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Utah State Legislative Review
Published Apr 7, 2022
Your 104 state legislators were very busy over the 45 day session. They passed a record-breaking $25 billion budget and 513 bills. The following is a recap of some of the more impactful bills that passed and failed in the 2022 legislative session:
The legislature was clearly done with COVID-19. Lawmakers moved quickly to terminate Salt Lake and Summit counties’ mask mandates. Lawmakers advanced a number of bills to respond to health orders, limiting their powers and reach including blocking a county mayor from issuing emergency orders overturning mask mandates in a pandemic.
Rep. Walt Brooks proposed a bill HB60 to block businesses and employers from requiring proof of vaccination, resulting in a rowdy Senate hearing where three people were removed. This bill was known as the “vaccine passport prohibition”. It passed the House by a wide margin but did not receive a vote in the Senate. It’s anticipated to return next year.
Lawmakers considered a lot of bills on election security, vote-by-mail and ballot initiatives. More auditing will be done of elections, voter rolls and voter signatures. First time voters and those that have never shown ID previously will be required to show ID. Surveillance cameras on ballot drop boxes and other measures to enhance security passed. The House rejected a bill to allow 16 and 17 year-olds to vote in local school board elections. A bill to allow for electronic signatures on ballot initiatives and citizen petitions passed the legislature.
Lawmakers passed a small income tax cut, taking advantage of huge revenues that came in, included was Social Security cuts and an earned income tax credit. Bills to remove the state portion of the sales tax on food went nowhere. SB59 passed that lowered the corporate and individual income tax rate from 4.95% to 4.85%. It also increases the earned income tax credit in Utah for lower income residents, and it expanded the social security tax credit saving an additional 72,000 Utahns about $ 210 per year.
Penalties have been enhanced for people who speed over 100 miles per hour. It’s designed to crack down on “reckless speeding”. Vintage vehicles older than 1980 will be exempted from emissions inspections, but those from 1981 on have some new requirements. Your vehicle windows can be tinted a little darker to allow 35% transmittance. Penalties were enhanced for DUI arrests as well as being cited in a self-driving car. A bill to crack down on noisy tailpipes failed to pass.
LGBTQ rights -
Two bills on transgender children were introduced that had all sides upset. Most of the controversial provisions were stripped out of the original bill. A bill was surprisingly introduced later calling for an all-out ban on transgender sports participation. This one passed both houses and as promised was quickly vetoed by Gov. Cox. This prompted a special session where the House voted 56-18 and the Senate 21-8 to override the veto with a supermajority.
Water is a concern state wide and the legislators proved this out by several bills being passed and considered. A big bill expanding secondary water metering passed. It requires cities to implement outdoor water monitoring devices by 2030 or lose out on state money. This applies only to piped secondary systems.
Water-wise landscaping was passed. HOA requirements cannot prohibit the use of xeriscape or other landscape design that conserve water. Water will now be part of Washington Cities General Plan after SB110 passed. It will include effect of permitted development or patterns of development on water demand and water infrastructure to reduce per capita consumption for future development, and to enact water saving practices throughout the city. The Colorado River Authority was amended to include consulting with tribes and inclusion on the board.
Housing and Homelessness -
Lawmakers pushed a number of bills on housing and homelessness, most with big price tags attached for affordable housing. A bill going after HOAs by expanding the Property Rights Ombudsman’s duties did not advance but may return in 2023. Bills on intergenerational poverty, including more reporting on state efforts to break the cycle of poverty passed.
Education bills were big this year. Lawmakers did increase funding for schools by 9% which included a 6% increase to the weighted pupil unit and $10 million for teacher bonuses. A bill also passed offering incentives for teachers in high-poverty schools. School fee elimination failed as did the “Hope Scholarship” bill that Gov Cox worried would take money from public education. A bill requiring school districts to come up with anti-bullying and harassment plans and track demographic data of kids who are bullied to help prevent suicide passed. A bill to allow Native American students to wear tribal regalia with their graduation cap and gown passed. The “sensitive materials” bill that creates a more uniform policy on books that may be deemed pornographic and unfit for school libraries passed, over objections of some education groups. Lawmakers passed “all-day kindergarten” and they require school districts to come up with plans to prevent students from dropping out or getting them to return if they do. Schools will be required to evaluate how many sports they offer to girls to ensure parity. Schools, cities and youth sports leagues were put on notice to be more accommodating to students’ religious freedom when it comes to Athletic uniforms to allow students to modify when it comes to modesty and religious beliefs.
Period products will be put in every Utah school and be available for free. Funding was secured through a private-public partnership. Access to mental health and substance abuse treatment for first responders and their families will have more access under a bill that was approved. Birth control will continue to be offered to incarcerated persons as well as a program to investigate complaints and promote rights for people with disabilities.
A bill passed offering incentives to manufacturing companies to set up in Utah, reducing the need for overseas goods. A bill to block businesses from using “911” in their names, to avoid confusion with actual emergency services also passed. More tax incentives were shifted to rural Utah including incentive to relocate companies to rural Utah. Rural Utah could also see more benefit from “transient room taxes” collected from hotels. Another passes bill provides incentives to produce films in rural Utah. Washington County is not included but could see economic benefit from Iron and Kane counties that do qualify.
Crime and punishment -
A bill repealing the death penalty and replacing it with a 45-to-life sentence failed to pass the House committee after a heated debate. Lawmakers approved a bill creating a “missing child identification program” allowing parents to collect kits with DNA and fingerprints samples of their children, should the worst happen.
Pets can be added to stalking and protective orders.
Retail Incentives -
HB151 Prohibits a municipality from providing incentives to retail facilities except in the case where the facility exists in a low income area, is part of a mixed use development with certain requirements, is considered a small business, or has been in operation for more than 40 years.
Utah State flag-
A bill Redesigning the state flag timeline has been extended by the legislature after heated discussion. That details 10 different designs for consideration by September 15th, 2022 a previous bill created a State Flag Task Force to look at changes to the almost untouched state flag of 1911.
The 45 day state legislative session is like a sprint running as fast as you can over a short distance. This race impacts all of our lives. The session produced the largest budget in state history fueled by increased sales tax and federal stimulus money. The budget surplus went to tax cuts, shoring up infrastructure, water conservation projects, as well as, Education funding and homelessness programs.
The legislative priority this year was WATER . Washington City is fully aware of its water needs and is being proactive in finding solutions and preparing for the future as well as investigating any and all potential water resources. Nearly $500 million was allocated for Utah water projects by the legislature. Water is something that all sides can agree upon, its bipartisan, it sustains life especially in a desert. When I was growing up in Southern Utah every dinner, family or church prayer included asking for rain, even if it just rained.
–Kurt Ivie, Washington City Council