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Latest on the legislature: Real-time updates on 2023 Utah State Legislature

Utah Legislature Press Restrictions
Posted at 9:19 AM, Jan 17, 2023

SALT LAKE CITY — The 2023 Utah State Legislature is under way. Throughout the session, FOX 13 News political reporter Ben Winslow will provide real-time updates from the Utah State Capitol as both chambers of the state legislature create the road map that will determine the future of the Beehive State.

FRIDAY, MARCH 3

5:40 p.m.

The Unified Police Department will dissolve in 2025 under a bill that passed the legislature Friday. West Jordan Representative Jordan Teuscher <TUH-SHUR> has argued the agency isn’t benefitting many communities in the Salt Lake Valley. Sheriff Rosie Rivera agreed not to fight it. Communities instead can contract with the sheriff for policing services.

3:45 p.m.

Utah now has an official state mushroom. It’s the porcini. The legislature gave final approval to Price Representative Christine Watkins’ bill. It now goes the governor for his signature or veto.

9:45 a.m.

A big air quality bill has passed the legislature. The bill targets U.S. Magnesium, which a recent study blames for being a major contributor to air pollution along the Wasatch Front. A House committee watered down the bill… the Senate overrode that and added in regulatory oversight. Thursday night, a deal was struck and the bill passed out this morning.

THURSDAY, MARCH 2

5:45 p.m.

A bill that closes abortion clinics in Utah has passed the legislature. The bill would only allow abortions in cases of rape and incest to be performed at hospitals and medical clinics. It also prohibits any abortion after 18 weeks, even those in cases of rape and incest. Senate Democrats say it effectively bans abortion in the state, even as a lawsuit moves forward over the state’s near-total ban.

12:20 p.m.

Senate Bill 31, which will officially create the new flag, passed 18-to-9 and now heads to the desk of Gov. Spencer Cox, who has been supportive of the bill and updated flag. The Senate vote came moments after the House voted 40-to-35 in favor of the new design.

10:38 a.m.

A pair of bills cracking down on social media companies and their marketing to youth in Utah passed the legislature. They require age verification and parental consent for children to have a social media account. It also blocks companies from targeting youth in advertising or featuring them in search results. A House bill would block companies from engineering their apps to be addictive and allow for lawsuits over harms from social media.

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 1

3:30 p.m.

A pair of bills cracking down on social media companies and their marketing to youth in Utah are moving closer to passage. The House passed a bill today requiring age verification and parental consent for children to have a social media account. It also blocks companies from targeting youth in advertising or featuring them in search results. A House bill would block companies from engineering their apps to be addictive and allow for lawsuits over harms from social media. The bills are expected to pass and have the support of the governor.

2:30 p.m.

A bill to expand all-day kindergarten to every school district in Utah has passed the legislature. It’s a big bill for child advocates who say it will help kids get a start on education and help families overall. The bill now goes to the governor for his signature or veto.

10:45 a.m.

A big transportation bill passed the legislature. It works to create a statewide network of trails for Utahns to enjoy the great outdoors. But the bill also has a provision to regulate “vertiports.” Those are for delivery drones to be used in the state. The bill now goes to the governor for his signature or veto.

10:30 a.m.

After a tense debate in the House, lawmakers passed a big bill that expands Medicaid coverage for women. It expands postpartum care from 60 days to a year and also offers family planning services. The bill has the support of the governor and now goes to his desk for his signature/veto.

10:14 a.m.

The Senate today cast a unanimous vote for a big bill on affordable housing. It’s aimed at boosting supply of housing in Utah. It also offers tax credits and incentives for moderate-and-lower income housing. The bill now goes to the governor’s desk where he is expected to sign it.

10:00 a.m.

The Utah State Legislature has passed a bill to ban businesses and employers from requiring proof-of-vaccination. St. George Representative Walt Brooks’ bill is in response to COVID-19. It also bans employers from mandating employees get vaccines. The bill now goes to the governor’s desk for his signature or veto.

TUESDAY, FEB. 28

4:55 p.m.

A pair of bills dealing with the Great Salt Lake have passed. One bans watering lawns in northern Utah from October 1 to April 25. But it no longer demands conserved water be shepherded to the lake. Instead, it now asks water districts to do it. The bill now goes the Senate.

Another bill passed the legislature that studies property taxes tied to water. Right now, a lot of the water you use is covered by property taxes instead of the rates you pay. That ride may be over as Utah continues to grapple with drought.

4:15 p.m.

A bill to eliminate the state portion of the sales tax on food has been held in a Senate committee. That’s because it’s now been wrapped up into a larger bill with an income tax cut. The bill is part of a deal lawmakers are offering voters if they approve a constitutional amendment on the earmark for education in the income tax. The latest version of that bill allows the state to dip in to cover other costs if education gets more funding.

4 p.m.

A bill to require any ballot initiative that raises taxes to pass with a 60 percent threshold has failed to pass a Senate committee. Lawmakers voted 2-to-2 and under the rules, a tie vote fails. It’s unclear if this impacts a companion bill that’s a proposed constitutional amendment doing the same thing.

