that much spending, including a $1.4 billion bonding request. After negotiations, they watered it down to a $1.2 billion bill that funds things like double-tracking Frontrunner to make trains go faster and statewide road improvements. Outdoor recreation was covered in the main budget bill.

Lawmakers are setting the stage for a future of flying cars. A bill that has UDOT start looking at air mobility.

A resolution that would have pushed for statewide passenger rail failed in a Senate committee. Senate Minority Whip Luz Escamilla said she will try again next year.

A bill that increases fines for repeat violators with unsecured loads in their trucks and cars passed the legislature.

Driver licenses can’t be suspended for failure to pay certain fines under a bill passed by Rep. Cory Maloy. Learner’s permits will go up to 18 months under a bill passed by Rep. Melissa Ballard.

Rep. Calvin Musselman passed a bill requiring drivers to use their turn signal while merging from a lane that’s ending.

Postcards reminding you to register your vehicles are coming back. The Utah State Tax Commission eliminated them, arguing they weren’t terribly effective and pushing people to use emails. But the agency also confirmed a drop in registration renewals. Rep. Scott Chew, who found a lot of constituent support for his bill, passed legislation to reinstate them.

The legislature passed a bill to let cyclists yield at red light intersections in favorable traffic conditions finally passed after repeated pushes by Rep. Carol Spackman Moss.

Other things that happened -

Like others before her, Sen. Kathleen Riebe ran the Equal Rights Amendment. It never went anywhere, despite support from Lt. Governor Deidre Henderson. Sen. Riebe said she’ll keep bringing it back as long as it takes.

Utah now has a state stone (in addition to a state rock, state mineral and even an official state astronomical symbol): honeycomb calcite.

After years of trying, Utah could soon get a new state flag. Sen. Dan McCay and Rep. Stephen Handy’s bill to create a commission to design a new one (critics call the current flag a “state seal on a blue bedsheet”) finally passed the legislature.

Government agency mergers are going to be a big thing in 2021 and 2022. With the Cox administration moving in, lawmakers passed bills to merge some big agencies including Utah’s Department of Health with the Department of Human Services; creating “DOGO” which combines human resources, administration and other divisions into the Department of Government Operations; and merging some divisions into Natural Resources.

Senate Minority Leader Karen Mayne passed a bill that removes the requirement to have certain public notices published in a newspaper.

Rep. Cheryl Acton passed a resolution urging Utah to do more to educate people about littering (and not doing that).

You will be able to vote on a proposed constitutional amendment that allows lawmakers to spend more and cut more in special sessions.

The legislature passed a bill that prohibits a government entity from contracting with a company that boycotts Israel.

Resolutions -

Resolutions are not legally binding, but are statements from the legislature that can often signal intent for things like grants or teeing up lawsuits. Here’s a few the legislature passed this year:

  • Recognizing the first Utah State Legislature
  • Commemorating the new Salt Lake City International Airport
  • Urging a new land value model when it comes to Payment in Lieu of Taxes
  • Calling for better policies regarding water releases from Flaming Gorge
  • Honoring the life of Allyson Gamble, the head of the Capitol Preservation Board
  • Calling for Bridal Veil Falls to become a state park
  • Calling awareness to the problem of sexual assault in the military
  • A resolution recognizing the 100th anniversary of Utah’s Department of Agriculture & Food
  • Recognizing the legislative staff for their hard work
  • Recognizing Utah’s relationship with Western Governors University
  • Honoring Farmers Feeding Utah for their work
  • Thanking election workers for their efforts during the 2020 Election
  • Honoring former Utah Jazz coach Jerry Sloan
  • Calling out Shaq over his comments about Donovan Mitchell
In-Depth: 2021 legislative session wraps up