Legislature Calls a Special Session
April 13, 2020 – In collaboration with the Office of Governor Gary Herbert, President J. Stuart Adams and Speaker Brad Wilson have exercised the Utah Legislature’s emergency powers to convene a special session to address pressing issues regarding COVID-19.
As the coronavirus first began to spread within our country’s borders during the 2020 General Session, legislative leadership anticipated the possibility of an epidemic creating a need to convene in a virtual special session. With this in mind, the Utah Legislature passed S.J.R. 16 Joint Rules Resolution Regarding Electronic Meetings. This law permits the Legislature to conduct remote electronic meetings as needed under extraordinary conditions.
COVID-19 is impacting education, healthcare systems, the economy, Utah’s business community, individuals and families throughout the state in unprecedented ways. In light of these circumstances, on April 16, the Legislature will convene in its first-ever virtual session to reexamine the state budget and address issues to meet state needs arising from the outbreak.
Issues addressed will include formally accepting federal emergency funding; extending the deadline for submitting state income taxes to July 15, 2020; ensuring access to medication; and preparing for the June primary election. A proclamation detailing legislation to be considered can be found here.
While special legislative sessions in Utah typically last one day, this special session may last up to 10 days—the maximum time allowed by the state constitution—to address critical issues. State leaders are committed to careful planning and working diligently to keep Utahns healthy and safe while keeping our economy going.
“We are working together to achieve the most favorable outcomes in our state’s fight against the virus, protecting Utah’s families as well as Utah’s businesses,” said Senate President J. Stuart Adams. “Utah is nationally recognized as one of the states best-prepared to handle unexpected situations. As a state, we don’t just sit back and wait. We always look for options on how to conquer problems. Our private and public sectors have joined forces to win this battle together. As we navigate these unprecedented times, we are committed to finding innovative solutions to do what is in the best interest of all Utahns. Together, we will get through this.”
In the coming months, between now and next January’s general session, it may be necessary for the Utah Legislature to convene multiple times remotely. Decisions about additional special sessions will be made in close collaboration with the executive branch and in consultation with health experts who are monitoring the trajectory of the COVID-19 outbreak.
“We are navigating uncharted territory as a state and as a nation,” Speaker Brad Wilson said. “The good news is that, thanks to our sound fiscal practices and long-term commitment to rainy day savings, Utah is better equipped to handle a crisis of this magnitude than almost any other state. We are also witnessing remarkable leadership and collaboration between public and private sector organizations dedicated to seeing us through this challenge as quickly and safely as possible.”
Due to the extraordinary circumstances and the time required to set up a virtual chamber system, virtual committee meetings will not be ready for this remote session. Proposed legislation will be made publicly available online in advance. Utahns are encouraged to participate by submitting inquiries and feedback directly to their legislators on the Senate and House websites. Citizens can also comment on specific legislation at le.utah.gov. Floor proceedings will be streamed on the legislative website and broadcast on television on KUEN channel 9.2, thanks to a partnership with Utah Education Network.
In November 2018, Utah voters approved an amendment to Utah’s Constitution, allowing the Legislature to call itself into a special session under certain circumstances, such as a persistent financial crisis, a natural disaster, a war or other emergency. The governor can also use executive power to call a special session. Throughout Utah’s history, the state’s legislative and executive branches have almost always agreed on the need to call a special session and formally convene outside Utah’s annual 45-day general session. The Legislature is preparing to exercise this constitutional provision on behalf of the state and is working closely with the governor’s office on this call.
The Capitol is currently only open for official business to help reduce the spread of COVID-19. There will be limited staff at the Capitol with a presiding officer for each chamber. Due to the intricacy, the Senate and House will meet at different times.
Tags: Brad Wilson, COVID-19, Legislature Calls a Special Session, Senate President Stuart Adams, Special Session