3:25 p.m.

A bill to bring back “Photo Cop” has narrowly passed the Senate. It utilizes radar that takes a picture of you and mails you a ticket in school and construction zones. On a 15-to-13 vote, Layton Sen. Jerry Stevenson’s bill made it through and now speeds off to the House of Representatives.

11:45 a.m.

A major bill on homelessness has cleared the House of Representatives. Sandy Rep. Steve Eliason is proposing to increase shelter capacity in extreme weather events. But to get funding, cities must enforce ordinances that prohibit camping. The bill passed on a 71-to-1 vote and now goes to the Senate. Lawmakers have set aside millions of dollars for homeless and housing initiatives.

11:31 a.m.

A bill that requires public education instruction to be consistent with “principles of inalienable rights, equal opportunity and individual merit” passed a divided House. Lawmakers voted 47-to-24 to support the bill. The bill says no race is superior to another. Critics say the bill micromanages teachers.

MONDAY, FEB. 27

7:35 p.m.

A bill blocking the disclosure of child homicide victim names without parental consent has passed the House unanimously. Herriman Rep. Candice Pierucci says she’s running it in response to a shooting at Hunter High where the victim’s family found out he died from a news report instead of police. The bill now goes to the Senate.

Governor Spencer Cox has signed a resolution passed by the legislature urging you not to idle to help Utah’s air quality. A resolution is typically a nonbinding statement by the legislature with no effect of law.

The Utah State Senate has passed a major alcohol policy bill. FOX 13 News reported several weeks ago on the measure that would keep some flavored beers on grocery and convenience store shelves. The bill also adds 20 new bar licenses and a handful of restaurant licenses. You will be able to take your drink from the bar area of a restaurant to your table, if you’re escorted by an employee. It also bans mini-bottle sales in the state. The bill now goes to the House for consideration.

Governor Cox is asking the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to expand an area for pollution regulation to include U.S. Magnesium on the shores of the Great Salt Lake.

4:45 p.m.

The Utah State Senate passed a major alcohol policy bill that would keep some flavored beers on grocery and convenience store shelves. The bill also adds 20 new bar licenses and a handful of restaurant licenses. You will be able to take your drink from the bar area of a restaurant to your table, if you’re escorted by an employee. It also bans mini-bottle sales in the state. The bill now goes to the House for consideration.

4:30 p.m.

The latest medical cannabis bill has passed the legislature. Senate Minority Leader Luz Escamilla is proposing some modest changes to the state program. PTSD is a qualifying condition to get cannabis. It also allows dispensaries to do some marketing. The bill goes to the governor’s desk for his signature or veto.

3:20 p.m.

The Senate voted 20-to-6 to pass a proposed constitutional amendment on the earmark for education on the income tax. Meanwhile, negotiations continue with education stakeholders on the specific language and funding for education. The latest version keeps the earmark, but lets the state dip into the income tax to fund other government needs. If it passes the legislature? You get to vote on it in 2024.

THURSDAY, FEB. 23

3:55 p.m.

The House of Representatives passed a bill to enact all-day kindergarten. It would require school districts to offer it with an option for a half-day. The bill got a 51-to-14 vote and now goes to the Senate.

2:15 p.m.

A bill that yanks books off school library shelves when a parent complains narrowly passed a House committee today. West Jordan Representative Ken Ivory’s bill triggers an investigation over accusations that the material might violate state law. It also has the state board of education review what a local school board decides to do with the book. The bill is being opposed by several groups who say it goes too far in determining what can be read and what’s considered “sensitive materials.” It passed on a 7-to-6 vote and now goes to the full House of Representatives.

TUESDAY, FEB. 21

4:46 p.m.

Governor Spencer Cox has signed a pair of bills on a future Winter Olympics. The bills passed by the Utah State Legislature authorize him to start entering into agreements on behalf of the state for venues, infrastructure and other needs. They also state that Utah is ready, willing and able to host a future Olympics. Salt Lake City is in the running for the 2030 or 2034 Winter Games.

3:52 p.m.

The Utah State Senate today voted 24-2 to pass a bill that sets some guidelines around police using DNA gathered by genealogy companies to solve crimes. The bill has faced pushback over concerns police won’t have to get a warrant. The use of DNA samples submitted to genealogical companies has led to authorities capturing suspected killers.

3:46 p.m.

The Utah State Legislature is being asked to approve a five million dollar settlement with the family of University of Utah student Zhifan Dong. She was killed in 2022 from a drug overdose inside a Salt Lake City motel. The University acknowledged shortcomings in how it handled an intimate partner violence report between Dong and her boyfriend and didn’t turn it over to police until she was reported missing. Because the lawsuit settlement costs over a million in taxpayer dollars? The legislature must approve it.

3:17 p.m.

3:15 p.m.

House and Senate Republican leaders announced the latest revenue numbers for the state. This sets the budget for the legislature and helps determine the tax cuts you may get this year.

