Lawmakers returned to the Capitol for their monthly interim meetings to convened in a special session and an extraordinary session. The governor issued a call for a special session to accept American Rescue Plan Act funds Congress allocated to Utah and address several issues. The Senate President also issued a call for an extraordinary session to take place the same day as the special session to consider resolutions and for advice and consent consider gubernatorial and other non-gubernatorial appointments.
Accepting and Appropriating Federal Funds
This month, we convened in a special session for the primary purpose of accepting the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds Congress allocated to Utah. The ARPA funds total roughly $1.7 billion. To accomplish this, we passed S.J.R. 101 Joint Resolution Approving the Acceptance of Federal Funds and passed S.B. 1001 Appropriations Adjustments, as a companion bill to S.J.R. 101. Whereas S.J.R. 101 approves acceptance of the federal funds, S.B. 1001 appropriates some of the funds for specific purposes. This bill appropriates $571 million of the roughly $1.7 billion that the state is expected to receive in ARPA funds. Additionally, we made a few adjustments to the budget we passed earlier this year to replace some of the state funding with ARPA funding.
Here are a few of the items we funded with ARPA this month:
- $103 million for business and economic development
- $100 million for water conservation
- $165 million for social services (includes a food bank in San Juan County, mental health services and vaccine distribution)
Our state will receive the funding in two phases – 50 percent this May and the remaining in May 2022. The U.S. Department of the Treasury released additional guidelines on May 10 pertaining to how these funds may be used. There are still questions and clarifications needed on certain guidelines, and there will likely be further updates from the U.S. Treasury.
We are committed to spending the federal stimulus responsibly with a focus on funding items that:
- Create generational impact
- Provide statewide benefits to citizens
- Generate sizable benefits without future liability
- Addresses long-term challenges in our state.
Over the interim and during the 2022 General session, we will continue to review how to best appropriate the funds within priorities that fit the guiding principles.
Adjustments to 2021 General Session Bills
Utah is famous for its 45-day legislative session. As part-time legislators, we pass legislation and balance a budget in a fraction of the time that other states require, and as a result of our efficient work, we have been voted one of the best run states in the country for many years. Occasionally, errors and omissions are found after we complete our work and during a special session is a good time to make adjustments.
- H.B. 1001 Peace Officer Training Amendments creates a new effective date of July 1, 2021 for the law created in H.B. 162 from the 2021 General Session. The bill required law enforcement officers to receive additional training in methods of restraint and intervention responses for people suffering a mental health crisis.
- H.B. 1002 Juvenile Justice Amendments is identical to H.B. 410, a bill that passed during the 2021 General Session but was rejected for missing an enacting clause.
- H.B. 98 Local Government Building Regulation Amendments from the 2021 General Session passed and was vetoed by Gov. Cox over concerns from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Minor changes were made to satisfy FEMA’s concerns and the updated bill, H.B. 1003 Government Building Regulation Amendments, passed in the Senate and House.
- H.B. 1004 COVID-19 Grant Program Amendments modifies an existing grant program for institutions of higher education that is administered by the Governor’s Office of Economic Development (GOED). It also creates a matching grant program for local governments, local districts and special service districts administered by the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget (GOMB).
- H.B. 1005 Redistricting Amendments changes the existing timeline of the Independent Redistricting Commission to account for the pandemic-related delay in receiving data from the U.S. Census Bureau.
- H.B. 433 Amendments Related to Infrastructure Funding from the 2021 General Session, funded state infrastructure projects through a combination of appropriations and bond authorizations. The new bill, H.B. 1008 changes the funding sources by swapping appropriations and bond authorizations on some transit projects.
- H.B. 1009 Health Spa Services Protection Act Amendments makes some modifications to the law that was changed in H.B. 321 Division of Consumer Protection Amendments during the 2021 General Session. H.B. 1009 delays the effective date of one provision of the original bill to July 1, 2021, which will allow health spas to secure financing when they move to a new location.
- S.B. 1002 Group Gang Enhancement Amendments updates subsection references in language originally enacted in S.B. 51 during the 2021 General Session.
- S.B. 1003 Electronic Cigarette Product and Nicotine Product Amendments closes some unintended loopholes created by previous e-cigarette and vaping related legislation.