The numbers are relatively flat. Utah has about $817 million in one-time and $410 million in ongoing money. While lawmakers deliberate what programs and causes to spend it on, today they passed an income tax cut that gives the average Utah family about $200 more a year and it goes up the more you make. Some lawmakers criticized the bill as not helping the working poor, but the bill’s sponsor defended it.

2:45 p.m.

Sen. Mitt Romney says he hasn’t made up his mind yet whether to seek re-election next year.

"I'm confident I would win if I decide to run. I’ll have the resources, I have an extraordinary team and I believe the people of Utah would be behind me," he told reporters following a meeting with members of the Utah State Legislature.

Sen. Romney said he would make a decision in the Spring.

FRIDAY, FEB. 17

4:48 p.m.

The Utah State Legislature has passed a bill that makes changes to the AMBER Alert. It carves out alerts for runaways or child custody disputes – unless there is clear evidence that a child’s life is in danger. Utah’s Department of Public Safety will now administer the alert. The bill heads to Governor Spencer Cox’s desk for his signature or veto.

4:19 p.m.

4:10 p.m.

The House of Representatives voted 51-to-14 to pass a bill that would require clinics that perform elective abortions to close by next year. Clearfield Rep. Karianne Lisonbee’s bill would no longer allow them to be licensed because of Utah’s near-total ban on abortion. She says women who need an abortion for rape, incest or health of the mother can be obtained through hospital clinics.

4 p.m.

A series of bills on affordable housing made it through the House of Representatives. They’re designed to cut through red tape when it comes to cities and counties.

3:46 p.m.

2:56 p.m.

2:31 p.m.

11:00 a.m.

The House of Representatives votes to pass a bill that would designate the brine shrimp as the official state crustacean. This is a bill brought to lawmakers by elementary school students, but it wasn’t without controversy. One lawmaker complained it doesn’t do anything substantive to save the Great Salt Lake, which is on the brink of ecological collapse. The bill passed anyway and now goes to the Senate.

The House also voted to approve a bill making the porcini the official state mushroom. The bill now goes to the Senate for consideration.

THURSDAY, FEB. 16

6:19 p.m.

Gov. Spencer Cox touched on a variety of topics on Thursday in his monthly press conference below.

Gov. Cox holds monthly press conference

WEDNESDAY, FEB. 15

11:45 a.m.

A bill that lowers the gas tax slightly but imposes a new tax on electric vehicle charging stations passed in the House by a 56-to-11 vote. House Majority leader Mike Schultz’s bill is designed to make electric vehicle drivers pay for the roads they use. The gas tax pays for road repairs, but some object to lowering the fossil fuel tax. The bill now goes to the Senate.

10:55 a.m.

A bill that bans homeowners associations from requiring lush green lawns won unanimous support in the Utah State Senate. The provision is tucked into a much larger bill on HOAs, but the impact will be significant as lawmakers have expressed some frustration that a few associations are ignoring Utah’s drought.

TUESDAY, FEB. 14

2:45 p.m.

A pair of bills that deal with Salt Lake City hosting a future Olympics have passed a legislative committee. The bills allow the governor to start entering into deals for Olympic venues and other infrastructure. They also state that Utah is ready, willing and able to host a future Games.

1:30 p.m.

The House unanimously passed a bill on water re-use. It restricts it in future developments in northern Utah. The reason why that’s a big deal is while water re-use can stretch resources further in places like southern Utah, along the Wasatch Front it actually takes water from the Great Salt Lake. Paradise Rep. Casey Snider says expanding water re-use could drop the lake another ten to 12 feet. It now goes to the Senate for consideration.

1 p.m.

A resolution that rewrites rules of civil procedure that critics say targets an injunction blocking Utah’s near-total abortion ban has cleared the legislature. The resolution has been amended to only focus on laws the legislature passes. Originally, it allowed for injunctions to be revisited in all court cases. Critics say that would have upended tens of thousands of cases across Utah. The resolution doesn’t need the governor’s signature and goes into effect immediately.

12 p.m.

A Senate committee voted unanimously to support a bill that originally sought to unwind some of Utah’s ban on LGBTQ conversion therapy. The bill now does the opposite. It continues the ban for minors while giving therapists some guidelines about what can be discussed.

MONDAY, FEB. 13

5 p.m.

A bill that would charge political campaigns up to $15 to clean up roadside signs has passed a Senate committee. Spanish Fork Sen. Mike McKell's bill authorizes UDOT and other transportation agencies to pick up the signs and bill the campaign for it. The bill will now go to the full Senate for consideration.

2:02 p.m.

The Utah State Senate gave tentative approval to a bill regulating youth access to social media platforms. The vote was 28-1. It has one more vote in the Senate.

11:43 a.m.

A bill that would have allowed pregnant women to use the carpool lane has failed in a 3-2 vote in a Senate committee.

10:44 a.m.

The Senate has unanimously approved a bill that grants refugees and immigrants in-state residency for college and university tuition. The bill previously passed the House and now goes to the governor for his signature or veto.

9:58 a.m.

A bill that would charge political campaigns $15 for uncollected campaign signs cleared a Senate committee.

FRIDAY, FEB. 10

11:44 a.m.

11:17 a.m.

In a debate filled with puns, a resolution to encourage celebrating Halloween on a Friday failed in the Senate 9-16.

WEDNESDAY, FEB. 8

5:43 p.m.

"I think it's a terrible idea," is what Lt. Governor Deidre Henderson said of a new elections bill introduced in the legislature. The bill would allow counties to opt out of doing mail-in voting and be in-person only. The bill was just filed in the legislature by Sen. Mike Kennedy, R-Alpine. Lt. Gov. Henderson is the chief elections officer for the state.

5:00 p.m.

4:05 p.m.

A bill that enhances penalties for tampering with ballot drop boxes has passed a House committee.

2:52 p.m.

We are now halfway through the Utah State Legislature and there are SO MANY BILLS! As of this morning, 1,152 bills had been requested by lawmakers with the number only expected to grow in the coming weeks.

11:58 p.m.

The Utah State Senate voted to support a bill that changes the legal defense standard in livestock thefts. The bill came about following a not guilty verdict that a St. George jury gave to a pair of animal rights activists accused of stealing piglets from a Beaver County hog farm. The bill passed 20-7 on second reading (procedurally, the Senate requires one more vote).

Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, joined Democrats in opposing the bill. He said he disagreed with prosecutors who got a verdict they didn't like running to the legislature to change the law.

TUESDAY, FEB. 7

5:00 p.m.

Lawmakers voted unanimously to support a program designed to save the bees. Rep. Ashlee Matthews (D-Kearns) is running a bill to offer plants and seeds to expand pollinator-friendly places. The program was such a hit when it was first run, Utah’s Department of Agriculture and Food sold out.

A new bill on homeowners' associations was introduced in the state legislature by Sen. Wayne Harper (R-Taylorsville). The bill could block HOAs from requiring a lush, green lawn during drought conditions.

A new bill introduced by Sen. Stephanie Pitcher (D-Salt Lake City) would block utility companies from shutting off power or water in severe weather. It would require notice of when utilities would shut off when the emergency passes and how much people owe to keep it on.

A bill just introduced in the legislative session would let counties decide if they want to participate in vote-by-mail or not. Sen. Mike Kennedy's (R-Alpine) bill would have counties decide whether to use in-person or mailed ballots.

MONDAY, FEB. 6

5:49 p.m.

A funding request to support LGBTQ youth is coming from an unlikely source: Rep. Kera Birkeland, R-Morgan, and Sen. Mike Kennedy, R-Alpine. They are seeking $1 million for more therapists at Encircle, an LGBTQ youth support center with locations across the state.

Rep. Birkeland sponsored a bill that banned transgender girls from participating in school sports that matched their gender identity. Sen. Kennedy passed a bill that restricts gender affirmation treatments for transgender youth.

Asked about the request, Rep. Birkeland defended her prior legislation.

"There’s a lot of policy in our state surrounding the LGBTQ community, but it’s not our intent to harm them or cause emotional pain to them. So if we can balance proper policy with proper support, we’ve got to do it," she told FOX 13 News.

In a statement, Encircle interim executive director Jordan Sgro told FOX 13 News:

“We appreciate Representative Birkeland and Senator Kennedy for being willing to support an appropriation of funding that we know will literally save lives and be a profound help to LGBTQ+ youth across the state of Utah. Their desire to help fund Encircle’s life saving mental health services is appreciated, and as an organization, we welcome the opportunity to build bridges and increase understanding wherever and whenever we can.”

5:37 p.m.

A bill that would require student athletic programs to made religious accommodations in uniforms won unanimous support from a House committee. Two young women, who are Muslim, testified in support of the bill detailing problems they've encountered trying to play while being told their hijab must match their uniform. Previously, FOX 13 News interviewed two Sikh athletes who were told by a referee to remove their turbans. The bill now goes to the full House of Representatives.

3:34 p.m.

A bill isn't dead until the end of the legislative session. Case in point: Sen. Mike McKell's bill on social media regulations failed in a floor debate in the Senate on a close 12-11 vote (you need 15 votes to pass and six lawmakers weren't present). But as is with a lot of "zombie bills," as they're known, Sen. McKell managed to persuade his colleagues to resurrect it while he works on amendments. The bill lives to fight another day.

12:31 p.m.

FOX 13 News has confirmed a deal has been struck to keep Utah's ban on LGBTQ conversion therapy in place. A substitute bill will be introduced on a bill that sought to roll back the ban. This compromise has the support of Equality Utah, Governor Spencer Cox and legislative leaders.

11:32 a.m.

SATURDAY, FEB. 4

12:19 p.m.

8:04 a.m.

A group of Utahns experiencing homelessness are visiting the Capitol to lobby lawmakers on bills and appropriations requests for services, sanctioned camping and affordable housing.