- S.B. 1004 Peace Officer Training Qualifications Amendments makes changes to the law created in S.B. 102 Peace Officer Training Qualifications Amendments during the 2021 General Session. S.B. 1004 amends the eligibility requirement for non-citizens who receive POST training and specifies that the five years of U.S. residency required needs to be immediately prior to the application date.
- S.B. 1005 Upstart Amendments expands the scope of the UPSTART program. UPSTART is an online tool that prepares preschool age children for kindergarten. S.B. 1005 allows kindergarten students in the 2021-2022 school year to enroll in UPSTART to remedy missed educational opportunities during the pandemic.
- S.B. 1007 Public Notice Amendments changes the state’s public notice requirements by allowing limits to the number of physical notices required.
Masks in Schools
As our country continues to make great strides in the fight against COVID-19, many states across the nation are beginning to lift mask mandates following updated CDC guidelines. With more and more Utahns getting vaccinated, and with the decrease in cases and hospitalizations in our state, it is important to allow students and families to choose whether or not to wear masks during the 2021-22 school year. The Legislature passed H.B. 1007Face Covering Amendments, removing the mask requirement in K-12 schools and higher education institutions.These changes came from S.B. 195 to ensure consistent policy regarding oversight for all Utah schools.
One of the most debated issues during the 2021 General Session was bail reform. A bill from the 2020 General Session, H.B. 206Bail and Pretrial Release Amendments, was partially repealed and a working group convened with the express intent of studying the issue and recommending future legislation. One of those bills, H.B. 1006Sheriff Release Amendments, creates a process for counties to post a written policy that authorizes county sheriffs to release an individual on their own recognizance in specific circumstances and regardless of jail capacity. H.B. 1006 passed both the Senate and House unanimously.
The Legislature passed a resolution highlighting the importance of Asian American and Pacific Islander communities to our state. The resolution encourages all Utahns to join us in celebrating the history, people and cultures of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and seek opportunities to appreciate the rich cultural heritage and contributions. Read the resolution here.
Critical Race Theory
American history should be taught in a way that accurately depicts our country’s highs and lows, triumphs and mistakes. Although our nation’s history is complex, we continue to strive to be better. During a legislature-called extraordinary session, the Senate passed S.R. 901 Senate Resolution on Critical Race Theory in Public Schools, encouraging the State Board of Education to define critical race theory and review standards for curriculum. No curriculum or instruction materials in our state should include the following concepts:
- that one race is inherently superior or inferior to another race;
- that an individual should be discriminated against or receive adverse treatment because of the individual’s race; or
- that an individual’s moral character is determined by the individual’s race.
Additionally, during our May interim meetings, the Education Interim Committee voted to study critical race theory throughout the year. Read the Senate Majority Caucus statement here.
Our most important duty as legislators is to preserve Utahns’ freedoms, including the freedom to bear arms without government interference. The Senate passed S.R. 902 Senate Resolution Declaring Support for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms and Exploring Sanctuary State Status during a legislature-called extraordinary session. This resolution affirms the right to keep and bear arms as a fundamental right protected by the Bill of Rights and the Utah State Constitution and supports the idea of exploring the possibility of becoming a Second Amendment sanctuary state.
ADVICE AND CONSENT
The Utah Senate is responsible for reviewing and approving nominations for certain public positions from the executive branch. This includes judges, commission members and other nominations made by the governor and other non-gubernatorial appointments.
Though this duty may not be as well-known as the Senate’s role in the legislative process, it remains quite important. Many of the nominees made by the governor will be exercising crucial roles in state government, whether it be in education, the judicial branch or other expert fields.
Due to the importance of these nominations, the Senate plays an active role in the process. For example, when considering judicial nominations, the Senate Judiciary Confirmation Committee may hold a public hearing for the nominee. During the committee meeting, the nominee may elaborate on their professional experiences, and members of the public may also provide their insight. Senators on the confirmation committee ask questions to better understand the nominee’s qualifications and fit for the position in question.
This week, the Senate held advice and consent and approved the following nominees:
- Monica Diaz, nominated by Gov. Spencer Cox, was appointed as a judge for the 3rd District Juvenile Court.
- Tanner Ainge, Kira M. Slawson, and Geri C. Gamber were appointed to the Board of Business and Economic Development.
- Commissioner Jerry Taylor was appointed to the Permanent Impact Community Fund Board.
- Sen. Mike McKell was appointed to the Utah Commission on Uniform State Laws.
- Dr. Carey A. Wilson was appointed to the Utah Compassionate Use Board.