A bill that would have banned social media for kids under 16 has been amended. Lucy Nelson reports a provision requiring people to upload their government-issued IDs to social platforms has also been scrapped.

FRIDAY, FEB. 3

6:19 p.m.

5:06 p.m.

A lion in the Utah State Legislature is honored by her colleagues.

Sen. Karen Mayne
Former Senate Minority Leader Karen Mayne is honored in the Utah State Senate.

Former Senate Minority Leader Karen Mayne was recognized on the floor of the Utah State Senate today. She abruptly retired right before the legislative session began to continue fighting cancer. Her colleagues took one of the bills she was working on — a public safety scholarship — and named it after her.

Senate President J. Stuart Adams left the dais to hug her as senators gave her a standing ovation.

"I'm still funnier than Weiler," she quipped to the Senate, referring to Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross.

"Let me put that on the record, Sen. Mayne," Sen. Adams replied.

Sen. Mayne on Senate floor
Former Senate Minority Leader Karen Mayne is hugged by Senate President J. Stuart Adams on Friday, Feb. 3, 2023.

12:10 p.m.

11:39 a.m.

Speaking to reporters this morning, House Speaker Brad Wilson said discussions about tax cuts are under way. He predicted they would reach resolution with stakeholders in a couple of weeks. The Speaker also defended work being done by the legislature on water and the Great Salt Lake, despite two bills being defeated.

The Speaker said he expected bills on social media regulations to have changes, reiterating that he is concerned about protecting users' privacy. He also said he favored allowing cities to continue to experiment with ranked choice voting, despite a bill being introduced in the legislature to eliminate that.

11:34 a.m.

Lawmakers proclaimed it "Water Week" but two bills related to the Great Salt Lake have stalled. Some environmentalists question if the Utah State Legislature is all talk and no action.

Following the controversy surrounding a drag show in St. George for the HBO show "We're Here," a lawmaker is running a bill to have a number of events with "adult themes" carry warning labels.

A bill on sexual assault and access to emergency abortion medication is unveiled in the Utah State Legislature.

THURSDAY, FEB. 2

10:00 p.m.

WEDNESDAY, FEB. 1

3:15 p.m.

9:00 a.m.

FOX 13 News got a sneak peek at the omnibus liquor bill due out any day now. Here's what is — and isn't — in the bill.

A small caucus of lawmakers will shepherd bills through that help the Great Salt Lake. Here's what we know about them.

A House committee has passed a bill requiring audits of Utah's elections systems, Jenna Bree reports.

Native American tribes are pushing the legislature to pass the Indian Child Welfare Act. Lucy Nelson reports on that.

TUESDAY, JAN. 31

6:59 p.m.

9:00 a.m.

More bills continue to be filed in the legislature. Here's a thread of the latest ones:

MONDAY, JAN. 30

5:29 p.m.

House and Senate leaders unveiled a series of water bills centered around conservation and saving the Great Salt Lake. Speaker Brad Wilson told FOX 13 News he would like to see $600 million spent to help.

2:46 p.m.

An emotional moment on the Senate floor after the unanimous passage of SB117, a major piece of legislation on domestic violence. It requires all law enforcement agencies in Utah to conduct what are known as "lethality assessments" to guard against intimate partner homicide. The families of Gabby Petito and Mandy Mayne were there to push for the bill's passage.

12:12 p.m.

The new Utah state flag has passed the Senate with a change.

9:37 a.m.

As part of her push to make the porcini the official state mushroom, Rep. Christine Watkins, R-Price, visited FOX 13 News studios to help demonstrate how to cook with the fungi. Watch John Franchi's report here.

9:29 a.m.

Brett Garner has been sworn in to office following a special election among Utah Democratic Party delegates for the House district representing parts of West Valley City and Taylorsville. He replaces Karen Kwan, who is now serving in the Utah State Senate following the resignation of Karen Mayne.

Brett Garner
Brett Garner takes the oath of office administered by House Speaker Brad Wilson.

SATURDAY, JAN. 28

10:22 a.m.

Governor Spencer Cox signed SB16 and HB215 into law. Read more here.

FRIDAY, JAN. 27

5:52 p.m.

A group of LGBTQ rights activists are protesting outside Governor Spencer Cox's office against SB16, which passed the legislature earlier today.

11:41 a.m.

10 a.m.

The Utah State Capitol rotunda became a child care center this morning. Voices for Utah Children and other advocacy groups did it to call attention to the demands for funding to keep child care centers open statewide. A fiscal cliff is looming with pandemic-related federal money expiring and the legislature is being asked to help families afford care.

THURSDAY, JAN. 26

11:03 a.m.

9:45 a.m.

A bill that requires Utah golf courses to track and report how much water they use is facing some pushback. In a hearing on capitol hill, the Golf Industry Alliance objected to the bill. A Brigham City lawmaker claimed it was shaming golf courses. Payson Rep. Doug Whelton says his bill is designed to force conversations about water conservation. The bill was held, which means it is in limbo right now in the legislature.

WEDNESDAY, JAN. 25

12:15 p.m.

The bill that will create a school voucher program allowing state funds to be used for private schooling moved a step closer to becoming a reality Wednesday.

Following debate on the floor, House Bill 215 passed in the Utah Senate by a 20-to-8 vote. The full Senate will have to vote on the bill once again later this week before it goes to Gov. Spencer Cox.

11:45 a.m.

The Senate begins to debate H.B. 215, a bill that has been controversial in Utah as it ties together school choice and teacher salaries.

9:20 a.m.

Librarians would have to undergo criminal background checks under a new bill introduced in the House. Logan Rep. Dan Johnson’s legislation withholds state funds if a library doesn’t do background checks. It also offers money to help smaller, rural libraries with the cost.

TUESDAY, JAN. 24

5:00 p.m.

A bill banning Utah businesses from requiring proof of vaccination has cleared a House committee. St. George Rep. Walt Brooks’ bill passed on a 10-2 vote and will now go to the full House of Representatives for a vote.

4:45 p.m.

A Senate committee voted 5-to-1 today to support a bill increasing turf buyback incentives in Utah. Tremonton Sen. Scott Sandall’s bill would increase grant money offered to local water districts. It’s an effort to help with water conservation and get residents to ditch nonfunctional grass in their yard.

12:50 p.m.

A bill requiring warning labels on dating apps is advancing in the legislature. House Minority Leader Angela Romero explained the bill she sponsored.

"If somebody is using a dating app, a warning will come up just reminding people safety precautions when using a dating app and what you need to do," she said. "And it gives an individual an area where they can report something if it were to happen or if someone is catfishing where someone can let people know someone is talking to someone who is not saying who they are."

The Utah House of Representatives voted unanimously to support Romero’s bill. It now goes to the Senate for consideration.

12:00 p.m.

People gather outside the Capitol to protest against bills addressing transgender youth.

11:15 a.m.

A well-deserved recognition in the state legislature today for snow plow drivers, who have been working some long days lately. So far this year, plow drivers have cleared over 1.8 million miles and put down 133,000 tons of salt and 163,000 gallons of de-icing chemicals.

MONDAY, JAN. 23

2:00 p.m.

A resolution to tweak a judicial rule in civil lawsuits passed in the House. Critics say it undermines the lawsuit challenging Utah’s near-total ban on abortion.

House Joint Resolution 2 changes the standard that injunctions can be granted in lawsuit. The bill’s sponsor admits the abortion case raised the concerns.

Legal groups say it could negatively impact thousands of other legal cases in the courts. The bill passed along party lines in the house Monday and now goes to the Senate.

1:45 p.m.

A bill to change the Utah state flag received preliminary approval from the Utah State Senate.

Sen. Dan McCay’s bill has started to face some pushback from some who claim the state is “canceling” the current flag. He says it will become a ceremonial flag while the new design becomes the official state flag.

The bill passed 18-9, but has another procedural vote in the Senate. If it passes there, it goes to the House.

11:11 a.m.

At a news conference, Governor Spencer Cox and Attorney General Sean Reyes announced litigation is "likely' against social media companies for "harms" caused to Utah's youth. In the audience were several lawmakers with bills cracking down on youth social media use, including age verification, restrictions and a cell phone ban in classrooms.

SATURDAY, JAN. 21

8:21 a.m.

If you're not aware, your elected lawmakers typically hold town hall meetings on Saturday. Some even serve donuts! Check their social media pages and drop by to find out the bills they are working on, their positions on other issues.

Here's a recap of the bigger stories we covered "On the Hill:"

Mythili Gubbi reports House Minority Leader Angela Romero's bill that would require dating apps and websites to post warnings about catfishing and sexual assault passed out of committee.

A series of bills on transgender youth, including a ban on gender affirmation surgeries and a moratorium on hormone therapies, has passed the Senate. The LGBTQ rights group Equality Utah tells FOX 13 News the bills, as written, could face a lawsuit. Committee hearings in the House will take place likely Tuesday.

A bill that gives teachers a $6,000 pay raise and also implements a controversial "Utah Fits All" scholarship program made it through the House of Representatives on a 54-20 vote. The bill had much more support than expected in the House, winning over some who voted against it in committee.

A bill cracking down on"copay assistance programs" has support from some patients who say they're paying too much for prescription drugs, Lucy Nelson reports.

A House committee unanimously voted to support a bill that removes a criminal defense in theft of livestock cases. Its sponsor told FOX 13 News the bill was in response to a jury's acquittal of a pair of animal rights activists who took pigs from a Beaver County farm.

Lastly, a piece of news related to the legislature: After years of litigation, Salt Lake City has dropped its lawsuit against the state over the inland port. That's because a deal was struck between the city and the legislature on tax revenue from the development.

Enjoy your weekend!

FRIDAY, JAN. 20

5:30 p.m.

Pregnant people would be allowed to use the carpool lane under a bill introduced in the state legislature. Rep. Stephanie Gricius, R-Eagle Mountain, is proposing that being pregnant would count as two or more people in the HOV lane. If someone is pulled over and given a ticket, they could show proof of pregnancy to the judge and get out of it.

2:21 p.m.

During the floor debate on the bills dealing with transgender youth, Sen. Nate Blouin, D-Salt Lake City, read a statement from his legislative intern, who is transgender, about the impact of the legislation on people like him.

The senator released the full statement which is published in its entirety here:

“Even before SB16 has passed the Senate, this bill has already negatively impacted my health and wellbeing and is causing adverse effects on Utah’s trans community. It is a reminder of the fact that even after being able to transition and to fit in with the rest of society that people like me are not accepted by the majority of this body.

This is not a partisan issue. No one is trying to indoctrinate your kids into the trans community, though we’d welcome them with open arms. I wouldn’t wish the constant discomfort with my body or the bullying and belittlement on anyone. SB16 does nothing but prevent people like me from living comfortably.

I cannot tell you how many nights I stayed up, wishing I wasn’t trans, contemplating whether suicide was better than continuing to live as a trans person. I would not be alive if I had not been able to transition, and I am lucky that my attempts to take my life before that time failed. Starting hormones has made my life worth living, followed closely by getting top surgery and updating my birth certificate, the last of which I did as a minor.

Transgender people have always existed. For many years, we did our best to hide from the vitriol we face in public but now that we’re coming out and fighting for our rights, we’re seeing pushback like the bill in front of the body today that tries to deny our existence.

To anyone discouraged by how the majority of this legislature will vote, I will say this: remember that life will get so much better if you are willing to hold on, and the best thing you can do to overcome those who try to diminish your existence is to continue to exist.

I will have to face each of you on this floor after this vote, and each of you will have to face me and many other Transgender people after today, whether you know it or not. I hope that should someone else disclose their Transgender identity to you, it’s because they’re comfortable with you and not because they are pleading with you to recognize their humanity. I hope you can face these people with a clear conscience that you did the right thing today.”

1:55 p.m.

The Utah House passed HB215 which will raise teacher salaries and create a school choice program where parents can apply to get public funds for their child to go to a private school or do homeschooling. The bill now moves to the Senate.

——————-

Three bills focused on transgender youth in Utah were passed by the Senate and now move to the House.

  • SB16 will ban sex characteristic surgeries on transgender youth
  • SB100 bans schools from treating a student in a way that relates to a gender identity that does not match the student’s sex
  • SB93 prohibits a name or a gender change on a birth certificate for anyone under 18

10:46 a.m.

It looks to be a busy day with a final vote in the Senate on bills involving transgender youth. The House may take up debate on the controversial school choice and teacher salary bill.

THURSDAY, JAN. 19

10:03 p.m.

Governor Spencer Cox delivered his annual State of the State address to the legislature and the people of Utah. Speaking directly to Utah's youth, the governor covered a wide variety of topics including education, the environment, housing affordability and even issued a warning to social media companies.

A bill to boost teacher salaries tied to a controversial school choice scholarship program that critics have said are vouchers stripping money from public education has passed the House Education Committee on a 12-4 vote. The bill now goes to the full House of Representatives for a vote.

3:05 p.m.

1:50 p.m.

A series of bills dealing with transgender youth have passed their first hurdle in the Utah State Senate. Procedurally, they have another vote to go in the Senate. If they pass again, the bills advance to the House of Representatives.

8:55 a.m.

It's Day 3 in the Utah State Legislature (though at the pace we're going, lawmakers are acting like it's Day 43). Governor Spencer Cox will give his State of the State address to the legislature and the people of Utah tonight. You can watch that here on fox13now.com or on our social media channels.

State of the State

The biggest bill being heard today will be the teacher salary and school choice scholarship bill in the House Education Committee. FOX 13 News reported last week the two bills would be linked in the same bill.

Recapping some of the big stories of yesterday:

A legal rule change that critics say undermines the lawsuit challenging Utah's near-total abortion ban made it out of a House committee on an 8-4 vote.

Bills targeting transgender youth and enacting bans and restrictions on gender affirmation surgeries, hormone treatments, birth certificate changes and how schools treat them passed after a heated hearing. Jenna Bree reports some bills were modified to make LGBTQ rights groups more comfortable, others were not.

Mythili Gubbi reports actress Katherine Heigl appeared at the Utah State Capitol to endorse a bill banning gas chamber euthanasia in animal shelters.

The Utah State Legislature is being asked to approve a $1.5 million settlement in a lawsuit accusing numerous public safety agencies and officials of committing grant fraud.

WEDNESDAY, JAN. 18

6:05 p.m.

In a 6-1 vote, the Senate Business and Labor Committee voted to advance the bill for the new state flag. The bill now goes to the full Senate for a vote.

2:30 p.m.

2:00 p.m.

Full room at Utah Senate Health and Human Services meeting as two bills, dealing with Sex Characteristic Surgical Procedures + School District Identity Policies are expected to be discussed.

1:50 p.m.

Rep. Mike Peterson, R-North Logan, has issued a statement on his LGBTQ conversion therapy bill. FOX 13 News reported on the legislation last night. Here is the statement released by the House of Representatives:

Representative Michael Petersen (HD2) has released H.B.228, Unprofessional Conduct Amendments, which codifies a prohibition on conversion therapy and clarifies that mental health professionals may engage in broad-based talk therapy with minors seeking assistance for issues related to sexual orientation and gender identity.

This bill seeks to clarify the Division of Professional Licensing (DOPL) rule that prohibited any therapy seeking to change or eliminate behaviors and attractions related to a minor’s sexual orientation or gender identity. While Rep. Petersen’s bill continues the prohibition on all conversion therapy treatments, it will allow minors to discuss a broader range of topics, concerns and options with their mental health counselors and therapists, striking the right balance between compassion and free speech.

“As a former counselor, this DOPL rule has been particularly concerning for me,” says Representative Petersen. “I’ve spoken with former colleagues who have stopped treating minors because of ambiguity in the rule and fear of reprisal if they were to say something non-affirming to their minor patients. I’ve also spoken with members of the LGBTQ community who are grateful for the upcoming change because they wish their counselors would have been more inquisitive and curious during their therapy sessions.”

Goud Maragani, President of Utah Log Cabin Republicans, has expressed support stating that, “This bill will ensure the ban on conversion therapy does not prevent LGBTQ+ youth from talking about gender-related issues with their mental health professionals."

Ultimately, this bill will improve mental health treatment by allowing trained professionals to provide support through talk therapy and continue to protect minors by codifying Utah’s current conversion therapy prohibition.

11:58 a.m.

11:21 a.m.

The House gave a citation to recognize a doctor and Utah Highway Patrol trooper. In 1978, the doctor was headed to the airport when he happened upon a UHP trooper who had been shot while doing a traffic stop. The actions saved the life of the trooper.

UHP citation

10:56 a.m.

State of the State

TUESDAY, JAN. 17

4:27 p.m.

Some of the most contentious bills of the Utah State Legislature (so far) will have hearings in a Senate committee tomorrow. A series of bills dealing with transgender youth will be heard by the Senate Health & Human Services Committee. Meanwhile, a bill was introduced in the legislature on Tuesday to allow for some forms of LGBTQ conversion therapy.

2:33 p.m.

11:52 a.m.

10:55 a.m.

In the Senate Minority Caucus, Sen. Kathleen Riebe, D-Cottonwood Heights, has been elevated to Senate Minority Whip. This follows the resignation of Sen. Karen Mayne, D-West Valley City. She left the legislature due to health reasons as she battles cancer.

On Monday, Rep. Karen Kwan, D-Taylorsville, won the special election to replace Sen. Mayne in the Senate.

10:50 a.m.

In his opening day speech, House Speaker Brad Wilson said "the decisions we will make this session will define Utah’s next decade and beyond."

He detailed the House Republican majority's priorities of sustainability, affordability and investment. The Speaker specifically called out saving the Great Salt Lake as a priority.

"If we fail to lead courageously our state will not continue its growth, future generations will have to find somewhere else to live and the cherished lifestyle we all enjoy will be at risk," he said. "This has been a wet winter so far - and that is great. But one winter alone won’t wash away two dry decades. The ongoing drought, our management of state water, increased resources for Southern Utah, and preservation of the Great Salt Lake are top priorities for this House."

"Let’s build upon last year’s considerable policy success to encourage conservation and provide resources to help Utahns do their part to safeguard Utah’s water."

On housing affordability, Speaker Wilson called for more to be done.

"It’s a problem for buyers, it’s a problem for sellers, and it’s a problem for renters. It’s a problem along the Wasatch Front, in southern Utah and in rural Utah," he said. "The problem is high interest rates. The problem is over-regulation. The problem is simply a housing shortage."

"Some of these problems we have no control over, but when it comes to over-regulation, there is something that can be done. Local governments are at the forefront of critical decisions that impact our housing supply... and some are doing it very well."

The Speaker promised tax cuts will happen this year.

"To the people of Utah: You will see historic tax cuts this session," he said.

The Speaker outlined his goals for teacher salary hikes — coupled with the controversial school voucher bill (something FOX 13 News reported last week).

"I strongly believe that when it comes to education, one size does not fit all," he said. "We can educate every student and empower parents to make informed choices about how their children are educated."

Speaker Wilson signaled more anti-abortion legislation was coming.

"In 2020, we passed a trigger law on the chance Roe v. Wade was overturned. The decision by the Supreme Court last year rightfully shifted authority from the courts, back to the states. While we wait on a decision from the Utah Supreme Court, we must work to make legislative intent crystal clear before this session concludes," he said.

9:15 a.m.

Good morning from the opening day of the Utah State Legislature!

Day 1 is a lot of pomp and ceremony as the session kicks off. House Speaker Brad Wilson and Senate President J. Stuart Adams will give speeches. Lawmakers take the oath of office.